Publishing through Lulu
I've made the following disclaimer elsewhere and I'll make it again -- I am in no way affiliated with Lulu; I don't work for them, don't get paid by them, don't make a dime if you use them and don't care if you use somebody else. Personally I've used them twice with great results. They're who I know, and come recommended by me.
So you've written a book, designed your own cover, and are now ready to become a published author. "Look at me, look at me!" you cry, waving your arms ... but it seems no one is listening. You mail out a dozen (or a hundred) samples of your writing -- half of the publishers send you rejection letters, the other half never even bother to contact you. Now what?
There are many reasons to self-publish your work. #narrow interest genre, first time writer, no one is interested.. Just because you haven't caught the attention of an editor or publisher doesn't mean you don't deserve to have your work read.
Lulu is a "print-on-demand" publishing company. This is different from a "Vanity Press," which has a negative connotation. A vanity press is a publisher that will print your book or include your work (a poem or a short story) in a compilation for a free. Print-on-Demand, on the other hand, is a system where a company (in this case: Lulu) prints books as they are ordered. Lulu charges customers a per-book printing price, but you pay no money up front. There are discounts for large orders, but you can order as few as a single copy of your book! Obviously the printing cost for a single book will be higher than what you could get from going through a conventional printing house, but many print shops require customers to buy hundreds if not thousands of copies of their book and pay for them up front. If you go this route you had better hope your book sells well -- otherwise you're going to end up with a lot of stocking stuffers for friends and family!
If you plan on self-publishing your book through Lulu the first thing you will want to do is decide what size of book you plan to print. Both of my books were 6x9, but there are other sizes available. After you decide on a size you'll want to download the corresponding templates. You can either write your book directly in the template, or do like I did and simply cut/paste your work into Lulu's template files. In the same section of the site you will find Lulu templates for book covers as well.
#when finished, upload you work.
Once your entire project has been uploaded to Lulu, it's time to decide how you want to sell your book. You can either sell the book through Lulu itself, sell the book through other online retailers (Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.), or you can order copies and sell the book on your own. Each of these three methods have multiple advantages and disadvantages, some of which I will list now.
Selling through Lulu.com: If you set your project to public, Lulu.com automatically sets up a page where you can sell your book. The biggest advantage of this method is that sales are completely hands-off for you. After a customer purchases your book, your profits are figured up for you and once a month they are deposited into your bank account or PayPal account. The disadvantage of this method is, Lulu charges 20% of your profits for this service. This is on top of your set printing fee. For example, let's say your book costs $6 to print and you sell it for $16. Whenever someone buys your book through Lulu.com, Lulu will take $6, plus 20% of your $10 profit ($2) for a total of $8. In this particular example, the customer pays $16 (plus shipping), Lulu keeps $8, and at the end of the month you would also receive $8.
Selling through Online Retailers (Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, etc.):
(###Under Construction, but here's the gist: due to handling fees, I make ~$1 per book sold through Amazon. To make money by selling through Amazin, you'll need to sell in bulk.)
Selling On Your Own:
(###Under Construction, but here's the gist: more work going back and forth to the post office, but ultimately the most profitable.)
Regardless of which method you pursue, I'm sure you'll be ordering at least one of your books for yourself, and let me tell you, there's nothing more gratifying that opening that package and touching a physical copy of your book for the first time. You did it! You wrote a real book!