Publishing on LuLu

LuLu LogoThe established way to publish a book, or calendar, or photo book was to beg a publisher to accept your manuscript. An editor would help refine your writing and get it prepared for printing. For economy hundreds or thousands of books would be printed and stored as inventory while the publisher and the author worked on marketing the book. The author normally gets 5-10% of the sale of the book.

If changes have to be made a new edition is set up and another printing run.

WIth Lulu.com all of that changes.

Here is a great opportunity if you have anything you are passionate about. From your business to a hobby, you can write about what you know and love and publish a book about it for minimal costs. And, you can make about 80% on the sale of each book.

This is a great way to promote a product or establish your expertise in your field. (What a great resume builder!).

Or, if you are into photography you can publish a calendar or photo book with your writing and images.

I recently published my first book, Secrets of a Web Developer using Lulu.com and discovered the following:

  1. I could use Word to write and layout the text and graphics.
  2. Word will build a table of contents and an index with just a few clicks of the mouse. Both of these can be quickly updated if any changes are made to the text.
  3. Using Word styles greatly simplified the editing and formatting process. With every element on the page marked with a specific style all I had to do was change the style and that element changed throughout the entire document. (Very much like CSS styles.)
  4. PDF format (printed from the Word file) is much more stable and easy to work with, especially when using fonts that are not common on Window machines.
  5. My start up costs were zero (not counting the weeks and weeks it took me to write, edit, and fine-tune the contents.
  6. Errors could be corrected immediately. The only challenge was the time it took to upload a 300 page file (80 meg).

90 percent of the work was preparing the manuscript. I had over thirty Word documents that were converted into web page tutorials using a program called Wimba Create. After updating and revising each of these doc files inserted them into a master document. In the master document I changed each of the styles that I had used for Wimba to the look and feel I wanted for the book. As I inserted each new document the Wimba styles automatically changed to the new look and feel of the master document.

To build the Table of Contents all I had to do was position the cursor near the beginning of the document and use Insert/Document elements/Table of Contents. Each of the major headlines was used to build the table of contents. If I changed the document all I had to do was right-mouse click on the table of contents and select “update field” from the list of options.

The index was a little more difficult. Going through the document I highlighted each keyword I wanted in the index and hit CTRL OPTION Shift x. This made a hidden field containing the index information. After the keywords were selected I went to the end of the document and used Insert/Index and Tables and selected the format for the index.

The only real problem I had was when the index word was bold in the document it showed up bold in the index as well. Even after going in to edit the index markers the bold would not go away. For my next book I will create the index marker in the main text so it won’t be bold.

webdevfullcoverOnce I had everything ready to go and had created a cover using PhotoShop I used the Lulu.com publishing wizard. It took about four hours one morning to complete the process. Along the way I discovered that it was easier to use a PDF file for the cover art instead of using the online cover creator. When I had first designed the cover I had only thought of the front and had to rebuild it to a specific dimension including a back cover as well.

I also used the FTP uploading service because of the larger file size I had. Once the FTP transfer is complete the file is automatically transferred into the My Lulu files where it can be selected as part of the content. That means that each time you connect to the FTP server it will be empty.

I first uploaded the Word document. However, Lulu gave an error because I had used a special font (Adobe Caslon) and Lulu didn’t have that available. They recommended that I make a PDF file from the Word document which effectively embeds the font as part of the document.

After I finished the wizard Lulu automatically built a web page with a preview window. I am able to customize which pages show up in the preview window as well as add a text describing the book. (I used the introduction section from the book itself.)

I also built a landing page on my website describing the book and added a brief summary on my home page.

My start up cost was zero.

And, here’s the best part: Instant Revisions. As a proud published author I sent an email out to members of my family. About ten minutes later I get an email from my son pointing out that I misspelled XHTML (XHTLM) three places (the magic of copy and paste!). I quickly made the fixes, reuploaded the files, and ran through the wizard again. The correction was made in less than an hour. Now that’s my kind of publishing.

The downside of Lulu.com (and other self-publishing venues)

  • You are in control of the entire process. You are your own editor and graphic designer and it is very hard catching all those errors, weak writing, and horrible design flaws.
  • The finished book will only look professional if you create a professionally design document. Headers, page numbers, typography, page layout, and graphics are all essential to making a book look and feel “right”.
  • Designing a cover is especially important and a step I found very difficult. I put off publishing for weeks as I agonized over the cover design.
  • Having a book from O’Reilly or Harcourt Brace is like having a degree from Harvard or MIT. It means you have gone through the wringer and survived and that most likely the text fairly high quality
  • No one will buy your book unless you get the word out and market it


Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

The benefits of Self Publishing

  • The book is immediately available and easy to update
  • You are in control of the entire process
  • The books are printed as they are ordered. You don’t have to buy any expensive inventory that might sit in your basement for years.
  • You make about 80% on the sale of each book
  • You book is available to a global market
  • You can be any age, any body, any where, writing about any thing

Let me know when you are published. Leave a comment with a link to your newly published text!