As promised in the previous post, here is my Lulu Press review based on my personal experience with the services offered by Lulu Press. If you are an indie author evaluating which print on demand (POD) publisher to use for your print book, I hope you find this information useful.
I took the company's POD publishing services for a test drive. In the post today, I'll share with you my experiences and my recommendation where it comes to using Lulu Press.
About Lulu Press
Lulu Press is a POD publisher located in Morrisville, North Carolina. The company produces books in print and digital form. Printed books are available in several formats and sizes including paperback, coil bound, and hardcover. Books can be printed in black and white or full color.
How Lulu Press Works
As with all POD publishers, authors upload their files in digital form to Lulu.com, both interior files, and cover. Authors can then buy copies of their own book, make it available for purchase in the "Lulu Bookstore," and for books meeting Lulu's distribution criteria, apply to have their book distributed to retailers such as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Apple's iBookstore.
My Lulu Project
My Lulu project was a hardcover version of my latest novel, Mare's Nest. This review pertains only to creating a hardcover book with Lulu Press as I have not created a paperback or digital book with the company.
Overall, Lulu Press was not difficult to navigate. The book creation process is quite similar to that of the other POD publishers I've used in the past.
Lulu does offer an interior book file template that can be used. I didn't use it to format my interior files since I already had formatted files ready for uploading. I did give the template a test drive. I found it a bit difficult to use and personally wouldn't attempt to use it to create interior files.
Similar to Barnes & Nobel Press, Lulu does not offer a one-piece PDF cover template like those provided by Create Space and Ingram-Spark. That makes it a bit more challenging to create a cover to upload to Lulu. The company does offer a crude template, but I found it difficult to use. In the end, I downloaded a template from Ingram-Spark, adjusted it to fit Lulu's requirements, and then created my one-piece dust jacket cover file from that. That worked fine. My cover was accepted on the first submission attempt.
I definitely got the feeling that Lulu Press prefers that clients use their online book cover design tools rather than trying to submit a one-piece cover. I also took the Lulu cover design tools for a test drive and was not impressed. The prototype cover I created was as unattractive as those you would get using the DIY Create Space cover designer. I already had professionally designed cover art and was set on using it for my Lulu cover.
Why I Tried Lulu Press
I've used Ingram-Spark to produce the hardcover versions of all three of my Malone Mystery series novels, and have been very satisfied with them. The problem that indie authors face when it comes to using POD publishers is that the production costs are so high it's nearly impossible to set the retail price of the book at a competitive level. As an example, on Amazon, my hardcover novels are priced higher than those by many traditional authors who are household names. As you might expect, I haven't sold a lot of hardcover books as a result.
So, after looking at the Lulu Press website, I was hopeful I might be able to get a hardcover published at a lower cost so that I could make my retail print book prices more competitive. Another attractive feature advertised on the website is that Lulu Press gets print books that meet their criteria into the Ingram-Spark catalog which can lead to worldwide sales.
Here is What I Learned Trying Lulu Press
First, in spite of all the "publish your book free" claims that abound on Lulu.com, in the end, it isn't completely free at all. You don't discover that until the very end of the files uploading process. At the final step, you learn that Lulu Press requires the purchase of a proof copy that must be used for final approval before a book is accepted for distribution. The information on the site claims that this is for the purpose of "quality control" even though you have a very detailed digital proof at the end that is every bit as good for that purpose as a physical copy of a book. It was only twenty bucks, but my issue is it seems a bit dodgy that Lulu doesn't tell clients upfront about the proof copy purchase requirement.
Next, Lulu promised me that my proof copy would be rushed out to me by FedEx once printed and that I should expect to receive it within five days after it was printed. Instead, I received the proof ten days after I was notified it had been shipped, when it was delivered by the good old USPS. I considered the shipping cost I paid a premium rate and was not pleased to learn the book had been shipped book rate through the post office.
Now to the actual proof copy itself. First, the dust cover was outstanding. It was every bit as good as those I've seen from Ingram-Spark. The colors were faithfully reproduced from my professionally done artwork. The jacket fits the book perfectly. But regarding the interior of the book, there were lots of problems.
The paper used for the book interior was definitely substandard and cheap, not at all comparable to the stock used by Ingram-Spark or even Create Space for that matter. Because the paper was so thin, that caused problems with the binding. Some of the pages wrinkled on the bound side when turned. Also, on many of the pages, the print was not straight. In fact, it was so crooked that it was immediately noticed.
Finally, as it turns out, it is actually more expensive to have a 6x9 hardcover book published by Lulu Press than through Ingram- Sparks. To cover the print costs and the standard discounts offered to bookstores, I had to set the retail price of the book at the same price as the books I've created at Ingram-Spark. The problem with that is this. All my Ingram-Spark hardcovers are traditional novels in the 100,000-word category or about 300 pages in length. Mare's Nest, on the other hand, was by intention, designed to be a quick read and came in at around 170 pages. Since the cost of printing is essentially determined by the number of pages, the cost for printing Mare's Nest should have been considerably less than the cost of all my lengthier Malone novels.
After I finally received and was able to approve the proof copy, Lulu assured me that my book would immediately go into distribution. It's been nearly two weeks since I approved the proof, yet my hardcover book isn't available even on Amazon, much less anywhere else. It has always taken only 3-5 days for my hardcover books published with Ingram-Spark to show up on Amazon. I'm beginning to suspect that the only distribution I'll get is placement in the Lulu bookstore. Hmm, wonder how many people think of the Lulu bookstore when the mood to purchase a new read strikes?
To be fair, perhaps things just don't happen as quickly with Lulu as with Ingram-Spark and Create Space. So, being a good chap, I'll certainly apologize for these distribution comments if my book ever surfaces in a bookstore beyond Lulu.com.
Lulu Press? I'm not impressed. I published my first and last book with them. I feel they are best suited for what they obviously do, vanity publishing. I cringe to think of having my name on the cover of such a poorly constructed hardcover book, in spite of the fabulous dust jacket. I have decided to unpublish the book at Lulu and consider the whole thing a twenty dollar learning experience. If you're an author looking for a POD publisher, I suggest looking elsewhere. Personally, I'll be re-publishing Mare's Nest and publishing all my future hardcovers with Ingram-Spark, and I'll stop whining about the costs for first-rate book printing and binding work.