If you haven’t yet been notified, I’m publishing my first book, a soft sci-fi dystopian about cyborg former prisoners of war and their mutiny aboard a transport ship (I love my elevator pitch SO MUCH! Ahem.) this September. Go here for the chance to win a paperback copy (Lulu version) of the book.
Speaking of paperback copies, now that I’m more experienced in using two self-printing services, I’m going to give my thoughts on both and reveal why I decided to go with one and not the other.
The two services are Lulu and CreateSpace. I’m comparing them in terms of service, quality, and value. Please excuse all the flashes with my photography – I live in England and it is a bit gloomy and overcast, and my camera believes the flash is needed!
PLEASE NOTE: this is purely from the point of view of someone who lives in the UK on a strict budget. There will be different opinions of self-printers living in the US, and clear pros and cons for each country. I am talking about what it is like to self-print with very little money while living in the UK. I’m also not comparing all the bells and whistles offered by either company, because I’m quite competent with manuscripts and didn’t use any of these extra (and expensive!) services.
What I liked about Lulu:
- They have a printing house in the UK, so the book was delivered in one week.
- The cover is a higher quality than CreateSpace.
- Lulu’s Extendedreach program (free) covers both Amazon.co.uk AND Amazon.com.
- Lulu offers to automatically convert the paperback uploads to an ebook format. I don’t know how this turns out, because I would rather use Smashwords.com.
- If you are VERY confident of your ability, and you have all the documents ready, you can upload and order a Lulu book within the hour (they don’t make you wait while they check the files). As a bonus, they take payment in Great British Pounds, which appealed to me.
- When I ordered my book, they were doing a deal on free proof copies until the end of July where the creator just has to pay shipping. This is why I have a Lulu version of The Edge of Darkness.
What I didn’t like about Lulu:
- Lulu’s Globalreach program costs $75 – however, this puts the book in Barnes & Noble and other brick and mortar stores.
- There is no spine artwork on the book. The spine is black with basic white text. Disappointing.
- The best size recommendation is 6×9, which is bigger than I like. You can only choose this size or an even bigger size for the Globalreach package.
- Lulu.com do not check the files for printing consistency, so there is a lot of pressure on the creator to get everything right.
- Lulu claims it takes .doc documents, but when I tried to upload my manuscript as a .doc it went completely out of whack. I re-uploaded it as a PDF and it was fine.
- If you want them to give you an ISBN, Lulu wants to be the publisher, and wants exclusive publication rights. This is what turned me off about Lulu. This means that I couldn’t use both Lulu and Createspace to get my book into as many different channels as possible.
My Revenue: £2.95
My Price: £4.30
NOTE: What initially drew me to try Lulu was that they offer hardcover as well, but seeing as I’m broke, I can’t try that out just yet.
What I liked about CreateSpace:
- CreateSpace checks the book for printing consistency, making sure pictures are minimum 300dpi (dots per inch) and all the text is in the proper place, not half cut off.
- Their cover creator is basic, but if you have your own cover you can upload it, and it includes artwork on the spine. This is only a big deal to me because the artwork on The Edge of Darkness wraps around the book.
- You can choose whether to print on white paper or cream (originally I chose white, but when I changed the cover I switched to cream) and whether or not to print the interior in colour. I think interior colour books are more expensive, though.
- When you publish on CreateSpace, it automatically gets put up on Amazon.com. However for $39 extra, you can buy bigger (and random) online distribution with the Pro Plan.
- If you buy the Pro Plan, ordering your own books is cheaper. I don’t plan on buying boxes of my books, but someone else might find that useful.
- I have heard that if you upload a new version of the book and it’s not too different (for example fixing typos etc) you don’t need to order a new proof copy of the book. I can’t confirm this yet.
- I finished NaNoWriMo in 2010, and CreateSpace offered a free proof copy code, so I haven’t had to pay for my CreateSpace publishing. Very generous!
- Unlike Lulu, CreateSpace refuses to be called the publisher of the book, only the printer. I discovered this when one of my files accidentally labelled CreateSpace as the publisher, and they asked me to remove that. No problems! I am the publisher, not CreateSpace.
What I didn’t like about CreateSpace:
- Because they only print in the US, it took FOREVER to get my copy of the book (six weeks).
- The cover quality is not as good as Lulu. It’s not bad, it’s just not quite as high. In fact, you’ll hardly even notice it.
- Prices to ship to the UK cost just as much as the actual book. It would be so much better if they had a printing house in the UK (and automatically put the book on Amazon.co.uk as well – a girl can dream!)
- The Pro plan, which costs $39, randomly assigns your book to other internet stores. You don’t get to choose.
- CreateSpace can take up to 48 hours to check the files, which can be good because it catches things you might not be aware of. But if you’re quite confident it can just be a waste of time, especially if you’ve already addressed previous issues and you’re just uploading a corrected copy.
Price: $12.95 (US)
My Revenue: $3.86/$6.51 (Pro) on CreateSpace
$1.27/$3.92 (Pro) on Amazon.com
My Price: $6.50/$3.85 Pro Plan
Service: 3/5 – No free service offered, but fast turnaround for the book.
Value: 3/5 – I wanted to make the book cheaper so it could compete with traditionally published books, but then I wouldn’t make a profit.
Quality: 4/5 – The book looks outstanding. I’m just disappointed about the spine.
Service: 5/5 – The file checking won’t edit for you, but it does check quality.
Value: 4/5 – I wanted to make the book cheaper so it could compete with traditionally published books, but then I wouldn’t make a profit. However, I make a larger profit using the Pro Plan.
Quality: 4/5 – Slightly disappointed that Lulu’s cover is higher quality, but I much prefer my CreateSpace book, and I hope everyone else does as well.
In my opinion, as a user of both print on demand services, Lulu is probably better if you’re very competent and want individual private copies for yourself. It’s fast, requires no turnaround, and you can have a book ready in an afternoon and delivered within a week. But for selling the book, I’m going with CreateSpace. Lulu’s exclusive publishing terms turned me off, and I’m willing to forgo CreateSpace’s slightly poorer quality cover and longer shipping times to get it on Amazon.com.