Arguments On Lulu (Sigh)

Nick Cohen recently wrote about Colby Buzzell and blooking in general, and the article’s lit off a firestorm about – strangely enough – Lulu.

The NHS blog doctor asks: ‘Why is the main-stream media so sniffy about Lulu?’, and then gives an answer:

Because they are frightened. They are in the same position as the typewriter industry a generation ago, or as the Roman Catholic Church was when, for a few moments, it took its mind off protecting paedophiles to resist the move to the vernacular. Heaven forbid that the general public should be allowed to make up their own mind about novels and the Bible.

How long will it be before a successful established author decides to cut out the middlemen and takes the next manuscript directly to Lulu? Watch the agents and publishers sweat when that happens.

But really now, Nick Cohen wasn’t all out against Lulu! He merely admits that blooking is, at this moment, a strictly amateur medium. I’ve written about this before, and talked about how we have yet to see any work of significant literary merit make it to the web. Yes, there is hope yet for the medium, but by saying we are teeming with quality right now is a tad ridiculous.

One comment did strike me while I was reading the Guardian Unlimted article:

MichaelBulley writes: Google works, after a fashion, for info: if I want to find info about sackbuts I type “sackbut” and sift through the results to get what I want and it usually works OK, but how am I going to use Google to find a good novel or a good poem that I’m as yet unaware of? The current conventions of established publishing houses may have faults that prevent some good works from seeing the light, but if I type “a good poem” in Google and hit the Enter key, is that going to do me much good?

It hits the nail right on the head: how are new readers going to find new blooks? It is a phenomenon in the publishing industry, yet nobody knows where to find one. I may be highlighting blooks in my Bookmarked! posts, and the Lulu Blooker Prize may be generating buzz, but think about it: none of these blooks are likely to be seen or bought in a bricks and mortar bookstore.

Hush about online shopping and The Long Tail: the majority of books are bought in real world bookstores (and usually on a whim, I must add), not online.

Well, if ‘a successful established author decides to cut out the middlemen and takes the next manuscript directly to Lulu’, we’d see a lot of revolution indeed.

Let’s hope that happens.

Update: I can’t not link to this article. It is brilliant!

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Category: News · Writing Web Fiction
  • Benjamin Solah

    From a political point of view, I really like the idea of blogging and publishers like Lulu for its ability to bypass these middlemen that seem to filter much of what we here. Blogging has really scared the mainstream media I think by allowing people to have their own opinions and not regurgitating what some corporate media giant tells us to think. I think print-on-demand may head in that direction.

    But there is the issue that I’ve seen as a writer come up that print-0n-demand would leave wide open. There is no filter in the grammatical, quality sense. I’m not talking about what’s being said, but how it’s being said. Too often writers can think their stories done but it’s not at the quality it can amass to. Just allowing anyone to publish without an editor saying this isn’t at a high enough quality would do damage to the literature industry.

  • Eli James

    Well said, Benjamin. I was writing with fiction in mind, but what you’ve said about non-fiction has struck a chord with me …

    Yes, it is true that blogging has gotten a lot of governments scared (and most of the time that’s a good thing, especially if you’re living in a country like Malaysia). But non-fiction from a blog being a bestseller? I’ll have to stretch my imagination and pray that happens … eventually.

  • Alexandra Erin

    I would never expect somebody to just up and buy my books online. First, they aren’t going to find it. Second, assuming they stumble across it, they’ve never heard of me. They can’t even flip through the book. Why should they buy it?

    The real future for independent writers lies in giving one’s work away for free and THEN selling it. “Blooking” isn’t the solution. Lulu isn’t the solution. The two of them together make a compelling argument.

  • Eli James

    They probably won’t buy your book online, but once your book gets into a bookstore … chances are pretty good it’ll be treated like the rest.

    You’ve got me thinking, though, when you said:

    The real future for independent writers lies in giving one’s work away for free and THEN selling it.

    That’s pretty good stuff! Sounds exactly like what indie musicians are doing, and, hell, I like it. :)