What is Lulu?
Lulu is a digital platform that offers self-publishing, print-on-demand (POD), and distribution services for books (both print and ebooks), journals, calendars, photo books, etc.
The company was born in 2002 by Red Hat and Bob Young and is based in Morrisville, North Carolina. It was initially for printing books but began publishing and distributing ebooks in 2009. In 2017, Lulu introduced a print-on-demand service as open access to all self-publishers.
How do You Use Lulu?
You can use Lulu in many ways: create and distribute ebooks, print books on demand, buy and sell your print products on Lulu’s bookstore or distribute them globally, etc.
Self-publishing on Lulu is easy. You’ll go to their website’s homepage, select the “Print Or Publish A Book” icon, and then the type of book you want to create. In the case of an ebook, you’ll click “Start Your Ebook.” You’ll create an account using your email, log in, follow the prompts to upload your book, then hit publish.
You can choose to sell your digital and print books through Lulu Bookstore. Alternatively, you can sell via their Global Distribution Network for a one-time fee of $4.99. This service ensures your book is available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Google Books, among other online retailers. Your book will also be listed with Ingram Book Company which distributes to physical stores, including Walmart.
To enjoy the Global Distribution service, your book should meet specific requirements. Read more about it here.
What is Amazon KDP?
Formerly referred to as the Digital Text Platform, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a self-publishing platform launched by Amazon.com in 2007.
The platform was founded for independent authors and publishers to publish their books online directly to Amazon Kindle. On the other hand, readers can buy the books as ebooks or print-on-demand (POD) books.
KDP is the leading player in the publishing industry globally, holding about 80 percent of the US markets' ebooks. At the same time, the remaining 20% is shared among the remaining giants, that is, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, IngramSpark, and Kobo.
How do You Use Amazon KDP?
You can use Amazon KDP to publish digital books and print their paperback versions upon demand.
To publish on KDP is quite simple. You'll need to create an account on the KDP website, sign up and enter the necessary information, and then follow the prompts to upload and publish the book.
After publishing, your ebook will be made available on Amazon’s kindle store. However, for paperbacks, you can choose to sell them exclusively through Amazon KDP or non-Amazon retailers via the Amazon Expanded Distribution Service. This service makes your book available to online retailers, libraries, bookstores (including Walmart and Google Books), and academic institutions. You’ll, however, have to wait up to 8 weeks for your book to be available on these platforms.
Amazon KDP also has a program, Amazon Select, that takes your rights to publish and distribute with other platforms in exchange for mouth-watering deals, including higher commissions and promotional tools. The main benefit of this program is that your books will be available to the 100 million Kindle Unlimited users.
Can you Publish with Both KDP and Lulu?
You can publish your book with Amazon KDP and any other platform, including LuLu. However, you’ll be restricted to publishing with KDP only if you enroll in their 90 days exclusive KDP Select or KDP Unlimited programs. You’ll have to wait for the 90 days to expire to publish elsewhere.
Also, you’ll have to get a NEW ISBN to publish and distribute with LuLu. You cannot use the same ISBN for KDP and LuLu publishing even though KDP offers free ISBN when you publish with them. You cannot use it with another self-publishing platform.
Lulu Costs and Royalties
Lulu charges nothing to publish your ebook on their platform and sell it in their store. However, you will incur some costs in the process, including printing and distribution costs. The printing cost is determined by the items you’ll purchase for your book on their Pricing page. You’ll use the calculator provided on the page to evaluate the accumulated cost.
You’ll then add this cost when setting the book's purchase price. In other words, the purchasing price should be the sum of printing costs and profit. The company automatically deducts these costs upon the purchase of your print product.
When a customer buys your product, Lulu takes 20% of the net profit for print books and 10% for ebooks. You’ll therefore earn 80% and 90% royalties, respectively.
Since your work will be offered in all currencies, your royalties will first be calculated using the conversion rates posted on your payday, not the earning day. As conversion rates fluctuate by day, your revenues will be displayed as estimates, not actual amounts.
How Do You Get Paid Through Lulu?
You can choose to receive the payments either by check or via PayPal. Payment is provided every month.
To receive payments via PayPal, a $5 threshold is required. If the amount is lower than the threshold, the payment will be forwarded to the next month. Also, you may incur some transactional costs depending on the kind of PayPal account you have.
On the flip side, getting paid by check will require a $20 threshold. You will receive the payments every 3 months in US currency. The funds will be disbursed within 45 days following the end of the 3 months. For example, you'll receive payment by May 15 for sales made in January, February, and March.
KDP Costs and Royalties
KDP charges no upfront fees to publish your ebook. Publishing is free. Rather, the costs you’ll incur if you decide to print paperbacks will be deducted from your royalties. The printing cost is determined by two factors:
- The number of pages in your book.
- The type of print you choose: black and white or colored ink.
Amazon computes and displays the printing costs as you upload the book on the platform. The printing cost is calculated using the formula below:
Printing Cost = Fixed Cost + ( Number of Pages X Additional Cost per Page).
As mentioned above, the fixed cost is determined by the ink type and page count. Below is a condensed Amazon printing cost chart for USD. Meanwhile, you can learn more about paperback printing costs on their website.
|Paperback Specifications||Fixed Cost per Book||Additional Cost per Page|
|Black Ink 24 -108 Pages||$2.15||0|
|Black Ink 110-828 Pages||$0.85||$0.012|
|Premium Color Ink 24-48 Pages||$3.65||0|
|Premium Color Ink 42-828 Pages||$0.85||$0.07|
|Standard Color Ink 72-600 Pages||$0.85||$0.036|
To help you understand how the calculations are done, let’s look at an example.
