On Self-Publishing: Amazon Createspace vs. Lulu.com

As a self-published, “indie” author, I often receive questions from other writers looking to take a stab at publishing on their own and avoiding the traditional publishing route. The other day I received one such question, from Twitter follower melissaonline. Here’s what she asked:

How did LuLu work for you? Quality, experience, Amazon? Looking for opinions!! Have you tried CreateSpace? Trying to pick!!

Having written her a fairly lengthy response, I felt it might be useful to others as well, and therefore am sharing it here on my site:

To answer your question, I actually publish both through Lulu and Amazon’s Createspace. Each of them serves their own purposes, and I do recommend using both (I’ll get into why in a bit). I also publish through Amazon Kindle and have an e-book download available through Lulu.com. I’m currently working on a podiobook version of my book as well, but I don’t have that done so can’t get you feedback on that channel.

I originally started out by publishing on Lulu.com. Their quality is absolutely professional – there’s no way you could tell the difference between it and a book found in a bookstore – and in some instances books in bookstores are printed using the exact same print process. That said, what you’re going to get back is only as good as what you put in in the first place – and this is the case with any publisher (including Createspace). Make sure your cover art is all high resolution (mine is done at 300 dpi), and make sure your page layout is done professionally. I recommend reading some guidelines online (lulu has some in their help system) as well as just opening some books on your shelf that you like the layout of, and using them as a goal for how you want yours to work.

The reason I went with Createspace as well is pretty simple: I wanted to be absolutely certain my book got listed on Amazon. With Lulu I set up my own publishing imprint (you’ll see my books are published by www.beinggod.com), and registered for my own ISBN for the book as well. This allows the book to be sold through additional bookstores – anyone who wants to sell it (including brick and mortar stores) can do so, simply by placing an order for the ISBN number which then eventually re-routes back to Lulu and they ship the books out to the resellers.

The other big reason I published with Createspace was price. My cost per book is less than half of what I pay Lulu, which can help out quite a bit with profit margins. Even at $16.95 suggested retail price, I’m only making about $1 per book through all my retail channels that order for the ISBN (when you figure in cost of printing the book and then retailer markup, there’s not much leftover for me). The profit margin is definitely higher with Amazon though, especially since I have opted for their “pro” plan (it’s like $39 a year – well worth it).

As for quality, Createspace looks just as good as anything you’ll find on the shelves, although you will notice that their paper is white, vs. the ivory that Lulu uses (although this may be an option you can change on your own). The cover is slightly less bright of a print, with a tiny bit of aliasing around letters too with Createspace, but again it’s nothing you’d notice unless you were looking very close. If it were something I was not happy with (and I work in the publishing industry, so quality of printout has always been important to me), I would have not used Createspace at all – but their quality is great and I recommend them.

Regarding if the book is “searchable” on Amazon: right now the answer is “no,” but within the next month that will change to “yes.” The book was just published on Amazon on December 12th and it takes 6-8 weeks for the Search Inside system to kick in. I am searchable on Google Book Search now though, with a pretty nice preview available as well. This was simply an option I could decide on (do you want to be in Google Book Search? Yes or No) when setting up my ISBN through Lulu.

So, in summation, my suggestion is this: if you’re serious about your book, take advantage of as many distribution channels as you can. Both Lulu and Createspace are both top-notch, and there are others out there with good reputations as well, but these are the only two I have personal experience with.

So if you’re looking to self-publish, hopefully this information is helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments below.

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48 comments

  1. Your experience nearly mirrors mine! I started on Lulu, but learned about better pricing at CreateSpace, and now I have items at both locations. I haven’t figured out Kindle yet, so I have the e-book version of one book available at Lulu, while the print version is at Amazon (via CreateSpace). I had the same book printed at both places when I first signed up at CreateSpace, and I found them to be virtually identical. (I opted for the cream paper at CreateSpace) I too took the “Pro” offer and the profit is better at CreateSpace, plus the ISBN was supplied by them and I was guaranteed the book would be listed on Amazon.

