How to Self-Publish a Book of Your Art At Lulu

In the November 2008 issue of Art Calendar magazine, Diana Moses Botkin wrote about self-publishing a book of your art. Here, as a supplement to the printed piece, artist Bob Bissett shares his experience with self-publishing through Lulu.com.

I recently published a book of my art at Lulu.com. In this article, you’ll find how to use lulu.com’ s print-on-demand Web site to publish the art book you’ve wanting to do. It’s a great way to impress friends, family, collectors and galleries. While there are many print-on-demand companies out there, Lulu is one of the most popular with artists.

PROS of Lulu: No upfront costs, no inventory, no requirement to buy copies; no orders to fill, and you can revise any time. They also put the books up for sale on their Web site, and give you an ISBN option.

CONS of Lulu: Each book cost more than if you order a run of thousands elsewhere. If you must have the highest quality publishing Lulu, is not for you. You need good computer skills. There are limited sizes and formats.

The Concept: Unless you are a professional book designer, find a book you really like and borrow the layout. Modify as needed. Do a search on Lulu for art books: some are very nicely done.

The Tools: I used MS Publisher 2002 and Paintshop Pro PhotoXI. Do some research to find the best prices. Publisher is easy to learn and easy to use. MS Word will work, too. Paintshop is way cheaper than Photoshop, and you will still be able edit your images very well.

The Web site: Before you start, spend some time reading theinfo on lulu.com. This is a DIY project, and Lulu has a huge amount of information to help you. Start on the “Help” page. You’ll see links for the “First Time Visitor,” “Top Questions,” “Lulu Support Forums” and many others. You don’t have to sign up or log in until the time comes to publish. Lulu has service providers that can help with every step for a fee, if you need it.

My Example: Last summer, I published a 78-page book of my paintings. You can go to lulu.com and search for “bissett” to see it. The hardcover is priced at $40, of which Lulu gets $28. Thepaperback is $20, with $15 of that for Lulu. The pdf version is downloadable at $3; Lulu takes 25 percent or $.75. I could have made the PDF free, if I chose.

There is also a free low-resolution preview. I laid out the book as an 8.5” x 11” landscape format. Then I found out it had to be portrait format. Since all the text and images were finished, it didn’t take long to redo. A hardcover is either casewrap or dust jacket. The actual size of the layout should be 8.25” x 10.75”. The cover will be a little bigger and the pages a little smaller. If you have trouble with that odd size, lettersize will work.

Options for binding a paperback include perfect binding, coil or saddle stitch, the full sheet size.

Cover art must be uploaded as a separate file. You’ll need professional quality photos of your work. You can do that yourself probably with the digital camera you already have. They suggest images be uploaded at 300 dpi. I assumed they meant 300 ppi and that worked okay, though it may be overkill. Use your photo editing software to adjust the size of each image in inches, as required for your layout. Then insert it into the document. Some of my pictures were taken with a Nikon D70 at 300 ppi and some with a Canon S1 IS at 180 ppi. The 180’s I resized to 300 ppi with bicubic resampling. I can see no difference between the two. I suspect 100 ppi would be enough.

Bottom Line: The books are well made, and the pictures are a good representation of the originals. Allow a couple weeks for the paperbacks to arrive, and three weeks for hardcover.

Lulu offers a pretty good product for the price and convenience, and the company is good to deal with. In my case, an order of five paperbacks did arrive damaged. It looked like the box had been dropped from 10 feet, right on the corner. However, I filed a claim, sent in pictures of the damage, and they sent five more. This time, though, they arrived with streaking on the covers. I filed another claim and sent pictures. They said if I would change the color of the cover, they’d send five more. I guess gray is the hardest color to print successfully. That’s why the paperback has a different cover.

Overall, I’m pleased with the books, and I like to have them available for sale at shows. I also make sure major collectors have a copy, as well as galleries. Bulk discounts are offered on orders more than 25. A 50-book order saves seven percent; order a hundred and save 11 percent. Shipping for one paperback is more than $12. For about a dollar more, you can ship five books.

Be sure you download the free 300-page “Self-Publish on Lulu” guide.The first time you make a book, it can be confusing and frustrating. Exercise patience; it will work. AC