Author Topic: Print on demand: for color interiors, Lulu beats IngramSpark/KDP Print/B&N?  (Read 239 times)  

Offline Triceratops

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Darcy Pattison, a self-pubbed children's author for whom I have tremendous respect, recently blogged about her POD results.

She says that or the color interiors of her children's books, Lulu beats Ingram/KDP Print. (It's my understanding that KDP and B&N subcontract their paper book printing out to Ingram's presses, anyway?)

For a full-color children's book, the best paper is a coated paper, which allows the interior pages to be a smooth matte finish. At Ingram, Standard70 printing uses a 70# uncoated paper. KDP is similar. LuluXpress offers an 80# coated paper, which you can choose for either premium print or standard print. For paperbacks, I chose standard printing with the 80# coated paper; for hardcovers, I used premium printing with 80# coated paper. (For novels, LuluXpress offers 60# uncoated paper.)

Many POD companies use the uncoated papers because they are less expensive. But they have a rougher texture and don't absorb color as well. Colors are muted, instead of vibrant. For novels -- which are probably the most common printed book -- it doesn't matter. But for full-color picture books, the preferred paper is a coated paper which absorbs the ink for a more vibrant result.


And Darcy compared the Lulu pages to offset printing, and the results were good.

When I received my first trial book, I was shocked. LuluXpress's premium print almost rivals offset printing, the standard against which every print job should be compared. Comparing LuluXpress's standard and premium prints, there's a noticeable difference. For standard print, details aren't as clear. But these were paperbacks, which most people understand will not be printed in as high a quality. And the quality was much better than other POD books printed on uncoated paper.



https://www.darcypattison.com/publishing/online-bookstore/

(For context, in her blog post Darcy was offering info regarding her online store. If anyone's interested in Shopify and selling one's own paper books on one's website, there's good info here.)

Darcy says the Lulu printing is competitive gross profit-wise, too.

Anyone else had good results with Lulu POD? I may be issuing a technical-ish hardback or paperback at some point.

edit: formatting. Damn you, Kboards black diamonds.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2020, 07:58:09 am by Triceratops »

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    Offline notjohn

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    Barnes & Noble Press books are indeed printed through Lightning Source, which is an Ingram subsidiary and indeed the outfit that later gave birth to IngramSpark. Amazon does occasionally farm out books to contract printers, including Ingram (probably Lightning Source if indeed there's any separate between it and IngramSpark).

    The quality of paper is indeed a consideration. POD books are generally done on substandard paper, so picture books and color books aren't a good match for the process. If Lulu does indeed print on heavier coated stock, that would make it a better source of books. Whether they'd sell in any quantity is of course another question. I make maybe $10 a month through Lulu. It's not my least remunerative outlet, but it's far from being a good one.
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    Offline Sleeping Cat Books

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    Lulu's Premium isn't really a viable business option. If you want a handful of copies for gifts or personal use, sure. But marketing and selling as a business? Go offset in China:

    As of 05/03/20
    32-page color interior, paperback, 8.5 X 8.5"

    KDP Print
    $3.65 (60 lb. [100 GSM] paper)
    Fixed cost + (page count * per page cost) = printing cost
    $0.85 (fixed cost) + (32 [page count] * $0.0875 [per page cost]) = $3.65 (printing)

    IngramSpark
    $2.41 Standard Color (50 lb / 74 gsm paper)
    $2.83 Standard Color 70 (70 lb / 104 gsm paper)
    $4.14 Premium Color (vivid color ink, 70 lb / 104 gsm paper)

    Lulu
    $3.13 Standard Paperback (60# paper)
    $6.81 Premium Paperback (60# paper)

    Offline Triceratops

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    Lulu's Premium isn't really a viable business option. If you want a handful of copies for gifts or personal use, sure. But marketing and selling as a business? Go offset in China:

    As of 05/03/20
    32-page color interior, paperback, 8.5 X 8.5"

    KDP Print
    $3.65 (60 lb. [100 GSM] paper)
    Fixed cost + (page count * per page cost) = printing cost
    $0.85 (fixed cost) + (32 [page count] * $0.0875 [per page cost]) = $3.65 (printing)

    IngramSpark
    $2.41 Standard Color (50 lb / 74 gsm paper)
    $2.83 Standard Color 70 (70 lb / 104 gsm paper)
    $4.14 Premium Color (vivid color ink, 70 lb / 104 gsm paper)

    Lulu
    $3.13 Standard Paperback (60# paper)
    $6.81 Premium Paperback (60# paper)

    If I'm understanding Darcy correctly, she's saying that in addition to the better paper, Lulu also does not charge a distribution fee. Conversely, Ingram and KDP both do. Ingram charges 40% of list price, KDP 40% of list price or 60% for Expanded Distribution.

    Darcy's speaking specifically in regard to the LuluXpress app for Shopify, which Darcy uses on her site's store. She says that with that app, Lulu charges no distribution fee. Lulu charges only printing and shipping. So, gross profit to the (self) publisher is higher, because Lulu takes no % off.

