Lulu Lens – What Can We Do To Improve The Publishing Process?

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Obviously, one of the most important aspects of our site is our publishing process. Our wizard helps authors create a book from their digital files, and we want the system to be as easy to navigate as possible. We already offer in-depth and brief guides to help you make a file our printers can easily print for you.

We also published program specific guides, such as this MS Word Formatting Guide and this deep-diving series into using Adobe InDesign.

And we put together some quick guides with information about Formatting Terms and the specifications to create a PDF. You can find even more guides on our Lulu Toolkit page.

Formatting Terms
PDF Creation Guide

But is there more we can do?

With that in mind, we want your feedback on what we can do to improve the publishing process.

Can we improve the process for adding ISBNs to your book?

Is the language used to explain the steps straight-forward enough?

Let us know what you think!

21 thoughts on “Lulu Lens – What Can We Do To Improve The Publishing Process?”

  1. Hi Nick. While the Lulu Studio design wizard is a very sophisticated part of the publishing process (and has come a long way), I still find it very annoying and difficult to use. Two things that spring to mind at the moment are that 1) it seems impossible to move or get rid of the barcode, which interrupts any well-thought-through rear cover design, and 2) it takes a LOT of processing power and/or bandwidth and is painfully slow to use. For both these reasons I have switched back to the old designer, as it’s more straightforward for people like me who design their covers in Photoshop and then simply want to upload them.
    There are other reasons but I can’t recall them now – I’ll try it out again on my next project and come back here.
    Like I say it’s a very detailed tool and has the capacity to be excellent for all users, so please keep plugging away at it.

  2. Not sure how it works exactly but I would suggest the ability to have your book ordered by brick and mortar stores. It’s nice having your book in every on-line retailer but it would be great for both big and small market brick and mortar stores to have the ability to order the book directly.
    It is difficult enough, with the high printing costs, to offer small bookstores any kind of discount on your book. If they could simply order it directly (and not at the retail price) that would be greatly appreciated by indie publishers and authors.

  3. Hi Nick
    “Can we improve the process for adding ISBNs to your book?”
    Yes, there is definitely a way this process can be improved! I manage my own ISBNs because I wasn’t eligible for the old “PBY” package and I wanted an ISBN in my own name. Therefore I arranged to obtain my own ISBNs and my own distribution.
    Under the old system (i.e. prior to 1 September 2009), I was able to enter my ISBN at the Description stage (the 3nd last step of the wizard, just before the pricing stage), have it show up against my title in the Lulu MarketPlace and it wouldn’t affect the way I managed my distribution (so I could have the project available in the Lulu MarketPlace and available to other online retailers like Amazon, which I manage myself).
    Under the new system (i.e. after 1 September 2009), I no longer have the option to enter my ISBN if I only want to list books in the Lulu MarketPlace and still manage my own distribution to other online retailers like Amazon (i.e. if I choose the “Make it public to sell in the Lulu Marketplace”).
    If I want to assign my ISBN, I have to choose the “Make it public and assign an ISBN to your title to sell your book in online bookstores like Amazon as well as the Lulu Marketplace” option. This effectively forces me into choosing a Lulu distribution plan (and therefore the horrendous retail pricing structure forced upon Lulu and its creators by outside retailers) when I don’t want that. Even if I choose not to allocate an ISBN after choosing the “Make it public and assign an ISBN to your title to sell your book in online bookstores like Amazon as well as the Lulu Marketplace” option, I still get forced into the horrendous retail pricing structure forced upon Lulu.
    As it stands now, if I choose the “Make it public to sell in the Lulu Marketplace”, I can’t allocate one of my ISBNs during the wizard and have it show up on the product page as it does with projects I published and allocated an ISBN to under the “old” system.
    When the changes were announced, it was indicated that this would not happen – i.e. I wouldn’t be “forced” into choosing a Lulu distribution plan and I would be able to enter my own ISBN without needing to choose the GlobalReach package. There should be an option for me to enter an ISBN if I choose the “Make it public to sell in the Lulu Marketplace” as there was under the “old” method.
    I raised this issue, and a couple of others under Support Ticket 00304338, which I started on 5 September. My issues were partially addressed by Ben A, the distribution services manager. However this issue has not been addressed – the last I heard from Ben was on 12 September, despite a couple of follow–up emails I sent on 2 October and 2 November.
    I’d really like this issue addressed sooner rather than later please.
    Belinda D’Alessandro

  4. Belinda,
    Are you seeing a “Make it public and assign an ISBN to your title to sell your book in online bookstores like Amazon as well as the Lulu Marketplace.” option? That’s what you should be choosing to add your ISBN. I hope this helps.

