skip to Main Content
Watchdog: Review Of Lulu

Watchdog: Review of Lulu

ALLi is delighted to announce that Giacomo Giammatteo will now head up its Watchdog desk, which on behalf of our membership and for self-published authors everywhere keeps a close check on all services affecting indie authors. Below Jim introduces himself and defines the Watchdog function, as he sees it, before hitting the ground running with his first post evaluating Lulu and finding it wanting. Over to Jim…

Jim Giacommatteo photographed with his opet dog

The Watchdog and his dog

My name is Giacomo Giammatteo. Orna Ross and the wonderful folks at ALLi were kind enough to ask me to be a reviewer of services for the new ALLi guide book, Choosing A Self-Publishing Service, and that has led to me writing the Watchdog posts for ALLi. I’m honored to be a part of ALLi, and hope I can help all of you save money and make more informed decisions.

Before we get started, let me introduce you to a few of my best friends. The adorable pup in my lap was one of my favorite dogs. His name was Slick. And the handsome devil on the right is my buddy, Dennis. He’s a wild boar we rescued on our sanctuary.

Photo of Jim's wild boar Dennis

A wild boar named Dennis – no Watchdog should be without one

What is a Watchdog?

By definition, a watchdog is:

  • A dog that is trained to guard a place
  • A person who guards against loss, waste, theft, or undesirable practice.

I think the second definition fits this role better, so we’ll go with that. I don’t know how much guarding I can do, but maybe together we can help each other.

What Can We Do?

What I’d like to bring to this role is a way for all of us to work together and help spread information so that authors are aware of which companies offer good, high-quality services at reasonable prices – and which ones are out to take advantage of us. Far too many companies are geared toward getting the most they can from authors, instead of looking for a partnership with us.

I want to expose the companies who take advantage of authors, but I think we should also shine the light on those who work hard at trying to help us.

We Need to Look at Intent

Looking at the reason behind why a company does things—at least to me—is huge. Just because a company has a higher price than another doesn’t mean it is gouging. They might not be able to compete at a lower price range. On the other hand, some companies—at first glance—seem to be our friends. They have good prices and good quality, but when you dig deeper and look at their terms… Caveat emptor. (Let the buyer beware.)

So how do we find out which companies/services are good, and which aren’t?

I believe the best way is to do it together. If you have a question, a concern or a suggestion of a company to check out, write to us. And if you have information to share, an experience to tell us about, anything that you feel should be checked out—send it to us.

To give you an idea of what we’re trying to accomplish, take a look at this first post. For today, I thought I’d tackle Lulu. Please note, this is not meant to be a full comparison of services offered by these companies; it’s more to show why Lulu might not be the best choice for a partner, especially print options.

Re-examining Lulu For Book Distribution

Lulu was one of the pioneers in independent publishing. In those early days, many self-published authors flocked to Lulu for their distribution needs. Even as competition grew, Lulu prospered by offering a wide variety of services, including hardcover books, which CreateSpace didn’t—and still doesn’t—offer.

But how does Lulu hold up now? Deciding on a distribution partner involves a lot more than just looking at price, or even distribution reach. There are other questions:

  • Do they offer hardcover books?
  • How broad is the selection of print sizes?
  • How does the quality stack up to the competition?
  • Do they offer returns?

Aside from selection and print options, I believe the most important decisions are:

  • Price
  • Distribution
  • Quality

These are the factors I used in my comparison. For the price, I used a 300-page book, 6×9, perfect bound, B&W, with creme paper, and gloss cover. I used a print quantity of 1 for each:

CreateSpace           Lulu          Ingram

Price                                           4.55                    7.25*           4.86
Distribution                               8/10                    8/10          10/10
Quality                                         ✓                         ✓                ✓

If you opt for a hardcover book, Lulu’s price would be $18.65 and Ingram’s would be $10.85. That’s a huge difference.

Looking At the Chart

In terms of quality, I marked them all with a “satisfactory” grade. I think Ingram has better quality overall, but Lulu and CreateSpace are also good.

Regarding the distribution, Ingram gets the nod. They have the best distribution system in the world and the only additional charge is a $12 per year fee per book. Depending on which Ingram service you use—Lightning Source or Spark—you can also set the discount rate from as low as 20% up to 55%. They also allow returns.

CreateSpace does not offer returns, and if you want expanded distribution you must raise the discount to 60%. There are also concerns regarding the willingness of some bookstores to accept CreateSpace books.

Lulu does not offer returns, and they take a cut of each sale. The cut isn’t huge, but on a $15 book, they take $.40. Margins are slim on print books to begin with; authors can’t afford another $.40.

That brings us to price. If you haven’t looked closely at the chart, please do so now. Lulu is $2.39 more than Ingram and $2.70 more than CreateSpace. That is more than what you make from a print book that is competitively priced.

