The Heads of Lulu (CEOs)

Lulu.com

posted in: Self Publishing | 1

As part of our authors’ mentoring program to new writers, we occasionally speak out about self-publishing.  Not all self-published books are equal.  Typically, those that are published by a publishing group like ours are of better quality than those you would find published by individuals.  In a publishing group, the authors meet regularly and share each other’s work.  Our editors review these as well and our authors’ writing improves.  We do this in a supportive environment and are very selective about the authors we let into our group.

Even so, it is disheartening to see so many self-publishing companies practice poor customer service and not honor their agreements to their authors.  Today, our post is on Lulu.com.

As with all of our posts on self-publishing companies, we start with a review of the numerous BBB complaints against the company.  In this case, there were 93 complaints against Lulu.com’s self-publishing service posted in 2014.  We’ve chosen the most important and recent of these complaints and have organized them according to the type of complaint.


 

Poor Quality Books

Many of the complaints against Lulu by its authors were that they paid large sums of money for professional publishing services like editing, photo cropping and placement, and alignment, and they received very poor quality books in return.  Contrary to some of the hype about Lulu, they actually keep close to 75% of the price you pay for a softcover or hardcover book; the author gets what’s leftover, usually a few dollars.  This is after the author has already paid hundreds of dollars to Lulu to “professionally” edit their photos and text.

We never recommend that self-published authors pay others to do their editing or photography (covers).  These are skills that are necessary to compete in the 21st century.  Self-published authors in particular fall prey to schemes that self-publishing companies employ to “edit” and “prepare” their books for print publishing.

Here are the complaints that fell under “poor quality books”:

10/10/2014:  Received books with no photos inside as placed and have not been able to have any response in over a week. No person to speak to, no response.
Ordered 100 books for Dr. ****** ******* and received books with no photos inside as placed. I filed three cases, supplied them with photo evidence of the inside of the book as they requested, and nothing. No person to talk to, no response, and Dr. ******* is 80 years old and needs these books for a speaking engagement and no one replies to us. Nothing. We have no recourse. We are out over $600 and have faulty books.

7/9/2014:  Books printed by a Lulu press had multiple printing press problems. The book spine and cover were not aligned properly. pages had black lines on them
Lulu.com is a print on demand service, that promises to print a professionally designed book on demannd or when requested by the author. The author pays Lulu.com for the printing and the shipment. Lulu also receives a fee if the book is printed individually and sent directly to a client, via the lulu.com site. At the end of a quarter, the lulu.com sends the author the sum subtracted from the total, as payment.

In my case, as an author, I pay for each book and the shipment. When an individual orders the book, Lulu.com receive the total cover price of $15. As the author, I receive about $4.50 per book as payment from that $15 cover price. Those checks are mailed quarterly.

In short, lulu.com is paid to print books professionally.

I contracted with Lulu.com to print the cover and pages of my professsional edited book. The first batch was ok, although there were a few issues.

It is the quality of the second order that is the issue of this complaint. The print quality was poor. It exhibited multiple printing problems

For your reference, the shipment date was 6/17/2014. The order is # XXXXXXX. The content id is XXXXXXXX.

I contacted lulu.com and did get a delayed response from the lulu complaint department. I was asked to provide specific information. I did so, as requested.

As Lulu requested I xeroxed the Cover and Spine to show you the problem, as well as a number of the pages.
These copies attached were.
1. The book cover
2. The spine
3. Title page
4. Title page with author’s name
5. Dedication
6. pages 1,2, and 3

Then skipped through the book to show how this runs through the book
7. page 15
8.page 31
9.page 54
10. page 69,
11. page 88
12 page 134 and the last page page 136
The Shipment date was 6/17/2014. The order is # XXXXXXX. The content id is XXXXXXXX.

The quality of this printing is poor and unprofessional. I hired professional editors and professional layout specialists to give this book a polished look. This printing does not do justice to their work.

I had trusted that LuLu.com will provide replacement books that will be printed by high quality professional printers.

Lulu.com simply said my complaint was not sent within 30 days, This is not true as you can see. This complaint is entered within 30 days of shipment.