    Thanks for sharing your expertise! I just followed you at Twitter = Marti_L

    All the best to you in 2009!

  2. I absolutely LOVE the way you’ve integrated music into your written book. I think Lessig would appreciate the new remix style; hope it grows into its own culture. Do you have any way to assist your readers in locating the tracks you suggest? Such as a page on your blog to links where readers can purchase the tracks? (I’d ask about an accompanying cd, but I’m guessing that would be more licensing and legal hassles than you need.)

  3. Yes, several options exist for the playlist at the http://www.beinggod.com website. The easiest one to use is the iTunes iMix (http://www.beinggod.com/2008/11/23/playlist-now-available-through-itunes/) although there are also links at the bottom of http://www.beinggod.com to buy the Amazon.com MP3s (DRM-Free) as well.

    Some songs are available through a playlist at playlist.com (http://www.beinggod.com/2008/07/31/partial-playlist-from-project-playlist/) although when I created the playlist, not all songs were available.

    As for licensing, it would be an absolute nightmare. I work in the music publishing industry and trying to do something for this would be horribly difficult on my own (read: cost-prohibitive). So instead I’m just recommending the songs to be played. I think most people these days are resourceful enough to find the songs through whatever channels they prefer, and even if I had a CD, it would probably be considered an outdated format. This way I can keep the cost of the book down as well but still not sacrifice the quality of the song suggestions by forcing myself to come up with songs that I can license (or that are Creative Commons, etc.)

  4. This F-ing brilliant! I self-published my novel Celluloid Cowboy and set up a POD with Lulu, but have hit a lot of bumps in the road along the way. I’m going to have to try this route via Createspace. Speaking of distributing have you ran into any snags with like B&N.com or anywhere else? Also I found you via the Cult so just to let you know that ad worked. I’m going to get your book and will do my best to spread the word on you and this site. If you like you can stop by and check out what I’m trying to do here in Detroit. Like N. Frank Daniels (Future Shock) says… “Fucking spread the word, dude.”

  5. Scott C Rogers writes: “. Like N. Frank Daniels (Future Shock) says…”

    Whoa, let me nit pit. Frank wrote “futureproof”, first published via Lulu and now out from Harper Perennial. “Future Shock” is Alvin Toffler’s work, which inspired John Brunner’s “The Shockwave Rider”. All three books are must reads IMHO.

  6. nit pit? LOL, How about nitpick? But Frank’s “futureproof” is worth reading all the same!

  7. Brian Astbury

    Thanks for this. I am attempting to find out which way is best and the answer so far seems to be – both. At http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=372957 you will find the following interesting comment: “If your only concern is getting listed on Amazon, and you have all of the tools to create print ready materials yourself, then Createspace is the better choice. Keep in mind that the ISBNs are not “true” ISBNs. They are not listed in Books in Print. As it was explained to me by a sales rep for Createspace, the company simply bought huge bulk ISBN numbers and recycles them. So if someone deactivates a product, that ISBN will be reassigned to a different project. However, since ISBNs aren’t a big issue for RPGs anyway, it’s only a minor concern. Also, the books are ONLY available on Amazon.com, not the other sites.”, followed by further discussion on the subject of ISBN’s

  8. Brian Astbury

    and a quick addition: there’s a really interesting Lulu/CreatSpace price calculator at http://www.lugaru.com/lulucalc.html which throws up some interesting contradictions in pricing/sizing/dollars vs pounds vs euros

  9. Thorin N. Tatge

    Thanks a lot for your run-down! I was thinking about offering a book in paperback from CreateSpace and in downloadable form from Lulu, but wasn’t certain this would be legitimate. It means a lot to see someone else doing just that. Thanks for your recommendation of the Pro Plan; I intend to sign up for it, but I’m always wary of a catch with special plans, and it looks like I needn’t be wary of this one any longer.

  10. Andie Castile

    I notice that CS offers free ISBN’s. If you use their service & receive a free ISBN are you able to transfer it to your Lulu copy? After all, they are technically the same thing (except for HC vs. PB). How does that work exactly? Also, I noticed a “publisher” who uses CS to publish their authors’ work. How does that work? Can one be listed as being published by other than CS & still use CS?