If you have a 300-page book and offer the industry-standard 55% discount, with Lulu you’d have to price the book at $18 to earn a $.45 profit. That same book with CreateSpace (in expanded distribution) would earn you $2.65. And with Ingram it would earn you $3.24. If you opt for the 40% discount with Ingram (ignoring the independent bookstores and sticking to online sales), your earnings would be $5.94.

If you have a book with more pages, the results with Lulu get worse. At 425 pages the costs are:

CreateSpace                   Lulu               Ingram

Price                                            5.96                           9.25*                   6.55

When I look at all of the reasons why I’d choose a distribution partner, I can’t find even one that would steer me to Lulu. In the past they were an option, but perhaps it was because they were the only option. Now there are much better choices.

Bottom Line

Now available on Amazon, Kobo & Smashwords

Now available on Amazon, Kobo & Smashwords

I wrote this post because I ran across so many authors who are using Lulu’s services for printing, and I wanted to make sure the authors knew that there were better options. We can compare those options in future posts, but for now it’s important to realize that by using CreateSpace or Ingram (or both) instead of Lulu, you can get better distribution; better quality; and you can save a lot of money.

There are other problems with Lulu also, especially when it comes to their intent. Lulu has partnered with Author Solutions (ASI), a company that has consistently taken advantage of authors by using deceptive practices and unfavorable terms. Lulu is now offering marketing services backed and supported by ASI. The more I dug into some of Lulu’s other services, the more convinced I was that their intent was clear—they are out to make as much money as possible from the authors who sign with them. I intend to cover that in a future post.

In the meantime, if anyone has information to report, or questions to ask, or topics you’d like to see covered, please let us know. You can email me at [email protected]

Thanks for stopping by.

*Addendum (19th May 2014)

Lulu offers a “value” print option which reduces the cost of printing a book. For the same book with 300 pages, the ‘value’ price would be $5.25 instead of $7.25, and for the 425 page book, it would be $7 instead of $9.25.

There are two things you need to know about this option:

  1. The ‘value’ option is only for sale on Lulu’s site. You cannot use the ‘value’ print option and distribute anywhere else.
  2. The ‘value’ option uses different printing process and the quality will not be as good as the regular option.

Twitter bird outlineIf you enjoyed this post, please share – here's our suggested tweet: 

“ALLi's new Watchdog @JimGiammatteo assess Lulu and finds it wanting: via @IndieAuthorALLi”



This Post Has 34 Comments
  1. This article is unfortunately very out of date. From what I can tell Lulu has gotten more competitive with print pricing a 300 page 6×9 BW book on Lulu is $5.73 and Ingramspark is $5.37 (without accounting for fees – $49 publication fee and $2 handling fee). Hardcover is also $11.53 (Lulu) vs. $9.76 (Ingramspark – less $49 publication fee)


  2. This report is no longer entirely new. At the time it was very accurate. I myself have been using Lulu for over nine years. Today, unfortunately, many things are no longer true. What happened?

    In spring 2020, Lulu wanted to relaunch its website and promised a series of improvements. That was almost a year ago. The new website is now (after horrible month) ready, but some things still don’t work. No one has seen the new features yet and many things that were loved and used in the past can no longer be found on the new site.

    A few examples:
    – The forum where authors could support each other has been closed (some authors have relaunched it under
    – Previously published books were not available for months, some of them are still only available on and no longer on Amazon, Kobo, and other booksellers; so, sales dropped.
    – Bills and amounts paid out do not match presumably for months.
    – Support closes unresolved tickets or does not respond.
    – Only rudimentary covers can still be created
    – Fewer book formats with fewer bindings
    – Calendar discontinued altogether for a while, now available again with a single format.

    And this for months. At the moment, unfortunately, I can absolutely no longer recommend Lulu.

  3. When it comes to e-books though… I have questions. I’ve previously published my e-book with LuLu. It was highly recommended by several sites, but now for my second e-book I’m considering switching exclusively to Amazon’s KDP. I liked Lulu because the process was easy and it seemed to reach a lot of people, including Amazon. Because let’s face it not everyone owns a Kindle. But I was told if I sold exclusively with Amazon I might reach more people and have more sales. Any advice?

  4. I am copying over my mom’s memoirs and my dad’s memories. Along with this are a few stories he wrote in high school. The book is mostly text, but there are some pictures that will have importance.

    The book will not be sold, I plan to buy copies as gifts for family members. It’s going to be maybe 20 – 30 pages, and I will be making around 15 – 20 copies. I want it to have a classic look – like a small coffee table book maybe.It will be a treasure for family members, especially the grandchildren I was hoping for a square size – maybe 8 x 8 – but with a lot of text that may not work.

    I will have done all the editing and layout – and hopefully can transfer this into a template should there be one. I’ve done work like this, but not for a publisher.

    Any suggestions? Almost all companies and articles talk about selling a book, and issues that pertain to that area. I see lots of information on sites such as lulu and a lot others, but they don’t seem to really apply to me.

    1. Barbara, I am working on the same type book for our family members to treasure have you heard anything back or learned the best route to go for your book dear? I am a retired teacher enjoying this project but I am feeling my way through the dark as well! So interested in your findings or anyone else out there with advice!!! I don’t want to invest thousands in this!!!

    2. Barbara – I’m looking for a publisher of my poetry, similar to you, for just family and friends distribution. Did you find a good publishing company you’d recommend?

      Appreciate your thoughts,


    3. Barbara Roth, at Lulu, you could do this:
      Premium Paperback 8,5×8,5″ or 7,5×7,5″ 32 pages full colour $6.81

      For any help, they have friendly staff and furthermore, there is the lulu forum – at the time on itself, now outsourced at where lulu authors and self publishers share their experience and give advice.

      On Lulu, you can choose whether the book is available on the Lulu site or from other retailers – or just with a private link or even just for the publisher himself: So just for you to order and give to your loved ones. If you order 15 or more copies at the same time, there is a small discount. Maybe a local copy shop is cheaper. The advantage of using Lulu is that you can leave your project there at no cost and order another copy later without any effort.

  5. Mr. G,
    Would you say your recommendations and research fit the children picture book self-publshing market as well?

    I have been in talks with West Bow press and just saw the watchdog rating. :<

    I am not considering Ingram, Amazon and WAS considering Lulu until now as well.

    I am so glad I found this sight. I have been trying to get my children adoption picture book published for 7 years.

    Thank you.

    1. Deirdre, I am also publishing children books. I did it at Unfortunately children books are often in landscape format. In Lulu there are only a few, but recently there have been two. Lulu is currently (winter/spring 2020) expanding its website and services. For further advice, you may contact other lulu authors at I do not know, if it is the best service, but I suggest to take a good service instead of looking another seven years for the best one…

      By the way: If you want to distribute your book through bookstores (Amazon B&N Instram), the price has to be high enough for them to deduct their margin. The book then becomes rather expensive. You can, however, enter a discount on Lulu. The discount will only appear on the Lulu page. If you do this, the clever customer gets your book much cheaper and you earn even more.

  6. I was looking for the best self-publishing places. I’ve done a small poetry book on CS and a few photo books on lulu to hand out to friends – inexpensive compared with Blurb, though Blurb is much faster.

    I think I will try ingramspark next for my print book.


  7. Giacomo,
    I’ve written a short non-fiction book that combines both personal narratives and theoretical information. Dp you have any info. on academic self-publishing sites? Any recommendations? Also if I use a site like CS, is it possible to market my book to colleges that have departments that might be interested in my book.

    1. Go with another publishing company and not LuLu publishing.
      How about making sure my pages are all correct for both my books, Smile with Simon and Simon and the Buddy Branch. LuLu inserted pages from another book into both of mine. And, no remorse only to say we will send out a replacement copy. “These are rare incidents”. Ridiculous. LuLu publishing is just horrible. Go with another publishing company!
      Here are 3 examples of the wrong pages inserted into Smile with Simon and Simon and the Buddy Branch.

      1. Well, I’ve published 3 novels with them and have never had a problem. The yard pricey, but when I offset nooks they arrive quickly, and the few minor problems I’ve had were corrected with an apology.

  8. I think some important points are overlooked here – the first being that the quality of the books produced by Lulu is much better than most places. I got proof copies from a few places and none compared. The second is that they offer MASSIVE discounts for bulk buying (from as little as 15 copies) and regular promotional discounts on top of that. Plus if you order a certain number of books you always get more than that. Usually between 10 and 15 % extra. My last order for example cost £107 including shipping and VAT. There were 60 books on the order and I received 68 making the cost per book far less than you would get by doing a sample quote for a single copy.

  9. Both LuLu and Blurb are vanity presses. If you are making paper books, it is well worth the effort to learn to work with printers and have books made at a press. You should also learn to design books as these companies use a template system which will make your book forever look as it came from Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. I also know that Blurb charges you MORE if you want your own imprint on it.

    1. William Ash, of course, with a self publishing service you can publish a book that you have set with Word. Decades ago, there were also books typeset with a typewriter. But this is not the fault of Lulu, Blurb or the printer, but of the author who does it. I work with open source software, like Scribus. It’s not much harder than Word, but gives much better PDF and nicer book pages.