6/23/2014:  I started with Lulu Publishing almost a year ago to have my book self published. I am the end of the process and have just been informed it would cost 34.50 per book to be printed. I checked on line and found another printing company that can do it for less than half that quote.I told Lulu last week that I would like my files and that I was going to have another company print the book and since then they have stopped ALL contact with me.They have not given me the book, the files or returned any emails. I also emailed the manger asking for a refund for the web site I purchased and have not used yet, and was told when I purchased it I could refund if I decided not to use it.I have paid Lulu nearly 2000 dollars over the last year and now they are ignoring me. This is very unprofessional and I would appreciate any help you can provide in this matter, I have satisfied everything they asked, paid for all additional services and now they have abandoned me.

6/11/2014:  My 6 year old son “wrote” an “Illustory” book. We have been attempting to receive our corrected book for over four months now. Our first book came with many Student Publishing printed errors including my son’s name spelled incorrectly as well as NO printed text. We were assured these Student Publishing errors would be corrected and we would receive our new book within 2-3 weeks. That was four months ago. We have not yet obtained our book. We have tried in vain to correspond w/ Student Publishing (we get response emails from LuLu Jr.??). We have been told repeatedly via email (we have kept all the emails) that our corrected book is coming. Nothing has come and as of recently (since mentioning that I was going to contact the BBB as well as the FTC), they are no longer responding to our emails. 🙁

I truly believe if it wasn’t for the BBB, we would have never seen resolve to our almost FOUR month long struggle to get a copy of our son’s book. (supposed to take roughly 6 weeks) The company has sent us a new kit to ‘try again’ as well as an ALMOST corrected copy of my son’s book. (This time there is no front cover art work.) The contact person at LuLu Press, Inc. has promised me my son’s original art work back as well as a fully corrected version (maybe third time will be a charm?) version of his ‘book’. Thus far, we are still waiting for those two promised items…..

I received, just yesterday, in the mail, two copies of my son’s bookBOTH WERE STILL MISSING THE SAME MATERIAL AS THE LAST BOOK THEY SENT. There is NO COVER ART on either of the two books we just received. IT IS STILL BLANK!!! The very first book they sent us actually had the cover art but NO TEXT and his last name was spelled INCORRECTLY as well on that version.

So, thus far, we have NEVER RECEIVED ONE correct copy of my son’s book. NOT ONE. We were promised (I have it in writing), his original artwork back. We have never received that either.

So to be completely clear (if I haven’t been already), we have four incomplete, incorrect, and misspelled versions of this product. We would happily return ALL FOUR to them (at their expense) in exchange for either my son’s original artwork or ONE FULLY CORRECT, ALL INCLUSIVE version!! That would mean his artwork (including cover!) and his text. This is all we have been requesting for over five months now. This is what this company is in business to do. We do not understand WHY we cannot get this product sent to us!

6/10/2014:  Wait time for product was advertised as 4 weeks. Took over 12 weeks to arrive w/ no response from customer service. Finally arrived defective.
I purchased an “Illustory” children’s book publishing kit this past holiday. My 6 year old son worked diligently to create his book and we submitted it to be printed & bound around March 15th, 2014. Wait time was advertised as 4 weeks maximum. At about 2-3 weeks my credit card was charged for the second copy of the book I was ordering (first copy is free with purchase of kit). On May 5th I began reaching out to Lulu, Jr multiple times via email (there is no customer service contact number provided ANYWHERE) with no response. On May 10th I was finally responded to saying my books had shipped that day. On May 15th my 2 books finally arrived but looked absolutely AWFUL and were riddled with serious design and production errors. I cannot give final product to my son as he will be confused and dissapointed.


 

Customer Service Issues

After reading through the BBB complaints against Lulu we found a significant pattern:  Authors and customers were ignored by Lulu until they filed BBB complaints.  And although they had a significant number of unresolved complaints (close to 98%), the BBB still gave them an A+ rating (which is based on whether or not they pay their BBB membership fees on time, not on their rating as a legitimately honest company).  In Lulu’s response to these complaints they claim they no longer have a Customer Service phone line and their email support is in another country manned only certain hours of the day and significantly understaffed.  So where’s all that money going?

