Do you want maximum options for how your book will look? Do you want marketing tools out the wazoo? Is endless possible customization your idea of a very good thing? Then Lulu.com may be the perfect self publisher for you.
If you are looking to do something beyond a standard novel, Lulu is probably the best option as well. They have templates set up and ready to go for picture books (like a photo album, but the photos are printed directly on the pages), cook books, yearbooks, and calenders.
But, if you are like most of the people reading this blog, you are publishing a novel. And there's only one thing I'd recommend Lulu.com for in that case, your hardback copy.
Why? Because there's almost nothing Lulu offers except a hard bound book that you can't get for less with CreateSpace.com.
Here's the oranges to oranges comparison: with CreateSpace you decide on the Pro or Regular plan, the Pro plan costs $39.00 regular is free. If you go pro your per page cost is .012 and regular is .02. With Lulu.com you pick the kind of paper you want Publisher Grade (.015) or Standard (starting at .02 and going up from there). Publisher grade gives you two size options, and you can't get an ISBN number. Standard comes in pretty much any size you can imagine, and you can get an ISBN. If you're actually planning on selling your book, you're already spending way more per book than you will with CreateSpace.
Why am I comparing Lulu to the Pro Plan prices instead of the Regular plan prices? Because when you buy the Pro Plan with CreateSpace you also get the distribution tools you want if you actually intend to sell a physical book. (I'm assuming this is where the term Pro Plan comes in.) With Lulu, if you really want to sell a book you have to pick the paper option that costs more and then pay more for a distribution channel on top of it.
So, for Sylvianna my CreateSpace author's copy costs $5.96. My Lulu author's copy costs $14.00. That was the moment I decided, unless I want a hardback copy of Sylvianna, Lulu was not going to get my publishing business.
Okay, so how do they do on ebooks?
I'll admit I didn't get very far in this process. I uploaded my file, and then they asked me what size I wanted my ebook to be. I found myself thinking, "Pick a size for ebook? Ummm what?" See, here's the thing with ebooks, they come in whatever size the reader's screen happens to be. So, my Kindle for PC screen is a lot bigger than my iPhone and my husband's Kindle is sort of in between. So it doesn't make a lot of sense to pick a size for your ebook. But, what do I know? I'm new to this whole thing, so I open the list of sizes. They're all standard book sizes. I pick 5x8, and it resizes my document for 5x8 pages, and it looks bad.
Now maybe if I hadn't already used Smashwords.com, and come out with a product that looks good on any sized screen, I wouldn't have been so picky about this. But I did go through the Smashwords conversion process and got an electronic book that looks good everywhere. So, seeing the 5x8 pages, and knowing I already had a distribution channel set up for basically any ebook format I could want, I gave up on Lulu's ebookery.
Lulu offers marketing tools, they offer promotional stuff, they'll build your cover for you, they'll edit for you, they provide pretty much every service you could possibly want, the only thing is: it costs a lot of money. CreateSpace offers almost all the same marketing, promotional, editing, and cover work, and they charge less. Smashwords actually understands how to build an ebook so that anyone can read it.
So, unless you are looking for your hardbound masterpiece, it's time to go looking for a different publishing house.
Next up in the Self Publishing series: Outskirt Press. I see their ads below my posts, so it's about time I go and see what they can offer! Also in the not too distant future, a review of Whom God Would Destroy.