The first self-publishing platform, Lulu continues to be extremely popular among authors all over the world, its print-on-demand service being one of the most appreciated out there.
Very straightforward, Lulu allows one to publish paperbacks, hardcovers and e-books, but can also be used for creating calendars, wedding albums, portfolios or photo books. All genres are suitable for this platform, and there’s no up-front fee for authors that create their own cover and do the entire formatting themselves.
How Lulu works
Printing with Lulu is therefore a really simple procedure if your book is ready content-wise and design-wise. First you are asked to choose the book’s size, to determine the preferred format, paper and binding, then you have to upload the prepared documents, including the cover, and to add the author data. If you prefer to use their professional service for these steps, you’ll have to pay some significant fees, so it’s not necessarily the most convenient option.
Here are the typical steps:
• Start by choosing the service that suits your needs and skills the best (self-publishing or Lulu’s assistance in preparing the book) and format the manuscript according to their requirements. Lulu provides book style guides and templates for easier formatting.
• When the manuscript is ready, you can start the publishing process. For this you need to create an account and choose “Create Print Book” if you plan to publish a paperback or hardcover. From there you go to the Book Builder and choose the format, then select the preferred selling option.
• After these steps you can apply an ISBN to your book. This can be purchased from Lulu, or you can add your own ISBN. Revise the book’s content by adding the ISBN and the bar code on the cover, then continue with uploading the manuscript.
• If you have everything prepared, you can click on the Make Print-Ready File option and upload the word or pdf document of your book.
• After the interior, you need to upload the cover – I recommend to check the Cover Formatting requirements before creating it, to avoid further revisions. Don’t forget to add the barcode on the back cover.
• After uploading all the documents you have to add a description that is relevant for your book and grammatically correct as well. Next comes the pricing for retail markets; Lulu explains how the price is calculated, so that you know exactly what you pay and what your profit is. Here’s an example given on Lulu’s website:
Wholesale price per book = manufacturing cost + royalty fee + Lulu fee
$10.5 = $5.5 + $4 + $1
• The final step is to approve the publishing procedure and print a proof copy to review. If you’re happy with the quality and there aren’t any printing errors, you can approve the book for distribution, and then go in the Manage section to review the distribution information. Lulu reviews the books and then it informs authors if their materials quality for full or limited distribution.
You can publish as many units as you need, as you can promote them on multiple platforms, as there’s no restriction when it comes to advertising partners. Lulu is a good choice for first-time authors who don’t want to risk by printing too many units, and don’t want to get stuck with a single marketplace. This platform allows you to print only 100 units if you don’t need more copies of your book, and you can sell them on Amazon or Barnes & Noble if you prefer.
There are plenty of articles with formatting guidelines on their website, and you can also download templates for the various book sizes that can be printed through Lulu. As for the packages available on this platform, they include the ISBN, a review copy for the author, a customized cover, email support, inclusion in Lulu’s distribution service, editorial reviews, the creation of the book’s TOC, as well as different layouts for the book’s interior and even images.
One essential observation: although you do not pay for the publishing process itself, you are charged for the ISBN and all the other services, including for selling the book through KDP for example, or for making it available for libraries.
Once you’re done with the uploading process, you can calculate the book’s price, based on the length, chosen format and printing options. If you’re happy with their terms, you can proceed with the publication process. Lulu offers a creator revenue of 90% of the net revenue for electronic books, and 80% of the net revenue for printed materials, these fees being more convenient than on other self-publishing platforms.
The website has lots of useful resources and a FAQ section and user community where you can ask additional questions before printing your manuscript. Technical support is also offered via email, and response is quite prompt.
Unless you’re willing to buy their professional services, you’ll have to take care of everything from proofreading and copyediting to creating the book’s cover and interior layout. The total production cost per unit is slightly higher than on other self-publishing platforms, but the procedure is simpler for someone who can prepare the book from scratch and only needs a place to print the manuscript.
Although Lulu offers multiple book sizes, options are limited when it comes to cover’s material. Photo books are printed on glossy, silky paper, so if you prefer a matte finish, you’ll have to look for another platform, as Lulu doesn’t offer this option.
For someone who’s not used to self-publishing and is creating their first book, the large number of articles that need to be read in order to format the book correctly and to prepare the cover may feel overwhelming and make the entire process very time-consuming.
Still, Lulu.com can be a great choice for a self-published author who can take care of the manuscript’s formatting and of the interior layout and cover’s design.