    OK, you're all wondering if the pricing will work. Let's take an example of an 8.5" x 8.5" full-color paperback picture book, 32 pages. Because profit margins are so small with my current POD printers, I put a list price on a paperback of $11.99. This is high! I know that sales will be smaller as a result, but I can't make a profit otherwise.

    KDP figures your profits like this:
    (Royalty rate x list price) - printing costs = royalty
    (.60 x 11.99) - $3.65 = royalty
    $7.19 - $3.65 = $3.54 royalty

    LULU Xpress + Shopify figures your gross profits like this:
    List price - print cost = gross profit
    $11.99 - $3.29 = $8.70 gross profit


    Darcy also put a spreadsheet on her blog post that breaks it down.

    edit:formatting.
    « Last Edit: July 30, 2020, 06:28:51 am by Triceratops »

    Offline Sleeping Cat Books

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    If I'm understanding Darcy correctly, she's saying that in addition to the better paper, Lulu also does not charge a distribution fee. Conversely, Ingram and KDP both do. Ingram charges 40% of list price, KDP 40% of list price or 60% for Expanded Distribution.

    Darcy's speaking specifically in regard to the LuluXpress app for Shopify, which Darcy uses on her site's store. She says that with that app, Lulu charges no distribution fee. Lulu charges only printing and shipping. So, gross profit to the (self) publisher is higher, because Lulu takes no % off.
    Right, because Lulu Xpress doesn't offer distribution (hooking into Shopify is not distribution). It's solely a printer. It makes its money off the printing cost it charges. But if all you're looking for is a printer, then having an offset print run done is MUCH more economical (and better quality, with far more options).

    Neither KDP nor IngramSpark "charge" for distribution. They take a share of revenue from sales (part of the wholesale discount that retailers also share), because they're businesses, just like the publishers using them. (And IS allows the publisher to set the wholesale discount as low as 30% and up to 55% - it's not fixed at 40% as you indicated.)

    If you're only interested in selling on your own website, then Lulu Xpress may be fine for you. If you want your book widely available in many online retailers, it's not an option.

    [Edited to add] I've used Lulu Xpress for a personal color project, mainly because I wanted a coil binding, which PODs don't offer. It's fine for this project and the couple of copies I needed, but the cost of a single copy makes it completely out of the question for business purposes. There's no way I could sell this book and make any kind of profit.
    « Last Edit: July 31, 2020, 04:36:44 am by Sleeping Cat Books »

    Offline Triceratops

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    Before we run the ruts too deep into the track here so to speak, I'd like to say that I was only passing along Darcy's blog post. She offered some interesting information that I did not know.

    I think that re the main point of my thread here, that for POD color interior pages Lulu's paper beats the competition, there's no dispute?

    As to the profitability,

    If you're only interested in selling on your own website, then Lulu Xpress may be fine for you. If you want your book widely available in many online retailers, it's not an option.

    Right. I think for this discussion we can assume that we are talking about selling on one's own website, only.

    Lulu Xpress doesn't offer distribution (hooking into Shopify is not distribution).

    Neither KDP nor IngramSpark "charge" for distribution. They take a share of revenue from sales (part of the wholesale discount that retailers also share), because they're businesses, just like the publishers using them. (And IS allows the publisher to set the wholesale discount as low as 30% and up to 55% - it's not fixed at 40% as you indicated.)

    What Darcy calls a distribution fee, you're calling a discount. A percentage that the POD publisher takes out of your profit as a fee. I'm happy to call it a discount. You're right, IngramSpark allows the discount to be set as low at 30%. Fair point there. The IngramSpark default is 40%.

    But if all you're looking for is a printer, then having an offset print run done is MUCH more economical (and better quality, with far more options).

    More economical? Not necessarily. Darcy in her post addressed some of the problems with offset.

    There are three issues with offset printing: time, money, and hassle.

    - Time: researching the printer, discussing with the printing house its requirements, reviewing a proof copy to make sure it looks okay before the print run begins, and, if one is printing in China as you mentioned earlier, waiting for the copies to arrive from across the ocean and passing customs etc.

    - Money: short print runs from an offset house require full payment up front. If you the publisher sell all the copies, you will make your money back, but selling the copies can take time. If you don't have the space in your home to store boxes and boxes of books, you will need to rent a storage facility, maybe a climate-controlled one if temps or humidity in your area might not be good for the books. That costs coin.

    - Hassle: driving to said storage facility if you rent one. Having a lot of boxes of yet-unsold books in your house or apartment if you don't. Fulfilling book orders yourself: the mailers, the postage, the trips to the post office.

    I think that for most self-publishers, offset printing isn't really a viable option.

    There's no way I could sell this book and make any kind of profit.

    Are you talking about your own spiral-bound book, or about in principle making a profit from Lulu? Darcy spells out pretty clearly that she is making $8.70 gross profit on a $11.99 book. Any dispute there?

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