Last year, I published Hidden Worlds, a fantasy adventure novella, through Lulu. Why I chose to do this particular project myself instead of going a traditional route is another blog subject.
What’s important to this blog is that I received good interest and reviews and I am putting out a second edition under the Turtleduck Press label later this year. So, in the interest of making the book as widely available as possible, in addition to Lulu I am also releasing the story through CreateSpace and Smashwords since there are no exclusivity contracts with any of these services.
Now, there are tons of articles out there arguing about which POD service you should use because of royalty rates, distribution, professional services, quality of product, whatever. You are free to read any of those that you would like. What I’m going to focus on is ease of getting your product together and ready to go out into the world.
As I said, I published Hidden Worlds on Lulu originally. I had done some work on an anthology published through them and had been fairly pleased with the experience, so I chose them because they were familiar. Lulu is straight-forward; you pick what you’d like to publish (hard cover or paperback), put in a title and author name, and go through a variety of options (binding, size, paper type).
CreateSpace works more or less the same way here. Their language is a little different but it’s not too hard to figure out what they’re talking about.
Lulu will then ask you to upload your interior file. It then checks it and lets you know if it thinks there’s something wrong with your formatting. Lulu converts it into an interior file, allows you to view it, and then moves on to the cover. You can upload your own wraparound cover or use their cover creator, which is fabulous. There’s separate templates for front and rear covers. The whole thing is easy to use and versatile enough that I didn’t find it hard to adapt it to what I wanted the book to look like. Again, after it has converted the file, you can view it and make sure everything looks okay.
And when I revised the book for the second edition, it was as easy as uploading a new cover and a new interior file. Lulu automatically updated the product page, the preview, and kept my ratings and reviews with it.
CreateSpace also asks you to upload an interior file. But, unless I am missing something (and my Google Fu says I am not) there is no way to view this file once it’s uploaded. This is a Bad Thing. Hidden Worlds uses a non-standard font for the title page that sometimes does not translate over when I upload the pdf. Lulu’s preview functionality has helped me catch that issue before the book is released for public consumption. I have no way to know if the font copied over properly until I receive my proof copy in the mail. Admittedly I won’t release the book until I have the proof copy, but I shouldn’t have to wait two and a half weeks* to see if I need to fix the interior file.
CS also lets you upload a complete cover or use their cover creator. Their cover creator, however, is not nearly as versatile as Lulu’s is. You cannot pick and choose different templates for the front and back covers. And there is exactly one template for a full front cover which means you’re stuck with the back that comes with it. Yes, it is easy to use. Yes, CS lets you preview your cover file to make sure it looks as expected, and it does warn you if the graphics you’re trying to use are low-resolution. But the lack of versatility is a major issue in my book.
*CS requires that you buy a proof-copy of your book before you list it with them. That’s fine, I think most of us would agree that we would like to see what we’re putting out and make sure that it’s something we’re willing to put our name on. The issue here is that the shipping prices are ridiculous. Hidden Worlds, for example, costs $4.38 for the proof. (Which is admittedly quite decent. My proof at Lulu is $7.91.) Shipping is $3.61 but it takes almost three weeks to arrive. If I want it in two weeks, it goes up to $6.39. If I want it in any sort of reasonable length of time, is costs twenty-five dollars! I ship books all the time. It costs me $3 to send a book across country priority mail through the US Postal Service. Those books arrive in 3-5 days. Lulu, admittedly, is pretty expensive/slow on shipping as well but not to this extreme.
Now, since I am waiting three weeks for my proof, I cannot tell you how easy it is to make changes if necessary and get the product out to the public. I do not know if I will need to buy another proof before I can release the book if I need to upload a new interior. Those are subjects for another time.
But based on my experience so far, in terms of ease of use and ability to get your product to look how you would like, I think Lulu’s winning. We’ll see how things play out in the long run.