  11. Andie: What I did was get an ISBN through the Lulu “published by you” option which means I own the ISBN. Then I attached that ISBN to my Createspace book as well so they match across all channels.

    As for being listed by a publisher other than Createspace, it’s really just a field you fill out when you submit your book for publication. You’ll see The Trouble With Being God is listed as published by http://www.beinggod.com on Amazon and everywhere else.

  12. Thanks! This was really helpful! I was checking out both createspace and lulu as well as blurb but didn’t know which one was better.

  13. Thanks so much! I was actually trying to figure out whether or not createspace’s “pro” option was worth it.

    Also, I see that while Createspace is a great price, you still use lulu. Nice review, though maybe I’ll never get around to publishing anyway ;)

    ~Patrick

  14. thanks for the great post, William. I am slightly confused: are you publishing the same book at both lulu and cs?

    Also, for a first-timer who has no book or cover laying-out experience, which would be the easier route? I’m trying to help my dad publish a few books — he’s a good writer but not tech-savvy at all.

    peace and bountiful writings!

  15. SO when it comes to hardback- createspace is still cheaper?

  16. Kaylania Chapman

    Would you say that CreateSpace is better than Lulu. I am debating on which one to go with.

  17. Hi,

    Quick question. I have a book already published through createspace and I used one of their ISBN’s. If I decide to also publish with Lulu also, with another ISBN, it is okay to have one book, with two ISBN’s?
    Thanks.

  18. I am disappointed with Lulu and their current level of service.

    I have published eight titles with Lulu.com over a period of several years. At first, Lulu offered great services and resources, including a live help feature. However, virtually all their services and resources have been withdrawn, including live help.

    Now, as I work on my newest book, Lulu is forcing me to choose between “published by LuLu” or “published by me” before I can proceed with work on my book. I tried to avoid the choice and leave it for later, and continue with the work, so Lulu chose for me. They chose “published by Lulu,” of course, which means that I do not own or control my own book. They actually gave my book a Lulu owned isbn, without my requesting or approving it. And now there is no way to contact support to remove the isbn, except through a multiple choice form, which is just about worthless. I get auto-response messages that have little to do with my problem. I cannot move forward and publish this book.

    Lulu is cutting their own throat by forcing me to publish with CreateSpace.

    If I were just beginning to publish, I would not commit my books to Lulu. I believe they are on the wayh. Perhaps Amazon is putting so much pressure on Lulu that they have to cut corners until they have nothing left to attract authors.

    It looks like CreateSpace is the future of pod publishing. So might as well begin there and save the frustration, and the effort it will take to move your books later.

  19. Boy this is great stuff! I’m so glad these self publishing opportunities are out there! I have a question though. Who edits and proofs your work before you publish? Are there services out there and are they expensive?? Thanks MUCH!

  20. Decent article, thanks for the tips. However, it leaves me with a lot of questions. And this whole set up looks like a shameless plug for your book, hence the links to your book’s site.

  21. You should discontinue lulu.com and use lightningsource.com instead. Lulu is nothing but a shell wrapped around them.

  22. I’m using Createspace, and was wondering if books published there will definitely get into Amazon or is it just a maybe?

    I’m still waiting for the proof copy in the mail to approve it, so I’m not at that later stage yet.

  23. I have used Lulu for some of my own work and helped my mother publish a set of autobiographical books through lulu.

    My own paperback novel was a breeze in Lulu, but I ran into many technical problems that required online assistance from Lulu’s help to resolve. (I’m a computer science professor that teaches web site design, which I mention only to point out this was not user error: I was using their service correctly, but it was not responding in an expected way).

    Now that they do not have online help, I don’t want to try to publish anything else with them. Which is why I was thinking of switching to CreateSpace just to test them out.

  24. Be aware that a few weeks ago CreateSpace terminated the contracts with several of their authors. They did not offer an explanation to the termination, nor did they respond to repeated on-line inquiries. Before submitting your book, you may want to take such whimsical and unprofessional treatment of your contract into consideration.

