So I recently went through the process of getting a book ready for publishing via Lulu. They make the process really easy, but you should have three things ready when you head to Lulu…
- Your content. This can be as basic as a Microsoft Word file, but it helps if you can create a PDF and submit it as your content.
- An idea for your cover. They offer some options in this area, but you should really have someone (ideally a graphic artist) help you out.
- An idea for how you want to distribute the book.
So let’s start with #1… Content. Let’s say you’ve been writing on a particular topic for quite a while and have pulled together a manuscript you think will help other people out or will appeal to a certain audience. In my case, I’ve been working on a roleplaying game since the mid-90s and decided it was time to give publishing a go again 10 years since the last attempt.
If you have your content together, you can lay it out using simple tools like MS Word or MS Publisher (which is what I use), or you can go all out and use Adobe Pagemaker, Quark, or any number of other full-blown publishing packages. It just depends on your level of expertise and how nitty-gritty you need to get for layouts.
MS Publisher worked fine for me. It was easy to set up chapters, lay out pages in two column format, bring in pictures, and so on. I wrote the initial content in MS Word and just copied and pasted the text into Publisher.
So let’s say you have your content, written and laid out in your favorite word processing or desktop publishing package. You then go to the Lulu site and start a new publishing project. You can pick your style (hardcover, paperback, etc) and paper size (8.5″ x 11″ (full page), 6″ x 9″ (paperback book), square (7.5″ x 7.5″ or 8.5″ x 8.5″), and many others).
For this example, we’ll assume you’re using a standard 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper for your size. You then choose your binding type (perfect-bound, like a paperback novel; coil bound; saddle-stitched) and your colors (b&w interiors or full color pages). If you’re going to sell your book in bookstores, they require it to have a spine, so perfect-bound is the way to go. And color interiors are expensive, but might be worth it if you have many full-color illustrations or photographs for your content. But we’ll choose b&w interiors for our simple case.
Lulu can import your content in any of the following formats:
- Microsoft Word (.doc or .rtf)
- Rich Text Format (.rtf)
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft Works
- WordPerfect (.wpd)
- OpenOffice (.rtf or .doc)
- PDF (.pdf)
They recommend Adobe Acrobat (PDF), since that will most accurately show you how the printed page will look. If you’re not familiar with PDFs, we’ll cover that in a separate article. There are many tools available online that will help you convert just about any format to PDF for free or for very inexpensive.
So publishing wizard on the Lulu site has you upload your content files.
Now we’re on to step 2 – choosing your cover. You have a number of options, in order of amounts of control you have:
- Use a Lulu-provided template and just update the titles for the cover (very little control)
- Upload images for the front and/or back covers (more control, but you don’t control the spine)
- Or upload a wrap-around cover, which handles the front and back covers, plus the spine. This gives you the most control over the look of the book
Each level also adds levels of difficulty. If you’re less concerned about the cover, by all means use the Lulu templates. They’re easy and you have lots of options for color and various images that you can use. But if you have access to a graphic artist or can hire one, a custom cover will make a huge difference in helping to sell your book.
For my roleplaying game, I did a wrap-around cover so I had more control of the spine as well as the front and back covers. This gave me much more control over the total look and feel for the book. There is help on the Lulu site for determining the size of the cover for the wrap-around, since you have to know the size of the book (page count) to determine the width of the spine. And it took me a few tries to get it right, but ultimately I think it is worth it.
So you choose your cover and upload any files for the cover that are needed.
And lastly we’re on to step 3 – distribution. This gets a little fuzzy. Lulu offers some nice packages that you can pay for to have them handle the heavy lifting. They will get an ISBN for the book (a unique number for each book that booksellers and stores use to track books via UPC codes in inventories, etc.) and distribute it via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the other big distribution houses. They charge a good chunk of the revenue for your book if you go this route.
In my case, I had a block of ISBNs that I had purchased back in the late 1990s when we tried publishing the first time. They never expire, so I decided it was time to use one. I signed up for a service that generated a UPC bar code graphic that I could stick on the back cover so bookstores could carry the book. And that was that.
The downside to going this route is that I have to manage distribution myself. I have the paperwork printed to distribute the book via Barnes and Noble and will do more research into how to get the book into Amazon’s distribution powerhouse also. But for now, I plan on selling the book via a third-party site dedicated to selling and distributing roleplaying games via two sites – RPGNow.com and DriveThruRPG.com. Both sites are run by OneBookShelf.com. They will distribute the eBook version of the game and hopefully will get their Lulu.com distribution channel fixed by the time my book is ready.
But those are the three main steps to getting a book published via Lulu. All books you publish, if they’re made public, can be sold via the Lulu.com marketplace. And if you print copies of your book, you can then go to local bookstores and see if they will buy a few of your books to help distribute them. That’s a topic for another day.
Hopefully this helped. I like Lulu.com. It lowers the cost of entry for publishing books, which means many more authors can be published than ever before. There are other print on demand services out there, but Lulu makes it pretty darned easy.
Let me know if any of you hope to publish books via Lulu.com and how your experience goes!
Until next time,