On self publishing with Lulu

22 July 2010

Like a lot of newbie authors, I have to admit that I approached the concept of self publication with an element of rather snobbish trepidation, having been put off by both the sneering comments of writers, publishers and agents and also uncertain what it would mean, creatively for me as someone who enjoys writing.

However, as time went by and I realised that I am too shy and reticent to ever be able to properly engage agents or publishers, the idea of self publishing began to look like the best option for me as it meant that I could get my work out there without the stress and horror of writing a synopsis or trying to sell myself and my work, which is something that I think I am tempermentally unable to do.

It’s not that I think I am a bad writer by the way, it’s just that I was brought up to consider myself very stupid and very untalented in every way so that now it is absolutely ingrained in me that I should never push myself forward or have any confidence in my own abilities. I actually hope that this will change one day and I will eventually feel able to push myself a bit more and maybe even put together a serious submission to an agent but that’s going to take a bit of time.

Anyway, I looked at self publishing presses and was put off by the idea of paying in advance for a run of books, mainly because as a fledgling author, I had no idea how many books I would be able to sell! Lulu therefore seemed like the best bet, as I think several other people have found as well.

Lulu works in a very simple way – you choose the size and format of your book, upload the files, make a cover, decide on a price and then that’s it you have a book to sell. I was confused at first by the fact that all of this is free and suspected that there might be hidden costs to the process, however this is not the case – it really is free to create a book with Lulu as it is publish to demand operation, meaning that books are published when they are ordered by a customer and it is at that point that the manufacturing cost and Lulu’s percentage is taken from the overall price of the book.

Creating a book with Lulu can be tricky as you need to have it properly formatted before it can be successfully loaded as a PDF onto their site. I am really, really lucky and have an amazingly talented friend who is also a skillful typesetter and who was able to format my books (and her own) for Lulu. Other people have reported that they found the typesetting stage irksome but not impossible, so clearly it isn’t as bad as I imagined.

Once your book is ready, you just upload it onto Lulu’s site then move on to the more fun bit of creating a cover. I opted to use photographs that I took myself, which I resized, added text to then used as the front and back covers.

Pricing is up to you – there is a minimum cost, which incorporates the manufacturing price of the physical book and also Lulu’s cut with anything above this being the author’s revenue. If you want your book to be available via Amazon, I found that this pushed the price up quite a bit so opted for my books to be available only through Lulu, which is a bit limiting but on the bright side means that they are cheaper for people to buy.

Once your book is ready, you can start to promote it straight away as Lulu doesn’t offer free promotion services. I have this blog obviously so was able to use this, but I also talk about it on Twitter, Facebook and Live Journal. Lulu seem to have regular promotions such as 15% off such as now or free shipping and so on, which you can pass on to prospective customers.

A lot of people have asked me about the quality of the actual books and I have to say that they are extremely good. You can tell that they aren’t normal mass market paperbacks but they still look great with nice shiny covers and professional looking print inside. I opted for larger than average books (think graphic novel size), which turned out to be handy for readers who have troublesome eyesight. The print isn’t ENORMOUS, but it’s big enough to be a comfortable read.

People also ask how long after ordering it takes for a Lulu book to arrive – well, it seems to take about four days on average from ordering to arrival of the book, which isn’t bad at all.

My books are available in both print and digital format so can be downloaded for about half the price of a print copy. Weirdly, I have found that most people are still opting for an actual book rather than download, which may be heartening news to any publishers out there!

Overall, I would have to say that my experience of using Lulu has been a really good one – the only difficult part being writing the book in the first place!

I’m sure that I must have forgotten lots of things but if you have any questions about publication through Lulu then feel free to fire away in the comments!

My first Lulu book, The Secret Diary of a Princess, about Marie Antoinette’s youth can be seen here.