How Long Does It Take To Re-List a Book On iBooks and Barnes & Noble Through Lulu?

In order to take advantage of Amazon’s KDP Select marketing features, such as Countdown Deals, Free Promotions, and free lending via the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, I had to make the eBook version of Upload available exclusively on Amazon for the 90 day KDP Select membership period. On November 11, I re-listed the book on Google Play Books, Kobo, and for direct sale from Lulu. I also clicked the boxes on Lulu’s distribution management page to reactivate distribution through Apple iBookstore and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Books.

PendingFour days later, the status on both iBooks and Nook is “Pending”.

If this were a newly published book, I could see it having to go through some review & approval process before it hits the digital shelves. But this is the re-listing of an eBook. The content has not been modified since it was originally published. On Kobo and Google Play Books, where I set up distribution myself, re-listing was done within several hours. In the case of Kobo, it was actually done within less than an hour.

What’s going on? Lulu re-listed the eBook immediately on their own site. I love how easy they make it to list on Barnes & Noble and iBooks. I don’t have a Mac, so I can’t run Apple’s iBooks Author application, and it would be a hassle to borrow someone else’s. But I don’t love how long it takes. Is it hung up within Lulu, or is this something that’s out of their hands?

In my case, the delay isn’t really a big deal. Nearly all of my eBook sales are through Amazon, so it’s not like I’m actually worried about lost sales. However, if your situation is different, I thought it would be good for you to know about this delay. If you’re considering selling exclusively through Amazon for a period of time, to take advantage of their KDP Select program, be aware that re-listing your eBook through Lulu on iBooks and Nook Books may take longer than you would expect. (I can’t speak to how long it would take if you handled distribution through these channels directly, through Apple’s iTunes Connect or the B&N equivalent, since I chose not to go that route.)

Have you had a similar experience? Any tips on avoiding this?

I’ll post an update when this process is done, in case you’re curious about just how long this ends up taking.

Update – 11/19/2014: Both still pending.

Update – 11/26/2014: Lulu released the eBook to Apple and Barnes & Noble for processing

Fifteen days after I requested that Lulu reactivate distribution through Apple iBookstore and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Books, I received the following email from Lulu today:

Congratulations!  Your eBook, “Upload”, meets all retail distribution requirements and we have forwarded it to the retail distributors you selected. You are one step closer to your goal, but there are a few remaining steps:

• Our retail partners will confirm your book meets their individual site requirements for content and formatting.
• If your book passes this review, it will be queued for release on the retailer’s site.
• If your book is rejected by a retailer, we will email you with additional details.

Important Note: Generally, once your book passes the Lulu Review process, it will be available to purchase on retailer sites in 2-4 weeks. Retailers update their online catalogs at intervals determined solely by the retailers. Lulu cannot provide a release schedule nor can we influence the timing of your eBook’s availability on other retail sites.

Relisting ProcessedI have no insight into why it took fifteen days for Lulu to process my request, or whether this is typical, but it’s definitely something to be aware of if you’re considering temporarily “turning off” sales of your eBook, so you can take advantage of an exclusive arrangement through another bookseller, such as Amazon.

Note also that Lulu’s distribution management page does not give any indication whether the eBook is actually for sale at iTunes or Barnes & Noble. (See photo.)  It would be great if you could check on Lulu, and see the status change from “Processed” to “Available Now”, or something on that order.

Update – 11/28/2014: The re-published Upload eBook is live on iBooks

The process is officially complete on iBooks, but the Upload eBook is not showing up in the Nook store yet. Yesterday was Thanksgiving, so it’s unlikely that it was processed yesterday. It must have gone live on iBooks either 11/26 — the same day it was released from Lulu — or today. Either way, Apple turned things around pretty quickly.

I’m happy to add that the ratings and reviews for the Upload eBook on iBooks survived the deactivation/reactivation process. The eBook’s original publication date from 2012 was also retained. Furthermore, pre-existing links to the eBook still work. (Thanks for getting that right, Apple!)

Update – 12/2/2014: Upload available for NOOK again

Just checked Barnes & Noble’s NOOK store again this morning, and Upload is available again. Ratings are intact from the original publication, and links created the first time around still work. They also kept the original 2012 publication date.

B&N gets docked a couple points for being slower than Apple to get the book back out there, but Lulu appears to be the primary bottleneck in the republishing process.

