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.