Lulu’s online advertisements talk about publishing your book for free. And they will actually do that: They’ll publish your book (supplied to them in pdf format) exactly as you send it to them. That’s all you get for free. Everything else is extra, from ISBNs ($34.95 for the number or $149.95 for the number and distribution) to typesetting, (to cover art ($169.95), to books. To get the same services you get from most POD publishers you need to spend at least as much and more. According to their contract, Lulu takes no responsibility for anything they produce.

Lulu does not screen books, and will print anything you send them unless it’s obscene, contains a virus, or is otherwise objectionable. The retail prices of their books are high, and they offer no marketing packages.

On the upside, their royalties seem fair, but their method of calculating book prices is convoluted and the prices they use to represent the cost of printing are higher than actual printer prices. In addition, they include a setup fee in the price of every book. On a 200 page book for which the author receives a four dollar royalty, they claim to receive only $1.00, but they also get $4.53 in setup fees. Whether this goes to Lulu or the printer or is split between them is not specified. Author prices are high in quantities under 100, but do get better as the numbers increase. They offer a non-exclusive contract and distribute for an additional fee through Ingram and major online retailers.

You decide your own royalty and Lulu gets 20% of that, but if your book is going to be printed and distributed, your maximum royalty will depend on the retail price and you may not be able to set it as high as you’d like.

In Summary:

On the plus side:
-Non-exclusive contract.
-Good royalties.

On the negative side:
-Don’t screen for quality.
-Confusing pricing.

-High retail prices.

-No marketing packages

-No accountability

-No returnability option available

Overall: Lulu can get your book in print for little money, but only if you have the skills to do the publishing setup yourself.