Lulu Publishing is just one of many companies that you can use to self-publish your book.
And we understand why you want to do your research before committing. We get it – you want to hire the best company to help you publish the book you’ve worked so hard to write.
There are a lot of publishing scams out there and you need to be sure you’re putting your cash into the right investment for your book. Your story deserves to be handled by professionals with expert industry knowledge.
Here's what we'll cover in this Lulu Publishing review:
- What is Lulu Publishing?
- Lulu Publishing services
- How to self-publish on Lulu Press
- Is Lulu free to publish on?
- Lulu and ‘free’ book publishing
- Selling your books on Lulu
- Review of Lulu Publishing
- Lulu pros and cons
- Is Lulu Publishing worth it?
What is Lulu Publishing?
Lulu Press is an online print-on-demand, self–publishing, and global book distribution platform used by authors, artists, educators, non-profits, and other content creators.
This self-publishing company prints calendars, journals, and photo books in addition to the thousands of books published per week. Lulu has reported over 3 million titles published since it started in 2002. The company's founder and CEO is Red Hat co-founder Bob Young.
One of those companies is Lulu Press. Through Lulu publishing services, an author can use their one-stop shopping model.
But is it worth it to have everything done by Lulu? What are the publishing costs involved? What would an initial investment look like? Can you capitalize on your ROI?
To answer those questions and more, let’s review Lulu self-publishing in more depth.
Lulu Publishing Services
If you do some research on Google to find the best self-publishing companies, chances are that you’ll land on Lulu Press as being one of them.
This is no surprise, considering Lulu has been around for over a decade and reported producing over two million books in 2014.
Here are the main services offered by Lulu Press:
#1 – Book publishing. Self-publishing on the Lulu platform is straightforward and their process is similar to KDP, with some technical formatting differences. To publish a book on Lulu, authors upload their book as a PDF file to Lulu.com.
#2 – Book printing. This is the print-on-demand service called Lulu Xpress, which prints and ships a book within 3-5 business days. Authors upload their digital files, and order a printed paperback or hardcopy of their book.
#3 – Book global distribution. Similar to other distribution models, such as IngramSpark, when you use Lulu’s distribution platform, your book will be available for purchase on various networks, such as retail stores, bookstores, and libraries.
#4 – Shopify fulfillment. If you have an online Shopify e-commerce store, you can list your books for sale and your book orders will be printed and fulfilled by Lulu Press. This means readers can go directly to your Shopify website to purchase your book.
#5 – Author services. In true one-stop-shop fashion, Lulu Press has expanded its services to include author services such as cover design, illustration, marketing services, publicity services, and more.
#6 – Lulu Jr. for Kid Authors. Lulu now offers a unique, fun product at a great price for kids to fall in love with books. In our opinion, this addition—from Lulu Junior—to Lulu’s platform is a big bonus.
With a wide array of services, it’s no wonder many self-published authors are using Lulu self-publishing. But with so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know where to start, or how exactly it all works.
How does Lulu publishing work?
Lulu Publishing works differently for every author, depending on the services you are using. However, you will have to start with publishing your book on Lulu’s platform by uploading the formatted digital files.
No matter which service you plan to use, start with Lulu’s Complete Ebook Creation Guide to get started.
How to self-publish on Lulu Press
If you’re simply looking to self-publish your book using Lulu Press, then the steps are pretty straightforward and authors can publish an eBook for free.
Here are the steps to self-publish on Lulu Press:
#1 – Go to Lulu.com
#2 – Click on the “Publish For Free” icon.
#3 – Select “Print Book” or “eBook.”
#4 – To publish a print book, follow the prompts to select your book type and upload your book.
#5 – To publish an eBook, use the available resources to format your book files and upload the EPUB or PDF file.
While the self-publishing process on Lulu Press seems simple, it’s important to consider all of the pre-publishing work that you will have to put into your manuscript, before it is ready to be uploaded to Lulu’s platform.
Lulu.com is primarily a book printer, but it does offer author services and done-for-you packages for cover design, interior formatting, editing, and more.
However, these packages are not cheap and could cost you several thousand dollars, based on how much you need done and the level of services required. The more you can do on your own, the better.
