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Understanding Self-Publishing: What is Lulu?

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. 

Direct-To-Consumer Bookselling

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!

Sell Your Book, Your Way

Sell books on your own website with Lulu Direct.

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. 

Get Started

Create a free Lulu account today to print and
publish your book for readers all over the world.

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.

34 thoughts on “Understanding Self-Publishing: What is Lulu?”

  1. Hello Paul,

    Thanks for your prompt answers. I appreciate it.

    Is there a price cap like the ebook for paper /hard copies too?

    If there is could you please let me know what it is and what your (lulu) commission is if I again decide to sell the paper/hard copy exclusively through lulu bookstore.

    My book has approximately 200 pages excluding the front and back pages.

  2. Hello Paul,

    Thanks for your reply.

    My book is only being exclusively sold via lulu bookstore so since technically you aren’t selling through any 3rd party vendors why can’t you allow for a higher price cap since you are in charge of distribution?

    Also I would also like to post more pics about my book maybe 1-3 pages about sample content but it seems you can only post one picture about your book most often times a picture of the front cover.

    1. Hey Olu,

      Whether you opt to utilize our distribution network or not, our pricing cap is in place. It’s unlikely we would break that standard since it creates problems with distributed ebooks.

      You’re correct that we only allow the book thumbnail on your bookstore page. Updates to include more pictures and a preview function are in the works, though I don’t work on development projects, so I can’t give any kind of timeline on when that feature will be ready.

  3. Hi Olu,

    The price cap isn’t within our control – we have to restrict all options to ensure your ebook can be distributed by all retailers. That means adhering to their standards and rules, such as price caps. The high-end of that price cap is $200 USD, so we use that as our bookstore cap as well. This allows you to price an ebook as high as possible while staying within all retailer limitations.

    As to your question about Google search results, the short answer is that Google does include links to your book. But their results pages rank those results based on numerous factors. Add to that the intent of the searcher – if your book’s keyword is ‘garden soil’ and someone searches for that exact term, they’ll see a lot more results for garden stores and such because Google thinks that will be more relevant than a book.

    If you really want to get your book ranking on Google, you’ll need to spend time learning about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Realistically, if you want to appear at the top of searches, you’ll need a lot more than one book-listing on our store. Most first page results will be from websites with a great deal of depth displaying that the site owners have put in the work to create valuable/useful information for searchers.

    Adding the keywords to your book is important (and it does help with direct searches on the Lulu Bookstore), but if your goal is to appear in Google searches, keywords are one small part of a much larger puzzle.

  4. Hello Lulu Rep,

    I would like to find out if one can sell their e-book for over $200. There seems to be cap that prevents you from listing your book for over $200. I believe authors should be able to list their book for what ever price they wish and let the buyers decide what they are willing to pay.

    My second comment has to do with google not returning search results for my listed book on Lulu bookstore even though its not private. How do I make sure that google search results include links to my book.

    Thanks

    Olu Fam

  5. Olumayowa Famodimu

    Hello Daniel,

    I am in a similar situation as you. It seems the price for e-books is capped to $200 per book. I would love to charge higher than $200. I believe each author should be allowed to charge what they think their book is worth and let the public be allowed to decide if they are willing to pay that much or not.

    Also when I set up my book on lulu bookstore I entered several search phrases to help find my book. My questions is are these search phrases only functional on lulu bookstore site? Also when I type the title of my book on a search engine like google it doesn’t show my book on lulu bookstore as part of its search results. How can I make google show my book on lulu as part of its search result when I type the title of my book on google.

    Thanks

    Olu

  6. Daniel Johnson

    It says on my account that my book is priced too low. So, I hit the button to revise the price. It says I need to complete design…I suppose re-design. But then it says I am not allowed to redesign. So, I have asked 3-4 times for the book’s price to be raised to $25. As it is, it appears that my book is locked into generating negative revenue. In my view, Lulu should just manually increase the price on their end.

    1. Hi Daniel,
      If you’re using Global Distribution, some elements like the book’s size or binding type may be locked once you’ve published the project. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to adjust the price, just click the Pricing & Payees button in the navigation and make the necessary updates to your list price. Then go to the Review step and republish with the new price.

  7. Yesterday I chose Lulu for my book distribution. The message said it would instantly be in the bookstore. But I can’t find it anywhere. How do I turn off filters, and what do I tell people about buying on Lulu?

    1. Hi Barbara,
      It looks like you’ve set your project to Private Access. You just need to revise the project and select General Access to make the book available in our bookstore.

  8. Hello. What are the shipping costs for a writer self-publishing in another country, such as Australia where I am? Is Lulu still a viable option for me, or would it be better for me to find a publisher here, or do you have printing agents around the world?
    John

    1. Hi John,
      To find the best pricing estimates for printing and shipping, I suggest our Pricing Calculator. Once you enter your book’s specs, you can indicate the country your shipping too and a quantity to get an estimate on shipping.
      We do have printers all around the world (including one in Australia) so I do think Lulu would be a viable option for shipping in Australia.

    1. Hi Azelbooks7,
      We use a ‘standard’ list of languages, though I was able to find some requests for additional languages to be added. I’ve added Chin (Laiholh) to that request.

  9. Why can’t I load a cover onto this site to create a book? It is a jpg (4.62 MD). When I drag and drop it nothing happens? Please someone help, after several hours I’m frustrated!! Jim T.

    1. Hi Jim,

      You’ll need to export your JPG file as a PDF. We require all files you upload be in PDF format – this is to help avoid potential problems when converting a file and it helps you ensure your interior and cover will accurately reflect your final design. You can learn more about cover creation options in our help center.

