In the past, the publishing industry and book market was controlled by those who had the knowledge of and the access to the resources to publish a book. Anyone who is a writer knows that trade publishers are famous for long response times, stringent formatting requirements, and almost cliquish behavior. The only option for writers who weren’t lucky enough to be picked up by a trade publisher was to spend thousands of dollars to publish through a vanity press.
Vanity presses have existed since the mid-1940’s and typically they do not distribute your book, market it, or pay royalties to the author. A vanity press will print the book you pay them to print and will provide printed copies that the author can buy and then distribute themselves at book signings, conferences, etc. With a vanity press, it’s up to the author to promote and distribute the book.
The book publishing industry has changed dramatically in the past decade or so. Today, writers have the option to self-publish using a combination of print on demand and book distribution services. Some writers choose to do both a print and digital book (E-book) and others choose to focus their efforts on digital publishing.
Company History of Lulu
Founded by Bob Young, Red Hat co-founder, Lulu is a technology company, although from user reviews it seems to operate similar to a vanity press or on demand printing company. Lulu began with print books and in 2009 started e-book publication and distribution. Nigel Lee is the company’s CEO and Lulu is headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Type of Services available:
- E-book publication and distribution
- Lulu.com bookstore
- Print book (hardcover or paperback) print on demand services
- Additional services available bundled or a la carte for a fee include editing, formatting, and marketing.
Lulu Self-Publishing Review: How To
Complete your manuscript and have it edited and formatted according to the Lulu standards of formatting.
- From the Lulu website, click create an e-book or create a print book
- Make your choices for sizing and other options from the options given
- If you wish to have your book for sale with online retailers, use only options with a check mark inside a green circle.
- Choose a template and click make this book
- Enter Information about your book including the title, author name, and ISBN.
- Add your files for the inside cover of your book including an author bio and a book description
- Select meta-data for customers to find your book (category, explicit content warning, keywords, description, language, copyright, license type, edition, and publisher information)
- Set the price of your book. Lulu will provide breakdown of what you will get from Lulu and from other retailers based on the price you enter.
- Review your book and make any changes
- Click save and finish
Lulu Reviews from Users:
Unfortunately for Lulu, most of the reviews I read were negative. Users report delayed royalties or royalties not paid at all even when they have proof that books were purchased. During my Lulu self-publishing review process, I also found that users reported paying between $1,500 and $4,000 dollars just to get their book finalized and then were pressured to buy marketing services at additional cost.
In addition, it appears that writers must pay for a copy of their own book in order to approve a proof and then purchase the revised copy to review and approve each time there are changes.
Several Lulu self-publishing reviews indicated that customer service was less than responsive when issues arose or when a refund of payment was requested. There were several reports from users who gave up having their book self-published through Lulu and requested removal of their book from the Lulu network without much success.
Upon careful review of Lulu’s GlobalREACH agreement, Lulu does make it clear that removal can take up to 8 weeks and that in some cases, removal of your material from their network may not even be possible.
I did find the occasional five-star review which seemed to contradict some of the negatives but they were so few that I took them with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, Lulu has a longstanding history of customer complaints.
The Lulu website also indicates that they are not responsible for how author content is rendered on any device, they do not maintain a backup copy of your content, and availability of your book to the public is dependent on acceptance by individual retailers and could take up to eight weeks.
Other Items of Note Regarding Lulu
I used the rate calculator on the Lulu book builder page, to estimate the base rate for a standard U.S. letter sized book in black and white and perfect bound as a paperback. By my estimation, a mere 100-page book (only 25,000 words) would have a BASE cost of $7.40 each! And I didn’t even complete the entire process so it’s possible for that to be higher. This means even though as the author I can set my own price, it would have to be above that base cost.
I then went to Lulu.com and checked the retail pricing on some of their paperbacks, hardcovers, and e-books. As I suspected, though I saw some free e-books, other e-books retailed for over $8.00, and one e-book had a price of $65.00! I also saw paperback books as high as $14.00 and $19.00 and one paperback book was retail priced at over $100! Although the authors do have control over pricing, it’s limited because of the base price Lulu charges for book setup. In addition, Lulu takes a percentage of every book sale.
Lulu Self-Publishing Review: Caution
Read the GlobalREACH agreement for Lulu VERY carefully.
Do not accept any verbal promises from Lulu staff members, no matter how many times they repeat the promise. Request all correspondence in writing.
Once you agree to use Lulu to self-publish your book, you are prohibited from using any other service simultaneously. This limits your sales to customers of retailers in Lulu’s distribution network.
Based on my own findings during my Lulu self-publishing review, anyone who is considering using Lulu should thoroughly research on their own. In addition, to trade publishers and vanity presses, there are a plethora of self-publishing resources which enable writers to get their book published and distributed to waiting readers.
Other self-publishing services to consider and research include: Smashwords, Amazon, Digital2Draft, and CreateSpace. Regardless of the service you choose, it is your responsibility to thoroughly research the company, its services, and its history of satisfied customers.