Review of Lulu’s Printing Service

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

Twistmas Christmas RomanceMy 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

The Coldest December - Halifax ExplosionQuarter 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.

Unexpected Savings

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.The Coldest December - Halifax Explosion

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?

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27 thoughts on “Review of Lulu’s Printing Service

    • It certainly is wonderful. The largest order I had from CreateSpace totaled $200 and I got stuck paying around $25 at the door. Of course, this cost has to be added to the overall cost of the book when selling at markets.

  1. I published Waiting for Westmoreland with LULU in 2007, which I serendipitously heard about in a conversation at a cafe. I recently republished a tenth anniversary edition (not much change) but with a new cover from a 99Designs participant. It looks very good. Lulu does have lots of promos and volume discounts if you choose to buy books and sell them yourself. Their web process could be better and more user friendly, but it’s not greatly more challenging than that of others. I will probably stick with them for print for a sci-fi book that I want to get out in the fall. You can see the cover on Amazon or Lulu but that won’t tell you anything about the print quality. 🙂

    • Hello John, the promos and discounts Lulu offers are certainly attractive. And there always seems to be one any given day of the week. As soon as one ends, another begins.

      I found their web process a little clunky, but after the third time through, I was getting the hang of it.

      You were wise to go with Lulu back in 2007. I think a lot more writers will be choosing it in the coming years as CreateSpace and KDP Print transforms Amazon.

  2. Hi Diane,

    I have not forgotten you. You come to mind more often than you think. I finally got my book finished in mid-December. I have a friend who lives in the US who used to do editing and proofreading who offered to edit it for me. I have another person who is a playwright who has volunteered to read it too and offer any suggestions. Then I want my brother to read it because I want him to do the cover art work.

    With all that said, I have been shopping the “Net” looking at self-publishing options. I have been in contact with WordAlive Press in Winnipeg and then Tellwell. Both look like good options but good grief, just when you think you can set aside part of the budget for a fun project, Murphy’s Law jumps in. If those who are read the book tell me to forget any idea of it being worth the publishing effort, then that will be that. In the mean time I am still looking at a good publishing alternative at less expense. This latest blog article is welcome.

    I will look at Lulu. I finally got the book – nowhere the end version – into a book format in Word to see what it would give me for pages and it comes out to about 380 +/-.

    I am not sure about when to start thinking ISBN but I think that too, is bit down the road.

    Thank you for the updates on your experiences in publishing.

    Ann Lewis

    • Hello Anne,

      It sounds as though you have lots of wonderful help to polish that manuscript and to create a cover. This begs the question: why would you seek a company to ‘publish’ the book for you? Why don’t you do it yourself? The company will charge you for things you’ve already done: editing, creating a cover. Many of the things they list in their services are free, such as ISBN (in Canada).

      Once your book is edited, read aloud by you to find any sneaky errors hiding behind the print, and a cover is created, all you have to do is get the ISBN and hire someone to format the inside. I recommend Rik Hall (http://rikhall.com/) if you are looking for someone to do the formatting.

      The little odds and ends, such as writing a book blurb and an author’s biography, finding key words and deciding on such things as the size of the book are things you’ll have to do anyways.

      Then you can print through Lulu, buy copies you want to sell personally and allow Lulu to send the book to other retailers. It would cost you less than $200 to complete the publishing of the book. [This is just an estimate since I don’t know how large your book is and if it contains graphics.] I’m not sure what the ‘publisher’ is charging, but usually it’s not less than $1,000. And sometimes, they own the rights to certain aspects of the book if you go through them.

      If you do it yourself, you own everything.

  3. Interesting article Diane. I will certainly consider this when I’m ready for this step. I am curious though. By printing a book this way, does this leave the door open for people to publish and distribute without having their manuscript vetted by a professional editor?

    • The short answer is yes. Anything can be published in book form this way regardless of the quality. This, however, is not exclusive to Lulu. A poorly-written book can also be published on CreateSpace. There are no gatekeepers. That is the wonderful crazy world we live in now.

      That said, if an author doesn’t strive to produce a quality book, then their books won’t sell…okay, I wrote that, and I believe it should be true, but the fact is, it’s not. Some poorly written books have gotten a lot of sales because of great marketing.

  4. Diane – I’ve used Lulu too with great success over the years – but I should warn you about not checking those that are sealed in plastic wrap. I once ordered one of my books to be shipped as a gift to another address. It turned out the cover was my original one but the contents were work by someone else. And not in the slightest bit suitable for the recipient. It was fortunate that she told me about the error and Lulu rectified it in the end – but it never did compensate for the shock of the unsavoury content that had found its way inside my cover.

    • Wow. I’m shocked. I guess because I don’t know the whole process behind printing books, I can’t imagine how this would happen. Thank you for the heads up. I will check every book I buy to ensure the contents match the cover.

  5. I am wondering if you are talking Canadian Dollars in all your $references in your article? Because if you order copies through CreateSpace they are printed in the US… and when you order from LuLu to your Canadian address, they print them in Canada. Correct?
    Thanks!

    • Hello Martina, all costs mentioned are in Canadian dollars. I noted it on the first one, but didn’t know if I needed to on all the others. I used the online currency converter to convert a few prices from US to Canadian. For a few others, such as the total amount for the 20 books, I went by what was taken out of my account.

      The bill from Lulu was given in US dollars ($78.79), which was $98.72 Canadian according to PayPal. The order must have been printed at Mississauga, Ontario, because that’s where it was processed and shipped from.

      So while it was shipped from a Canadian location, the bill was in US funds.

      Thank you for asking this question. I hadn’t realised the printing was done in Canada. And because it was done in Canada, there was no duty charged at the door. That solves that mystery.

  6. When I first started out Createspace would only make payments to a bank account if it was at an American bank. All payments were made via cheque in $US which in the UK meant a fee for changing to UK currency sometimes leaving very little of the transaction left. I changed to Lulu for my lat book because they made payment directly into a Paypal account. When I approached Createspace about this method they refused.
    As you say, there were (are) plenty of special offers like free postage with Lulu that effectively bring their overall price down. If I started again, my choice would be Lulu.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Those days are still upon us, David. I don’t get a cheque cut unless I reach that $100 threshold (though I was told some time ago I could open a US bank account for free, but I didn’t follow up on it.). At the moment, I sit with $51.60 in my account. Surprisingly, my bank didn’t charge me fees to cash the cheque. I was told by many they would, but for some reason I didn’t.

      Each time I complete an upload of a book at CreateSpace, they give me a survey. And for the past two years, that survey has been sent with the comment that I want to be able to pay with PayPal. I hear nothing in return.

      Question: Do you find any problem getting your printed books available on Amazon through Lulu? This is my concern since I sell most of my printed books through them.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting, David. It’s always a pleasure.

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