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Internet marketing donning a publisher’s clothes

The case of Lulu as a self-publishing platform

By Myriam Caccavelli (Italy), student from the Rome Business School’s Master in Marketing and Communications

We all know how rapidly the internet is spreading its influence in our life. Nowadays, everything we need is on the internet, from retail to technology, from beauty products and suitable diets to jewelry, etc.

An analysis of the current microenvironment shows that, in terms of both economic and cultural aspects, we all are part of a greatly and continuously changing and improving society. In fact, business, technology, and industry move faster in the current circumstances, “riding” the needs of society (literally what customers would like to have in order to make their lives easier), increasing the promptness of their responses, in terms of both quality and value, against any up and coming competitors.

Obviously, this efficiency in the economic system requires a lot of hard work; in addition to this, price competition and developing lifestyles keep pushing people to spend most of their time working, considerably reducing that allocated to leisure. This state of affairs has made clear what the people need, and the answer was provided by the internet: it has taken up stable residency in the people’s psychology by enabling them to get anything they need by just a few ‘clicks’.

By analyzing the online marketing scene, I have found how it also benefits writers; traditionally, the publication of a book required an editor to ensure the distribution and sale of any literary work. But this state of affairs hides a compromise between the two: the editors usually require the writers to buy a certain number of copies of their books to cover all the printing costs, plus a certain margin for themselves, clearly. In addition to this, there is very little guarantee for the writers because, in order to get some financial return, the writers need to sell a number of copies, and no editors ensure that a book is adequately promoted, because their only interest is to get new buyers (the writers).

Against this backdrop, the solution came from our ‘friend’ the internet, which was attentive and ready to react efficiently!

Thanks to online self-publishing platforms, writers can bypass the editors and publish their masterpieces by themselves; thus, the writers have the advantage of not having to make compromises or be blackmailed, and also to increase the return on their work.

There various self-publishing platforms available show that the competition is clear even in this field! Among these, I decided to analyze because, in my opinion, it provides a great example of what we call a marketing strategy.

The home page of the website presents us with three different options, referring to the three possible ways in which the costumers’ needs can be satisfied, Learn, Discuss and Suggest: ‘Learn the ins and outs of Lulu, Discuss tips and tricks with fellow Lulu users, Suggest enhancements to the Lulu experience’.

I found this platform really interactive and able to give valuable help to any aspiring editor. The use of the words ‘fellow Lulu users’ creates a sense of intimacy among its members, generating a community that shares the same interests, a forum in which people can compare ideas.

Also, Lulu asks its members to make any suggestions that may be of use to improve the service and make it more efficient; this is exactly its marketing strategy: to create value!

Lulu guides the writers through every phase of the process, from choosing the quality of the covers for the books, the cheaper ones being softer than the more expensive ones, or employing special paper that will highlight the quality of any illustrations, the books’ size and related costs. Each budding publisher is allocated an ISBN code and their books will be printed without any problems. Alternatively, writers also have the possibility to opt for the publication of their work in e-book form.

As far as the costs are concerned, using Lulu, writers can earn an 80% share of their work’s profits, considerably more than any editor can ensure.

Many authors have achieved success through Lulu, one of them was E.L. James, with ‘Fifty shades of gray’, that had first been published on Lulu, before being bought by Random House.

Obviously, the only disadvantage of Lulu is that, with no publishing house behind them, the books need a lot of personal promotion to get sold; the writers must actively showcase themselves.

Myriam Caccavelli