Thanks go to Charles Causley for the title of this entry. How a man who died in 2003 knew that we would experience difficulties with a recalcitrant POD publisher 6 years before they started to manifest I don't know.
What I do know is that I foolishly assumed that self-publishing three novels through Lulu.com would prepare me for the day that I wanted to do something "proper". I hold my hands up that I wasn't entirely prepared for some of the issues that arise from having a book with illustrations, even black and white and grayscale ones.
These technical issues are almost entirely down to me and trying to keep as much information in Justin's images as humanly possible. I was unaware that 98% of that information was completely useless and, further, somewhat incompatible with high speed POD printing presses.
So, I have no beef with Lulu regarding that side of things.
Between myself and a couple of geeky friends we have taken in the new requirement, rendered the documents to that standard and reissued the PDF a fourth time. According to the initial problem report there is now no way the problem that dogged the first three versions can reoccur.
The problem I am having is that Lulu are not very communicative. All the fixes I have applied have been the result of assiduous Googling. I submitted two trouble tickets asking for help and have heard nothing regarding either of them. I also received an offer of a specific breakdown of the errors the printer had rendering the publication. I received this five working days after the first problem had occurred.
Although in five working days I had managed to work out from the gnomic communiques issued thus far what I thought would be the best solution and applied it. Still, I felt that it might be useful to take a look at that report and perhaps anticipate any future issues should such exist. Maybe dash out another version before another failed run.
So I said "yes please".
Apparently I am expecting a mail sometime before about 11PM tonight from some kind of POD case worker to chat this over. I'm not really sure what they could do for me. I know that they've had one working day to attempt to print the outstanding books and mail them out and they haven't bothered. Not that I feel that I deserve preferential treatment for fixing badly formatted manuscripts, but I have no indication at all when or even if they will try to print the latest, untested version of the file any time soon.
It's possible they already have tried to do this and it's failed for some other reason. I wouldn't know, they have no protocol for releasing this information to me. I am a little confused as to what the turnaround between an attempted print and the issue of the error message is. In fact once you have uploaded and paid for a "project" to be printed and delivered by Lulu the work enters a limbo of vague information. There is no one to talk to, there is no way to check what's going on, if something does go wrong you're lucky to receive a seven word explanation of what it is and as for finding a solution it's down to yourself and Google.
I've been a long, long, long time champion of Lulu. I used to feel that their service was the future, that it's production model was going to win out and it was only a matter of time.
Technically this may still be true. But their communication protocols remind me of the very worst of old school bureaucracies, they're worse than most UK banks and that's saying something.
At present I don't believe there is a better alternative to Lulu, Amazon's CreateSpace was just two bound up in legalese upfront to even get through the front door. But would I *recommend* people use Lulu? Not unless, like us, they have no alternative and they are trying to get something started.
I am deeply disappointed with Lulu and only a few more days of poor communication and abysmal service stand between disappointment and hate.