Previously on self-printing I (i) moved to Florida for a while, (ii) wrote a book about it, (iii) failed to find an agent/publisher/desk drawer for it, (iv) swallowed my disdain for self-publishing, (v) decided to self-publish but (vi) decided to refer to it, realistically, as self-printing and (vii) determined that Print on Demand (POD) publishing/printing relies on the pixie dust of magical fairies. Got all that? Right. Let’s go.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started this post.
(Yes I can. Eleven.)
I foolishly believed I could somehow reach into the murky quagmire that is information on POD and withdraw a concise but comprehensive comparison between two of its major players – Lulu and Createspace (CS) – that clearly showed the benefits of going with one over the other. Four days, eleven starts, a migraine and hissy fit later, I’ve decided it can’t be done.
It can’t be done because you simply can’t say definitively that one is better than the other, only which one is better for you.
(If you missed my POD 101 post, you might want to read it before continuing. It’s here.)
- Lulu’s Cover Wizard makes it easy to produce good quality covers and they have a wide range of attractive templates; CS’s Cover Creator leaves you with a cover that looks like it was made by a not particularly artistic six-year-old using finger-paints and glitter glue.
- CS’s paper stock seems to be of much better quality than Lulu’s, which is thinner than my wallet and practically see-through. This in turn makes the book thinner, which makes it look more – yes, you’ve guessed it – self-published.
- Lulu will almost guarantee you’ll be listed on Amazon.co.uk, but it’ll take eight weeks just to get a basic listing. CS will actually guarantee that you’ll be listed on Amazon.com and that it’ll take a maximum of two weeks. (According to some community forum posts, it can sometimes happen within hours).
- Under CS’s Extended Reach you could show up on Amazon.co.uk as well, but you won’t find anything saying that on their website. (A quick Amazon.co.uk search shows there are indeed CS titles for sale there.) You have to pay for this though under something called the Pro Plan (a once off $39) but going Pro also means significantly increased royalties.
- Lulu has much better discounts on bulk purchases but CS has much cheaper books in the first place.
- Both sites offer publishers an e-store, a Lulu or CS hosted page from which they can sell their books and from which they earn the highest royalties. CS creates a new page for every book published – as opposed to Lulu where it’s one page per author; multiple pages could get annoying – but then they offer a discount code facility while Lulu does not.
I could go on but I’m even boring myself.
In the end – when even Googling ‘Which is better – Createspace or Lulu?’ failed to help me – I asked myself what was the most important factor, to me, in this whole POD adventure type thingy.
The answer was not embarrassing myself.
Key to this was the book. I was less interested in sales than I was in the people who did purchase copies not thinking they could make a better one themselves using leaky biros, a copybook and some crayons. So I threw together a proof copy at each site and ordered them. I’d make my decision on the books they produced.
(Before we proceed I wish to point out that neither of these resemble what the book looks like now. Like, at all.)
First to arrive was the Lulu proof copy (6 x 9 inches, 176 pages), above. While the colors of both the cover and the interior text were vivid, the thickness of the paper let the whole effort down. It was so thin you could see through it. Compounding this problem was the size of the book, which meant I could fit more on the pages, which meant there were less of them. And what do 6 x 9 skinny books make people think? Say it with me now: ‘SELF-PUBLISHED!’
Next up – and several days later – the Createspace copy arrived (5.5 x 8.5, 226 pages), above. While the cover (as already discussed) lacked, well, pretty much anything pleasing, the interior was far superior. I had also opted for cream paper; you don’t think about these things but I couldn’t find a book on my shelves (i.e. a ‘proper’ book) with white pages. Its smaller size and thicker pages made it look a hell of a lot more like the real thing. Ladies and gentlemen, we had a winner.
A Boring Section (With One Quite Interesting Bit) About Lulu Vs Createspace Costs
The one decision I did manage to make was to produce a book 5.5 x 8.5 inches in size, otherwise known as ‘US Digest.’ Lulu only offers this size with Publisher Grade Paper which they refer to as an economical option, and 226 pages of it would cost $5.89 per book to manufacture. (An unspecified Lulu cut would be added onto that and I’d get the difference between the sum of those amounts and my sale price. An example on Lulu’s website says a book manufactured for $4 gives me $8 and Lulu $2 out of a retail price of $14.) However books made with Publisher Grade paper ships from the US only and incurs high international shipping costs and to make this option completely dead in the water, Lulu doesn’t offer extended distribution (i.e. Amazon) with this size.
The proof copy I ordered from Lulu was a 6 x 9 ‘US Trade’ consisting of 176 pages of their Standard Paper. The proof copy cost €11.52 (plus €3.41 in shipping) which is exactly what Lulu said it would cost on the ‘Book Cost Calculator’ on their website. The Book Cost Calculator also has a change currency option and two nights ago, out of interest, I clicked it.
In euro my book was €11.52, but in dollars it was $8.02 (€5.90) and in British pounds it was £4.27 (€4.86).
Did you get that? Just by changing the currency my book halved in price.*
On Createspace, my 5.5. x 8.5 book of 226 pages of cream (standard) paper will cost $3.61 each AFTER I pay a once-off charge of $39 to upgrade to their Pro Plan, plus shipping if I’m ordering them myself to sell on. If I don’t opt for the Pro Plan, they’ll cost $6.10. Whether they’re sold from the e-store, from Amazon.com or other online retailers (Expanded Distribution), CS will take a cut. See image below for royalty information.
*I emailed Lulu immediately to ask about this alarming discrepancy and delayed posting this so that I could include their promised ‘within 48 hour’ response. None came.
UPDATE: Lulu responded to my email on Wednesday 31st March despite claiming responses would come in a couple of business days. They say that the calculator is indeed correct – albeit a bit confusing – and that the difference is due to the “increased costs of operating in the Euro zone.”