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How to Self-Publish a Book

Updated on March 2, 2019
The cover of my book
The cover of my book

It's not as hard as you think!

Writing has always been something I have loved to do. It's gives me the chance to do what I want, put the things in my mind on paper, be creative and pretty, and change all the endings to the movies I hate.

And while it's rewarding in itself to write, it's also nice to see my writing really polished and in a form that everyone can appreciate. It feels good to say that my book has been published. And it's not difficult to get it published either.

When I knew I would publish my book I realized that I just wanted to end up with a nice pocket-sized paperback. I didn't want to deal with agents or major publishers or costs upwards of $299 (for the cheapest package, in which I would end up with 10 books if I participated at that certain moment in time). Lulu, the technology printer I found, was perfect for me.

Below are the steps that I took to get my book, Merciful, published for free (because I'm really cheap and I don't have the time or faith to send transcripts all over the world for my little 128-page book). The approach I took was easy, fast, and not expensive... because it was free. If you want to take this approach, read on.

PDF of my book cover
PDF of my book cover

Publishing a book... the easy way

There are lots of bells and whistles that you can add when publishing your book. I just wanted to do it the fast, easy, cheap way, so that's the method I'm going to explain.

Broken down, this is how I published my book:

1) Write it.

I started this before I even considered having it published. I'd been writing it for nearly five years, since I was 14 years old. By the time I was 19 I had decided I wanted it in book form, so I could take it in my hands and turn the pages like other stories I'd read. It was written, rewritten, and rewritten again. It was ready to be published.

2) Find or create a cover for your book.

I had envisioned several different covers for my book as I was nearing the end of the writing process. I had drawn up a few different ones but finally decided I just wanted something simple. Whether you draw a cover, create one from pictures or photos, or have someone else help you, make sure you at least have an idea of what you want, because Lulu will have lots of templates to choose from if you don't make one up yourself completely.

Also, don't forget about the little blurbs on the back cover or the jacket sleeves, if you want them.

3) Go to Lulu and read up on stuff.

I spend a lot of time on Lulu poring over information about copyrights and ISBNs, costs, and so on. By the time I had finished I realized that I just wanted to write my book and not worry about ISBNs (which you basically need if you want to have your book sold in stores or online... they cost so much per year, depending on how many books you plan to sell). You can also get a copyright at though Lulu says, "US law states that every work is automatically copyrighted, whether you register it or not. You're claiming your work is your copyright when you agree to publish it on Lulu. According to US law, when you say it's yours, it is." But if you want a real copyright, go to

4) Start publishing with the basic information.

Create an account with Lulu and get started. They have lots of big buttons on their site, like the "Start a New Project" button. Then I went to "Paperback book." It will then ask for the title, author name, description, access level (teen, adult, etc.) and so on.

5) Upload and convert.

Upload the PDF of the pages of your book. Look at the sizes that Lulu can make your book into. I wanted my 4.25" x 6.875" so when I was writing my book on Word I made the pages smaller. Look at their format specifications and that will help you along. Since you'll have to convert your text to PDF use CutePDF -

You're going to have to embed the fonts when you're converting to PDF. To do this, follow the instructions here:

6). Binding & colors.

Lulu will ask what kind of binding you want. I chose perfect-bound because it was the cheapest. Each kind shows how much each book will be individually.

7) Cover art.

The next step asks to upload the cover. I chose to upload a PDF of the front, back, and side, but you can also take their templates and sample pictures and use them for the covers. If you do that you can decide what to have written on the covers. The whole thing can be coloured for free. The way I did it, Lulu will tell you how to format your cover according to the size. I made my cover from scratch, so I had to follow their measurements and specifications exactly to make sure that it would fit and the side would end up on the side and so on. For instance,

  • Your cover file must be a PDF
  • Your spine should be 15.36 Postscript points wide (0.21")
  • Your entire cover should be 645.36 X 513 Postscript points (8.96" X 7.13")
  • Your spine will begin at 315 Postscript points (4.375") from the edge of your cover

Those were my specifications, so I had to follow the when I was creating my cover on Photoshop.