Publication Omens

Beautiful post by friend Lesley Hazleton on the joy of receiving a copy of her new book, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad, direct from the printer. In particular, she was moved by the cover art, tweaked in final production in a way that took her by surprise — in a good way.

“So I’m still kind of amazed at the physical existence of my own book. Is this stunning production really the same creature as the innumerable drafts of much-scrawled-on typescript pages strewn around my study for years? It’s as though with publication it’s achieved a separate existence. Like a teenager leaving home, it will now make its way in the world on its own terms, an independent agent only tangentially related to me. All I can do is wish it well, cheer it on, defend it when it needs defense — and trust that others will agree that it lives up to the sheer elegance of its cover.”

For anyone who loves books, I strongly recommend reading the original blog post in its entirety on her blog, The Accidental Theologist.

How to Become a Goodreads Author

Some of my fellow indie authors have found the process for becoming a Goodreads Author a bit obscure.  I thought it might be handy to write out the process in what I think is its simplest form:

1. Become a Goodreads member, if you aren’t already

2. Search for one of your titles

3. If your book isn’t on Goodreads, click the button at the bottom of the search results page… the one that says, “Still can’t find the book?  Add a new record”

4. Once your book is on Goodreads, search for yourself as an author

5. At the bottom of the basic author profile page for you, there should be a link that says, “Is this you?”  Click that and request approval.

Click here for Details on the Author Program.

Hope that helps!

Regex Pattern to Find Illegal Characters in ePub

Unsatisfied with the tools I’ve come across, I decided to build the ePub file for “Upload” from scratch.  I followed the detailed instructions in this very helpful article, and I ran into a problem when I got to the part where you’re supposed to “Package and check your EPUB”.  When I ran the epubcheck tool (java -jar epubcheck-3.0b5.jar Upload.epub), I got this output:

Epubcheck Version 3.0b5

Validating against EPUB version 2.0
ERROR: Upload.epub: I/O error reading OEBPS/content.html
ERROR: Upload.epub/OEBPS/toc.ncx(60,45): 'Chapter7': fragment identifier is not
defined in 'OEBPS/content.html'

After doing a bit of searching, I discovered that the I/O error was probably due to a character that is not valid XML content.  And the subsequent “fragment identifier is not defined” error stemmed from the fact that the I/O error had caused the epubcheck tool from reading past some illegal character in Chapter 6, since all of my chapters are in one XHTML file, “content.html”.

The problem, then, was locating the illegal character in Chapter 6 that was causing the I/O error.  I started with the brute-force approach: visually scan the content of Chapter 6 in search something that seems wonky.  This proved to be fairly tricky, and I realized that a simple regex search should uncover any characters outside the usual set of letters, numbers, and punctuation characters that one finds in a novel.  I opened my content.html file in good old Textpad, searched for illegal characters using the regex pattern below, and quickly discovered that I had copied-and-pasted a “smart quote” apostrophe from Word.  If you have additional punctuation, you may find that you have to tweak this pattern, but I hope it will at least get you pointed in the right direction:

[^-a-zA-Z <>"',./0-9:=\?&;#!()]

The basic idea is to look for any character that is NOT one of the common characters in U.S. English prose.

In case you are not familiar with regular expressions, I will give you a VERY brief breakdown of that pattern.

First off, the square brackets define a class of characters.  Typically, with square brackets, you’re telling the regex software to look for any character which falls within the defined class.  For example, this simple class definition matches any lower-case character:


However, that’s the white-list approach to searching: you’re defining the class of characters that you want to match.  What we really want here is to define a class of characters that we want to skip over, so that we can find the illegal characters.  This problem is easily solved by adding a caret (‘^’) as the first character in square brackets.  For example, the pattern below will match any character which is not a lower-case letter:


This black-list approach allows you to define the class of characters you don’t want to match on.  If anything else comes along, match that instead.

Extending that concept, I came up with what proved to be a sufficiently large class of characters to catch any character in my novel that wasn’t “normal”.  Anything outside the “normal” class was probably something that XML doesn’t like, which would have to be replaced by either a “normal” character (e.g., a simple apostrophe instead of a smart-quotes apostrophe) or a special XML-encoded version of the character.  (There’s a pretty good list of XML-encoded characters on Wikipedia.)

So, with my handy-dandy regex pattern, I can search my novel for illegal characters, make substitutions as necessary, rebuild my ePub file, and then run it through epubcheck again.

