Lulu.com is a self-publishing company that was started in 2002 by Robert Young (co-founder of technology company Red Hat) after he had a bad experience with a traditional publisher. In effect, Lulu invented the self-publishing industry, which allows anyone to publish their written works without having to depend on acceptance by the big mainstream publishers or invest in a large run of self-financed books that may or may not sell.
Using print-on-demand technology, Lulu makes it practical for would-be authors to publish their written works through an easy-to-use online process and at minimal up-front cost. Lulu can also serve as your main distributor, allowing you and your potential readers to easily purchase your books online at the Lulu.com bookstore. As the author, you automatically receive a special discount on copies of your own books that you purchase. In addition, throughout the year, Lulu offers special, short-term discounts that make books more affordable both for you and for your readers.
On the matter of pricing, Lulu sets a minimum price at which you must sell your books. That minimum price varies based on what it costs Lulu to produce each copy of the book plus a percentage profit for Lulu. You can then set your selling price above that minimum to earn what you believe is a reasonable royalty. Later on, you can revise the pricing or offer buyers a discount if you so decide.
If you want wider distribution, Lulu will also make arrangements to have your books sold by the big name online booksellers – like amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com – and in bookstores through the Ingram distribution system. Be aware, however, that although there is no up-front cost to you for this wider distribution, those outside distributors do take a sizeable percentage of your royalties. Therefore, you have to consider the balance between wider distribution vs smaller royalties. [I recently received a 56 cent royalty on a $40 photobook sold through a bookstore in the United States!]
Lulu also offers, on a fee basis, a wide range of related professional services, such as book layout, cover design, editorial services, and promotional services. I haven’t used any of those extra services, so I’m not able to comment on the value vs cost. But those services are available if you would like to explore further.
Overall, my experience with Lulu has been very positive. The process of uploading your book files, setting up the cover images, and completing the basic promotion and distribution setup is quick and simple. The quality of the printed books is outstanding and Lulu’s flexible pricing tool helps you to balance the price you charge for your books against the percentage of royalties you receive as the author.
If you believe that you have a book within you trying to come out, Lulu would be my suggestion for getting it on the market.
PS: I should note that Lulu can also publish in ebook formats that are native to Kindle and other book readers. I chose not to use that service because my books all have many photos intermixed with text, which makes formatting for ebook readers a nightmare. However, PDF books are ebook compatible.