  5. Hi Nick
    Yes, that’s what I see, but it DOESN’T help and it’s NOT what I want. I don’t want a Lulu distribution package but I still want to assign my own ISBN. I want to use my ISBN at Lulu but not have Lulu make it available to other online sellers for me.
    In the past, Lulu “forced” me into getting my own ISBNs and distribution because I wasn’t eligible for PBY (and I didn’t want PBL). I could enter my own ISBN at Lulu but couldn’t get a distribution package.
    You indicated in one of your earier blog posts about the changes to distribution that Lulu creators would not be forced into getting a distribution package but they would still be able to bring their own ISBNs. The way it works now is what that does force me into getting a distribution package if I want to enter my own ISBN.
    There needs to be another option – make it public and assign an ISBN to your title to sell your book in the Lulu Marketplace only.
    Belinda D’Alessandro

  6. Belinda,
    I apologize for any confusion, but I believe that option is for both Lulu assigned ISBNs and for assigning your own. It sounds like we may need to look at the wording though.
    It should be that if you choose that third option, you can either have Lulu assign an ISBN for you or you can assign your own ISBN. One of those options is required for your book to be distributed outside of Lulu, but choosing that option does not require you to distribute your book outside of Lulu. A little confusing, I know.
    If that is not working for you, then please let me know, and I will look into this further.

  7. Nick
    No, that’s not work for me. I would expect others who want to enter their own ISBNs but don’t want a Lulu distribution plan (because they may have their own distribution arrangements, like me) will experience the same problems I do.
    When I choose that option (and before I choose to obtain the GlobalReach package), I’m asked to agree to the following:
    (a) to let Lulu manage my ISBN;
    (b) to agree that my ISBN will be bound by the Bowker (US ISBN Agency) rules applied to ISBNs issued by Bowker;
    (c) to let Lulu add the ISBN to the Books-in-Print database; and
    (d) to set my price according to the recommended retail price required by Lulu.
    I can’t agree to those three things because:
    (a) if I don’t have a Lulu distribution plan, there is no good reason for me to agree to allow Lulu to manage my ISBN (in fact, the rules under which the ISBNs were issued to me require me to maintain control, just as Lulu is required to maintain control over ISBNs issued to it by Bowker) and it would affect my ability to get local printers to print my products;
    (b) the Bowker (US ISBN Agency) rules applied to ISBNs issued by Bowker don’t apply to my ISBNs – I have to abide by the rules set by the ISBN Agency that issued my ISBNs (namely the Australian ISBN Agency, and although there’s a link from Bowker’s main page to the Australian ISBN Agency, they are NOT the same agency);
    (c) I would have already entered all my ISBN data into Books-in-Print and I wouldn’t want to give the responsibility of data entry of the primary ISBN data to anyone else without knowing what changes were being made first; and
    (d) I wouldn’t be able to set the book prices myself according to the best price I could offer a product at and would be required to use Lulu’s distribution pricing model, which would seriously overprice my books.
    If you have a look at the 2 print books currently available on my storefront (with my ISBNs attached to them and published prior to the changes on 1 September), you’ll see that the hardcover is priced at $26.00 and the paperback is priced at $12.00. The only way I can set my prices at those levels is because of the arrangements I have for distribution. If I was to republish them now, under the current system, I’d have to use Lulu’s pricing model and the lowest retail hardcover price would be over $36.00 and the lowest paperback price would be over $23.00, WITHOUT any revenue for me for sales on retail sites other than Lulu.
    I understand that that option is required for Lulu to distribute my book outside of Lulu, if I wanted Lulu to distribute my book outside Lulu. But if I want to enter my ISBN and not have Lulu distribute my book outside Lulu, I’m forced into the exact same situation as if Lulu was going to distribute my book even if Lulu’s not going to distribute for me.
    Why would I want to be forced into effectively doubling my prices! AND not get any revenue for sales outside Lulu. Look, I understand that Lulu has (and therefore creators have) certain retail pricing requirements forced upon it if Lulu is distributing books outside Lulu (by one outside retailer in particular from what I’ve been able to deduce, and I have my own views about that). But that pricing model shouldn’t apply to books with ISBNs which Lulu is not distributing outside Lulu.
    So, if I have to agree to these things to be able to enter my ISBN I’m effectively being forced into the same model as if I was getting a Lulu distribution plan. The only real option available to me now is not to enter my ISBN at Lulu if I don’t want a Lulu distribution plan.
    Belinda D’Alessandro

  8. Belinda,
    I spoke with our distribution product manager, and it looks like you have highlighted some issues with ISBN assignment.
    (a) and (b) – We are working on changing the wording on the site, because we do not manage the ISBN if you bring your own ISBN. and it does not have to be bound by Bowker.
    (c) – We check to see if your book is already in Bowker’s database. If it is, then we don’t need to do anything else.
    (d) – Unfortunately, due to an issue with the site, for the time being a retail price is required. We are working on fixing this issue.
    Thank you for bringing these issues to our attention.

