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Lulu Jr.

Getting to Know Lulu CEO Nigel Lee

“This is a truly amazing team and a truly amazing company. When I look at Lulu, I believe that it’s time to stop referring to what we do as self-publishing. It’s really independent publishing for independent authors and creators. The real difference is in who reaps the reward for creating. At Lulu, creators benefit, not the corporation. We are on the right side of history and we are setting out to prove it.” – Nigel Lee

Nigel Head ShotNigel Lee, Lulu CEO recently spoke at the Book Manufacturers’ Institute (BMI) Management Conference in Wild Dunes, South Carolina. These excerpts are from a follow-up interview that appeared in ShelfLife, the Book Manufacturers’ Institute newsletter (Vol 11, Issue 2).

BMI:  Your team wants to make content creation and consumption a simpler and more rewarding experience for people around the world. Lulu.com is available in six languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian and Dutch. How did you so successfully get the word out about how Lulu.com could help writers and authors?

Nigel Lee: The key to the success of any business idea is that it has to solve a problem. Lulu.com solved a problem and was the first to bring the solution to a global audience. The problem was a simple one. It was traditionally very difficult to get a book published. Most publishers operated (and still do!) based on a profit censorship model. They  would only show interest in titles they felt would make them money. This resulted in millions of voices not being heard, millions of books not being published. Given the inherent costs of publishing, traditionally publishers would then take the lion’s share of all profits generated by a title.

Lulu.com reversed this model entirely. Lulu.com accepts all titles, within the boundaries of the law. The author retains all ownership and control and keeps up to 90% of all profits. Lulu.com proliferated this model via the Internet. Given the disruptive and much needed model Lulu.com offered and the fact that Lulu was first to market allowing authors to engage directly and simply with just a web browser, Lulu.com grew very quickly. Lulu continues to be successful based on the core principles of the original business idea.

Key to Lulu.com’s success is the continued ability to understand its customers and react accordingly. The launch of Glasstree Academic Publishing later this year is a clear example of listening to our customers and developing a business to serve their needs directly.

BMI: What role has your comfort with technology played in your professional success?

Lee: Technology is simply a tool, like a shovel or a fork. Using the latest tools available has been a constant in the evolution of our species and I’m born of a generation that is perfectly comfortable with the increased pace of such developments. My personal success has come from an ability to articulate the value of a technology to the audience who can benefit from it.

BMI: You are known for welcoming disruption and challenging the status quo. Why do you think this is necessary and important for businesses seeking transformation?

Lee: I prefer the term ‘breaking orthodoxy’ rather than disruption. Breaking orthodoxy is critical to building businesses that solve problems. You have to think about doing things in a different way, a better way. The bigger the problem, or the more exploitative the existing model, the greater your likelihood of being disruptive will be when breaking that orthodoxy

BMI: We very much admire Lulu Jr., the program that allows children to become published authors, encouraging creativity, strengthening literacy and building self-esteem. Tell us more about this initiative.

Lee: Lulu Junior is based on a simple premise that children learn most while writing and not while reading. Fostering creativity and writing in young children is a powerful way of growing their cognitive abilities across all disciplines. That we are able to provide ways in which to stimulate child development is just a very worthwhile thing to do.

BMI: Why is Lulu’s sponsorship and involvement in the Lulu eGames at North Carolina State University so important to you and your team? How do they promote entrepreneurship and innovation?

Lee: Lulu is an entrepreneurial company. Entrepreneurship is the life source of any economy and therefore society; however, the development of these skills is often overlooked in higher education. NC State is a very forward thinking university that recognized the value of developing entrepreneurial skills. Being part of this initiative gives Lulu the opportunity to contribute to society and promote entrepreneurship beyond the walls of its own organization. As a certified B-Corp company, we are deeply committed to doing everything we can to make the world a better place and this is a key part of that endeavor.

BMI: Speaking of innovation, if time and money were no object, what “invention” or change do you think could make the most difference for two of your passions – children and their opportunities for a quality education?

