16 June 2009

Bye Bye Lulu

Also to be posted on Lulu's Support Escalation forum.

Dear Lulu,

I've been a supporter and champion of your service for nearly five years now. So it saddens me to say it but this is the end of the road. I wish I were having some sort of momentary hissy fit, but it's gone beyond that. Way beyond.

To be honest the ins and outs of why the situation has ended up like this are too far in the past now for me to rehearse them again. Besides, it isn't really that there was some sort of problem that is what's lead to this.

It's the silence.

It's the inaction.

It's the fact that despite apologies and promises of improvement things seem to have got worse, not better.

I want you to appreciate the gravity of this situation. I have used your service to publish three books. They weren't books I wanted to push on people. They were books I wanted to be available to people if they wanted them. As it turns out hardly anyone did want them, but that wasn't ever the point.

The point was that when I had something I really wanted to push on people I knew at least one thing was taken care of. I would have a supplier for printed copies. It would print and supply, I knew the service and everything was okay.

That's a huge weight off the mind of someone trying to push a risky venture. If someone has gone to the effort of publishing novels to audition a service they want to know that service will be there for them when there might be more at stake. If someone's that concerned about the possibility of things going wrong you can see that they might be reluctant to turn away even when they do go wrong. So wrong. So very very wrong.

In the end I don't even want to do this. The thought of trying to get my money back off you and up sticks to a new and untried service fills me with apprehension, even fear.

You've actually managed to push someone beyond fear.

I realised that what you're doing isn't just sloppy, lazy, poorly organised, disrespectful and rude. It is all of those things. But more than that. It's wrong.

The people who are using your service are people who are not rich enough to pay a commercial printer to make print runs. The products you're producing are all, to some extent, labours of love. Even if people did write their text book to make money they spent the time to write the damned thing. They learned to use your file uploader. They worked out how to tell people about this book they wrote. They told people how to order it and they even expected that some people would buy it despite the ridiculous production costs and delivery fees.

They really have to love what they've done to expect people to pay over and above the going rate for whatever type of book it is they've written. You are dealing with projects that are highly personal to every person who writes and produces them here.

The apparent meltdown of your support services in the last couple of weeks just shows that somewhere along the line you've lost sight of that. The fact you had the brass balls to issue any kind of public apology for this and then continued for the next three working days to apparently do nothing to resolve these issues, and in fact allowed them to deepen and become more severe, just shows how lost you've become.

Your incompetence and failure would be serious enough if you weren't dealing with materials that people have poured tiny parts of their heart and soul into. The fact is that however unremarkable these products are in monetary terms every one of them is far more personal to their creators than a lot of other products which have made a lot more money.

Talking of which, every success story on your site however modest came from the ranks of those people. You didn't find them, they found you. Your recent actions communicate quite clearly that you don't care where your next success comes from, you don't want it, you don't need it. The chances are that it's just another loser who will never shift enough units to turn you a decent profit.

Usually, of course, you will be right about this. We all know that the successes are rare. Your company is built on a platform of giving people with the commitment to produce a print-ready file a shot at building a small business out of their efforts. These people come with nothing but hope and a work ethic. You have told them it's not too much to expect some sort of welcome. When you effectively spit in their faces this way it crushes them. It takes their dreams and rakes them through muck, mangles them and then shows the hideous wreckage of the basket they put their eggs in.

That kind of behaviour goes beyond disrespectful and edges into cruelty.

Maybe you are having problems. This is what you claim. Well, since you started having problems your communication channels seem to have closed further not opened. This is the time you need to be telling people what's going on not shutting them out.

If you want to come back on this and ask "What could we have done?" there is your answer. As long as things are not getting better you need to be telling people how they are getting worse.

As it is it looks like you just don't care about the hordes of people standing at your gates, clutching manuscripts, hoping to see them printed. Maybe they'll be lucky and see their dream realised but woe betide them if they have a single problem between ordering and postage because if they do all they will get for their enquiries about the situation is silence.

So for that reason as soon as possible I will be taking my projects away from Lulu and looking for some other similar service. I don't want to do it but I don't want to continue standing behind this betrayal of basic expectation any longer.

If you are wondering whether to feel ashamed. Go ahead. It would seem to me that you are way overdue.


Leo Stableford
Unanswered tickets: 00256706, 00257496, 00258566, 00261411

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