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Lulu.com: Free Self-Publishing

Lulu.com is like the Blogspot of self-publishing companies.  If you’re interested in getting a book published, you could have one set up and mailed to you within ten minutes.  It’s really that easy.  All you have to do is upload a PDF or Word file, which the Lulu engine will convert to PDF, select a cover template and book size, and that’s about it: you’ll have a printed book.  In this way, Lulu is a pioneer in self-publishing: the ability to order one book at a time, as needed, rather than bulk ordering books up front.

That’s the difference between a print on demand company and a bulk-printing self-publishing company.  However, even other print on demand companies charge a fee for cover design and editorial services, whereas with Lulu you don’t have to pay for anything if it’s not required.  There is no set up fee.

A major tip for authors: even if you do not intend to publish with Lulu, or even if you have a mainstream publisher lined up for a book, printing one book with Lulu can be enormously helpful during the revision process, as reading a printed and bound book is a much different experience than reading a manuscript on 8 ½ x 11 sheets of paper.  You do not have to make a Lulu book public, so you can order one book and then cancel the account.  For this alone, Lulu is an invaluable service.

Lulu Publishing Services

Lulu can expand well beyond the confines of a free template and zero distribution.  However, these will have an added fee, so you have to weigh the costs of hiring a designer to put together your Lulu book + a distribution package with the packages offered by services like Author House or Outskirts Press that include both for a total package.

Custom Book Covers

  1. $80 custom cover – these covers err on the side of looking too much like self-published books.
  2. $450 custom covers are of a more professional quality, but for that cost, you could find an independent designer or use a full-featured service like Outskirts Press.
  3. $1000 custom covers are definitely professional looking, but money may be better spent on marketing and using Lulu’s mid-range custom cover design.

There are varying formatting options as well, which could be necessary if your book has a lot of mixed fonts, pictures, or other unique formatting issues – but you should be able to format a standard non-fiction book or novel within a word program.

Editorial Analysis

$300 package for the book, where a Lulu editor will critique the book but will NOT copy edit the book, meaning you’ll have to spend more for copy editing.

Book Marketing

Lulu has services to marketing the book via pay per click, paid reviews, press release writing, web design, and other features.

Most notable is Lulu’s ISBN feature: a unique ISBN through “Global Distribution,” meaning the book will be able to be found in the databases of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and every major retailer.


You set the price for both print and ebook formats – a 300 page book will cost around $12.00 to print, so any price above that will be your royalty: i.e. a $15.00 would net you $3.00.  Printing, packaging, and shipping are all handled by Lulu.  Finally, Lulu has a number of other services as well, ala a site like Cafe Press: CD’s, calendars, posters, brochures, and other printed media.

The verdict: If you were to go with Lulu for a standard book, the recommendation would be to buy the Global Distribution plan and a less-expensive custom cover.  The other Lulu features are steeply priced – you would be better off buying a package deal through AuthorHouse than purchasing all of Lulu’s services individually.  However, if you just want to print up a few books for family, or you only want a limited number of services, Lulu is by far the easiest place to self-publish a novel.  It’s amazing that you could have a printed novel on its way to your mailbox within minutes.

  • Paul from PA

    I found this site to be extremely disappointing. After I spend days and days putting together a cookbook that I wanted to give as a Christmas present, a bug prevented my book from being published. I notified LuLu over and over again with e-mails and it took about one e-mail a day for a month for them to get back to me. Now 5 months later they have finally addressed the problem and I can publish my book. The idea of Lulu is one that I like but their service lacks professionalism. They have very poor customer service.

  • Sandy

    Lulu.com has terrible customer service. I have emailed them 5 times with no response …would not recommend this self publisher..

  • KC

    I just finished a book manuscript and used LuLu to print a copy for my editor. It was a great way for her to be able to work with the manuscript. I had it printed on 8.5 X 11″ size paper and had it spiral bound. I even did a cover design using a picture I had from my own collection. The whole process literally took less than twenty minutes to order, and the author’s draft was in the mail within 48 hours. Whether I will use them to publish or not…yet to be seen. I was pleased with the product delivered.

  • http://none Donna Sivoli

    I am preparing a book for publishing and am inches away from completing it. Self-publishing seems to be the best option. How do I contact Lulu Self-Publishing? I have several questions and one of them is about any contracts I am required to sign and what the contract contains. I have other questions as well.

  • Shawn Shimon

    I ordered 30 copies of my portfolio, and they arrived today. Lulu used lower or very used ink for all of my books, and they look very pale looking. Also there are so many mechanical mistake ink lines. Lulu is much cheaper then other self publishing companies, but you really want to make good books, I do not recommend Lulu because their jobs are terrible and not professional.

  • smitty

    Avoid Lulu. A ripoff.