Hope that helps!

Another Great Customer Support Experience With Lulu

So far, I’ve had really great experiences with the customer support folks at Lulu.  In this particular case — and this is one to watch out for, Lulu authors — I discovered that the first forty-or-so pages of “Upload” were repeated.

Title page of "Upload" on what should have been page 41
Title page of “Upload” on what should have been page 41

I ordered it as a sample copy, and just happened to be flipping through it when I noticed that the page numbering seemed odd.  I discovered the title page… on what should have been page 41.

I filled out the complaint form on Lulu’s website, and they responded immediately, requesting that I send photos of the error.  I snapped a picture with my phone.  Within a couple of days, they got back to me asking whether I would prefer a refund or a replacement copy.  All rather painless.  Thanks, Lulu!

Finally available on Nook Books!

For those of you with Nooks, now there’s no excuse — you can finally purchase “Upload” straight from Barnes & Noble, via Nook Books.  This is an especially important distribution channel, because B&N is the default bookseller over at Goodreads.  The blurb for “Upload” hasn’t shown up yet, but fellow authors at Lulu assure me it’s just a matter of time.

So far, Barnes & Noble has been the slowest of the booksellers, by far.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve searched for “McClelland Upload” at least once each day, to see if it had finally made it through whatever process they have for reviewing and releasing eBooks from Lulu.  I was shocked this evening when the search results consisted of one book, and it wasn’t “Upload: Etherpunk“, which, by remarkable coincidence, was co-written by one Nigel McClelland.  I repeated the search, double-checking to make sure I was on the right website, and it worked again.  Then I hopped over to Goodreads, to make sure their ISBN-driven link works, and it does.  All’s well.

Now it’s time to consider running an ad on Goodreads, which would be my first real attempt to promote the book, outside of spreading word of its publication among friends.

Refining the Print Edition

Fresh delivery from today: Draft copies of the new 9″ x 6″ trim size (Amazon doesn’t do the 8.5 x 5.5 Digest trim size), with a new font on the font and a blurb and link to on the back. This new print edition will have its own ISBN. I’m working to get it finalized in time for my book release party at the new Century Guild art gallery in Logan Square!

How to Add a Description to a Book on Google Play

First, for anyone who is trying to solve this problem, here is the solution (at least for now):

Add or edit summary of Partner Program book

The basic issue is that Google typically gets its book summaries from third-party meta-data providers.  If you’re self-publishing, those third parties probably don’t know your book exists.  If you go through the help materials, you won’t find a solution to your problem.  Only once you attempt to contact Google directly for help do they walk you through a questionnaire that eventually leads you to the precious web form that I’ve linked to above.

If you would like to appreciate the value of a good — or even moderately competent — user experience designer, attempt to publish a book on Google Play.  It’s like a parody of bad UI.  Please, Google, you gotta do something.

For those who want to know the background here, read on.  For everyone else, I hope you found this post helpful.  The rest is just my tale of woe.


In going through the painfully obtuse process of making Upload available on Google Play, I encountered a problem that had me baffled: how to add a summary/description/blurb to display alongside the book.  This concept of a brief introduction to your book is ubiquitous on bookseller websites.  Even on Google Play, most books have a short paragraph explaining the book, to entice the buyer into reading customer reviews, skimming the preview, possibly even buying the book.

Knowing this, I expected at some point during the not-at-all-straightforward process of getting a book onto Google Play to be presented with an opportunity to enter a summary for Upload.  I was not.  Nor did I come across any little note, friendly or otherwise, mentioning that Google prefers to fetch this information from someone other than the publisher.  When my book finally popped out the other end of the black-box process — an event which I feel warrants an email to the publisher, since it takes days and may result in pricing other than what the publisher intended — I discovered that it in fact did not have a summary, where other books on Google Play did.

Where had I gone wrong?  What step or piece of crucial information had I missed?  Other people are making it work — why can’t I?

So I sunk another 30 minutes or so into trying to find a solution.  Only to discover that you have to endeavor to register a complaint before they tell you how it works?  Maybe I missed something along the way, but I’ve gone back and forth over those pages and come up with nothing.  I guess the engineer-driven business model at Google has its downsides.  And that’s coming from someone who’s been coding for money for the past twenty years.

All part of the joy of self-publishing.  Of course, I imagine I’m lucky to be arriving at this game now, and not four years ago.