Self-publishing isn’t exactly a new thing. Options to print books in small runs and on-demand have been available for decades. Yet there still is some confusion about what it means to self-publish. If you’re new to book selling, you might wonder; what is Lulu?
Well, we’re not a woman’s clothing line or a singer. What we are is a book printing company. We’ve helped authors, artists, creators, entrepreneurs, and educators all over the world create a staggering variety of books.
What Is Lulu?
Lulu is a self-publishing, print-on-demand company offering printing and fulfillment of books and calendars. More than just printing your book, we also have an online bookstore where you can sell your books and a Global Distribution network connected to Amazon, Ingram, and more.
Now, you could probably replace ‘Lulu’ in the above paragraph with the name of a variety of new self-publishing companies. Some follow the DIY model we use, others offer a variety of services like typesetting, editing, cover design, and more. You can find self-publishing, assisted-publishing, hybrid-publishing… I would run out of hyphens if I kept going.
So what sets Lulu apart?
How Does Lulu Work?
There are lots of platforms you could choose to publish and print your book. But one kind of dominates the conversation sometimes. At every publishing event I’ve ever attended, I get some form of this question multiple times: “why would I use Lulu to publish? I’ve heard Amazon is how you self-publish.”
It’s a valid (if not infuriating) question. Amazon makes it easy to upload your file to their site and start selling your book. If you just poured months of work into writing and editing a book, the simple route to publishing can be very appealing.
But not everyone who creates a book thinks like that. And that’s where Lulu shines; for creators who value control and growth potential over fast and easy publishing.
Print-on-demand is a wonderful way to cut your costs, control material waste, and still make it simple to sell your book. One challenge, though, is that on-demand requires localized means of production. If you’re in Sydney, Australia and order The Profitable Author Planner, you’ll get a copy from an Australian printer. Ordering the same book in Kansas City, Missouri will ship from a US printer.
Controlling quality and ensuring consistency is tough in these scenarios. That’s why we focus on providing authors the highest-quality printing from our limited number of printing facilities. That becomes critical for creators selling calendars, cookbooks, artbooks, or anything that relies on printed images in their book.
Lulu isn’t unique in making the quality-over-cost argument. Lots of other indie publishing and self-publishing companies will give you the same lines.
What sets Lulu books apart isn’t in how we print books, but in how we help you sell books.
Historically, selling books was a long, involved process: you write the book, and an agent pitches the book and a publisher picks it up. The publisher will sit on it for months (at least) as they edit, revise, figure out how to market, and so on. Finally, the distributors who work with the publisher print off a run of your books. This process can take years to get your book on the shelf. Where it still has to attract an audience.
Compared to traditional publishing, self-publishing gives you more control over both your content and your timeline.
Over the last decade, as we’ve embraced online shopping, new tools have become available to give individuals all they need to sell on their own. It’s referred to as direct-to-consumer (DTC) selling and if you’ve never heard of it, you’ve got some reading to do. DTC selling is the fastest growing way to sell basically anything. And books, with the already efficient print-on-demand networks in place, are well positioned to take advantage of this trend.
At Lulu, we’re fully invested in direct-to-consumer selling. To that end, we’ve developed a multitude of ways for you to be your own bookseller.
Lulu Direct Shopify App
Our app for the ecommerce platform Shopify lets you connect Lulu’s printing network to your Shopify store. No publisher, no distributor, no retailers. You pay for your Shopify plan to enable selling and you pay the print costs for your books. No royalties to share with a publisher or distributor. Just you, your book, and your audience.
Lulu Developer API
App and direct integrations with ecommerce platforms are perfect for most of us. We don’t all know how to code or want to spend hours learning.
But if you are inclined to code your own website, you can use our open source Print API directly; no need for an app or integration! We make the developer docs and API information freely available so that anyone can use Lulu’s print network to build their own bookstore, publishing site, or even to just sell a book alongside your other products!
Print-On-Demand, Lulu, And You
At Lulu, we’ve invested heavily in making it easier for you to sell your books to your readers through your preferred Direct-to-Consumer method. That doesn’t mean we’ve left behind the options to print short runs or books as gifts too. Whether you want to sell a thousand copies or print just one, we believe everyone should have access to books and everyone should have the opportunity to create books.
There are lots of platforms you could choose to publish and print your book. Or maybe you just want to digitally publish an ebook. Lots of platforms exist for that too. But no other print-on-demand service offers free access to their print API in the way we do, nor are there any other true self-publishing platforms offering the kind of ecommerce integrations we do.
Because we believe the future of publishing lives with socially responsible, independent creators and sellers. The giants of publishing, be it the Big
Five Four traditional publishers or Amazon’s KDP, are driven by profit. They may offer a huge (potential) audience, but that’s where their desire to lift up creators ends.
Looking around the web will reveal ample proof that creators and readers want more. From online retailers who support actual bookstores to writing tools that foster creativity, the future of publishing is in the hands of the creator.
You. That’s you.
Making A Choice
Lulu stands behind our desire to enable and empower creators. Period. If you spend a couple of hours reading content on this blog to learn about designing your manuscript and opt to publish with a different platform; that’s still a win for all of us. Because you published. And because there is a wide range of services offering a wide range of options.
You need to find the right option for your goals and your work.
If you need a platform that helps you take control of your work, manage and sell it as you see fit, and enables truly independent publishing, Lulu is probably a great fit for you. Likewise, if you need to print one book (or just a few) and print quality is really important to you, Lulu offers easy-to-use processes and the best options for high-quality printing.
You have a lot of choices for publishing your work. It’s important that you choose wisely, based on your values, your needs, and your goals.
And That’s Lulu
We’re a print-on-demand publishing platform with loads of free tools, options to print one or a thousand copies, and the best means for integrating print-on-demand into your own platform.
If you’d like to get to know us a little better, check out our About Us page. Or create a free account and print a book! There’s never any obligation to purchase anything and we strive to offer the best, easiest-to-use platform for creators at all levels.
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.