Lulu.com is one of the most popular book publishing websites because they help authors realize their dream of becoming published. They offer an online platform to help their customers prepare their book online, including tools to layout their books, apply for an ISBN number, and publish their books to sell to the public on well known sites such as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and book sellers worldwide. Customers may choose not to purchase an ISBN number if they intend to publish a book for their own personal use, such as a family cookbook or a digital scrapbook. Lulu allows them to publish the following:
Lulu also offers a program for teachers to publish books that are pertinent to instructing their students. Customers may also publish eBooks for the iPad.
In addition to the free services, Lulu also offers paid packages to help authors publish and market their books. The most popular of the paid services is the ISBN service. Once an author receives this number and enters it into their book file, Lulu will distribute their title to every major bookseller online for free. Other paid services include:
Lulu offers three publishing packages which include a range of services for a flat fee. Alternately, customers can choose or ignore these services if they know how to layout and design their own books. This flexibility allows them to publish their books at a price that can fit their budget.
Lulu was founded in 2002 by Bob Young who wanted to create a platform for authors to self-publish their books. Their headquarters is located in North Carolina.
3101 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27607
Customers may use the live chat, email support, or post inquiries in the community forum if they have any questions.
Overall, customers are satisfied with their experience with Lulu.com. Those who were not had a myriad of problems, including poor customer service, software incompatibilities, formatting issues, and more. Customers are able to access the community forum, should they need guidance with the publishing process. Lulu also has an extensive knowledge base that is helpful, in most cases.
As a customer, I can report that I had a good experience with this company. The only qualm I had was with attaching the ISBN numbers to my books. I wound up having to buy two galley proofs: one for the initial inspection of the layout and the second after I ordered the ISBN number. At the time, they wouldn’t let me wait until I had the number so that I could insert it and order one proof. I also recommend that you download and use the templates that they provide, plus read through the entire knowledge base section before you start your project because there is a lot to learn.
I’ve now got six books on their server, and I’ve never had any problems, either with the website or with the quality of the books they’ve delivered. Of the half-dozen proof copies of my own books I’ve purchased, the quality has always been top notch, both in paper-back and hardback – the equal of any conventionally published book. As for the cover design, what you see on-screen is pretty much what you get. You follow the template, upload your design at a decent resolution and the quality of reproduction has always been spot on. Perhaps I’m one of the lucky ones, I don’t know – I can only speak from my own experience – but everything Lulu promised me it could deliver, it has done so, consistently, many times.
Both CreateSpace and Lulu offer good instructions for the DIY crowd and it's not that difficult to come up with an OK-looking book (people's definition of OK will vary).
If you’re thinking about publishing on your own, as long as you’re somewhat computer/graphics savvy, I would recommend Lulu.
There are still some things wrong with it, of course. It can still take quite a while to get things how you want them, though I’ve found that in general, if you’ve prepared your file and cover artwork beforehand, as long as you log in at a time when the site’s not too busy then you can get your book / ebook or whatever published very quickly indeed. Of course, you have to do all your own marketing, which is the downside of every self-publishing venture. I feel that you could do with being able to do a bit more with the formatting of your shop front, but what you can do doesn’t look bad.
Now that my main issue with the site – problems with getting perfectly good files to be accepted – is gone, I’m very impressed with the Lulu.com site that exists now, and would recommend it to anyone wanting to give self-publishing a try. Go through the FAQs first though and it’ll help you a lot. I’m reserving that fifth star until I’m really sure it’s stood the test of time, though.
I published a few copies of my book (for myself only) on Lulu, and was far from happy with the quality of the books I received. The ink was faint on many pages, and one page even had a large slice of excess paper too big for the book -- did they bother trimming it or printing the book again? No. They folded it inside the book and expected me to accept that. I'm never publishing with Lulu again.