  9. Nick
    (a) and (b)- Excellent!
    (c) – Yes, I see the logic in that (particularly in checking the “ownership” of the ISBN).
    (d)- Again, excellent and I hope the issue can be resolved soon.
    Thanks for checking on this.

  10. I am trying to self publish an ebook with cover. I am unable to utilize the cover making page effectively. I can’t download from your photo gallery to the book cover. There are no detail spots for putting blurbs on the back cover. Sometimes I can change the color of the cover and sometimes I can’t Wish I knew what the problem was.

  11. Hi
    Im a newbie to Lulu. I found the how to FAQ info a bit disjointed and widespread. `It might be worth a review of the `idiot guides` with full step by step examples in a brochure. Tedious to prepare but as a downloadable file the budding user can digest and refer more easily.
    I used formatting services because I do not have Acrobat; this meant many exchanges with support to get amendments done (10x referrals). It seemed a awful waste of time and effort to review my full work each time,and type up a list for support to send to formatting to make amendments. It didnt appear to me that the work was checked after each `format` as repetative errors arose.Is it feasible / viable for Lulu to have an on line facility that provides access to Acrobat so that the author can make amendments direct ? It neednt be the full Acrobat system – a cut down version that allowed limited editing of text, amending spelling,full stops, commas, quotes, italics on and off, font size, would cover most of the bitty things that arise. It might involve licensing issues with Adobe, but even a modest ( nothing too extravagant !) licence charge to use such a facility would be worth it.
    There are pdf file converters on the market that convert eg MS Word to pdf files, and allow the user to make amendment – “PDF Converter Pro 6” by Nuance is one the kids have bought me. A clear guide on using these so that they work with your system would be helpful. I shall find out shortly with my next book.

  12. Hi Nick,
    Totally off topic but it counts as valuable feedback for you at Lulu. I just purchased a book from one of your authors as a test purchase – if I’m going to publish with you, I wanted to check out the quality of the finished product first. I’m sorry to say, but I wasn’t impressed. The book reminded me of a school text book, rather than the contemporary fictional novel it should have felt like. The issues: glossy cover – a definite no. Pure white paper – also not winning you any favours. Book format: scarily large in comparison to most paperbacks in your local Waterstones.
    If I were to publish through Lulu, I would want to know that my book was printed with the respect and care that went into its creation, and I would want it to stand up to any other book on the shelf. To be taken seriously. In short:
    I, matte covers
    II, off-white paper in various weights
    III, standard UK book sizes (width 5″, height 8″)
    I hope you’ll consider these options.

  13. Nick,
    I really appreciate the feedback and will pass it on to our product managers to look into.
    As a note, we currently offer cream paper stock in 6×9 and 7.5×7.5. We also have a 5.5×8.5 (not quite the measurements you mention, but close) under our Publisher Grade options, but it does have the white paper.

  14. so glad you asked for suggestions.
    i want to make a book of photographic portraits but could not find the information professional photographers need such as:
    what color space does lulu want, srgb or adobe1998?
    what is the highest resolution possible, 300dpi, 190dpi or what?
    what color management does lulu’s output device need?
    i’m ready to get started as soon as i know how to send images but without the above information photographers are sending images blindly.
    thank you in advance for letting me have the
    answers to my questions.

  15. Elaine,
    I asked your questions to one of our print specialists, and here are there answers:
    1) You can use either srgb or adobe1998.
    2) We can accept fairly high resolutions, but we typically recommend at least 300dpi and somewhere between that and 600 for the high range.
    3) It’s best to leave color management turned off. Better that the printer do it.
    They also suggest you use Adobe job options for creating the pdf.
    I hope this helps.

  16. I do suggest that the Authors have a ‘bubble’ or litsting next to each of their listed books in the Author’s publishing files that will let us know what the standings of each book are, like ‘World wide distribution’, ‘Local distribution’, and other packages that show what we have done with our books, concerning our connection to Lulu. com.
    I have found that my latest book is not listed around the world like I thought it was. It does not show up in any book vendor’s listing, like my first book does. If we know where we are at in this business, it will be easier to know what we need to do to improve our lot. I hope you understand my meaning here. Love, Armand

  17. Francine Jolicoeur

    I have my ISBN from Canada and I am not able to file the questionnaire for the distribution. What can I do?

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