  25. Thanks for the good article on lulu and Createspace. I have published five or six books with trade publishers in New York (Bantam Doubleday Dell Simon & Schuster etc) but wanted more of the profits from my books, The first book I have done print-on-demand is on Lulu. It took six people, one after the other, to format it on Lulu’s program; one by one these people dropped out saying they couldn’t make Lulu’s complicated system work. the last of these people is a computer sciences teacher. It was sufficiently difficult and anti-intuitive that a job he thought would take a week or two took two months. In those days Lulu had live people to email and to telephone; their current so-called system is totally useless and absolutely infuriating — no one to ask questions of and no way to get answers when things don’t work as they tell you they will. Very unprofessional company in my view. My book is listed on Amazon too, and Createspace is truly terrific. They answer your phone calls, help you work through difficult problems at any hour of night or day, and are helpful, courteous, very intelligent, and wonderful to work with. I will go to them with my next book, and will never bother with Lulu again, because Lulu clearly doesn’t care what you need and has no interest in resolving problems.

    A second point: Someone mentioned wanting help editing a book (and possibly formatting it) — I know a great editor they can contact if interested. Get in touch with me and I’ll give you her contact info.

  26. I enjoyed reading these reviews and want to say thank you for having this site up. I finished a book I have been writing for several months on the downsizing and firings taking place in this economy and I have it in the hands of a professional editor as we speak. I am trying to decide where to go from here and this has been helpful. I have satirical cartoons that will need to be implanted as well and that is confusing to me. I have written this well but I am not as tech savy as I would like to be. Being born in 1947 and on the leading edge of the “boomers” I feel like reinventing myself and this book is the first major step in that direction. I wrote it because I needed to for me but I believe it will be a big help to others who finally get to read it. That is why it is so important to me to choose the right option when it is published. Thank you again. Doug

  27. Asking anyone for clarification. When an author uses either Lulu or createspace , is it mentioned on the title page that it is published thru them. Or is listed as published by author’s own publishing company and author’s name? Does the author assign any rights to either or does author own complete rights when using either entity? Can an auther get mutiple copies for himself at a reduced price to sell thru his own website? Can an author print and publish his own book and then get it listed on Amaqzon? What I woulld like is to have copies of my own material and sell the hard copies for higher profit? For instance, using my own printing at home and having the books ready to be shipped by me and getting more of the profit, yet being listed on Amazon. Thanks anyone.

  28. Thank you for posting this. I am trying to decide the best route to take to publish my poetry. I have been seriously considering createspace. This info has just about made up my mind. Thanks again!

  29. As a professional bookseller for more than thirty years, I’d have to say that Lulu.com is an absolute abomination, as they do not offer wholesale discounts to retailers. This, of course, is virtually unheard of in the publishing world, as most “real” publishing concerns worldwide off retailers a wholesale price of between 25%-50% off the SRP.

    Because Lulu.com does not offer wholesale pricing to the retail trade, they have essentially sabotaged the success of any and all books they publish since they are essentially the sole distributor, and one that is not highly regarding in the bookseller community.

    In addition to charging authors to self-publish their books, they restrict the sales of these publications by failing to recognize the standard operating procedures long utilized by traditional publishing houses, i.e., offering their books at a wholesale price through all the major book distributors, and selling directly to specialty retailers at that same traditional wholesale pricing.

    Additionally, from talking with authors who have gone the self-publishing route through Lulu.com, none to date have been happy with sales realized. Also, every author with whom I’ve spoken has been very dissatisfied with the so-called “marketing help” Lulu promises to deliver, as in actuality that translates to “we’ll give you some suggestions, and then you go do your own advertising.”

    Another flaw in the Lulu scheme owing to their refusal to offer wholesale pricing to retailers, is that in most cases amazon.com, the world’s largest bookseller, will not list book published by Lulu.com, thereby depriving the author of having his/her book made known to the maximum number of potential book buyers – which translates directly into lack of sales – which, by the way, is the number one complaint I hear from Lulu.com published authors.