5/5/2014:  Poor customer service.
Unable to upload manuscript to print as a book. Sent an email with NO response in 2-5 days, the time period cited after email sent. I then called Customer Service for assistance. I was told to call back and select a different extension. There was not a person there and a recording said that I needed to correspond by email. After waiting for a reply by email, I still got no response. I called Customer Service back and when the representative tried to help but couldn’t he hung up on me. After trying to do business the frustration was too much to handle.

5/4/2014:  Student Publishing has not responded to requests for information on our student book orders and payments which were mailed to the company 6 weeks ago.
Subject: Non-delivery of Elementary Students’ Book Orders Numbers:#XXXXXX, #XXXXXX,#XXXXXX
Date: 4-4-14
Student Publishing has not responded to requests for information regarding students’ book orders and payments which were mailed to the company six weeks ago. (X-XX-XX)
Our school is requesting information on the status of students’ book orders and payments which were mailed to Student Publishing.com, 1500 W. Hampden Ave. Suite 4E, Engelwood, CO XXXXX. Student books were submitted online through their online publishing program as directed by the instructions on the website. All required paperwork was mailed with students’ payments and book orders.
Our parents are asking when the completed books will arrive and for information regarding our order and payments that were sent in to your company. Please see the instructions below that were taken directly from Student Publishing Forms.
You indicated on the form that you have the right to refuse free production if a substantial number of student forms were not returned. This indicated to our school that your company would continue to provide a free book to all students participating as was the case when we began our project with Student Publishing. Since you indicated that you would provide a free book on the form our students and their families expect that.
Copied directly from your form:
“Please make sure all family check payments are paper clipped to the appropriate Student Order Form and that all credit card information is complete. If you were unable to return all Student Order Forms, please provide a brief explanation below. We reserve the right to refuse free production if a substantial number of them have not been returned. Thank you.”
Please let us know if you will provide the free books that your company indicated would be done on your website and on your forms. If not, is it possible for our families to still order a copy of their child’s book and if so how should that be done since we have already sent in our order? Also, orders were sent in while expecting and additional free copy of students’ books. How does your company intend to handle this circumstance since you already have our money and order forms?
We are unable to contact you by telephone to discuss this matter since you are no longer accepting phone calls from customers.


 

Bait and Switch

Bait and Switch is a term for an illegal type of selling in which you promise or sell one thing and then switch it for something else.  Lulu had a program for teachers in which they purchased kits and had their students make books.  Part of this program included free books.  After selling thousands of these “kits” to financially-strapped teachers and schools, Lulu pulled a bait and switch and reneged on the offer, suddenly charging outrageous fees to print any of the books.  For the children this was a huge disappointment and their first taste of the publishing world where authors, even young ones, are easily scammed.

5/1/2014:  Our school is requesting information on the status of students’ book orders and payments which were mailed to Student Publishing.com, 1500 W. Hampden Ave. Suite 4E, Engelwood, CO XXXXX. Student books were submitted online through their online publishing program as directed by the instructions on the website. All required paperwork was mailed with students’ payments and book orders.
Our parents are asking when the completed books will arrive and for information regarding our order and payments that were sent in to your company. Please see the instructions below that were taken directly from Student Publishing Forms.
You indicated on the form that you have the right to refuse free production if a substantial number of student forms were not returned. This indicated to our school that your company would continue to provide a free book to all students participating as was the case when we began our project with Student Publishing. Since you indicated that you would provide a free book on the form our students and their families expect that.
Copied directly from your form:
“Please make sure all family check payments are paper clipped to the appropriate Student Order Form and that all credit card information is complete. If you were unable to return all Student Order Forms, please provide a brief explanation below. We reserve the right to refuse free production if a substantial number of them have not been returned. Thank you.”
Please let us know if you will provide the free books that your company indicated would be done on your website and on your forms. If not, is it possible for our families to still order a copy of their child’s book and if so how should that be done since we have already sent in our order? Also, orders were sent in while expecting and additional free copy of students’ books. How does your company intend to handle this circumstance since you already have our money and order forms?
We are unable to contact you by telephone to discuss this matter since you are no longer accepting phone calls from customers.

