TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Printing Books Online: an Author You Can't Refuse

Printing Books Online: an Author You Can't Refuse

Robert MacMillan, Reuters (
Sat, 09 Jun 2007 14:29:59 -0500

By Robert MacMillan

Lawrence Durrell and Henry Miller are among the world's most respected
authors, but for a while they had a hard time finding a publisher.

Rather than seek a mainstream outlet for racy novels such as "The Black
Book" and "Tropic of Cancer," they used the Obelisk Press, a French
publishing house started by Jack Kahane to print his own novel.

That was the 1930s. Now, a young Henry Miller could use new Internet
companies like, i-Universe, or Xlibris to print his
book -- and even sell it through their online stores.

Gwen Fuller used Blurb ( to publish her book, "Do Mallet
the Suitcase," a collection of spam e-mail arranged as haiku.

Among them: "Dude, get all U need/And dragonhead by reckon/She will love
you more," and "Just what all men need/C'Mon Baby, Light My Fire/Chat
and meet women."

Avoiding traditional publishing was a plus for Fuller, 48, a life coach
in Menlo Park, California.

"There was a process that I was sort of unwilling to get engaged in when
there was something that could so immediately deliver a quality book,"
she said.

Blurb requires customers to download its software, which then lets them
lay out text and photos. Then they send the specifications to the
company, which prints the books in either hardcover or soft.

Rates start at $18.95 for one small softcover. Bulk-order discounts
start at 10 copies, company founder Eileen Gittins said.

"If you order 10 copies, you get a 10 percent discount, 100 copies you
get a 15 percent discount," she said. "Over 200, we encourage you to
give us a shout."

Blurb also allows authors to sell their works on its in-house bookstore,
printing copies as new orders come in, and to charge a markup so they
can make a profit. The company sends out a check every time an author
earns $25 or more.


Many people use Blurb for personal projects as well. Michelle Flaherty
and her husband Peter received a book made by their daughters with
photos of Haunted Acre Woods, the large-scale Halloween display they
mount each year at their home in East Falmouth, Massachusetts.

"It was the first Christmas gift in I don't know how many years that
actually made me cry," she said. "It was so original, so different."

While a budding novelist could use Blurb, the company specializes in
photo layouts with glossy paper and the look of a "coffee-table" book.

Some writers looking to print more literary works are visiting Lulu

Lulu, founded by Bob Young, co-founder of software company Red Hat Inc.,
allows customers to publish school yearbooks, artwork, calendars and
many other things -- but especially books. Lulu recoups expenses and
takes a 20 percent cut of the profit on a book sale.

Mark Wilkerson's biography of Who guitarist and writer Pete Townshend
has led him to the brink of a deal with a conventional publisher in Europe.

Wilkerson, 37, is an aircraft maintenance planner for UPS, and lives in
Prospect, Kentucky -- about as far away from the mainstream publishing
world as it gets.

Publishers that he pitched rejected him or asked him why he was
qualified to write his book, the 618-page "Amazing Journey: The Life of
Pete Townshend."

"Lulu has been fabulous for me, because what else would I have done?" he
said. "I was completely ignorant of the many facets of the publishing

Wilkerson sent his book to reviewers, and received positive notices in
The Rocky Mountain News, the Chicago Sun-Times and influential music
magazine MOJO. The book came to Townshend's attention, and the legendary
musician tentatively committed to writing a foreword to the next
edition, Wilkerson said.

Blurb and Lulu are not the only self-publishing options on the Internet.
Xlibris is a self-publishing company that works in a
partnership with Random House's investment unit, and iUniverse offers similar services.

Both offer more services, with packages from about $300 all the way up
to nearly $13,000.

Blurb and Lulu are better for enthusiasts, said Scott Flora, executive
director of the Small Publishers Association of North America,

"If there are people who love to write and they want to see their book
in print, this is a good option," he said.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.

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