Using the formula provided, If you print a 500-page book with premium color ink, you’ll incur a cost of $35.85.
ie) $0.85 + (500 x $0.07) = $0.85+35 = $35.85
Besides paperback printing costs, amazon also deducts delivery cost for your ebooks from the royalties you earn. The cost varies with the type of currency used to purchase the book. For instance, the rates in USD and CAD are $0.15 per Mb, while that for GBP is $0.10 per Mb.
Note that the delivery fee is only applicable with the 70% royalty plan. We’ll talk more about royalty plans in the next segment.
The royalties you’ll receive will depend on whether you published an ebook or paperback. Amazon has two royalty plans for ebooks: the 70% and 35% plans.
To earn 70% royalties, you shouldn’t publish a book already in the public domain, and the book should be priced between $2.99 and $9.99. The book will also be sold in certain territories, as stated on the website. You’ll, nevertheless, receive 35% royalties for copies sold outside the mentioned countries. And if you are a member of KDP Select, the list of countries your book will be sold to expands.
Paperback royalty, on the other hand, is determined by the channel of distribution you choose. If you choose to distribute exclusively to Amazon, you’ll be entitled to 60% of earned royalties. But if you choose to distribute to Non-Amazon retailers via the Expanded Distribution plan, you’ll earn 40% royalty for every paperback manufactured and sold.
In both cases, printing costs will be subtracted from the royalties earned.
How Do You Get Paid Through KDP?
Amazon pays royalties through direct deposit, also referred to as Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT), Check, or Wire transfer.
There is no threshold for EFT payments. However, for check and wire payments, you’ll be required to accrue a minimum amount, depending on the marketplace, to receive a payment. For instance, in the US and Canada, you must accrue a minimum of $100 royalties to get paid. Here’s the complete list of the KDP payment threshold.
Also, you will receive your payments 60 days after the minimum threshold is attained. Let’s say you reached the $100 mark on 1st June; you’ll receive the payment on 31st of July.
Differences Between Lulu and KDP
|Uploading formats||PDF only for books||You can use many formats, including PDF, HTML, Word, and ePub.|
|Printing options||Paperbacks, hardcovers, coil bounds, photo books, calendars, etc.||Paperbacks and cover builders only.|
|Volume discounts||Available||Not available|
|Estimated printing costs per unit for basic design||$5.34||$4.71|
|Distribution royalties||80% of profits||60% of profits|
LuLu vs. KDP: Pros and Cons
Pros and Cons of Using KDP
- It provides the most expansive market for your books. The Kindle store is the largest bookstore in the English-speaking market. Most independent authors report that most of their book sales occur on Amazon.
- The platform provides a wide range of valuable tools for authors to help market their books. This includes Amazon Advertising, a tool that allows you to feature your titles on the Comparable title page as 'sponsored products.'
- If you enroll in the KDP Select, you'll enjoy a range of free promotion services, including Kindle Unlimited, Kindle Countdown Deals, and Kindle Free Promotions.
- You can sell your ebooks and paperbacks from the same KDP account. You don't have to create and manage different accounts for your books.
- The Kindle Store algorithm provides a fair playground for all authors to see their titles rise in the market. Unlike other platforms that use humans to promote new releases. Such scenarios are prone to favoritism.
- You cannot publish and distribute anywhere else if you choose the KDP Select option.
- There are restrictions to their 70% royalty plan. If you set your title price above $9.99, the rate automatically drops to 35%. This means you cannot sell a set of multiple books as a single product and still earn 70% commission. Something possible on some other online retailers.
Pros and Cons of Using LuLu
- The platform is famous for producing high-quality paper books. This makes them stand out from competitors like Amazon.
- Selling directly on Lulu Bookstore gives high returns.
- Customer service is quite good compared to KDP, where they can get overwhelmed with questions. Lulu has a "Support Center" with many frequently asked questions(FAQ), where you are most likely to get answers for any arising issues.
- Lulu offers discounts when you print large volumes of content. Be it ordinary books, calendars, photo books, or journals.
- You can print your book with lulu and ship it globally to over 150 territories. Shipping is also relatively fast.
- The Lulu Direct App allows you to sell your books directly from your Shopify account or ecommerce.
- The website offers a vast array of Guides and Templates to help you in the publishing process.
- If your issue isn't sorted out at the FAQs forum, it will be near impossible to reach them by phone or email.
- Lulu's Global Distribution may offer distribution to major retailers, but at high costs. This translates to low royalties.
Which Platform Should You Publish On?
I'd suggest that you start by evaluating the goals for your book before deciding on which platform to publish on.
If you need better-quality print books, then Lulu is your go-to place. They also offer various printing options, including hardcovers that aren't available on KDP. You can also create photobooks, calendars, and journals with Lulu but not with KDP.
However, if your publishing goal is to maximize profits from print and ebook sales, you'll have to consider KDP. KDP offers a broader market for your work compared to Lulu. Kindle Store is even more popular than Lulu Bookstore, not to mention the Kindle Unlimited perks. KDP printing costs per unit are also lower than Lulu's.
You might think that Lulu's high distribution royalties translate to high profits, but it isn't that. The 80% is calculated from the net profit, not the actual sales. That means they'll deduct the production costs first (which are usually high) before giving you the 80%. Therefore, you'll need to set your book price high to get some good proceeds, which will affect your book sales.
The bottom line is to consider what works for you and your book, then go for it.