    The shortcoming of Lulu’s self-distribution system thus virtually guarantees the near anonymity of the very book these aspiring authors paid good money to have printed.

    The recommendation here is for aspiring would-be authors to either personally type their manuscripts in a program such as Adobe Illustrator or Adobe PageMaker, or pay a professional or semi-professional computer savvy typist/editor to do so, and then take the finished product on a CD to any reputable local printer. You will generally find a local printing company is equipped to assist you with such things as formatting, inserting graphics, etc., and in must cases provide you with a better price to produce the final printed books. As long as you have gone through the extremely simple process of obtaining an ISBN number through R. R. Bowker, or any number of other official ISBN issuers, you will be able to sell your books directly to wholesale distributors, directly to customers acquired through your own advertising, large retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon, but most importantly you will be able to establish and control your own pricing at every level by eliminating the unnecessary middlemen such as Lulu.com and all the other huckster vanity presses who prey upon a first time author’s lack of knowledge of the industry.

  30. I found these comments in the Lulu forum.

    “Have we all gone mad? I don’t know about most of you, but I initially signed up with Lulu to have printed copies of MY literary creation in the form of a book. I don’t want my printer to be my business partner, my publisher, my content adviser nor accountant for what’s inside or on the cover of what I created.

    Here is what CreateSpace said, in an email, in answer to my question about printing a cover without the ISBN.
    ” Thank you for contacting CreateSpace in regard to the barcode we place on all of our books. The manufacturing-related barcode and additional information found on the last page within books serves as identifiers and are added as part of our printing process. For these reasons, we do not remove this barcode from our books. I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this information may present. ”

    Notice that the reply says “our books”. By placing that ISBN on the book, they now consider it theirs – not mine.

    ISBN is nothing short of a “Big Brother” type of control. We don’t need an ISBN if we just want to hold what we’ve written in the form of a book. I also am amazed that hundreds, even thousands of independent writers have just rolled over and bought into the ISBN scam.

    Why is it that only one place in the entire US is the only place to get an ISBN, should you want one? ( Remember back when Network Solutions was the ONLY place you could register an Internet Domain name? ) This is clearly a monopoly and a violation of anti-trust laws. The $275 that Bowker charges for 10 ISBN (plus that annual fee, don’t forget) is nothing short of extortion.
    ISBN’s in Canada (and every other country) are FREE.

    And why is it that Lulu can sell me a single ISBN for less than I can buy one myself? How is Lulu (and CreateSpace, for that matter) able to give me an ISBN for free, just for giving them the publishing rights? What benefit is that to me as a writer? Unless I WANT them to handle the marketing. And, how many of you, selling you books through Lulu and CreateSpace, are making the kind of money that you think an author should? Ready to retire, are you?

    Those who have signed up on CreateSpace to have books sold on Amazon have also given rights to CS to sell those book to other sellers for less than what it costs you to print it. So, when you see your book for sale on Amazon, for $15, you will also see it listed for $11 by other sellers, effectively cutting you out of receiving any royalty. Is that what you signed up for, when you had your book printed? I doubt it.

    I print copies of what I write mainly as inspiration, so I can hold what I’ve done in book form. I also give copies away to friends and family. I have little interest in trying to become a publisher-marketer-sales agent- etc., nor do I have delusions of selling thousands of copies of my book on Lulu, or Amazon.

    All I want is a printed copy of my book – period; with my cover design, no barcode, and no ISBN. And, so far, Lulu still offers the option of printing a cover without the barcode – Hooray for Lulu.

    However, for those of you who do want an ISBN, you should be up in arms, protesting, writing your senators and representatives, to change the ISBN acquisition process and the outrageous costs associated with it

    Or, you can continue being sheep, or lemmings, and have your creation gently plucked from your grasp by a 13 digit number.

    The original poster said they do not want a barcode.
    Many of us don’t.

