A review of Lulu’s book-publishing service

Over the past eight or nine months, I’ve gotten a taste of what I imagine a book editor goes through. My grandpa and I have been secretly working on his memoirs since earlier this year and we’ve finally printed copies of it using Lulu.com. We rushed to get it done so he could purchase 24 copies to give to friends and family for Christmas. When I was researching which self-publishers to use, I couldn’t find many good overviews or photos of Lulu, so hopefully this will be helpful to others doing the same.

Photos and video are from the first “Unauthorized Edition” 163-page test print in September. More photos on Flickr.

Cost and time were our main constraints on this project. I can’t remember details on some of the other self-publishing/print-on-demand services, but Lulu seemed to be the most reasonably-priced and well-known. Grandpa didn’t want the book to be available to everyone in the world, so Lulu’s “Standard Grade” (vs. “Publisher Grade” quality) unregistered-ISBN printing service at around 5 cents per page seemed like a good option. It was $13.08 for his 252-page book and 99 cents for a PDF version (the latter is free to the person creating the book). There were several add-ons, like ISBN registration and cover design help, but we opted to go with the printing-only cost, so it made pricing simple—no signup fee or anything. We could have boosted the price of the book to make a profit, but again, Grandpa wanted it to be for family and friends only. See Lulu’s pricing chart for more details.

One of the great things about Lulu is that they offer a good variety of printing options, including eBook (EPUB or PDF). We went with a 6×9-inch book,  but you can go up to 12×12 (hardcover) and as small as 4.25×6.87 (paperback). I’m going to suggest that Grandpa print a few hardcover copies for about 7 cents per page if we end up with a second edition of the book (we’ve already noticed several corrections that need to be made).

ADDITIONAL TECHNICAL NOTE (July 2015): One thing I forgot to suggest in my original review: Double-check the final PDF proof before ordering. If I recall correctly, once I had uploaded the Word document of the book to Lulu.com, it ran through an auto-conversion process and then produced a PDF which they use to do the actual printing. The only problem we noticed with this was that it created some blank pages in a photo section of the book that we had. I believe the “page break” feature in Word created this problem, but once I made a few adjustments, I was able to get the spacing to convert correctly.

Unpacking the “Unauthorized Edition” straight from Lulu in September: