Like most writers, the word “published” puts little stars in my eyes. Because of this, I’ve been interested in trends in self-publishing ever since I learned that anyone could publish a book if they were willing to pay for it. My first realization of this came when a cousin’s mail about self-publishing mistakenly came to me. That was about 15 years ago, and back then, self publishers were more apt to “disguise” themselves as traditional publishers. With the advent of the Internet, self-publishing has become much more transparent, easy, and, I daresay, acceptable.
And I’ve finally given it a whirl.
My first self-publishing adventure wasn’t on my own behalf, but on behalf of about a dozen teenagers that I taught a creative writing class to at the Marshall Lyon County Library. The final product of the class was an anthology, Oh My Gosh, I Can’t Believe I’m Published! (their title), which featured their work. I decided to go with Lulu.com as my publisher because they were the first Internet self publisher I discovered, and their longevity gives them extra credibility in my eyes. I also liked that the self-publishing process could happen completely on their server, without any need for me to download anything (which was required of InstantPublisher, another publisher I was considering). They also include an ISBN number as a free add-on, unlike many sites that can charge up to $150 for one. ISBN numbers are important because they get your book entered into major “book databases” like the Library of Congress, making them searchable by almost any book indexer, making the book available through almost any bookseller. So, here are the things I really liked about the experience:
- The upload process was incredibly easy
- The cost to publish was reasonable (I paid about $150 for 25 100-pg trade paperback books)
- The cover creation program embedded on Lulu’s site was easy to use, and “ready made” covers (which I didn’t use) were attractive with a lot of variety.
- The finished books look slick and professional.
There are a few things I didn’t like:
- It was incredibly difficult to find info about how cover art would be handled until you were actually at the point of uploading your manuscript
- Despite Lulu’s claim that it can recognize and reproduce almost any font that’s standard in Microsoft Word, it wasn’t able to reproduce “Elephant,” the font that I used for titles. Instead, it converted it to Times New Roman. My dinosaur 2000 version of Microsoft Word has Elephant, so I’m not sure why Lulu didn’t.
- The pagination changes after your file is converted to a “print ready” file, even if you format it correctly for the page-size. The change is so subtle that it requires careful combing to identify where it occurred. It’s important to do this, though, especially if you have a table of contents that could end up being inaccurate in the final copy.
- The “shipping time” info is incredibly misleading. This is my biggest complaint with using Lulu.com. As soon as you’ve designed the book, you’re immediately able to place an order for it and choose your shipping option. I ordered my book eight business days before I needed it for the library’s Book Release Party. Conscious of my budget, I chose the 2 – 5 day shipping option, feeling that 3 days was a reasonable “grace period.” However, even though I ordered the book on a Monday, it didn’t ship until Thursday night of that week. Had I known there would be such a lag between the time of order and time of actual shipment, I would have ordered a quicker option. My assumption is that those additional three days were when the book was actually being printed, but the site should have been clearer about that delay when I placed the order so I could factor it in.
- The book took about a week to show up in Lulu’s catalog, even though it was available to order by direct URL as soon as it was created.
Overall, though, I found self-publishing to be an interesting and enjoyable experience, and I would definitely consider doing it again. I’ll end with some nice coverage the experience garnered in local news: