For those about to rawk, We publish you! - Part 2

Penned 16 years ago. It will take about 7:23 to read.

And we are back again for Part 2 of my series on Self Publishing with  Back in Part 1 we looked at some examples of 'books' that had been printed through LuLu.  Today we will talk about the different printing options, binding options, how to calculate final cost and the different distribution methods available.

Bindings, sizing and shapes oh my!

Currently there are 3 different binding styles available at LuLu, and 5 different sizes.  Currently there are no custom sizes available, as well as no hardback option:"(There was once a page that gave the impression that LuLu was offering both of these services, but it is no longer on the site, in fact they are now stating - Lulu does not offer hard cover or 'hardback' books.)": so if you are looking for either of these you are out of luck.

The binding types are as follows:

  • Coil binding: I am not a big fan of this binding unless you are producing a cookbook, or a calendar.  Maybe if you are producing a manual I could see using this but other than that it just doesn't feel... professional.
  • Saddle stitch: If you have ever purchased a comic book, then you have seen saddle stitch.  Good, dependable binding and a bit more professional.  Good for brochures and books that have a lower page count.
  • Perfect Bound: Perfect bound is the standard binding used in paperback novels and your thicker magazines like Wired, GQ or Macworld.  Depending on the size and pagecount of the book this may or may not be available.

Okay now its time to talk about the different sizes that are available.  This is where the fun really begins.  You can dramatically change the 'feel' of your book by selecting an interesting shape.

  • 6 x 9: This is just a wee bit smaller than a hardback novel.  That is an important distinction to make... even though your book will technically be a paperback, it will be just a bit smaller than a first run hardback novel.  Black and white printing: 24/60# Cream Text, 90 GSM
  • Comic, 6.625 x 10.25: This option conforms to the standard dimensions of the comic books you will find at your local comic shop.  Black and white printing: 60# white, 96 bright
  • 8.5 x 11: I don't think I need to go into any great detail here do i?  Black and white printing: 24/60#, 96 bright white
  • 9 x 7: This is LuLu's landscape offering.  Not many authors are taking advantage of this yet, so be the first people.  Black and white printing: 24/60#, 96 bright white
  • 7.5 x 7.5: This is my personal favorite, and another grossly unused form factor.  I dig on the square books, I only wish it were a little bigger, say 8.75 x 8.75.  Black and white printing: 24/60# Cream Text, 90 GSM

All of the full color books that LuLu prints use 80# Digital color uncoated white, 96 bright.  The covers for coil and perfect bound books are laminated 100# Ultra Gloss Cover Stock, Digital Color Silk - C2S, 90 bright; while saddle stitch covers are unlaminated 100# Ultra Gloss Text Stock.

And that is about it, other than to say that LuLu uses a Xerox Docutech for its black and white books, and a sweet Xerox iGen 3 for its color production.

Color vs Black and White

So now that we have gone over the different bindings and sizes, lets talk about color, do we use it or not?

Well that entirely depends on you as the author/artist.  Your decision comes down to two considerations, selling price and distribution.  Lets take a quick look at each one and what I mean by it.

First we will talk about selling price.  LuLu has a very easy to understand, straightforward system for calculating the final price of your book.  In a nutshell the pricing starts off with a standard binding fee that is constant across the board: $4.53; this is the base price of your book.

We then need to calculate the per page printing charge, which again is standard across the board: $0.02 per page for black and white and $0.15 per page for color.

I am sure this sounds more complicated, and expensive, than it really is.  Here's an example:

Say we have a 100 page book we want to print.  The variables are 6 x 9, perfect bound, black and white. Here is how it would break down:

  • binding fee for the book: 4.53
  • per page fee: 0.02 x 100 = 2.00
  • Total base price of our book: 6.53

Now you could stop here, and offer the book to the world for 6.53; but that would mean you wouldn't make any money at all on it.  If you actually wanted to make a 'royalty', or a percentage of the sale price of the work, you need to add it to the base price.

So lets say we want to make 2.00 off of every copy that is sold, we would increase the price by 2.50:"(Adding LuLu's commission is actually handled by the system. You would just add your 2.00 royalty and LuLu calculates its commision and adds it to the price automatically.)": to 9.03 a book.  That includes 0.50 commission to LuLu.  That is how LuLu makes money in this whole enterprise, only if you do.

If you are more interested in just getting your work out there and don't want to make any money, then LuLu doesn't charge over the cost of production.

As a way of comparing lets look at the same book printing in full CMYK color inside:

  • binding fee for the book: 4.53
  • per page fee: 0.15 x 100 = 15.00
  • Total base price of our book: 19.53

Unfortunately at this time printing in full color inside the book is extremely expensive, at least in comparison to the black and white version.  Adding our royalty as before would increase the price of the book to 22.03.

Something to keep in mind, and this is the oddest part of this whole LuLu business to me, is that all of these prices are standard across the board, no matter the size.  So it costs no more to produce an 8.5 x 11 perfect bound, full color book than it would to produce a 6 x 9 one.

SO now lets talk about distribution.  With LuLu there are three types of distribution:

  • None at all: the default.
  • Basic Distribution Service: $34.95 which includes an ISBN, listing in Books In Print and inclusion in's Marketplace for one year.
  • Global Distribution Service:$149.95 which includes all of the basic features:"(It doesn't include Amazon marketplace, I am not sure why that is out, other than with Ingrams listing you get into Amazon by default.)": as well as your book will be entered into Ingram's database, the largest US book wholesaler which allow book retailers like Amazon, B&N, and Borders to sell your book. Your title will also be made available in the UK through Bertrams and Gartners, who are wholesalers in the UK market.

Now I am sure you are wondering why anyone would ever choose Basic when you get all that jazz with Global.  There is only one real reason: Color interiors.

You see the catch with Global is that LuLu doesn't actually print the books if they are purchased through a retail channel (someone like or Borders), they have a 3rd party that is handling that and they don't do color.  You could buy a color version through LuLu, but that really isn't helpful.

There are other restrictions as well on Global:

  • Minimum of 48 pages (If your page count is lower than 48, you will need to add blank pages to the end of the book) and a Maximum of 748 pages
  • Your page count must be divisible by 4. If its not the printer adds enough blank pages to the end of the book to make its page count divisible by 4.
  • The last page of the book must be completely blank. The ISBN barcode, a quality control identifier number and "Printed in the USA" or UK will be printed on the last page. If your last page is not blank, enough blank pages will be added to the end of your book to make its page count divisible by 4.
  • Binding style is restricted to saddle stitch or perfect binding.
  • 6x9 and 8.5x11 only.

You can find more on the LuLu Global Distribution FAQ.

A slight change in plans

I had originally planned on covering how to format your content for LuLu in this article, and talk about distribution and ISBN's in part 3.  I have swapped things a little here because it made more sense to talk about distribution now.  So I will begin the final article talking about ISBN's and then finish up with how to format your content for printing.

Let me know if there is anything I need to go over in more depth, or if something I have said doesn't make sense.

Further Reading

When in Doubt, Buff it Out.

Thanks for checking out the site, be sure to come back for more.