The elusive hard copy – Lulu vs. Createspace

Well, the ebook version of my novel ‘The Artemis Effect’ has been out for a while, and I have been working behind the scenes to try and get the book out in hard copy versions.

Finally, after much gnashing of teeth, both hardcover and paperback proof versions are on their way across the waters to me! Hoorah! I’ll try and post some  images of the quality when they arrive.

I’ve read other people’s posts on the pros and cons of Lulu versus Createspace, but all these posts seem to miss some of the big differences I’ve found between them, so here is my two bobs-worth. For those who don’t know, both firms are POD (Print on Demand) publishers. There may be other players out there, but these are the two I’m trying out. The information below is based on my personal experience with each of them, so let me know if I have misunderstood something, or if you found things very different. 🙂


*  Will only make paperbacks. If you want a hardback version, you need to go elsewhere.

*  Their templates for formatting the interior come in two different styles: one leaves you more or less to your own devices (this is the one I went with), and the other is much more prescriptive, in that it suggests where the copyright page, dedications etc should go.

*  Their process seems pretty easy to understand, and I didn’t find conflicting information in different places.

*  They don’t have a calculator to work out the cost of manufacturing until you have uploaded everything. (See later note on Lulu’s calculator.)

*  Covers can be produced in two ways. Either you can ask the program to produce the template for your specific book, with all the necessary margins and bleed areas once you have uploaded the interior (for example, it takes into account how thick the spine will be based on the number of pages), and then you can provide a wrap-around cover to those specifications in pdf format. This is the way I went, with the assistance of my wonderful cover artist, Richard Morden. Createspace can provide an ISBN and barcode and will position this for you on the cover.

Alternatively, you can use Createspace’s cover wizard, which is pretty prescriptive in terms of cover design – where to put the title, your name, etc. If you think of the templates loaded into Powerpoint or Keynote then you’ll have some idea of the look of these covers. Most of them looked pretty ordinary to me, but perhaps with dedication you can do it well.

*  Createspace require an EIN or ITIN before you can put your book out there. This means tackling the frightening world of the American tax system, which for me meant a slightly terrifying phone call to a zombie lady in the middle of the night. I can only hope that I’ve done it right!

*  The price of paperbacks on Createspace is much more reasonable. Mine will be retailing for about $14.95 US, which I hope is within sensible limits.

*  Createspace only print in the US, as far as I can tell, so it can take a while for proofs and orders to arrive (up to 33 days to Australia!), although you can pay more for shipping and get them sooner.

*  Createspace are associated with Amazon, but you can also opt for wider distribution (including to bookshops and libraries) for another $25.


*  Lulu will produce a much wider range of formats, shapes and sizes than Createspace, which is why I have approached them to produce my hardback. There are even a couple of options on how you want the hardback cover (with a dust jacket or casewrap). It’s worth noting that the sizes of paperback they make are not necessarily the same as for Createspace, so you may, as I did, end up formatting the interior of the book multiple times.

*  The information provided by Lulu, when you get into it, is sometimes conflicting or confusing. It seems like they started out with it being clean, and then over time it has become muddled. Someone on my team described their help as “a mindf**k”.

*  The creation of the cover is a bit trickier in some ways. If you want to use their standard cover wizard, then it is much better than the one at Createspace. However, it all gets more interesting if you want a wrap-around cover. They will provide templates, but apparently they are a bit confusing.
If you produce the artwork for a wrap-around,  then you also have to produce your own barcode, whereas if you simply add cover art for front and back covers, then Lulu will generate and position a barcode for you. However, you are then limited to having a single cover spine (any colour you like), and their very limited range of fonts for the title. Some of their fonts would make a graphic designer weep, but there are some simple ones too which are OK.

*  There is a price calculator on the Home Page, but I found it very misleading, possibly inaccurate. Initially, before I uploaded everything, it seemed to say that the cost of manufacturing my paperback was $13. When I’d jumped through all the hoops, and finally got to the pricing page, with would not allow me to sell the book for less than $27! Frankly, I would be astonished if anyone would take a chance on a relatively unknown author’s paperback at that price. The extra partly came from retail markup, but the manufacturing cost had also mysteriously risen to nearly $20. The cost of their hardback version was much more in keeping with what I’d expect.

*  Lulu also provide a template for formatting the interior. It was the ‘basic’ version, in that they didn’t try to tell me which bit to put where, but had standard styles, and the correct page size and margins, which I found fine.

*  Lulu print in other places than the US, so if you are worried about carbon-miles, then it’s worth checking to see if they print in your country. This also cuts down the delivery times and postage costs if you are not in the US.

*  Like Amazon for Kindle, Lulu will let you release a book without having given them a EIN or ITIN from the tax department. Both will withhold 30% of your royalties until you do so, but you can get it out there without facing the tax zombies.

*  Lulu seem to provide your book to the market as soon as it is uploaded, whereas Createspace want you to approve a proof version before it hits the shelves.

*  Lulu have an Expanded distribution network also, but it costs a bit more at $75 US.

So, that’s my experience with the two publishers. I’d love to hear what you found if you have published with them (especially anything I should be looking out for!) 🙂

Fingers crossed they will be good quality – I’m really looking forward to holding my novel in my hands!


7 thoughts on “The elusive hard copy – Lulu vs. Createspace

  1. This is really exciting for you! I hope it all goes well too, I’m interested in hearing your follow-up!
    Is there a blog post somewhere where you explain why you chose to go the independent route with publishing? I’d like to read your thoughts on it.

  2. Great information – thank you! It’s good to know hard copies are possible. I had seen that you can’t do those with Createspace and never bothered to look any further. I’m sure it’ll feel great when you hold those books in your hands!

  3. Hello Kasia,

    Really appreciate your having written this blog post, as it’s been helpful to my partner, Mufidah, and me. However, as I noticed it was written in Oct 2012, I wonder if you’ve come to any solid conclusion at this point as to which of the two (CreateSpace v. Lulu) you’d suggest going with, particularly for paperback editions?

    Thank you in advance, Kasia. Also, if you’d like to learn more about our writing, photography, slow traveling, etc., here are Mufidah’s and my blogs:

    With warm regards,

    Sean & Mufidah

    • Hi Sean,
      Glad you found it useful! It’s a bit of a maze finding your way through it all. I’d probably recommend Createspace over Lulu for a paperback, although if you live outside the US, it can take a while for them to come in the post. If you would like a hardcover version though, go with Lulu, as at this stage, as far as I am aware, Createspace are paperback only. Hope this helps! 🙂

      • Thank you so much, Kasia. That’s very helpful, indeed, particularly as I have a paperback edition in mind. And while (despite being an American) I do, in fact, live outside the US, it’s still relevant given that it’s the largest single prospective market for my book. So delivery time shouldn’t be a problem. Thanks, again, and best wishes with your writing, etc.

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