Monday, March 19, 2007, Shoddy and Shady

After six months and a complaint to the Better Business Bureau, has still not resolved numerous problems, even when they said they would. Since endless emails and the intervention of the Better Business Bureau has failed to remedy the situation, I must resort to the only option left: public humiliation of the guilty party.

If you are considering using DONT. They are a scam. I deeply a bitterly rue being captured by them.

My complaints . . .

In September their software failed to propagate the spine ink color properly, resulting in some number of books being printed with black ink on the spine. They kept telling me it was my fault, 'user error.' I had sussed out the system thoroughly by that point, so I knew it wasn't me -- I had made errors in learning to use the system, and I have no trouble paying for books that I had to redo due to my own mistakes, so I had it scoped out the system pretty damn well by then. The spine ink wasn't my error. In November in one of their updates they announced that they had fixed a bug that caused spine ink color to fail to propagate correctly. I contacted them about getting my books replaced, since they had admitted the error was with their software. I kept getting Customer Support people who insisted there was nothing wrong with the system and that it was my error -- even when I pointed them to the article for them to read themselves. Upshot, they refused to replace the defective books.

I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. I got email in which Lulu representatives asked me to send digital pictures of the defective books. They said that once they had received proof of how many books were affected, they would replace them. I explained to them that only one that I received was defective, but that I had reports from several customers of the same problem. I contacted some of the customers I knew personally and they sent me digital pictures and personal statements about the defective books they had received. I forwarded them to Lulu. It is now six months later and _no one_ has received a replacement of the defective books. I have sent them numerous emails, and am hammering on them yet again about this, but frankly, if Lulu intended to make good this error they would have done it long ago.

However, I do note that their system software has been amended to fix this bug. The user interface has also been improved to make it easy to monitor the spine color yourself -- previously it was a hidden feature, so you didn't know the spine color wasn't right until you received the proof. So, I'm pleased that they have fixed the bug, but not pleased that they haven't replaced the defective books, in spite of endless emails and the intervention of the Better Business Bureau. I'm appalled that they didn't even offer to replace the books until after the BBB contacted them. And appalled that even now, still no replacements.

At the same time, back in September and into October, I had problems with their ordering system. For example, I discovered that their system did not always update in real time. Again, this is their software bug. When you buy global distribution, you have to buy a proof. You can avoid buying a proof, but it's very tricky, and if you're new to the system, you don't realize that it is possible to opt out. It should not be a secret. The site even tells you that you are 'required' to buy the proof, whether you're ready to buy or not. Anyhow, what happened is, I uploaded a revised version, purchased the proof as required, and got the OLD version. The proper revision was listed on the website and when I clicked on the pdf to preview what would be printed, it was the correct revision, but what got sent to the printer was the OLD version. There is no way to know that the printer got an old version until you receive the proof and realize, "Hey! this is the wrong one!" This happened twice, out of eight books.

Lulu refunded me for the first erroneous proof and updated my account to state 'REFUNDED.' However, the second erroneous proof a couple weeks later was not so listed. I queried them and they insisted that they had refunded my money for the second erroneous proof, but MyAccount did not say so. When I got my credit card statement I checked it and saw that they had indeed refunded it -- but they STILL haven't updated MyAccount. I am happy to have the refund, but I labor under the perverse expectation that MyAccount information will be correct and up to date, but it isn't. I've complained about this many times, and this was also included in my complaint to the BBB, but they never addressed it.

They also do not necessarily ship the correct number of books. One time when I ordered a proof, I received two books: one with the erroneous black ink on the spine, and one with the correct gold ink on the spine. Please note, I ordered _one_ book. I got two. The two were _different_. They only charged me for one, which is good, but again, I labor under the unreasonable expectation that the customer will receive the correct number of books ordered.

At first I was pleased because I assumed that some alert person at Lulu had noticed an error on my order and fixed it, but it turned out this was not the case. Lulu staff denied all knowledge of this and told me that there were no notes or anything on my record to indicate that anything special had happened. They had no explanation for why I got two books, one with black ink, and one with gold ink, when in point of fact I had ordered only one book (with gold ink on the spine). They insist their records show only one book printed and shipped.

I happen to teach computer science, so I was able to figure out exactly what was going wrong and where and did my best to give them a detailed error report so that they could track down the bug and fix it, but all they ever did was deny that there was a bug and insist that it was impossible for what I said to have happened. By this point, three out of eight books were printed wrong, so it's my personal opinion that they have a significant quality control problem that they really need to know about and fix, but they don't agree. Therefore, as far as I can tell, they have never fixed the problem in which their system occasionally does not update fast enough to send the most recent revision to the printer.

