Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large
ISSN 1534-0937
Libraries ∑ Policy ∑ Technology ∑ Media

Selection from Cites & Insights 8, Number 5: May 2008

Bibs & Blather

One Book at a Time

A little more than a year ago, I published Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change, my first book produced by Lulu. (Youíll find it and other Cites & Insights Books at It was announced on Walt at random on March 22, 2007. Cites & Insights 7:4 (April 2007), published the same day, includes an extended description of the book and Perspective: Informal Notes on the Lulu Experience.

I commented about my experiences with Lulu in several posts on Walt at random and on the second experiment of releasing the same book (with ISBN) through CreateSpace/Amazon in August 2007. On August 25, 2007, my second Lulu book appeared: Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples. It became available on CreateSpace/Amazon on August 30, 2007. The third original book appeared January 15, 2008: Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples. Later in January 2008, I made the three ďoriginalĒ books available from Lulu as $20 PDF downloads.)

Iím not going to recount the whole experience, but I thought a few year-later notes might be in order on this ongoing experiment.


ō Lulu produces excellent-quality trade paperbacks. The three 6x9Ē trade paperbacks use heavyweight cream book paper and are classy, and Lulu does an excellent job on the cover. The two big 8.5x11Ē C&I volumes also came out great, on bright-white heavyweight paper with gorgeous covers.

ō Lulu does precisely what it says it will, with no hidden charges or funny business. Luluís instructions are also thorough.

ō CreateSpace does a good job but offers somewhat less help and winds up charging somewhat more. On the other hand, CreateSpace automatically gets you an ISBN and listing on Amazon. Lulu offers a wider range of sizes and binding options, but CreateSpace covers most of the basicsóand now offers cream paper.

ō The process made it possible to get these books out rapidly and with no significant cash outlay. I donít believe I could have gotten either of the two library blog books published traditionally. Maybe thereís a reason for that (see ďMissesĒ)

ō Four excellent, thoughtful reviews of Balanced Libraries have appeared on liblogs. Thanks!

ō Balanced Libraries hasnít done badly: Just under 200 copies to date. I considered anything less than 100 in the first year to be a sign of failure, anything over 300 copies in the first two years to be success. Itís not a failure; in another 11 months, Iíll know whether itís a success.

ō The paperback versions of Cites & Insights are much nicer than the one-off bound volumes I have for volumes 1-5, and actually cheaper (for me, that is).

ō American Libraries Direct has been kind enough to mention two or three of the books.


ō As part of the experiment (and because First Have Something to Say never got any print reviews) I didnít send review copies to library magazines. That may have been a mistake, but at around $20 per review copy, itís a difficult choice to make.

ō Perhaps as a result, Public Library Blogs hasnít received much (any?) attentionóand, in its first eight months, itís only sold 65 copies. Thatís not disastrous, but itís not great either.

ō Itís too early to say anything about Academic Library Blogs after only three months, but 25 copies isnít quite bestseller status.

ō While I tend to prefer Lulu, itís clear that CreateSpace/Amazon has been more effective: During the period that copies have been available from both sources, and excluding the Lulu-only C&I and PDF downloads (of which, by the way, Iíve sold a grand total of two, one for each blogging book), Iíve sold 90 books on CreateSpace/Amazon (nearly all of them on Amazon) and 48 on Lulu.

ō I asked for feedback on the blogging books and promised not to argue with negative comments. I received one thoughtful responseóand stumbled on a one-sentence review of one of the books at LibraryThing. Based on that review (assuming the person actually read the book), doing the books was a pointless waste of time. If ďjust samples pulled off the blogsĒ is all there is to the books in the eye of the reader, then I failed completely. Such is life.

ō Iím not on the speaking circuit and not that great a self-promoter. The books have been promoted here and on my blogóand thatís about it, except for some wonderful reviews. No advertising, no press releases and I havenít been going around selling them. Since promotion is key to getting any book sold, I may not be an ideal candidate for self-publishing.


ō Publishing through Lulu is more transparent than most publishing methods, at least in terms of creator revenue. If you buy a $30 library trade paperback or an $8 mass-market fiction paperback or a $25 hardbound book, do you know how much money reaches the author? Probably not. But if you buy a 200-page trade paperback from Lulu and pay $25 plus shipping, itís very easy to figure out exactly how much the writer gets: $13.17, in this case. ($4.53 plus $0.02/page plus 20% of the difference between that production cost and the author-set price.) By the way, if you think Lulu and CreateSpace color art/photo books are expensive, thatís because the cost per page for color is twenty cents, not two cents, and thatís for all the pages in a book.

ō I canít be 100% certain how your copy of a book will look. Each one is produced when itís ordered: One book at a time. Laser printing can vary slightly, and so can cover color reproduction. In every case, the color rendition on CreateSpace versions is different than on Lulu versions, working from precisely the same imageóbut both are within what Iíd consider reasonable boundaries.

Whatís Next?

Maybe I should send out review copies. Maybe not.

Iím contemplating two possible booksóboth blog-related, both looking at changes over time. Does it make sense to do either or both? Iím not sure.

I had ideas for several other possible books, mostly gathering older material and bringing it forward in appropriate ways. Those ideas are on the back burner or have disappeared entirely.

Cites & Insights Books continues to be an experiment. The results are mixed.

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 8, Number 5, Whole Issue 102, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and produced by Walt Crawford, Director and Managing Editor of the PALINET Leadership Network.

Cites & Insights is sponsored by YBP Library Services,

Opinions herein may not represent those of PALINET or YBP Library Services.

Comments should be sent to Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large is copyright © 2008 by Walt Crawford: Some rights reserved.

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