Tons of people are out there looking for the ultimate self publishing solution. I think I have stumbled upon it. And it’s a LuLu – literally. http://www.lulu.com I looked at them for a long time before I jumped. I published my first book for about $2000 by the time I paid for revisions and expediting. I now pay to get a professional edit, create my own book cover the way I want it, and distribute for under $500. And it’s done on my timeline (except the professional edit).

There is a ton of documentation on their site – which can get confusing so let me boil it down to some relevant details. This is what you can do and how you do it on Lulu.

#1 – you can get copies of a book published just for the cost of the books you order (no minimum). Thus if you want to publish a book for some friends and family, this is the place for you. If you decide later, you wish to market it via Amazon etcetera, no problem. For $100, you can add that on later (which pays for your ISBN number). And when you buy that package, you can choose to publish as yourself instead of having Lulu listed as the publisher.

#2 – you can have total control over the process of producing your book, except for the wait in getting the distribution set up with the booksellers.

#3 – Set your own book price. (Make sure you do this each time you make a revision. They have default settings which always are applied when revising).

How do I do it?

Simply register as a user and create a project. Upload the text of your book in Microsoft Word. It will create a pdf file for you which you can download to your machine. Some people charge $20 a pop just for this service. Then you can use their templates to create a cover and have them put the ISBN number on it (if you buy the distribution package) or even better – you submit a one piece pdf file as the cover and they don’t make any changes to it. A month ago I would have asked, how do I create a cover. Now I have a wonderful solution.

The application BookcoverPro (www.bookcoverpro.com) costs $97 and is a little gem. It will put the ISBN barcode on your book for you – something that some services charge $15 just to create for you. You just add all the graphics and text you want and drag them around to where you want them and size them as desired. When you’re done, you can export as a pdf file. Then you upload that file to Lulu and you now have a book. Once you save those pieces, you are published! You can order a copy of the book to see how your cover looks, etc. Personally, I have a hard time proofreading on the screen. I just don’t see the boo-boos well. For $12 or so, depending on the size of your book, you can proofread a real version of your book – which means you’re not confined to your computer but can proofread in the bathroom, at the dining table, stuck in traffic, wherever. It’s the best thing since sliced bread.
PS: You can buy a more expensive version of BookCoverPro for about $50, but that doesn’t change the way the program works. You just get access to templates, images etc. that you can use in your covers. The jury is still out on whether it is worth the extra money or not – but at the price they charge, it’s a steal. I more than paid for the price with my first book.

OK, so now you have published your book and have a copy in your hand. You don’t like the cover (make sure you overlap the borders so you don’t leave any white) or you found change that have to be made in the text. No problem. Just go to Lulu, click the View All button on your MyLulu page, choose not, click the Approve or deny your proof, click on Create Revision, and start the process over again.

If you want to buy the distribution package, you have to wait until you publish, but you don’t have to buy a book before then. I printed my first copies before I got the ISBN, but I figured I was going to have to make revisions so it was no big thing. And I have an advance copy for a friend or family member or reviewer. You could actually print all advance copies to send to people to write reviews which you could put on the back cover – or inside the book. Whatever you want to do (with some limitations such as a blank page at the end, number of pages divisible by 4 etc.)

#1 – Publish (including an E-book which you also set the cost for).
#2 – Buy distribution package (Note: you can’t do that until your book is listed as General Access. I had to get help on this because I was listed under Private access. Their documentation does not mention this)
#3 – Revise – to add your ISBN number to cover and copyright page.
#4 – Publish again.
#5 – Approve when satisfied and the book is on it’s way to Amazon and all the other net outlets.

So if you aren’t going to buy the distribution package, there is no need to ever approve. Once you approve and then want to make changes, you have to pay more money (I think $49 is all) You can revise as many times as needed until you reach the point you are satisfied with your book.

So how do you make any money? Aren’t their books kind of expensive? Yes. You can set the price of the book to make as little or as much as you want. You own the rights to your book. I chose to publish as myself so I own the ISBN as well. I can ship the pdf file that I got from Lulu and the cover pdf to a printer, and have copies printed off much cheaper than Lulu sells them to me. So for a 188 page book that retails for $12.95, I buy 125 copies for under $6. That allows me to sell them on the internet and at book signings for a nice margin – even if I reduce the price. And my printer ships in 48 hours!! I hesitate to share their name here, because if they are deluged with orders from all of you, that 48 hours might transform to the 6 weeks that other printers quoted me. I’ll do this much though, check out my website – at http://www.donaldjamesparker.com?lulu
and send me an email and I’ll send you the URL for the printer. PS: The books came out even nicer than my subsidy publisher did them (and they were wrapped).

By the way, the books Lulu sends are really nicely done – wrapped in not only plastic but a Styrofoam blanket. They do not give you a phone number to call – which put me off. Then I discovered then have online chat Help available. That was wonderful. I am nothing but impressed with Lulu (except for their choice of orange on their website) Lulu does offer professional services to help you with the process if you’re not self-sufficient. They also list outside services. That is how I found my editor. What does Lulu get from this: They take 20% of your profits. So if you choose to sell your ebook for $5.00, they get $1.00. If your printed book will net a $4 revenue, they take eighty cents. It is a very fair thing. I hope they sell a million of my books!

What about marketing? You have to pay extra for that. I can’t give any insight or advice on how to proceed there.

So in summary: create your book at NO COST – except for the proofing copies you order. Distribute your book to the world for $100. And you’ll be in the LuLu bookstore on top of it (with a nice little margin for those books sold).

Note: This is not a paid advertisement: I’m just so pleased with this scenario that I had to share it with others. I don’t really have time to do this, but I wanted to spare other people the pain and expenses I went through trying to get my books self published. I pray this helps you. Just try it out for yourself and see.
PS: My editor charges $215 dollars to line edit a novel under 80,000 words. Double the price if over that word limit. I thought for this price I wouldn’t get much. Boy was I wrong. They made comments that a movie that I mentioned was actually a TV series and posed the question if digit clocks had been invented in 1968 and stuff like that. I was very happy. Took 6 weeks to get it back. If you just need a line edit, these guys were good  (thought some errors slipped by them ).
check them out at:
http://www.angelediting.com
http://www.lulu.com/angelediting

One caveat: Since I wrote this originally, Lulu has discontinued their chat help which was a tremendous aid. I had to wait several days to hear back from their help desk when I submitted help tickets. This is causing me to consider trying Create Space just for jollies. They supposedly are even cheaper than Lulu.