Lee: We need to see ourselves as a single society. To understand that the key to addressing all of our challenges and inequalities is the ability to act in unison. Technology is accelerating this evolution. The internet is making the world a smaller place everyday. We are no longer blind to the inequities of our society and the damage caused by tribal instincts for power and control and the fight over regional scarcity of resources. Every child has a right to basic human necessities; health, clean water, food, shelter, education and love. At a certain moment in time we will recognize that this is the key to our future as a race. The day we recognize it isn’t acceptable for more than 60 million children to have no schooling will be the day my dream starts to come true. This number has halved in the last 16 years, but will take an estimated 70 more years before the number is even close to zero. Technology has an incredibly important role to play, if companies are willing to play their part in making the world a better place.

Want to know more?

Follow Nigel on LinkedIn and Twitter (@blindfoldzebra)

Have a question for Nigel?

Is there something you would like to know about Lulu or Glasstree Academic Publishing?  Submit your questions to pr@lulu.com. Enter Question for Nigel in the subject line. Your question could be answered in a future article.

Crayola® and Lulu Jr.™ Turn Kids’ Stories into Real Books

TUE, OCT 27, 2015 09:00 EST

Lulu Jr. ™, the division of Lulu.com that helps children become authors and artists, today announced that it has released three book-making kits for kids in conjunction with Crayola ®, a colorfully innovative brand for over 110 years. Continue reading “Crayola® and Lulu Jr.™ Turn Kids’ Stories into Real Books”

Canadian Toy Association: Hot Toys for Back to School 2015

WED, SEP 02, 2015 15:11 EST

Is play time on your child’s back to school schedule? 60 minutes of open ended play daily supports the development of skills that are critical for childhood development, but for many Canadian Children, back to school means back highly scheduled days. Continue reading “Canadian Toy Association: Hot Toys for Back to School 2015”

Retail Merchandiser: Crayola

MON, JUN 01, 2015 13:48 EST

Practically everybody remembers his or her first box of Crayola crayons. The classic green and gold box has been a school supply staple for generations. In many cases, people can recall the name of their favorite color – purple mountains’ majesty, tickle me pink or macaroni and cheese, for example.

Continue reading “Retail Merchandiser: Crayola”

edplay: Arts & Crafts for Kids Loom Large

TUE, MAR 24, 2015 09:19 EST

A perfect storm created by the convergence of the Maker Movement, Upcycling, DIY, the debate over art in schools and STEAM has resulted in a rising number of high-quality, creativity-boosting products for kids. Here are some of the arts & crafts kits, tools, materials and vendors we spotted at Toy Fair.

Continue reading “edplay: Arts & Crafts for Kids Loom Large”

Rage Against the Minivan: India’s first “published” book

FRI, MAR 20, 2015 13:44 EST

My eight-year-old daughter is a voracious reader. I think she may prove to be an even bigger book nerd than I am, and I am a pretty big book nerd. Her bed is constantly covered in books that she is reading, and I frequently have to check on her to make sure she hasn’t snuck her reading light on at 10 PM when she should be sleeping.

Continue reading “Rage Against the Minivan: India’s first “published” book”

Publishers Weekly: Publishers Get Personal at Toy Fair

MON, FEB 23, 2015 14:51 EST

From crafts and inventions to various elements of personalization, many of the playthings displayed at this year’s New York International Toy Fair had a do-it-yourself slant. That theme carried over to the nearly 30 publishers that exhibited at the show, with Parragon, Bendon, and others adding crafting and DIY titles into the mix.

Continue reading “Publishers Weekly: Publishers Get Personal at Toy Fair”

Publishers Weekly: Toy Fair 2015: Toy Stores Add More Books to the Mix

THU, FEB 19, 2015 10:58 EST

Publishers represent a small slice of the landscape at the New York International Toy Fair, accounting for less than 30 out of the 1,000-plus exhibitors in the 2015 edition. But sales executives from several of those publishers told PW that specialty toy stores—an important customer group at the show—are currently doing well with books and are looking for new titles to add to their assortments.

Continue reading “Publishers Weekly: Toy Fair 2015: Toy Stores Add More Books to the Mix”

The Stylus: Comic illustrates feelings of individuals with mental illness

THU, FEB 19, 2015 10:50 EST

College at Brockport junior studio art major Liz Pritchard recently pubished her own comic book, “PaperBag.” Many think of comic books as superheroes fighting crime. However, in Pritchard’s case, her goal is to raise awareness of mental health.

Continue reading “The Stylus: Comic illustrates feelings of individuals with mental illness”

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