The cost of Lulu’s wider ebook distribution deal

Lulu has widened its distribution deal for ebooks to cover the Kindle and Kobo stores, which seems long overdue and costly for authors.

The new service comes through the firm’s link-up with Ingram and its CoreSource digital asset management and distribution platform.

The enhanced distribution deal is claimed to improve discoverability and maximize reach to readers as it includes a wide range of other retailers, such as Australia’s Booktopia and South Africa’s Kalahari.

However, distribution through Lulu is laggardly as the process to see an ebook for sale at the retailer stores takes between 2-4 weeks, according to Lulu’s own estimate, and an incredible 3-6 weeks for any changes that are made to ebooks. This compares with just a few hours going direct with the Kindle and Nook stores and perhaps up to a few days with Kobo and Apple’s iBookstore.

Lulu vice-president services Kathy Hensgen says: “In addition to having flexible control over their books, self-publishing authors want a single, easy-to-use solution for accessing a large audience to attract as many readers as possible. Our free ebook distribution solution helps’s authors navigate this process by dramatically simplifying how authors distribute their books.”

Lulu, which was set up in 2002 as a self-publishing platform for print books, has released a new tool that it claims can help authors quickly and easily understand all the distribution channels available to them and how much revenue they can generate through each one.

Hensgen adds: “The benefit of our new tool is it lets authors quickly see all the ways they can sell their books and gauge their revenue potential via each sales channel.

“Our authors value that is easy and free to use. We have strengthened that value by simplifying our user experience and making all of our distribution services free, for both print books and ebooks.”

But although the Lulu service is free and it’s undoubtedly easier for authors and publishers to use a single distribution point rather than going direct to several retailers, the eventual return to authors is much lower than going direct.

40% payments on Kindle ebooks

There are some puzzling figures on the Lulu revenue calcalulation page which aren’t fully explained.

For instance, distributing an ebook with a retail price (in UK pounds sterling) of £4.49 to Amazon’s Kindle store would see distribution fees of £2.55 plus Lulu’s share of £0.19, leaving just £1.75 for the author/publisher.

This represents a payment to the author of only 40% of the list price of the ebook.

Going direct with Kindle would produce a straight payment of 70% of the ebook price for a royalty of £3.15, which is around 80% higher than the return through Lulu distribution.

The difference is probably, although not spelt out, the charge made by Ingram, as its Ingram Spark ebook distribution service offers authors only 40% of list price.

Ingram is a major player in book distribution, covering over 39,000 retailers, libraries, schools and distribution partners worldwide.

Oddly, Lulu’s Kindle distribution return is lower than for Kobo and Nook, despite the fact that Kindle offers 70% royalties while Kobo also offers 70% and Nook offers 65%.

Even odder, the return through Lulu on Kobo ebooks, which offer 70% royalties, is lower than through Nook, which offers 65% payments. As you can see from the screen shot, authors would make £1.80 per £4.49 ebook through Kobo and £2.02 through Nook.

Direct ebook distribution

Publishing direct on the Kindle, Nook and Kobo platforms are all fast and easy processes and you can make changes at any time which are also processed quickly. Apple’s iBookstore is a bit more problematic and some authors prefer to go through a distributor, such as Smashwords and Draft2digital, which charge only 10% of the net retail price.

The Lulu/Ingram distribution certainly offers wider distribution but some of these areas are covered by Kobo and Google Books retail partners around the world.

Smashwords offers a distribution service to libraries through Baker & Taylor and also has link-ups with ebook subscription services Oyster Books and Scribd, which offer 60% royalties.

If you want to find out more about Lulu’s new book distribution tool, go to Lulu.