Ergo, when the author is buying proofs, they have the risk that they won't get their most recent revision. This won't effect the mass market sales because enough time will have elapsed between the upload and the sale that Lulu will have updated (the delay is apparently no more than about ten minutes), so, consumers won't be effected, but authors and editors -- who may have a schedule to meet -- will. Since it takes about a week to get a proof, the publisher must build in plenty of extra time to get a replacement in case he discovers the proof is erroneous.

The average publisher at Lulu is an amateur who doesn't know much about publishing, layouts, or computer software, so they are likely to either not notice the error, or to think it is their own mistake. In other words, Lulu is taking shameless advantage of niave people.

If this was not enough, Lulu has published my private information. In account preferences, it says, "This information is used privately by Lulu for billing, support and informational purposes, and is not publicly available." It lies. I have my legal name listed for billing information, as is proper. I expect to pay my bills. I have 'firepearls' as the username. I have 'M. Kei' as the public name. I have 'M. Kei' as the author name. Yet, this morning, when I posted to a forum, it listed my billing name. The Customer Support person tells me that it is supposed to list the 'username,' which in this case would be 'firepearls.' I have checked my account very carefully; I have my information set the way I want it set and it has been set as such for many months. This is an internal Lulu error, not my error.

Months back I complained because they published my billing name as the author name on my storefront, even though they say, as you read above, that they will not make public 'for any reason' the private information. I pointed out that there is good reason for a person to use a pen name and a long history of authors using pen names; if they are going to service authors they MUST accommodate pen names. To fail to do so is to fail to adhere to even minimal standards for the publishing business.

They have apparently partially fixed this -- the space for 'author name' and 'public name' have been added since I made that other complaint, but they have not updated their internal system to propagate the correct name to the reviews on storefronts and into the forums. Currently, it is still grabbing the private billing name, not the username or public name. Back in October when this first happened and I complained about it and asked for them to remove my private information and change it to my public pen name, they did not do so. And still haven't. This is a gross violation of my privacy and their own stated policy.

This morning I also noticed that the forum I posted in (Haiku and Tanka) has not updated to daylight savings time. There's really no excuse for that. The change to daylight savings time is a well known public fact. They should and could have prepared for the change, verified that it happened correctly, and fixed it if it didn't. It's been eight days since the new Daylight Savings Time went into effect. There's no excuse for not complying with the law.

I also attempted to find out if the Haiku and Tanka Forum has an active moderator or not, since actions I have taken, like asking my books to be listed on the Haiku and Tanka Group Page, hve not been acted on. I was advised that the only way to know if the moderator was active was to read the forum. I pointed out that the Moderator has never posted to the forum, and that in the past four months, there were only two posts, one in December, and mine, made today. He suggested that I post a request to the forum, asking to be made a Moderator. I asked him how long my requests should go unanswered before Lulu considered it an abandoned forum and appointed someone else to run it. He had no idea. I asked him what Lulu does about abandoned forums. He had no idea. I asked him if he could add my books to the Group Storefront. He said only the Moderator could do that.

I also pointed out to him that the Haiku and Tanka Forum is not listed on the index of forums on the Lulu site and asked what needed to be done to get it listed there. He said that only members of the group could see the forum. I pointed out that the only way to know the forum existed, was to know that the forum existed and use the search box to find it. It doesn't seem very useful to have a Group Storefront and forum that only members of the Group can view and use. I am trying to understand why some groups are indexed and some are not, but I have not yet figured out the forums at Lulu.

Their Customer Service is abysmal. Either they are nice people who know nothing and can't help, or they are irritating people with attitude. Or they recite the party line and deny that Lulu has any responsibility.

I realize that many people don't care about these things, but I and my colleagues are professionals. We care about making our books right. We want a printer that delivers the books exactly as we ordered them, keeps our accounts correct and up to date, and cheerfully and promptly fixes problems. Lulu isn't it.

I also know that I am not the only one who has had problems with them because some customers and poets have mentioned their own experiences to me. I have advised them to file complaints with the Better Business Bureau. If you received a defective copy of Fire Pearls with black ink on the spine, please let me know. If you have contacted Lulu about it, please let me know the response. If they have failed to deliver replacements for the defective books after you have notified them of the problem, please file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau at:



  1. Hey there!

    One of your poets from Fire Pearls here to say that myself, my Grandmother and my Aunt all have copies with black ink on the spine, as does everyone I know who ordered through


  2. I published and sold a book on Lulu as a 'test run' to see how things would go. They reckon they paid me for the book I sold but they havent and they refuse to do anything about it except go over and over it in theirs stupid live chat 'support' I reckon its deserving of legal action.

