Oops. Got things out of order, there. This was supposed to come before Kindle.
So, I’ve had Lulu versions of my first novel sitting around in a private Lulu page for quite a while now. I printed books, not for general sale, but to give as gifts to friends and family (hang on to those, people. They’ll be worth big cash someday!)
I put together three formats: hardcover with dust jacket, hardcover casebound, and pocket book. Not so much because I needed all three, but because I had fun figuring out how to do it. Again, Adobe Indesign was the tool of choice. I went into this project knowing a lot less about how books are designed than I do now. I did a lot of internet research on exactly how a book should go together, with things like front matter, gutters, and lots of other terms.
I cheated a bit: I pulled a Harry Potter hardcover off the shelf and basically copied the general format. Garamond text, spaced just so. Title at the top of the left-hand page, chapter name at the top of the right-hand page. I discovered that real books are justified on both sides. After reading thousands of books, I’d never actually noticed that before!
When I started doing the pocket book edition, I found out the layout rules were completely different. I spent a lot of time checking out my wife’s romance paperbacks. For the formatting! For the formatting!
I ended up with some nice-looking books to hand out. Lulu generates good quality stuff. I got only one paperback with a bad binding, which they quickly replaced.
I have added a table of contents in the past week, and a better image on the title page. Other than that, the book file I had a couple of years ago was good as is.
So, to make the Lulu books available to the public, all that’s left for me to do now is just flip a toggle from “private” to “general access.” Then somebody can search Lulu and find the books, or can go there if they know the URL. This is free, and you can set your own prices.
There are other things to work out, though. Lulu’s default is mailing out checks for royalties (20 dollar minimum). They also have a Paypal option. All of these companies at some point will ask for things like your Social Security number. They aren’t being nosy: the IRS needs it for anyone paying you money. We should all be so unfortunate as to make enough money on our books to pay taxes!
Lulu offers wider distribution packages, too. The Amazon one is free, and the Ingram Catalog one is only $75. The price is right, but the catch is that you must add a big retail markup to your existing price. In my case, this would take a “not cheap” book and move it into the “ruinous” category. That option would also assign me a Lulu ISBN. Not for me just now.
Once you’ve published for the public, you become eligible to create an “Author Spotlight” page. You’ll see the link over on the left of your “dashboard” in your account. This allows you to make a little marketing page of your own with all your books on it, with it’s own unique URL. Mine will look a bit weird since it would just be three versions of the same book.
Lulu turns out good quality books, but the prices are high, and profits low (in my case). Customers also pay for shipping, and it takes a couple of weeks for the books to show up in the mail (print on demand, you know). I’ve picked it for a very specific niche: books to libraries, and those who really want a hardcover instead of a Createspace softcover or a Kindle version. Not a giant market, there.