    Bring the old cover app back or at least give us a choice.
    Most people on this forum don’t realize that once an ISBN is attached to their book ( whether here on Lulu, or CreateSpace, or wherever ) you are stuck with that ISBN, unless you change the title and re-publish it.
    Also, and maybe more importantly, many REAL book publishers, not Print On Demand houses posing as publishers, won’t touch a book that already has an ISBN because of the hassle in making the changes to the original needed for them to effectively market it.

    I use Lulu for printing, not because I want a publishing agent, or someone else to have my distribution rights.

    To the original poster -
    “**The barcodes added to Publisher Grade and Standard books are for the manufacturing process.”
    This is misleading crap. As soon as Lulu or any other printer puts that code on your book, they will forever be listed as the publisher. Read the terms and conditions. It has nothing to do with the manufacturing process. We’ve all had books printed by Lulu in years past with no barcode. It has everything to do with the publishing-distribution rights. Besides, if we as writers want to print a book for ourselves, to keep, give away or sell through our own channels, why does it need a n ISBN or even a barcode for that matter? I have sold some of the books I’ve created in area stores. None – let me repeat, NONE of those stores ever refused to sell my book because it didn’t have a barcode. These stores have other things in their stock, like gifts, jewelry, musical instruments, that do not have an ISBN or a barcode, that they have no trouble selling. Some items even have a handwritten price tag.
    Both the ISBN and bar code are unnecessary, unless you specifically want your printer, be it Lulu or whoever, to also be your publisher. All of you “power posters” should know better. As writers, we should all look for a printer who will print our books the way we want them printed.”

  31. Nice article, but still leaves me in turmoil. I have a book of 15 very short-short stories. To get my feet wet in this business, I’m considering doing it as an e-book through Smashwords for a buck. I will also offer it free to read on my website, through social websites. My devious plan is to encourage readers to browse my site.

    Since Smashwords only does e-books, I will have to go with someone else for p-books. After reading this article, my leaning is towards Createspace. Any other viable options?

    I have a short novel, nearly completed. Depending on how my e-book goes, will determine how I market this book.

  32. Wow, that last one has made me want to go out and research ISBNs more… however, the real comment that I wanted to leave is about books with multiple ISBNs. I work part time in a library and I can tell you from hours of cataloguing experience, that lots of books have multiple ISBNs. Hardcover and paperback versions of the same title will have different ISBNs. Also, very frequently Scholastic picks up a title and re-prints it, assigning it a new paperback ISBN. So I don’t see the issue with having a book published through Lulu (as either “By You” our by Lulu) and through CS and having two seperate ISBNs. The only people I’ve ever run into who search according to ISBN are people who work with books.
    Most consumers search authors (when they can remember our names!) and titles.

    The only advantage I can really see with “By You” through Lulu is that at that point the ISBN belongs to you (which seems like a pretty big advantage to me.)

    Now… off to figure out what makes ISBNs so darned special… thanks to the last poster who may not have changed my mind about getting one (after all, POD is rocking the apple cart enough in the publishing field) but has definitely made me want to investigate.

    ~Helen

  33. Thanks for your article. I just published on lulu. So early into it I haven’t even received my copy yet to review. I am thinking if you let lulu sell your book on amazon, you will get next to nothing. So I was wondering about selling it myself on amazon. Your article gave me the motivation to at least try it. Thanks!
    Hopefully I can sell my book in both places.

  34. I published two books through Lulu four years ago. At that time, an author could go with a stripped down deal whereby you could shepherd your manuscript through their admittedly convoluted process and receive an ISBN for well under a hundred bucks. I contracted my cover art independently fo another modest sum. I did all my own copyediting and marketing. The whole process ended up costing me very little. And Lulu’s live help and placement of my books through Ingram to Amazon, B&N, etc. was fast. Except for the inflated retail price of my books, I was very pleased with Lulu’s services.

    Now I read these posts and see a lot has changed. Also, a perusal of Lulu’s and CS’s fees takes me aback. Realistically, I would need to shell out at least $499 to CS for basically the same services I’d received for a pittance with Lulu a few years ago. Lulu now would appear to charge me $629 to replicate what I’d done before for very little cost.