  3. I've been having problems instead with the PDF getting XRips Errors from them when ordering hard cover books. It's clearing not my PDF since I'm able to order softcovers fine. They keep insisting it's my fault and refunded my book without asking which was before they raised the price. Now if I want the same book, I'll have to reupload the perfectly fine PDF and order a more expensive book. *sigh* Wish I had read about your experience earlier and never printed with them.

  4. My complaint about seems to just be one of many.

    Very inflexible and could care less about helping you solve a problem... want 30% cancellation fee to change an order 2 minutes after it was entered.

    They suck - go elsewhere.

  5. Yes, I had a horrible experience as well with when I tried publishing my recently deceased father's memoirs. I placed the first order, but realized some of the content would be hurtful to some family members. Only hours after I placed the order, I got on the live chat (a joke) and was told I could cancel, with a 30% restocking fee. I agreed to the fee, edited the book and placed a 2nd order. The told me they would cancel an order, only to find out they NEVER CANCELLED THE FIRST ORDER!! I tried to dispute it with my bank, but Lulu denied the claim because the chat log said, "may cancel" the order. Yet ironically, I received an email that both orders orders shipped a half hour apart, which tells me they are extremely dishonest because the first order could have been cancelled! GO SOMEWHERE ELSE! This was the worst customer service I have ever received with any organization. There isn't even a phone number to speak with a live person!

  6. I was looking for a short-run book publisher for a 350-book job. I simply asked for a printing sample to be mailed to me, showing the quality of the printing from their laser presses. On chat, I was told that this wouldn't be possible -- that I'd have to buy one of the books in their bookstore to check out the printing. No way. It appears to me that they are set up to be nearly fully automated to keep the price per book low, with no room for individual requests. I'll be looking elsewhere, plus I really have qualms about the quality of laser printing vs. the traditional halftone printing being used by other short-run book printers. The only positive note I have is that I was able to do a live chat with someone from Lulu at 9 p.m.!

  7. I have been trying to publish with them but my copy in OpenOffice is not acceptable, my copy in FDP has the wrong format on the page, even as it looks right on my computer. I did it for two weeks ang got tired.The tech. support did nothing to help and I did not hear from them anymore. Very umprofessional.

  8. My 85-year-old father has been having horrendous problems with I think that is a scam. They have taken a great deal of money from him to publish his book, and for the past year he has not been able to make any progress at all. If anyone out there is considering, please don't. Somebody is making a great deal of money ripping people off. Thank you for posting this page, I hope it is found by anyone considering using

  9. I have had problems uploading my file. It will start to upload and then stop. This has been going on for over a month now. I did not have this problem with my first book, but I guess this service has expanded to fast with customer service suffering.

  10. Lulu complaints - Two individual orders of my books were supposed to go to customers in France. Both orders were never received. I tried to have the problem resolved but with no success.

  11. Lulu is certainly pretty user unfriendly. I find their delivery charges pretty outrageous and delivery times can be slow.
    I would consider trying an alternative outfit with better customer service - but is there one?

  12. I also received my book with blak spine. I'm very disapointed with the quality of lulu.

  13. My first experience, I received the book which was printed wrongly with missing text throught the book except 1 page. I email them about the error, they said I should email them digital pics of the error. Well, that was it. I never heard from them again. I tried to send several emails but nothing!

    Please go to which is a subsidiary of Amazon. Createspace are really helpful. They look at the book and tell you in details what errors you need to correct, and so forth. don't.

  14. I have put a lot of effort into producing my latest publication (a guitar tutor book)with I placed two orders for copies, one on April 14 and a second on May 18 2009. I have received nothing and have had no response (other than an automated acknowledgement) to my numerous requests and complaints. To make matters worse, I have done some advanced marketing for this publication and have customers waiting. They want to know when my book will be available - but I can't tell them!
    The first book I produced with lulu went fine. But now they have withdrawn the online help service and no one seems to care about the customer.
    Lulu is a good idea - but it's unprofessional management and lack of customer response is turning a potential success story into a disaster.
    If you can find an alternative outfit that takes its customers seriously, go for it. If I had the expertise, I'd establish the company myself! Meanwhile, be advised that if you do use lulu and something goes wrong, you're on your own.

  15. As a postscript to my comment of June 09, 2009, the order I placed last April just turned up - it had been sent to Gibraltar by mistake! But not one word of communication from Lulu.

    I also requested an order for a friend in Australia - the book arrived with someone else's text bound into it halfway through!

    I am moving my writing and publishing operations to Amazon's as soon as I can.