Are Lulu self-publishing packages worth it?
That depends on who you talk to. Some customers reported great service with Lulu. Other reviews were not as positive.
Personally, I think Lulu has a great infrastructure set up to offer authors the option to hire professionals to get their books done. But if you really want to put in the time to learn about publishing, marketing, design, and interior layout, there are plenty of free resources available.
Although I am all for hiring someone to do the heavy lifting, publishing packages can be expensive.
If money is not an issue, then yes, Lulu is a solid option for taking care of the larger side of things. I would also encourage you to explore Reedsy’s Outsourcing Platform as another option for finding cover designers, illustrators, book editors, and interior design artists.
Is Lulu free to publish on?
Yes, it is free to publish a book on the Lulu Press platform, just like it is free on Amazon’s KDP.
However, there are separate costs to consider when it comes to publishing your book, such as book production, printing, book marketing, and distribution costs.
While Lulu publishing is free, the other services offered, such as printing, distribution, or other author services, are not. Now, Lulu is a great site to publish on.
Here is a breakdown of Lulu's publishing costs:
- Printing – Depends on book type, size, paper quality, and more. Use this calculator to determine printing costs. For example, if you're printing a children's book in full color, it will be more expensive.
- Distribution – 20% of net profit. Lulu's commission is generally 20% of your book’s net profit. You can read more about the Lulu commission structure here.
- Author Services – Depends on which service you choose. There are complete packages from $999 to $3199. For individual services like cover design, there are packages from $289 to $599. For a full list of services and pricing, click here.
Selling your book on Lulu
You can sell your books directly on Lulu. The question is, should you? Well, if you take a look at the publishing costs, it makes sense to sell directly on Lulu.
Watch this video by indie author Dale as he explains the difference between selling a hardback cover on Lulu compared to Amazon.
Here is a breakdown of the pricing:
If you take a look, you are making 5x more money by selling through Lulu.
The question is, does Lulu get enough traffic to sustain sales? Well, compared to Amazon, we can say that the traffic is moderate. But if you set up your hardcover through Lulu, keep it on Lulu. This makes sense considering the costs you lose if it is sold on the other sites.
A recommended strategy is to send your own traffic over to Lulu directly if you have an email list. You can provide readers with your links to Lulu directly. This would get you more profit per sale instead of the low profit margins on other sites.
Review of Lulu Publishing
Aside from it being a publishing platform, Lulu Press attempts to set itself apart with bulk discounts, direct shipping, and printed book quality.
Let’s review each of these aspects.
Lulu offers global distribution with print-on-demand. But what does this model look like in terms of cost? Is it cheaper than Amazon?
You can buy volume discounts through Lulu’s Bulk Discount services. Here is a breakdown of the discount pricing:
The bulk discount is for calendars and photo books as well as regular books. If you have a custom order request, you can talk to Lulu customer service directly for a custom quote.
Lulu’s print and shipping speed is very fast. Depending on the number of copies you order, you could have 15-20 copies of your new book arrive at your home within 7-10 days, if not sooner. KDP’s speed is about the same, but this really depends.
Lulu, in most cases, is faster, and has a better overall quality product.
You can check out Dale Roberts’ YouTube video here as he gives a comparison between Lulu and KDP’s printing quality and shipping speed.
Global distribution reach
Lulu has a very strong Global Distribution network, and delivers to over 150 countries worldwide. Lulu offers free print and eBook distribution options that will get your book into the global marketplace. This network reaches online print book retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and retailers in the Ingram catalog network.
Lulu also provides eBooks distribution (English content only) for Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, and all online eBooks distributors associated with the Ingram network.
Lulu book printing quality
When it comes to printing, quality is everything. Lulu is, hands down, a cut above most publishing companies when it comes to the quality of their print books.
The glossy finish looks amazing and you can trust that what you receive in the mail will be a book that can stand on the shelves of any bookstore.
Lulu has built in templates and tools to navigate authors through the trenches of formatting and publishing the book.
One thing to consider is that, if you have a complex book with high resolution graphics and formatting, you would be better off hiring an interior designer to do this for you.