The parents of our elementary students have sent in $518.80 in payments to your company and are expecting their children’s published books to be delivered by May 1st.
Our school has still not received a reply from your company on the status of our students’ book orders, Order numbers # XXXXXX, # XXXXXX, #XXXXXX which were mailed to your company on 2/21/14. Fifty-four students submitted book projects online through your publishing site and payments and order forms were then mailed to your company.
Your website also stated that each student participating in Student Publishing would receive a free paperback book of their writing. The parents of our elementary students submitted their additional book orders expecting a free paperback book of their child’s work.
We are requesting that you please provide us with the following feedback concerning our book orders:
(1) Have you received the book orders, order numbers # XXXXXX, # XXXXXX, #XXXXXX, mailed to Easy Student Publishing on 2/21/14?
(2) Did you receive students’ payments to you in the amount of $518.80 in the form of checks and money orders made payable to your company, Student Publishing, as you requested?
(3) When will our students’ published books be delivered?
(4) Will you provide a free book of each child’s writing as stated on your website?
We are requesting that students’ books be delivered by May 1, 2014. If students’ books can not be delivered by that date, we request a full refund of parents’ payments to Easy Student Publishing by May 1, 2014 due to the end of our school year.
Thank you for your help in getting information about our book orders for our elementary students’ parents. – See more at: http://www.bbb.org/raleigh-durham/business-reviews/internet-marketers/lulu-press-in-raleigh-nc-90003737/complaints#sthash.tuqiiFAQ.dpuf

Email From: Easy Student Publishing
Sent Tue 3/25/XXXX XX:XXAM
ref:_00D506zQ6._XXXXXRjH0b:refLuluJrCaseXXXXXXXX
Thank you for providing all of this information about your orders. I am currently contacting our Fulfillment Facility, where you mailed your orders, to confirm that they have been received.
I wanted to let you know, since you mentioned the free books, that the program did get revised this past year and as part of the revision we are no longer offering our free program. As a teacher you will still be able to publish for free but we are no longer sending free copies. This means your class can use our online book-making tool to publish their stories but there will be a cost if you or your student’s families decide to purchase physical copies of their stories. Here is a list of the current costs of our products-Classbooks- $29.95 hardback-Storybooks-$24.95 hardback, $14.95 softcover I am sorry for any inconvenience caused. Should you have further questions about this please let me know.I will be back in touch with you as soon as possible about the status of the order.
***** M

4/21/2014: This makes year number 3 that i have been trying to get my book published and it has not happen
Hello i am upset that i have been trying to get my book published for the past 3 years and it has not happen i have done what was required of me and still nothing. I cannot get a live person on the phone to expalin to me what is it that is left. i have read the book and i approve it but i keep getting right back in the same place nowhere.


Lulu’s Author Agreement

Our next post will be about Lulu.com’s author agreement which is intentionally vague and contradicts itself in several places.  What is particularly disturbing is the clause that gives them the right to maintain all of your digital files indefinitely (i.e. forever).  That infringes on copyright and, although Lulu claims they don’t take publishing rights away from indie authors, their author agreement implies that Lulu retains all publishing rights to authors’ work.

Our recommendation:  Avoid Lulu.com.  If you have already published on Lulu.com and are having problems, file a BBB complaint.  Class action lawsuits begin usually with a collection of BBB complaints that local attorneys undertake against a corporation.  There are currently plenty of complaints against Lulu to form a class action lawsuit.

 

 

 

One Response

  1. Gene Hennigh

    Lulu.com is so greedy that it can’t attend to customers. I bought a book and wanted to leave a review. I couldn’t figure out how (that part of their sight isn’t clear at all). So I sent them a request for information. No response. I sent another and the only response was that I had something in my basket (which was untrue, but they are all about raking in money).
    Time passed and I decided to try again (I enjoyed the story I bought) but I couldn’t recall my password. 8 attempts to create a new on failed because the URL they sent didn’t work.
    I’d say steer clear of this money vacuum. I would have liked to have purchased more items, but I no longer trust Lulu to act in any ethical way.

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