    I’m a do-it-yourselfer. I don’t need POD outfits doing my copyediting, cover art or marketing. I’d appreciate knowing of any reliable and honest self-publishing outfits who are a good fit with authors such as myself.

  35. i was so hopeful. createspace is full of shit, from automated responses about the submissions; a never ending tirade and circus of confusing, misleading, and uneducated direction; seems intentional there’s no direct contact to the technical side without paying their $299 fee; many times i have submitted my document per THEIR direction and each time has been an epic #FAIL.

    createspace SUCKS. then again, lulu isn’t far behind picking up the saliva either.

  36. Bruce Wilburn

    Great article with much info for a ‘newby’ first publisher. I’m publishing…or republishing a book of photos and text originally published in London in 1873.
    I’ve look into English copyright law and the original seems now to be in the public domain. I have digital images of each page of the book at 400dpi in tif format. Based on the article and the comments from others, I’ll probably go with Create Space. Would you expect to anticipate any problems with submitting the work as digital image files, either .tif or .jpg?

  37. [...] a great Createspace vs. Lulu article HERE [...]

  38. I totally agree with “Wandering Poet”.

    Three books (“A Seasoning of Lust”, “The Zar Tales” and the new “White Cranes of Heaven”) at Lulu, and I’m jumping ship.

    The quality is wonderful…especially because my last book has 11 full color plates of my paintings illustrating some poems.

    But! They have made it harder and harder to publish with them.

    What is the pits is their customer service is non-existent. They are impossible to contact.

    And why have they stopped giving authors a discount on bulk on their OWN BOOKS????

    I’m going somewhere else. Lulu has become unsupportable, mainly for pricing and customer service.

    Jane Kohut-Bartels
    Atlanta

  39. Good article. I published through Lulu a few years ago and was actually very pleased… There seems to be a bit of stigma attached to it, but as you say, they can hardly be beaten on quality. I haven’t yet used Createspace, but maybe one day I will.

  40. Lulu.com may have recently changed their Terms of Service to read that the ISBN you receive from them cannot be used to sell the book with other publishers. I think I read this in a forum there.

  41. All of this information is very useful and yet confusing. “Caveat emptor” appears to be the rule of the day in the POD world.

    I use Lulu to make one-offs of a screenplay I am working on. The quality is excellent and the cost of a perfectly bound 140 pp. book with a gorgeous glossy cover, shipping included, is about as much as buying a double-sided print version on crappy copier paper with three hole punching and brads for binding at at Kinkos.

    CS looks great, but I would want to put MY OWN barcode and IBSN info on the back cover (without totally marring the graphic design). If that is not possible, I’ll pass, even though the royalties are much better than Lulu’s. If CS relents and allows authors to embed their own numbers and barcodes in their own cover image files, then I’m back in a flash.

    I think Lulu is a great option for what are essentially high quality mockups/proofs. If I want a run of several hundred copies for a book tour, for example, I should be able to take a Lulu proof, along with the files I used to make it on a CDR, to my local print shop. I bet their per unit cost would spank CS, let alone Lulu. For a 224 pp. 6×9 paperback in a run of 1,000 copies the per unit price is typically about $2.50/book. That beats the CS price by a mile with no screwing around with “mandatory” barcoding.

    With Lulu, I would only make about $1.60/unit in royalty when selling on a wholesale basis and $5.20 per unit when using the Lulu store for the novel I’m currently working on. The CS numbers are much higher, but at what cost to future ISBN issues?

    The way I see it, POD is just a way to test the waters. If I had a POD book that was selling well, I could probably get a conventional publisher to pick it up, market it properly, get it into the right wholesale/retail channels, etc. I would get an even smaller cut per unit, but they could really push the product better. If my book sucks, it will suck at the POD level, where I can constantly revise it until it DOESN’T suck.

    I hope the CS people read these posts. If they just did POD right–at the rates they pay now, without the “mandatory bar code” snow job–they would corner the market. IMHO.

