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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lessons Learned Self-Publishing With Lulu

  1. Yes, self-publishing at Lulu works, but it’s not really all that easy. The result is worth it though.
  2. Always go for the most widely distributed software (e.g. Microsoft Word with an English interface... not OpenOffice Writer, not Word in German) – this way, most converters and help files will work with your document.
  3. Use a standard Lulu template, but expect months of headaches formatting a book with Word unless you’re a Word expert. Consider yourself glad if you have a Word expert around...
  4. When you buy the global distribution options on, your book will get its ISBN, and will be available in different catalogs, and on (Amazon takes its own commission, meaning your commission may be lower even when the overall price is higher). There’s apparently no need to manually upload the cover to Amazon, as opposed to what the Lulu help says. (Note the Amazon version might have a much darker cover...) With an ISBN, you can also take your book to sell at a local book store.
  5. Everyone can be an author. You just need a time-out to write, an idea about what to write, and the motivation to finish. You are not restricted to novels or non-fiction books, you can also publish calendars, photo books, even comic books (take a look at what others have done on Lulu). If you ever felt like quitting your day job to do something different, maybe this is it?
  6. has a live chat support... this is much better than the Lulu forum for solving technical problems. If your chat contact doesn’t “get” your problem, simply disconnect and reconnect until you found someone willing to help... next time you log on, ask for the same support person again. Chat transcripts can be emailed to you later on for reference.
  7. There are several book sizes available on but there is no great variety; I wasn’t able to choose a “typical” trade paperback size. It was either too small or a little too large (which was still OK in the end, but maybe other self-publishing services offer more sizes...).
  8. The ordering process at Lulu when you want to ship to multiple addresses is a usability pain. Several of the books I sent out landed at the wrong addresses due to this. Check everything three times when you order at, and don’t use the Back button...
  9. Print sample pages to get a feeling for what the book looks like before you order your first (of several) review copies. Buying global distribution options on means you must order a final version of your book, and then approve it (the book will then be appearing on Amazon, Google Book Search and so on). Later corrections are costly and slow to roll out. Don’t forget to ask others to help out with reviewing your book, and know that it’s better when those people are brutally honest!
  10. You’ll pay for either black-and-white, or color pages on you can’t mix the pricing, that is, you can’t have 2 color pages in a b/w book unless you’re willing to pay for color on all the other pages.

If anyone of you has any questions, I’ll answer what I can in the comments...


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