Critique of Lulu
In late 2010, I contracted with Lulu to publish my book. My initial editor war very helpful particularly when I had to change writing programs used for the document. However, at the very end, editors were changed and the new editor misunderstood my directives. At the same time the transcribers made gross mistakes in layout and then printed the author’s copy before it was ready. Finally, with added corrections, I had a book that I could order. I filled out all the paperwork that I was asked to and waited for the book to appear on Amazon as it was on Lulu.com. When it hadn’t appeared I queried the handlers and found that I had to pay $25 more which I did. After 6 months with no satisfaction I learned that I hadn’t published the book after all although I get enticements to buy more book every week.
What’s wrong with Lulu? Lulu tries to do too much by email which is overloaded with messages and no clear next steps. Bottom line Lulu lost a opportunity to promote an unusual travel book and make much more money than it has.
Lulu has been accredited with the BBB since August of 2003. Currently, they have an A+ rating, with 160 complaints that were closed within the past three years. Prospective customers may read about these complaints by clicking on the link provided on the profile page, next to the Customer Complaints Summary heading.
Several authors have become very successful after they used Lulu.com to self-publish their books. Some notables include The New Yorker Cartoonist, Mick Stevens; David Thorne, who published The Internet is a Playground; and, Richard Thornton, who received television success. They have also been featured in popular media outlets such as Mashable, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, Everyday with Rachel Ray, and Digital Photo.
Lulu has a global Alexa ranking of 4,608, with 52,345 sites linking to them. Although they have a global presence, the US makes up for 31% of its visitors. According to Compete, they have 317,071 unique visitors per month and rank 2 out of 5 in the competitive ranking chart. Currently, cafepress.com, which has over 4 million visitors per month. They have a Google Page Rank of 7.
Lulu has established a good social media presence. Currently, their strongest presence in on Facebook, where their page has received 37,775 likes. They have an active community on this page. On Twitter, they have 23,884 followers. Their weakest presence is on LinkedIn, with 1,542 followers and Google+, with 449 followers.
Lulu uses a secure connection so that customers can order products safely on their website. The Google security diagnostic tool revealed that this site is not listed as suspicious. Google scanned 174 pages and found that Lulu has been free of malware and other viruses for the past 90 days.
Prices for books vary, depending upon what materials the customer wants to use. Lulu has a cost calculator tool that will help them determine the cost of their printed book before they start the publishing process. Below is a cost breakdown of a 300-page, 6x9 B&W, Perfect Bound book.
Retail Royalty: .50¢
Lulu Fee: .13¢
Manufacturing cost per unit: $7.50
Retail Markup: $8.13
Total Retail Price: $16.25
Customers can opt to use Lulu’s free ISBN service or pay $99 for the YourISBN. The paid service allows authors to become their own publishers.
Lulu offers three pre-publishing packages for authors who do not want to learn how to self-publish their books. All of these packages come with the basic services of a consultation phone call, cover design, formatting, Lulu ISBN, Global Distribution, galley copy, editorial quality review, and the Published For You service.
The Best Seller package offers the basic services for $729. The Masterpiece package provides the basic services, plus ePub conversion and phone support for $1,649, while the Laureate package offers everything including a full copy edit, 100 paperbacks, and 25 hardcovers for $4,949.
Shipping rates vary, depending on the type and amount of products that are purchased. For one $13 paperback book, the rates are as follows:
Mail - 5 to 15 business-day delivery - $3.99
Ground - 2 to 5 business-day delivery - $8.99
Expedited - 2 business days - $16.99
Express - 1 business day - $36.99
All of these rates apply to orders after they are printed. Lulu guarantees orders that are shipped with trackable methods, such as USPS, UPS, or FedEx.
Lulu accepts payment via major credit cards, such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. They also accept PayPal. Once a customer enters his credit card information, it is stored in his account so that he will not have to reenter it when making future orders. His billing and shipping address are also stored, for added convenience.
Lulu offers to exchange books and calendars that are damaged, defective, or not packaged correctly. Customers must notify them within 30 days after the date of purchase through their online help form. Quality errors, such as typos and grammar mistakes or poor formatting and design do not qualify for refunds. Downloads and orders from prisons also do not qualify.
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