  42. Wow, you would think some of these folks were paid by the word for their comments. I pray to my invisible friend their books are better than the comments.
    I was really excited about this POD thing until I read these posts. Now I’m thinking I’ll hand write my book and sell it at yard sales. I would just like to hear some down to dirt level information on where it works and how it works and how much it will cost for it to work.
    Of course they own it what dribble, publish by any means carries with it certain know elements. If one dose not like these elements, one takes one’s ball home and plays with one’s self.

  43. Its great to see so many creative people following their passion in the field of writing. To add to this thread a little of my own publishing journey, I myself published a book utilising createspace with my own isbn under the imprint Blue Jay Press.
    I found formatting a challenge and had that professionally done, along with a cover created by a graphic designer, I am about to release a revised edition of my book – The Dance of Stillness, once again through createspace with my own isbn. My reasons for choosing such (isbn and imprint) are mostly that it will allow me to publish the same book with a different publisher if the need/opportunity should arise, also I technically am the owner of the rights to my book and personally for myself that seems like a good thing.
    If I so choose, I may for example do a print run in say – India and seek to have the book distributed there, or such like.
    All in all, my encounter with CS was and is very good, I am more than satisfied with their level of service and the end product after years of hard work, blood sweat and tears, is – so deeply rewarding.
    I must also add, I highly recommend Crowdspring – a design option for book covers available via CS, I have found using them for my revised edition (soon to be all ready to go) to be brilliant, far exceeding my expectations.
    I would say – If money is an issue and your publishing for self expression and personal enjoyment, then sure use the CS free isbn, however if – you are on the other hand – thinking of doing extensive marketing and feel you may venture further into the “game” of self publishing, then perhaps it may be wise to purchase your own isbn and use your own imprint (publishing name) as many do. Best of luck my fellow writer/publishers.

  44. I’ve used Lulu for author’s proofs. For some reason, even after 2 people have critiqued and spell checked, I still seem to find occasional errors. Having it in book form makes it stand out more. Lulu did a nice job and the finished product was as professionally printed and bound as what I can buy in bookstores.

    For final printing I’m tempted to go with CS. It just seems like a better deal. I’ll continue to use Lulu for drafts and also for short-run books where i need 50 or less.

    As for ISBN, I haven’t got that far yet. Being Canadian, I don’t need to pay, but since I’m publishing in the States, I probably will. Another bridge to cross …

    Any one tried Chinese POD firms?

  45. I am even more confused , I am was using author house and now i decide to use DIY , I want to decide between CS or LULU. They both seemed to have issues. So where do I go from here . I have an edited copy and no money to use author house. My book is a self help book that will teach persons to deal with emotional baggage and stick to their dreams. I need help I want to publish this book without money .

  46. I self-published my first book with Lulu, but it did not print as expected. The font was smaller than the original document and there was too large a space at the top. I also did not figure out how to access pictures for the cover. I am new at this. Can you help?

  47. Hello there everyone! Great thread with such incredibly valuable information!

    My question is about photo books. Any advice on either LuLu or Amazon?

  48. Here is something important to consider: GET YOUR OWN ISBN, so that you are listed as the publisher.

    Otherwise, Lulu will withhold 30% of your profits for tax reasons, unless you fill out a bunch of paperwork and get it all confirmed with the IRS, which can take months apparently. That 30% is supposed to cover royalties. What? It doesn’t even make any sense. All I see is just another way to screw authors, by withholding my money. As Calvin, the above commenter, suggests, the whole ISBN situation is a big racket; you can sell your books just fine without one if you really want.

    Also, Lulu conveniently only pays you every quarter, so you will always have your money sitting in their bank account. They must make quite a lot of money on interest…

    It is important to have a physical presence when self publishing; customers and authors need that. But it makes more sense to incentivize people to purchase the electronic version of your book for slightly less than your print copy, via something like paypal or google checkout.

    Yes that means creating a website and doing your own marketing, but if you’re self publishing then you are already doing that right? Most people are buying ebooks nowadays and you will make a lot more money selling directly to your customers. Amazon and lulu consider themselves “platforms,” and they are, but, promotions aside, you still have to do pretty much all of the work in getting eyeballs to your product.

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