  16. New to the "self" publishing gig, but not to the craft. After reading all these posts, posts at Lulu in the forums, and other seriously negitive posts elsewhere on the net for the last 72 hours trying to find an outlet for my work I have determined that my manuscripts are far too precious to be mucked up by a lame outfit such as LULU.COM. I would advise everyone here to file complaints with the simply to complete the circuit.
    I will be heading in the direction of as are others. By the time LuLu gets the message that they suck it will be too late for all of us. by that time we will be on our deathbeds eating cheese-wiz.

  17. It is very interesting how does create a space get such high marks? I would advise everyone to do their homework on them too. It just looks like spam that is why I am saying to check it out.

    I bought a Lulu package on June 1 and it is now the 10th of July; I have bought a domain name and developed a web page and now I can't even get a proof from them. It is disappointing to say the least. is registered to they protect their clients. The telephone number for is 1.919.459.5858 and their address is 3101 Hillsborough Street Raleigh North Carolina 27607.

    When you call their number it is all automated and they don't want you to actually reach anybody. But if you use the directory you can get to someones phone and if they don't answer flood their mailbox.

  18. I've been using Lulu for a while, there simply is no real alternative, my experiences have been mixed, book quality is generally very nice and if you're looking just to see your written labour of love in print for personal pleasure then Lulu is great.If you're looking to be the next Rowling or to get rich then I'd say forget it.

    I believe, and I don't say this lightly, that Lulu are guilty of dishonest practice when it comes to dishing out creator revenues to individual authors. I believe they may be ripping off creators. I know (can even prove in a few cases) that I have sold books on lulu and Amazon that I have never received royalties for. I believe that Lulu creams off (by failing to report sales)a certain percent of creators revenues. However, trying to get an answer from Lulu on the issue, is nigh on impossible. They operate a code of silence or issue 'ticket' numbers for complaints that never get answered. Lulu's customer service is a joke, a bad one.

    As I said, Lulu is a mixed bag, ok if you're looking for a personal, expensive, hobby, not okay if you have ambitions to make money as an author. My biggest concern is: just how honest is Lulu when it comes to paying customer revenues?

  19. Their competitor CreateSpace has problems, too. I received a book from Amazon that the author said was probably from CreateSpace.

    There were no right margins, and there were entire words that were typed over. Letters within words were jammed together. A bad typist could never have created text this bad.

    To say I was angry is an understatement.

  20. It's 6pm Monday night and LULU's entire server is down. Crashed in the middle of my 1st book. Nothing works. No lulu/help or lulu blog extentions or even any of their beloved users stores. Wow! what a poor experience for a 1st timer. If I had a store, I would be pretty upset. I tried everything i could google & yes...all of the stores are failing to load also. Who knows when it will work again. poor job lulu.

  21. Hi,
    I have published two books with Lulu. The "proof" copy in both cases has been good. Subsequent copies have often had shoddy binding and paper of a different (and I suspect poorer) quality.

    I am particularly sad about the second book, a photobook made for the 87th birthday of my mother-in-law. The effort that went into collecting and arranging the photos cannot be measured. The cost of publishing and delivery was not cheap either. I live in NZ and ordered the book to be delivered to my mother-in-law in India. In less that a few minutes after it reached her hands, the book came apart into individual pages.

    I have been trying to contact Lulu online and by email for the last month. They sent me the standard mail asking for photos as description of damage. I wrote back explaining that if they wanted it as a 'description' of the damage, it was not necessary and very tedious for me to do from New Zealand, when the book is in India. But if they wanted the photos as a 'proof' of damage, I said that I would try to get someone to go to the dear woman and get some pictures taken and sent. I have not had any reply for my many emails and even a phone call to some stray Lulu number that I managed to get hold of, that seemed always to lead me to an answering machine. Sigh.

  22. I am so glad I did my homework checking Lulu out. It appears that Lulu is a big scam. Hopefully, the Attorney General will put them out of business. They don't even have a telephone number. What kind of a way is that to run a business?

  23. I'm thinking Lulu has undergone some changes since this thread began. I've never had any trouble with them... published 14 books and they've all turned out fine. Updated books with revisions and new copies were fine.

    However, if you don't like Lulu, you could try a company called America's Press in League City, Texas. You send them your files and they'll print your books. The minimum run is 50 and you'll have to distribute them yourself, but the price can't be beat. I've compared them to POD's and other printers like Morris Publishing and America's Press is the cheapest.

  24. Lulu is an AWFUL company. They offer no returns, even when they are practicing unethical policies and the mistakes are theirs. I tried resolving issues with Lulu, but they refuse to negotiate. Additionally, they have NO customer support by phone--NONE. Also, they will go so far as block your IP address if you are contacting customer support via ichat. They still owe me around 80 dollars and refuse to give me my money, even though I still paid 100 for material.

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