Looking Back: Lulu in 2018

Well, there goes 2018. It went fast. As we close out this year, I first want to say I hope you all met or exceeded your writing goals. I know I didn’t, so don’t feel too bad if you’re staring down an unfinished manuscript, a stack of pages that need editing, or a book that is desperate for some layout attention. That’s just how it goes sometimes.

But I am pleased to be able to say that 2018 has been an incredible year for everyone here at Lulu. Today we’re going to reflect on what 2018 meant for Lulu’s team and for all the creators we work with every day.

Selling Books Made Simple

In 2017 we introduced Lulu’s Open API. This was the first step in a long journey we’ve been planning for years. Taking the Lulu platform to Open Source, meaning anyone can use our print network to upload and send files to our printers, has been the underlying priority for some time.
But just offering an Open API for developers to create print-on-demand bookstores doesn’t actually help individual authors much. We want to fully bridge the gap from creator to finished product (be it a book you make and buy yourself or one you market and sell to other readers).
The benefit of having an Open API is that the software is very easy to adapt. We’ve got a tool in place that lets anyone upload files, verify that they’ll print, and order prints (we call this Lulu xPress). But this is only the first application of our API.

The next step is offering retail options for our authors.

So in early 2018 we introduced the first major application of this new API – the Lulu xPress App for Shopify®️. This App (like the Apps on your phone) allows you to do one very specific thing with your existing Shopify webstore: print and sell books using Lulu’s API.

You can find the original announcement we made on the Blog, plus I’m going to post this awesome video we made earlier this year:

This is the future of commerce for creators of all kinds. Mega-retailers online aren’t going anywhere, but studies continue to show that consumers will buy directly from creators if they have the option.

Stats!

Lulu 2018 Stats Info Graphic

More Options, More Control

I mentioned how we are rolling out new API driven publishing and print-on-demand tools slowly, but now I want to take a moment to look back at the first major accomplishment of our Open API.

Lulu xPress is a standalone site, part of the Lulu network of print-on-demand tools. This site utilizes our API to connect to our print network. It’s like a simplified version of Lulu publishing wizard. Only so much better.

We’ve stripped down our publishing wizard, updated the backend, and have a tool that makes it as simple as it should be to publish your book.
Late this year we added Calendar printing to our xPress site, introducing the first replacement to our aging Studio Wizard. Now graphic designers who create their own calendars have the option to upload a prepared file and circumvent the necessity to upload and build within our templates.
And for less graphic-minded creators? Well we’ve still got the template options. Upload your images, arrange them, add holidays, and just like that you’ve got a calendar!

Updating our Calendar wizard might not seem like a huge step forward, but for us it was a pretty important moment. Not simply because we’ve created an updated version of the calendar wizard. But also because it was done through our API architecture.

Basically, we created an infrastructure that should be very easy to update and make changes too. Then we created Lulu xPress with that infrastructure. The calendar tool is the first major update and it proved to us that our plans are working.

Up Next?

Next week we’ll take a look ahead at 2019, so I can’t give it all away this week. But I do want to tease a little bit of where we’re going.
We’ve realigned our publishing platform to use an Open Source API infrastructure. Anyone can use our API to print books. And we’ve got the control to make changes and adapt our tools as we see the need.

Next week we’ll start to look at how we’re planning to pull all these threads together.

Stay tuned and take a moment to enjoy the new year!

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