Regardless, the quality is top-notch for, not only the paperback but the hardcover books as well. As long as your formatting is not an issue, you should end up with a high-quality printed copy when it’s all done.
For this reason, printing with Lulu overall, is going to get you a better looking book.
Lulu community resources
As an indie author, there is a ton of information to know when it comes to self-publishing your own books. There are plenty of self-publishing courses out there, both free and paid.
Lulu does have a learning resource center. Just click on the “Learn How to Publish” box and you’ll be taken inside Lulu’s learning center. Now, the learning center on Lulu is not as robust or knowledgeable as other resources out there, such as the ones from Reedsy.
- The Lulu Blog is a library of information with hundreds of posts from running an effective book marketing campaign to writing advice and strategies for writing productivity.
- The Lulu Newsroom is for the latest updates from Lulu Publishing that include contributions, contents, or new product launches.
- Better Than Yesterday is where you can find news and information on the environmental impact Lulu is involved with to keep the planet green. Lulu is B Corp Certified which means they are able to measure the environmental impact of our business model and practices.
- Lulu Community is if you want to connect with Lulu authors and get many of your questions answered. There is a knowledge base forum and share your stories with other authors here in the Author Workshops. Check out Lulu’s video archives where authors talk about Lulu and the impact it has had on their lives and business.
Lulu review: pros and cons
As with every publishing company, Lulu has its strengths and areas for improvement. As we reviewed the company through the lens of a self-published author, there are a few benefits and disadvantages that we noticed.
Here are the top pros and cons for Lulu.com.
The pros of Lulu Press
- Quality. High-quality print books and materials that stand up against most competitors.
- Solid ROI. Strong Return on Investment per book sold when you sell directly on Lulu’s website.
- Fast shipping. Once you have completed the interior design, uploaded your cover, and hit publish, your book will be printed and shipped in 3-5 business days.
- Affordable printing costs. A 120‐page book in either of the two template sizes provided in the Write a Book in a Weekend DIY system will cost approximately $5. This is a great deal for getting your book published.
- Quick global shipping. Books are printed and shipped globally to over 150 countries.
- Hardcover printing. Lulu has a leg up on hardcover printing, since Amazon’s KDP does not offer this.
The cons of Lulu Press
- High price. The publishing services are pricey. You can hire freelancers at less cost on other sites such as Fiverr or Reedsy. Don’t confuse this with the printing costs that are very reasonable.
- Basic templates. Lulu’s customizable formatting and book templates for print are best suited for basic publishing. If you have a book with complex interior art and a high resolution cover, it's recommended that you hire a professional formatter and cover designer.
- Advanced interface. Lulu really is a do-it-yourself website. This can prove challenging for some people if technology is an issue. You will be expected to upload/download and navigate on your own through the requirements for formatting.
- Lack of customer support. Lulu has less-than-average customer service. They are difficult to reach by email or phone. If your question isn’t answered in the FAQs, forums, or Help Guide, it’s hard to get an answer from anyone. Keep your project as simple as possible and avoid having to reach out to them if you can.
- Low author royalties. The cost to sell Lulu print copies on other sites results in very weak author book royalties. You are better off selling directly on Lulu but they don’t have the traffic that Amazon does.
Is Lulu publishing worth it?
Overall, Lulu Publishing is a solid company that has proven its worth over the past decade as self-publishing has exploded. Lulu has great printing quality, and the company can print and ship pretty quickly both in the U.S. and across the world.
While overall Lulu Publishing can be a solid choice if you have the budget and are publishing a specialty book (like a hardcover or full-color book), the company is not a good fit for every self-published author, and the customer service can be improved.
In terms of using Lulu Press as your one-stop-shop for publishing, it really depends on you as an author, and what your goals are.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one solution, and have the money to spend on convenience, then you might look into Lulu.
If you want to publish a unique book, such as an art book, an educational textbook, or even a calendar, then Lulu might be for you.
However, if you’re looking for a hands-on approach to publishing a book and building a book platform on your own, you might consider another self-publishing company.
What other questions do you still have about Lulu publishing?