  10. Hi, Josa. If you’re following the blogs for ALLI, you’re in the right place to get help. It’s a wonderful community and everyone is generous with information. As to the quality, I would suggest looking into an independent, third-party to help with your cover, and to help with your pdf if you need it. After that, it’s fairly simple to get a quality book produced using Ingram and/or CreateSpace. There are other options that we discuss in the book ALLi produced, “Choosing a Self-Publishing Service.”

  11. Hi, thanks for this. I republished my sister in law Louisa Young’s biography of her grandmother using Lulu (published back in the 90s by MacMillan) and republished for 100th anniversary of Scott’s death in the Antarctic. I have concerns about the cover quality – shiny and the coating lifts off in the most annoying way. But I did find their PDF templates easy to use and helpful, although no British book formats. I am indie publishing my second novel Sail Upon the Land in October, and am investigating the best ways to produce a book shop quality B format paperback, and also distribution methods. Having mostly marketed my first traditionally published novel myself, I hope I will have the time (which is the main thing you need) to do that.

  12. Bravo Giacomo: You are indeed offering a service that is important for Indie Authors. I broke into the business when I formed my small press Frugal Marketer Publishing, for my small business book:”How to Market Your Business in the 90’s”. Hardcover. I learned and did it all myself. I used Amazon, Ingram for libraries and universities. Baker & Taylor, and a distributor for foreign sales. In today’s DIY E-book world, Indie Authors must wear a basic 4 hats: Author, Editor, Publisher and Marketer. Selecting the right services is critical. Investigating is mandatory. Fortunately there are many fine services that can supplyacurate data. Thanks for your fine efforts.
    I wish you Success.


  13. Linda, I only took a quick look at Avantine, but on page one I had concerns. The second paragraph at the top of the page talks about their “Copyright registration” service will be increasing prices, from $150-200. This is something that is not truly needed, but even if you wanted it, you can do it yourself for $35. It makes me wonder about their motivation and where they want to make their money. I’ll mark them down to check out in the future, but you might want to look hard at your comparisons.

  14. Thanks so much for this great information. It was very helpful and it couldn’t have come at a better time now I’m looking for a new publisher for my sequel. Do you have any thoughts about Aventine Press? I’m comparing them now to Lightning Source (Ingram).

  15. Thanks so much for this information.

    Alli is such a useful and amazing resource, one to trust and one which creates a strong rope for nervous would be self-publishers, like me, to hang on to, as well as providing vital guide-lines to follow across what is, for me at least, a very misty landscape.

    I’m being slow to gear up to self-publishing, and am trying to take in as much as I’m able. This print information is one of many things I’ve been wondering about, so it was incredibly helpful. Thanks Glacomo

  16. Excellent post – thank you so much for digging into these details. I’m giving a talk today on the Self-Publishing Landscape and this will be extremely useful! I didn’t know Author Solutions has sucked in Lulu too – which means there has to be a flashing light warning sign over them, along with all the Big Five publishers’ “self-publishing” imprints. A watchdog post on them would be valuable!

    1. Lucy – I have done 3 poetry books with AuthorHouse, where I was learning but not very satisfied working with them; and 5 more with Lulu, which I felt much more comfortable with; but I agree things have changed at Lulu and not in a good way since they are with Author Solutions. Are there any publishers you would recommend? My books are all 160 – 200+ pages with images. I was recently contacted by Ace Media Publishing. A delightful rep that I’m speaking with but I can’t find an independent source/reference on them anywhere. Would really appreciate your thoughts about self-publisher options as I start to undertake book #9.

      Warm regards,


  17. Thanks for this post–I’ve been planning to use Create Space–I watched the video re Ingram Spark last week, and now after considering your post I may give it serious consideration. Amazzon has contacts in many areas of the world. How would yhou ssay Ingram Spark compares?

  18. Glynis: I’m glad you found it useful. Yes, CS is excellent for printing and certainly for getting you into Amazon. I also strongly recommend Ingram (either Spark or LS) as they are especially strong in the international arena. I actually use both–CS for Amazon, and Ingram for all others. I’ll be doing a post soon on that.

    1. Giacomo – I have used AuthorHouse (3 books of poetry) and Lulu (5 books of poetry), but would loved to have used Create Space and IngramSpark. The problem I had with Create Space is they don’t do hardcover; and, IngramSpark is difficult for people who need a little help with technology. Any publishers out there you would recommend?

  19. Thanks for an informative post, Giacomo. I first used Lulu years ago for poetry books. They were expensive and I just didn’t promote them if I’m truthful. I couldn’t afford the shipping (to Cyprus at the time), and I was embarrassed at the price to sell.

    This week I pulled them off the site, and closed my account (it’s only taken me five years to ‘get round to it’. I intend to redo the books and publish elsewhere. Your post has helped. I use Createspace for my novels, and have had good support when needed. Having another outlet is always useful.

    Love the dog and hog 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest advice, news, ratings, tools and trends.

Back To Top
×Close search