Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why I Have a Problem with Lulu

Many authors have asked me why I have such a problem with Lulu. I hope this post makes it more clear.

From Lulu’s Retail Book Cost Calculator:

6 x 9 – B&W – Perfect bound – 100 pages

According to their calculator, if you wanted to make a $1.00 royalty, it would look like this:

Retail royalty: $1.00
Lulu fee: $.25
Manufacturing cost per unit: $3.50
Retail markup: $4.75
Total Retail Price: $9.50

Here is the problem with this. All lulu is doing is setting your book up with (LSI) to facilitate this transaction.

Here is how it would look with LSI if you went direct:

Retail royalty: $2.35
Manufacturing cost per unit: $2.40
Retail markup: $4.75
Total Retail Price: $9.50

The only thing you need to work directly with LSI is an ISBN and press ready cover and text according to their specs available on their website.


  1. I published my first book with Lulu and it was a disaster!

  2. Lulu is pathetic.

  3. I'm not going to defend - there is plenty not to like, and I had some challenges working with them - but I took complete control of every facet of the book I published with them. I'm quite pleased by the results, but my efforts were in large part the reason for the quality in the final product.

  4. Anonymous,

    The problem is that what you created could have been printed and distributed directly with Lightning Source. You didn't need Lulu to be involved.

  5. Right. They're acting as the middle man. Still, Todd you have to understand, Lulu caters not to the self-publisher, but the vanity publisher. Sad, yet true.

  6. Yes and no. For example, Lulu provide an ISBN for free if you go through the Published by Lulu process. I also think their pricing is much more transparent than Lightning Source (even if it is higher).

    What I have got from Lulu which I couldn't discover on LS (though I might have done if I'd looked in the right place):

    International distribution (paid, admittedly, but I couldn't have done this for myself) - Ingrams, as well as non-US Amazons, etc.
    A Lulu storefront page (trivial, maybe, but it does allow online order fulfilment for ebooks as well as printed books)
    An imprint for someone who isn't sure if they want to start their own
    An ISBN

    I'm pleased with the results, but I am considering LightningSource for my next publication. I've recently worked on another book that's come out that way, and have learned a little more about it. I don't think I would ever consider CreateSpace, if it's Amazon-only.

    Also, I think it may be a little unfair to categorize Lulu as only vanity - there's a lot of vanity stuff going through there, but also some good material.

  7. The business model may seem like a rip off, but it is there for a good reason.

    LSI and Lulu have different markets. While LSI offers professional-grade publishing options, including bulk orders and more author-directed print options, Lulu is a consumer front. It's there to be a resource for people who don't know much about printing. The higher price isn't because they are simply doing nothing. They bring in business for LSI that LSI could not bring in themselves.

    They are basically a direct competitor of yours, facilitating printing and distribution by setting them up with a printing source. They just do it invisibly so there is no confusion. When you have a printing problem, you go to Lulu, not LSI.

    Consider what kind of pricing structure you would setup if you had a sales agent company work with you.

  8. Joe,

    Lulu charges the author a fee for services (editing, design, marketing) and then also makes money on reselling printing.

    In my opinion, the model best for the author is to pay for professional editing, design, and marketing and then work directly with Lightning Source for printing.

    If an author doesn't have money to invest, they should consider Create Space has better print pricing because they own their own press rather than being a reseller like Lulu.

  9. I have had multiple problems with Lulu from formatting messups to NO Personal service to pricing mistakes. They are a nightmare and I am pulling all of my books from them. Thank you for the information on Lightning Source.

    David Mitts

  10. A bit late but agree totally Lulu are absolutely terrible in my personal experience.

    Published a book with both Lulu and CreateSpace August 2011. October 2011, CreateSpace copies sold 43, Lulu 0.

    To buy a book, trade price from Lulu $11.64, CreateSpace $3.47.

    Lulu support is non existent. 10 weeks for an email reply. Their live chat is never available.

    And if you ever use their forum be warned and be ready for the welcome by a miserble old chap called Ken Anderson who apparently built the Lulu forum for them. He patrols and controls the Lulu forum and all of his replies are loaded with sarcasm and negaivity.

    He's in cahouts with Lulu and they both sell the publishing and ebook conversions process, working together to close sales.

  11. I can vouch for that bit about Ken Anderson.


Who links to my website?