With this ever-changing publishing world, it’s good to explore other options before the need arises. I feel this way about paperback printing services now that CreateSpace seems to be going the way of the megafauna. Before Amazon Print scuttles the boat (read Amazon’s New KDP Print Feature is Bad News for CreateSpace Users), I want my books settled on solid ground at another printer, so I can still get copies with short notice.
At a friend’s recommendation, I tried the printing services of Lulu. She had printed several of her books using their service. She showed me samples, and the quality was good. I uploaded a book and ordered a copy to see how easy it was and to compare it with the quality from CreateSpace.
Lulu accepted interior files created with CreateSpace’s template, so I didn’t have to redo the book to order the sample. I later learned they accept InDesign files, too, as I assumed they would.
Since this was a new program for me, there were a few stumbles, but overall the process wasn’t too difficult. Ordering copies was easy. The benefit of Lulu is they accept PayPal. This is excellent for everyone who doesn’t have a credit card.
The time between ordering the book and receiving it at the door was a few days longer than the standard proof order from CreateSpace, but the shipping was free due to the coupon offer from Lulu. The 76-page book cost $3.82 Canadian to the door.
The print quality—both cover and interior pages—was good, exactly what I’d get from CreateSpace. The added bonus with Lulu is I can order hardcover copies, something I’ve never had the opportunity to do before.
Another Test Run
My next test was with “Twistmas – The Season for Love”. This book was published in 2015, before I preferred the 6 x 9 inch size. So this book was 8.5 x 5.5.
I’ve never had a problem with printing quality with CreateSpace for this book size. However, Lulu doesn’t offer premium quality for 8.5 x 5.5. It’s standard quality only, which felt slightly cheaper to me and didn’t live up to my expectations.
Compared to CreateSpace, the book was noticeably thinner because the paper was thinner. But that’s not what struck me the most. The quality of the cover wasn’t as great as the CreateSpace version. The colours were off slightly and a few graphics didn’t look as good.
I wondered if the book was 6 x 9 and printed in premium quality, would the cover look better? I’ll find out because I plan to redesign this romance novel to 6 x 9.
The Coldest December
Quarter Castle Publishing published a collection of short stories by authors in Nova Scotia to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. The results from Lulu were promising enough that I decided to upload “The Coldest December” files (size 6 x 9) and order a proof.
I was pleased with the quality of the cover and the interior, including the few photographs I included inside. After a few corrections were made and a new file was uploaded, I approved the proof for sale.
I could have Lulu distribute my book to other outlets, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but I didn’t. Instead, I uploaded the files to CreateSpace to maintain the familiar control over the book and connect the print version with the eBook version. This also gave me the option to order copies of the book through CreateSpace if I chose to do so.
And here’s why.
It is more expensive to print a book through Lulu than CreateSpace. The base price for “The Coldest December” (172 pages) at Lulu was $5.79 per book. At CreateSpace, it was $3.59. That’s a large difference.
But—and this is the strange part—I ordered 20 books through Lulu instead and paid less. Why? CreateSpace never offers deals, coupons or discounts. Lulu does.
On the day I made the order, an excellent offer arrived in my inbox: 20% off printing plus free shipping. For 20 books, it cost only $98.72. Because of the discount, free shipping and not having to pay an activation fee for a gift credit card (plus losing whatever remaining balance was on the card, even if it was only a dollar), it was cheaper to order my books from Lulu.
Just to Note: The shipping was about $3.00 more with CreateSpace than Lulu (if I would have had to pay shipping).
The price for each book from Lulu was $4.94 to the door.
My box of books arrived this morning (January 29th). I was surprised. I had placed the order last Tuesday (January 23rd). The deliver was just as quick, if not quicker than CreateSpace. But that’s not all.
I was fully expecting to pay duty at the door before they handed me the books, but I didn’t. I watched the postal truck drive away, waiting for it to turn around to collect the money, but it kept going. If this order had been from CreateSpace, I would have paid about $18 duty.
So, when I say $4.94 per book to the door, that means to the door and inside the house. In the end, I was pleased with the purchasing experience. The books were wrapped in plastic, three to four books per wrap. This is ideal for keeping books clean until they are sold.
I plan to upload all my books to Lulu eventually, and if I see a great offer again, I can order copies of what I need. I’ll keep my books on CreateSpace until the ship sinks, then I’ll decide what further steps to take.
Update: It’s been a busy month, and when I ordered the books from Lulu, I hadn’t realised they were shipped from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. This is the reason I didn’t pay duty at the door. The package didn’t cross the border. Than you, Martina, for bringing this to my attention.
Update: Plaisted Publishing House posted an interesting article about the slow erosion of CreateSpace’s services. You can read it here: CreateSpace – Closing their Professional Services. Is this another step to closing their business?
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Have you used Lulu? What did you think of their printing service?