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Friday, 17 April 2009

Last Gasp for Lulu

I received an email from a loyal fan of the "Last Gas Pump on the Left" comic the other day. He was pleased with the product and really enjoyed the story but was mystified by the presence of blank pages in the middle of the book. He'd sent me photos explaining the problem, and I realised then that I've now had enough of Lulu's outsourced cowboy printers to abandon them completely.

It's impossible for me to understand how a 28-page PDF file can be turned into a 32 or 36-page book with blank inserts, unless somebody at the local print depot was physically plugged into the mains power supply while setting up the print job. Even then, it's unfathomable.

As this is now the fourth serious issue I've had with Lulu, it's time to move on and take my business elsewhere. The last problem, that with the "Black Flag" pencil art printing too faint to be usable, I can almost, just about, write off - although the fact remains that identical artwork in the "Mandrake" book has printed perfectly across two separate batches.

It's not like I'm making a huge profit at Lulu either. Although a full-colour interior comic would normally be prohibitive for a tiny indy comics outfit to produce, a cover price of £3.99 is as low as I can go while still actually scratching a few pence profit for myself (in this case, about 37p per copy). Add the cost of three useless proof copies, review copies and shipping, and the "Last Gas" project has made a terrific loss to date. However, it has its fans from the days when it existed as an online strip over at Drunkduck, an enthusiastic amateur website for free webcomics (which also currently hosts the complete "Black Flag" graphic novel), and projects such as this were never about the money, anyway.

I've submitted my formal complaint to Lulu regarding this botch so my customer can be provided with a product that isn't a complete disaster, and in the meantime am considering my options for future comic works. With the "Black Flag" graphic novel still good to go, plus forthcoming comics projects "The Sword of Lochglen", "Gruoch" by Frang Mchardy and "Arf & Mo" by Frang and I, Fenriswulf will be putting a lot of comic printing business to Lulu's replacement very soon. We've already discussed getting comics into Forbidden Planet stores and other local comic shops.

The two companies who stand out at present are

Comixpress, and Ka-Blam. Ka-Blam have no set-up fee but seem overall more expensive, while Comixpress have a set-up fee (unlike Lulu) but have a correspondingly lower individual price on single issues.

For me, and Fenriswulf, I think Comixpress have the edge when it comes to print on demand comics. They have a decent attitude, though it seems both companies have their fans, and their good qualitties. A very informative web page: Comixtalk describes it in better detail than I have time to do so here.

Looking at the comments on this page, I'm also glad to see that I'm not the only one affected by the sloppy quality of Lulu's European (Spanish-based) printers. I'll begin talks with my assistant art director (Frang) soon, and once my customer has received a copy of the "Last Gas" comic he actually wanted, it'll be time to move on to the next print company.ka-

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have my comics at Lulu and I've found that if you get somehow manage to get the books printed in the USA, you'll be alright. I've heard numerous complaints about their international contractors (specifically the Australian one, but your post suggests probably all of them).

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