  10. Hi, I would like to sell my books on Lulu. My books are in Chin (Lai) language, which is not listed on the supported languages. Could you please add Chin Languages to the list?

  11. You guys don’t have a paper sample pack???? My brain just exploded. Every other printing company – even the ones who print on demand have a paper sample pack. it’s just a few pages (1 of each paper quality they offer) printed with the ink quality they offer. This way someone can decide which paper and ink options to choose.
    It’s just such a simple thing to provide for people so they can make you guys more money. Otherwise they’ll just go to your competition.
    I mean you’re telling me i have to order every variety option book just to see your quality. Basically i just wanna see the #60 uncoated paper vs #80 coated. And also color premium vs color standard. So since they can mix and match i have to order 4 freaking books just to see the difference?? AM I UNDERSTANDING THIS CORRECTLY!?

    1. Hi Deja,
      Thanks for reading!
      I can understanding wanting to sample some of your options before committing to a large order.
      I’m not actually aware of other print-on-demand book companies that offer sample packs, but we’ve always hesitated to do so for a couple of reasons.
      First, it is important to remember that seeing a single page at a specific weight/color is not always a good indication of how the final book will appear. There isn’t really a good way to see how a book will look without seeing the complete, final product.
      Add to that the prohibitive cost of binding a book with multiple paper weights and inks. Print-on-demand is a highly automated process. Paper from multiple machines would need to be hand bound to create a sample with different inks and weights.
      I apologize we’re not able to accommodate a sample book, but if you reach out to our team (844-212-0689) they can answer most questions pertaining to the materials we use.

  12. When might I expect an answer to my post of September 16?
    And I have a bone to pick: in response to my earlier post, you provided a link to a product (a calendar with photos of Afghanistan) that you said was “printed on standard paper.” So I bought a copy, just received — and is is NOT on standard paper. It’s on a heavyweight stock. Frankly, I feel cheated, as with shipping, it cost me almost fifty bucks.
    May I request a refund?

  13. None of the suggested books match my project — which is a 500-page text book with occassional black-and-white photos. Your examples are all “full color inside.”
    My concern: will the photos print well on your text stock?
    Thanks, Brayton

  14. Been a printer/publisher off and on for fifty years . . . but for the life of me, find nothing anywhere on your site about using B&W photos on your “standard” grade paper. So I really would like to buy a copy of something that would show me (my client) how everything would look. Any recommendation? Thanks!

  15. About 7 of us want to publish and anthology of our poems… how do we go about this? Can there be 7 authors? Do one person or two publish as editors? Can the anthology be published as both an ebook and hard copy?
    Thanks for responding soon.

  16. in respect of authors purchasing their regular books at manufacturing cost (mentioned in your article) i tried purchasing my book at that price but my money was refunded back to me. have you just started this or is my case an exception?

  17. Joseph R. Alila

    AJ,
    I have titles (3) with Lulu and other titles (5) with Cretespace, and one title with PublishAmerica, is it possible publish my PublishAmerica title at Lulu?

  18. I have a handbook that was written in a class by all class members (including me). I would like to publish this as is for my own purpose, not to see but to use in my office.
    I already have the cover I want to use and so on. All I need is it printed and bound. Can your company do this for me?
    If so what do I need to do to accomplish this.

  19. Hi,
    I have written a book about africa,my english is not very good but a proffessional editor would understand what my book mean and how to sort out some common english mistakes in my book.
    However I would want to know how can I use your website services in order to improve and make my book look well and proffessionally before I’m up for publishing it.Is it possible for me to work on the book the way I want it to look before take it to the publisher?
    Kindly regard,
    Malick.

  20. Carmela Cattuti

    Hello,
    I’m interested in writing an ebook entitled “Reverse the Aging Process”. I’ve just signed up with Lulu. Do I need to write the book in Word? How long is an ebook? Eventually I’ll publish it in book form. Do you guys have a phone? Thanks.
    Carmela

  21. David,
    I’m sorry the coupon didn’t work. Which coupon was it?
    Amy,
    Yes, thank you, we are aware of the activity. We are working to deal with the issue on our end. Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about the credit card numbers being stolen, since they were not stolen from our site. However, we are working on refunding the cards, and we have disabled the accounts involved.

  22. Did you know that people are using stolen credit card numbers off the internet to buy your products and services? maybe be a little more careful huh!?

  23. I’ve been selling my calendars for 2 years..
    and I recently created a mini book.
    Lulu Sends 25% off coupons but
    THEY DON’T WORK!!!!! i can process my order without it but cannot get the discounts. As there is no way to get a response or have the problem fixed…what is the solution?

  24. 'ö-Dzin Tridral

    Thank you very much for this. We were very interested in trying out different bindings to see what they were like and it took a while to discover books in different bindings – we couldn’t find a ‘search by binding’ option. It might be an idea if Lulu created a largely blank book – perhaps just with page numbers – in every binding. Then we could just order whichever of those we fancy and once we’ve checked the quality we would still be left with a nice, usable notebook or sketch book.
    Could be a best seller

  25. I used to work for A. N. Other POD company and we tried to respond to the requests for samples.
    The requests for samples were so many that it became too expensive to produce the (more expensive) POD books as samples. We tried doing an offset run of books that was similar to but not exactly like the books the authors would be selling, to save money, but that almost completely defeated the purpose.
    I applaud your approach. I hope authors take your advice and invest a few dollars in someone else’s book, as a true sample. It’s definitely worth the investment and, as you say, will make that other author smile.

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