I’ve written and rewritten the opening line of this post at least twenty times. I hoped to find a way to say that I’m glad 2020 is over, but to not discredit some of the positives of the year. On the whole, I think we’re all pretty glad to be done with 2020.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some things worth looking back on though!
Here at Lulu, we made the most of 2020 by rebuilding our entire website and beginning a long process of introducing new features. In the interest of capping off 2020 on as positive a note as possible, let’s look back at the year in Lulu news.
In April of this year, we launched a complete site overhaul. That included rebuilding our publishing process, updating the site pages, and integrating our printers into a new network. No small undertaking.
But we did it! Despite the pandemic and a few hiccups at launch, Lulu 2.0 (as we affectionately refer to it internally) is the biggest undertaking the Lulu team has participated in.
The entire Lulu team has been working on this site for the better part of two-years. And (despite a couple of issues right at launch) we’re exceedingly pleased with how the update has gone.
Modernizing the pages might seem minor to our users. The look and feel of the site are less important than the functionality, right?
That’s mostly true. But we also needed to update the underlying code that makes up these pages. With that done, our site can now be updated in a matter of hours instead of days (or weeks). The creative team at Lulu can change an image or make a new page quickly and easily. Meaning we can more easily help you find the product details and information you need.
With our site updated under the hood, we could pull a ton of resources we used to offer across a variety of platforms (social media, blogs, and landing pages) and centralize them. You can find this incredible repository for resources here: https://www.lulu.com/resources
I think it’s important to point out that Lulu is, at our core, a technology and content company. Our technology gives you the print-on-demand network, enabling you to create, publish, and sell a book to people all around the world.
But when it comes to self-publishing, creators need resources. Guidance on the publishing process, file setup, marketing, and everything in between. At Lulu, we believe strongly that the best way to support independent authors is through these kinds of resources.
Side note: if there’s anything YOU want to see the team at Lulu dissect, create a guide for, or offer more resources on, leave us a comment below!
Okay, I couldn’t talk about our site update and not touch on the publishing tool! This is the centerpiece of Lulu and it’s the piece we put the most work into updating and upgrading.
The final product is a guided experience that makes it easy (like super-easy) if you just need to print a book or calendar. This was a pretty big ask from users for years; the ability to just print. Now you can circumvent all the publishing steps like Metadata and just upload your files to get a book printed.
Here’s a great video about using Lulu to publish a book for sale:
Built For The Future
Finally, when we went through the process of updating and upgrading our site, we also did so with an eye toward the future. The old Lulu site was, more or less, static. Updating or fixing a bug meant rewriting or editing base code (I guess, I’m not a developer). Any problem we discovered or feature we wanted to add took a lot of time and effort.
No longer. In fact, we’ve spent the second half of 2020 releasing features at an incredible pace. And we plan to continue adding even more (and even better) improvements and brand-new features in the year to come.
With Lulu upgraded to modern infrastructure and our site churning out as many (more actually) books as it did prior to our relaunch, everyone at Lulu took a collective sigh of relief.
Then we started building features.
- Pricing Calculator – The pricing tool allows you to see the various size, paper, binding, and ink combinations available. You can enter a page count estimate and select all your specifications to get a print cost, retail revenue potential, and shipping estimates for your next order.
- Calendar Tool – Historically, we used a Flash-based application we call Lulu Studio to create calendars and photo books. To replace the old Studio, we introduced a new Calendar Tool to make uploading images, creating events, and printing a calendar as easy as ever.
- New Payment Methods – We added a bunch of common payment methods, like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Shopify, and others.
- Resource Center – Built into your account, the Resource Center gives you quick links to guides and walkthroughs, displays announcements, and can give you account-specific updates just for you!
- Order Lookup – Enter your order number and email address and we’ll give you all the details we have about your order. Best of all, no account is required!
The Lulu Bookstore
The last major facet of our website is the bookstore. When we launched our updated site, our bookstore was pretty basic. Much like our old bookstore, you generally went to the search bar, found the book you were looking for, and checked out.
But since the spring, we’ve added better categorization, filters, reviews, author pages, and improved search. I’ll get into our plans for the bookstore in my next post, but suffice it to say that we’re excited by the blank slate we’ve got and we’re already working on making the bookstore easier to browse for readers looking for something new to read.
Content To Keep You Going
The pandemic shut down almost all the in-person events we’d normally attend. Which sucked because we all thrive on those events to connect with authors, creators, and entrepreneurs.
Since we couldn’t get out and talk with all of you, we ramped up our webinar series instead!
Starting in April, we released 8 webinars this year, ranging from selling books, pre-publishing tips, and audience building. Check out the recordings on our YouTube channel to enjoy all of 2020’s Lulu webinars.
Another Year In The Books
Yeah, I know that pun strays dangerously into the ‘dad joke’ realm, but I don’t care. 2020 has been a tough year, but if there’s one thing that can get us through hard times, it’s a good story. Or two or three good stories.
With that in mind, I’m going to end today’s post with a few awesome books from Lulu authors. Each one was published this year and all of them make great reads for the incoming winter months.
Now Back to You!
The only planner that puts YOU first! Are you ready for self-care, sanity, and success? Experts say that those who schedule daily self-care time are much more likely to lead healthier & happier lives. Beat burnout and improve your overall health with this planner packed with self-care activities you will love, powerful affirmations that will keep you motivated, a self-care schedule to keep you on track with your goals, a gratitude journal to keep you focused on what really matters, and a weekly progress tracker to celebrate your wins! Get ready for a happier, healthier you!
