Heart – an update
March 7th 2012
Ease of use isn’t one of them, but for the record, both were relatively straight forward to deal with from a prospective publisher’s end. You would assume that the companies involved would want to make it easy to upload files and design a cover – and you’d be right. To access the high-end Blurb functions, you need to be able to produce a specific pdf format known as x-3, which I couldn’t. Lulu were more forgiving about their upload formats and styles. I’m also wondering if I found Lulu easier because I’d already done the book on Blurb, but all in all, a bit fiddly on occasions though eminently usable if you have a good base knowledge of producing pdf files.
Quality now – exterior first. I went for trade paperback size for both, and that’s exactly the size I got. Visually, the copies are identical. The covers are printed on good quality white card stock, though the Blurb card stock is slightly thicker. The printing is nice and clear, the artwork (such as it is…) is faithfully reproduced. The Blurb copy is slightly better finished, overall, and just edges the Lulu copy – but both are good, which is a step-up from earlier pod offerings I’ve got, which were a bit on the ropy side.
What does it look like inside? Blurb print on a good quality almost-white paper. Lulu’s interior pages are, for the standard cost, a cream ‘paperback’ quality. What’s important is the legibility: does the print from one side obscure the words you’re trying to read? In both cases, no. Again, Blurb have produced the better book, but Lulu have produced a more-than-acceptable book.
However – and this is where ambition meets cost – I have to consider what are known as ‘price points’. Essentially, pod companies price their services so that they can advertise “Your book for only £x.xx!” And they’re right, of course. If you want to produce a slim chapbook or a collection of poetry in paperback with none of the bells and whistles, it will cost only £x.xx. But if you want to put together a decent length novel (Heart is 125,000 words), you break through several price points simply on the way to getting the page count. One of Blurb’s price hikes was at the 280 page mark. Coupled with the problem of not being able to produce pdf/x-3 files (which meant I couldn’t change the interior format from the default – there are header and footer regions I can’t put text in: footers contain the page number, headers are blank because you know who wrote the book and what it’s called, and you don’t need reminding at the top of Every Single Page, do you now?), I had to cut the font size down to 10 point in order to squeeze it in under 280 pages. Lulu are much more forgiving both on the page count and the interior design. I scrapped the header space, upped the font to 11 point and still got it all in for 282 pages. The difference between 10 and 11 point text is subtle, but there’s no doubting that to my ageing eyes at least, 11 point is easier to read, and the pages in the Lulu-produced copy are better-laid out because I had more control.
So – now comes the kicker. The price to you. Lulu are undeniably cheaper, by a good margin. But hang on – that’s just the production. I need to factor in delivery too. This is where I get cross about Blurb. To print one copy of Heart and send it to you, Blurb essentially double the price. If you want it priority shipping, it’s not quite three times the cost. No. Just no. That seems to be a wrong, if not simply unethical, business model. Having said they’d produce one (1) copy of the book for one price, to then load extra cost on actually getting the thing in your hand? It came as a very unwelcome surprise. Now, I do appreciate that Blurb and Lulu are catering for slightly different markets – Blurb probably do expect me to buy multiple books at once and sell them on myself, but that’s not what I intend to do. Lulu’s standard postage is relatively cheap – it came through the regular mail in a cardboard sleeve a la Amazon. Also, if I understand it correctly, a book on Lulu is available everywhere there’s a Lulu press. Uploading it to the UK site means that you can have it printed in the UK, European mainland and the US, pay for it with local currency and have it shipped within your jurisdiction (sorry Canada, but the border is long and porous, and I’m sure you’re used to buying stuff from the US).
I’ve investigated the hardback option too – I haven’t received that yet. There’s also the possibility of buying an ISBN and selling through Amazon – I’m not sure I want to do that, because it’d bump the price up further. As it is, I’m looking at £8 for the paperback, which is almost exactly what we’d pay normally. The hardback is going to be somewhere between £12 and £15.
I also have to consider what folk want to do about signed copies.