*This isn’t sponsored or anything; we just used Lulu.com to self-publish and wanted to share our experience with you guys!*
First, a bit of context. Grace and I started this blog as part of something called a Senior Project in the last months of our time in high school. Our project had two parts: one, to start a Young Writer’s Guide to Publishing blog. Check! And two, to write a collection of unconventional short stories testing the boundaries of fiction. We ended up writing eleven short stories, with the eventual goal of self-publishing. So we had a manuscript of a short story collection, a cover design, and a dream to have a real book. What’s next? That’s where Lulu came in.
Lulu.com is a website that allows you to self-publish, print, and distribute books. We recently used Lulu to do all three of those things in the case of our collection “The Collected Drafts” — shameless self-promo, it came out last month, will be available on Amazon shortly, and if you want a hard copy just message us through the Contact Us button. There are lots of other sites that do similar things and probably do them just as well. But we chose Lulu because it was easy-to-navigate, (mostly) free, and fast.
The first thing we needed, if we wanted to distribute the book to more than just family and friends, was an ISBN. (An ISBN is a number, an internationally-recognized identifier of published work, and is required if you ever want to sell your book.) Lulu provides free ISBNs, or you can purchase one yourself for about 150 bucks, including a barcode. We decided to purchase our own so that we could ensure that the book was completely self-published and in our own hands, as opposed to having Lulu as a third party. Purchasing the ISBN required us to list an official title, publisher — ourselves — date of first printing, and a couple of other bookkeeping things. We purchased the ISBN through myidentifiers.com and have no complaints.
After that, the Lulu website provided us with a variety of extremely helpful formatting templates that helped us input our stories and create copyright and title pages. Overall, we were very impressed with all of the tools and guidance that Lulu gives you. As complete beginners, we were initially confused about all of the requirements, but the resources provided through the website walked us through step-by-step how to format the entire book. If you’re careful and conscientious when formatting, and use the tools available to you, you shouldn’t have a problem!
After uploading the completely formatted manuscript and the finalized cover design (Lulu even has a cover design tool if you’re struggling) there are a couple of printing and distributing options. We decided to print 20 copies of a paperback, bound book to hand out to loved ones and to keep for ourselves. We also chose to distribute our book through Amazon and through the Lulu Marketplace. Distribution through Amazon requires Lulu to send you a proof copy for you to approve; basically, to check for any mistakes and typos before it gets sent out to the whole world wide web. If you’re just looking for a hard copy and have no desire to publish our sell your book, Lulu can do that. Or if you just want an eBook available for sale, Lulu can do that too.
For us, Lulu did exactly what we wanted. For about a hundred bucks, 20 paperback copies of our published collection arrived at my door in a week. We didn’t need to worry about agents or official publishers or copyright, and we just had fun experimenting with fiction.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.
Iz & Grace