Lulu (company)

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This article is about the publishing company. For other companies with similar names, see Lulu (disambiguation).
Type Private
Genre Self-publishing
Founded 2002 (2002)
Founders Bob Young
Headquarters Raleigh, North Carolina, United States
Products Books, eBooks, Photo Books, Calendars
Services On-demand print and eBook publishing
Website Official website

Lulu (Lulu Enterprises, Inc. and Lulu Press, Inc. are collectively called "Lulu") is a company offering self-publishing, printing, and distribution services with headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina. Since their founding in 2002, Lulu has published over 1.1 million titles by authors in over 200 countries and territories, and adds 20,000 new items per month to their catalog.[1] In addition to printing and publishing services it also offers online order fulfillment. The company's CEO is Red Hat co-founder Bob Young.[2]

Authors retain their copyright to materials printed/published by Lulu.

Optional services offered by the company include ISBN assignment, and distribution of books to retailer outlets requesting specific titles. (Lulu does not accept returns of unsold books from bookstores, which limits distribution to physical bookstores). Electronic distribution is also available.

Lulu Enterprises was founded in early 2002. OpenMind Publishing, founded by Bradley Schultz and Paul Elliot, merged its publishing company and staff with Lulu in the latter part of 2002. OpenMind Publishing was a publisher of customized texts for college professors.


Lulu offers publishing services for self-publishers, for outside publishing companies, and for other businesses.[1] Lulu operates primarily in five different functions:

  1. acts as a publishing company by offering the Published by Lulu option;
  2. as a co-publisher working in conjunction with outside publishing companies;
  3. a service-provider for publishing and printing needs of outside publishing companies;
  4. a tool for self-publishers, and
  5. a technology company.[citation needed]

Lulu's ordering-and-publishing system is automated and authors can communicate with Lulu exclusively via the Internet.

If the author elects to place items such as books, eBooks, calendars, etc. on Lulu's website "market place" then any registered Lulu user may make and pay for orders online. There is an additional process for books to be distributed beyond the website to outlets such as and Barnes & Noble.


Lulu focuses on conventional books, which it can print in various sizes, in paperback or hardback, in black-and-white or in glossy full-color. Lulu also publishes calendars and eBooks. Media type options are available to authors. For example, an author uploading a novel can select a type of binding, layout style, and even among predefined cover art if desired, and can set the amount of author margin desired. An author can upload a file in .pdf format (or can choose to have Lulu convert it), and can download and view the uploaded or converted file.[3][4]

Lulu publishes a very wide range of subject matter, ranging from information technology to self-help to alternative topics that might not capture the attention of mainstream publishers. Titles range from the medieval recipe book How to Cook a Peacock to Depths and Details: A Reader’s Guide to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.[5] Other books deal with serious but niche topics.[5]

Late in 2009, Lulu began selling electronic books that had already been published, with 200,000 selections from authors such as Dan Brown and Malcolm Gladwell and entering competition with and Barnes & Noble.[2]


Authors are guided by menus and instructions on the website as they upload files. Material is submitted in digital form for hard publication. Uploaded items that are not distributed beyond Lulu are immediately available for order and the author is not required to purchase a copy. However distributed items require the author to first order a draft and to approve it. In either case uploaded files will be published verbatim and unedited within the limits of the technology to do so. A live, online chat-service is available to help customers navigate the instructions posted on the website. The author is not assigned a contact person such as an editor.

Potential customers must first create an account with a user name and password before ordering or paying for any item. Lulu keeps no inventory, instead orders are placed in a queue at a contracted print-on-demand printer,[6][7] in a system referred to as "POD." Printing takes approximately 3 to 7 business days,[8] after which the finished product is shipped. There can be small variations in published material when the job is moved from one contract printer to another.

When a book or project for distribution beyond Lulu's website is first entered, or when it is revised, the author is required to purchase a draft copy and then approve it. The draft copy goes through the regular order process with approximately one or two weeks delay for printing followed by shipping time. The author may approve the draft by checking a box on the 'project page' for the book, or the author may enter a revision. After entering a revision, a new draft copy must be ordered according to the regular order process. This is true whether the revision is one letter, the whole text, or even just the price. This procedure is repeated until a final draft is approved. According to the Lulu website, shipping of the final project (upon order) occurs approximately another six to eight weeks after the final draft is approved, online, by the author. Thus, a book with one revision and one week for shipping, without including any time for the review, may take up to 14 weeks time or more as per the website guidelines.

Costs and pricing[edit]

The retail price for the published item is determined based on printing costs, the author's selected profit margin, and the fee charged by the distributor for distributed items. Printing costs for books are correlated to the page count, paper size, binding type, and color or black-and-white print. The author's margin is partitioned into 80% for the author and 20% for Lulu. It follows that Lulu claims no commission if the work is offered free of royalties.[9][10] Lulu also offers free ISBN assignment and makes publications available on if the author so wishes. eBooks are also made available on iTunes and Barnes& at no charge to the author if they so desire.

While Lulu does not charge for uploading material, a number of other fee-related services are offered, including cover design, general marketing, and making publications available through Barnes& and other online retailers. Lulu also maintains an online store, "Lulu Marketplace," which offers publications for sale on their website at no up-front charge to the author, collects payments, and tracks royalties.[10]


Copyright remains with the author.[11] Depending on the distribution model chosen, it is possible to use open content licensing, such as GFDL or Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA and CC-0 licenses.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Lulu fact sheet" (Press release). 2008-11-09. 
  2. ^ a b Wolf, Alan M. (2009-11-04). " adding thousands of e-books by traditional authors". News & Observer. Retrieved 4 November 2009. 
  3. ^ Fenton, Howard (2007). "Self-Publish or Perish? The Implications of Digital Book Production". The Seybold Report: Analyzing Publishing Technologies 7 (5): 7–10. 
  4. ^ Fawcett, Anne (January 7, 2008). "Save face with a pet project". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 April 2008. 
  5. ^ a b Whitworth, Damian; Ella Stimson (March 8, 2006). "Publish and be downloaded". Times Online (Times Newspapers Limited, London). 
  6. ^ "Lulu com en UniversiaKnowledge". El Blog de Enrique Dans. January 15, 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2008. 
  7. ^ Ellen, Joan (December 15, 2007). "Vendors and Suppliers". Lulu forums. 
  8. ^ "How long until my order ships?". 
  9. ^ Lovell, Jeremy (December 26, 2006). "A Lulu of an idea". Toronto Star. 
  10. ^ a b Haugland, Ann (2006). "Opening the Gates: Print On-Demand Publishing as Cultural Production". Publishing Research Quarterly 22 (3): 3–16. doi:10.1007/s12109-006-0019-z. 
  11. ^ «You will retain the copyright for your Content» and «The Content owners who sell Content through Lulu retain ownership of the copyrights or other licenses in the Content. You agree not to allow any other party to: resell, redistribute, sublicense, assign, delegate, or otherwise transfer this Agreement, the Content, any part thereof, or any related rights or obligations hereunder, to any third party except as may be expressly allowed in the terms under which the Content is provided to you». "Lulu Membership Agreement".  §5. Publishing and Publishing Revenue and §11. Restrictions on Use of Content.

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