Mind Your Mental Health 21 Empowering Stories of Growth and Healing
What lessons are learned when you go from a breakdown to a major breakthrough and experienced major mental growth as well? How do you move the conversation about Black women and mental health from the back rooms to the front porch? Twenty-one phenomenal women share vivid, empowering, and emotional personal essays on how they faced various life challenges that significantly impacted their emotional health.
Dethany, The Office Goth
Dethany Dendrobia is notable for being cheerful, hard-working, skilled, enthusiastic…and Goth. As a personal assistant, she’s gained a reputation for being as reliable as Death and Taxes. During the course of 2016, she helps out at the local library, facilitates the engagement of coworker Fi, and assists the Autocorrect app in finding a rating star that’s been stolen by a troll.
Lockdown Recipes – A Cooking Journey with AJ, my Autistic Son. AJ is smart, funny, loves food, but gets bored easily with the same old fare as all kids. This inspired me to try a wide range of recipes from all around the world to keep AJ excited and kept him constantly craving for our tasty adventures.
Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.
thanks, Paull ~ well, I feel a little better knowing that LULU wasn’t the main contributors on the major change. Well, I have 8 month to figure out my Christmas books ~ But, I will, whew! BE SAFE and thanks for the reply ~ Maybe they will let the existing books (Saddle stitch) exist ~
UNDER THE BUS ~ THROWN! I like so many others that use (LULU) learned we LULU will no longer be accepting Stitch binding Saddle Stitch projects for Global Distribution service this coming MARCH 2021 and TAKEN OFF their site ~ Like what? I have over 4 children books that are around 19 to 16 pages ~ what do we do? They are 11×8 inches ~ Been there for years, they sell. I’ve been a member since 2004 and it seem that we old members just get kicked around ~ I have published over 20 books ~ a few retired, but the point I have been, is now we are asked to retired our Saddle Stitch projects because of policies ~ no regards of the scramble and affect it will cause upon the ranks ~ OR AM I READING THE NEW REVISION WRONG ~ ALL Saddle Stitch projects? Please color me confused ~ and we get a week notice to adjust our books! AND I REALLY DO APPREICIATE LULU AND ALL THEY DO FOR SOOOOOOOOOOOOO MANY ~ AWESOME, but this new wrinkle is like a tidal wave ~ wow! It really is wasting the small book writers away ~ especially short children stories writers like me ~ True I have over 15 books are not Saddle Stitch projects. Nevertheless, my children books are (CHRISTMAS books mostly) are dealt a huge blow ~ 1 of is even on Audible.com ~ umph, wow. Can you offer any advice? thanks, (sincerely)
I feel your pain, but this isn’t something anyone here at Lulu wanted or chose to do.
Unfortunately, books sold through distribution services are at the mercy of those distributors. When Amazon and Ingram decided to stop supporting saddle stitch, all we can do is pass that information on to you.
The alternative is to sell your books directly to your readers. You can use any of a variety of e-commerce platforms or even just sell through the Lulu bookstore.
Happy to hear about the changes. I am curious to learn what the plans are for the customer experience in 2021. I see opportunities to make things more simple, seamless and straight-forward instead of having the information embedded within articles. For instance, I see an alert asking for me to approve my product for distribution but I don’t see an option to complete this. Also, within an article it says if an items is revised, it will continue to be available for distribution. That hasn’t been the case for me. Providing clarity for these things would be great.
Also, I have questions about getting distribution approvals. I’m waiting to hear back from customer service and don’t have a timeline. Maybe this type of experience can be addressed in 2021.
All the best and thanks,
I have had 3 books uploaded for global distribution and accepted (supposedly) for some months. However, only 2 are showing for sale on amazon and none on any of the other platforms. I get no helpful response from you when I try to look into fixing this and your webchat feature no longer seems active. Suffice it to say I am not at all impressed by the rebuild/update.
The site design won’t have much impact on our distribution services. It’s possible one of your projects was rejected; there are rather strict requirements for projects using distribution.
Try contacting support again, our team should all be back from the holiday now and ready to help!
Any planned updates to xPress soon? User interface only shows 5 books at a time, which is a pain when you have over 30 pages of products.
That’s a good question! We don’t have any major updates planned for xPress at this time. The majority of our efforts next year will be focused on improving our new platform and building new features into our main site.
Maybe it’s just me but since you launched the new platform I haven’t been able to complete the process to upload a book. It seems it must now be done via a pdf. Did that. But to move through the process the pdf must be accepted and mine hasn’t been because I get messages about not having embedded fonts. I redid it after embedding but still got kicked back with the same message. The other message I keep getting is about there being hidden codes that are transparent but I don’t understand that so I have no idea how to fix. I contacted support and got a response telling me to go to a site and follow the steps. I did. Still doesn’t work! The old Lulu, clunky as it was, seems to have been better. At least there were humans one could reach who could or would actually help.
Our staff hasn’t changed in the least and if anything our team is more knowledgable about the process than in the past when a slew of poorly designed tools and bug-riddled systems were our only option. Now we not only have a support team intimately aware of the inner-workings of Lulu, but we also have the ability to correct problems/bugs in a matter of days instead of weeks/months (if ever).
Flattened transparencies and embedded fonts have always been a requirement for printing. It’s pretty difficult to know exactly why your file is tripping these errors without actually looking at it, but they usually crop up from MS Word DOCX to PDF conversions or exceedingly complex, layered designs. If you’re working in MS Word, be sure to use the ‘For Print’ option when exporting to PDF. That will resolve many layer/font issues on it’s own. If the issues persist, it likely means the book you’re designing needs a more robust design tool to create a print-ready file.