Publishing Wide: Lulu Overview
When I started considering self-publishing in the early 2010s, two POD (print on demand) services rose to the top competing for my attention and book: Createspace and Lulu. While these two POD services offered similar products and services and came with encouraging reviews, they’ve gone in wildly different directions over the past decade. Createspace was bought out by Amazon as early as 2005. It kept a focus strictly on paperback sales and, once merged, linked paperbacks to Amazon’s store. Far more recently, Amazon closed down Createspace and merged the platform and content with its own KDP, forming a new KDP print branch that handles the publication of paperback books. Lulu has remained independent. As such, it offers a unique storefront, unique audience, and an emphasis on producing paperback (and hardcover, and now even digital) books of a competitive quality.
Simply put, Lulu is a self-publishing service that turns your manuscript into a book. You can sell books on Lulu or use it merely as a printing platform, designing custom layouts for both paperback and hardcover editions. Lulu offers advanced customization to its platform and products as well as a unique storefront, which is great if you want to have a unique platform to sell your books on. Lulu’s independence makes it a solid option for writers looking to publish wide, and it’s a solid alternative for anyone looking to break away from Amazon.
The benefits of publishing through Lulu are clear from the beginning: quality work, low costs, and freedom from Amazon. If print books are essential to your publishing business, you’re not limited to the Amazon-only option, nor will you need to pay a fortune to have your books produced. The hardcover option is another valuable consideration. While most book sales are ebook and paperback, the ability to offer readers a deluxe edition could be a hit with the right book and the right audience. Lulu’s hardcovers are professional and elegantly designed, ready to shine beautifully in your hands. A further benefit of using Lulu is the option of a unique storefront. Like many publishers, Lulu has a bookstore where readers can browse books published through the platform and choose to buy them. But one feature that’s more unique to Lulu in particular is the option to have a unique front. This can be a great add-on to your author site and will give you an easy platform to display and sell all of your books at once to interested readers instead of sending out a chain of links they may or may not follow through on.
If you’re not familiar with Lulu or haven’t heard of it before this article, you’re not alone. As a longtime competitor with Amazon, Lulu suffers from a comparatively small platform with limited distribution options. While you can choose to publish your books on platforms other than Lulu, you’ll need to find a new distributor to do so, and that can be a hassle. If you already have readers, you’ll have a hard time telling them to go to Lulu to find your books. Most people are more familiar buying from something they know better, like Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Lulu’s lack of branding and reach might leave you with nothing more than basic bragging rights. If none of the specific perks of having hardcovers or a unique store front would make a difference for you personally, you might not have a good reason to try Lulu out to begin with. It’s a matter of your publishing strategy: who your readers are, how you meet them, and how you make your books available to them.
Is there any good reason to publish through Lulu instead of Amazon? It’s a matter of debate, since publishing on Lulu will only make your books available on Lulu–which, while independent from Amazon, is much smaller. If you don’t like the thought of being completely reliant on Amazon for your publishing and prefer a more unaffiliated “wide” style, you might be tempted to choose Lulu as your print alternative.
Whether Lulu is a good fit for your books depends on your publishing strategy and what you value in a print or publishing books. These days, there are more options available for print–the other big one being Ingram Spark publishing. If physical printing is a core component of your bookselling strategy and you want something flexible and reliable, Lulu can be a great option because of its customization and hardcover formats. If you like the idea of having a unique store, you may like Lulu as well–but be warned that no one will stumble onto that store by accident, and this option might not be worth pursuing unless you already have a dedicated fan base. Please share your thoughts on Lulu in the comment section below, or join my group for self-publishing fiction writers on Facebook for further discussion.