8) Price and finish.

This is where you set how much the book will be, depending on the price set when you chose your book size and binding type, and then if you want royalties (if you want royalties that will add to the price of the book). I didn't want royalties so my book stayed the same price. You can also set a price to have it downloaded if you want to have it available to be downloaded instead of printed and shipped.

This is where you can also set the license, if you want one.

9) All done.

Now go order a copy for yourself and be happy!

Basic questions about Lulu, answered by Lulu

What is POD (print on demand)?

Print on demand (POD) is a method of producing books or other media (such as CDs and DVDs) one at a time. With print on demand, a printer produces hard copies of a book from a digital file. That way, the book is only printed when someone buys it. With Lulu, an author gives us a digital file of the book and we create a print-ready version of the file. When a customer buys that book from Lulu, our printer prints that copy (or copies) and ships it within days.

POD is different from mass market publishing. Traditional publishers generally print thousands of copies of a given book all at once. This creates a lower cost per copy, but it requires a large publishing company that can foot the bill for all that printing and storage up front. Publishers take most of the money from book sales, and the author gets only a little bit. Lulu gives you financial control by making it possible and profitable to print a single copy.

Is Lulu appropriate for printing just a few copies?

Certainly. There is no requirement to purchase a book, CD or DVD and no minimum order. Your customers can make their own purchases, or you can simply purchase the copies you need and distribute them yourself.

How much does it cost to use Lulu?

Publishing through Lulu is free. There is no set-up fee and no requirement that you buy copies of your work. One of the primary advantages of Lulu is that you don't have to invest any money up front — you can publish your work for free on Lulu and then market it to all and sundry. When someone wants to buy your content, Lulu handles the transaction and pays you the creative revenue you specified.

Lulu takes a small commission when someone else buys your content. Lulu's commission consists of a small markup of the amount you set as your creative revenue. The purchase price of books, calendars, CDs and DVDs also includes a base cost for the raw materials and printing service.

What rights does Lulu have over my work?

Lulu is designed to give control directly to the creators and owners of content. When publishing on Lulu, you hold copyright over all of your content, and we never ask you to give up any rights to us. We want to do whatever we can to discourage the violation of intellectual property rights. The Content section of the Member Agreement outlines your rights and Lulu's rights in this regard.

How does Lulu make money? Is this a scam?

Our revenue comes from a small commission on the profits of each item sold. Lulu only makes money if you do.

As a creator, you set the amount of Creator Revenue on the items you publish. The Lulu commission is 25% of the Creator Revenue you set (or 19¢, whichever is greater). The Lulu commission therefore equals 20% of the total profit of each item sold.

For example, if your Creator Revenue is $4.00, we add a $1.00 Lulu commission. The total profit from the item is $5.00.

$1.00 is 25% of $4.00 (your Creator Revenue) and 20% of $5.00 (the total profit).

This leaves 80% of the total profit to you, the creator! In traditional publishing, it's rare for an author to see even 20% of the total markup.

Because we support the free and open exchange of information, if you decide not to get a Creator Revenue, we also waive our commission. The selling price of your printed book, calendar, CD or DVD will be its production cost only; download versions are free.

How can I get my book listed on Amazon and Barnes & Noble?

Lulu offers two fee-based distribution options that will send your book through our unique network in the global marketplace. This network reaches online retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Once you have published your book on Lulu, you will be given the option to purchase one of these mutually-exclusive services for your book.


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    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      8 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I also have a book on Lulu, both in hardback and paperback, which I did to keep the cost to the buyer within reasonable reach. But I only have ebooks on amazon. I think the profit margin is better with them for ebooks.

      Congratulations on your book. I look forward to reading it.

    • htodd profile image


      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks a lot glassvisage,Interesting post

    • RVDaniels profile image


      9 years ago from Athens, GA

      Thanks. There is a lot of useful information here for self publishing. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!

    • cashmere profile image


      9 years ago from India

      Thanks for this informative Hub. I was looking for self publishing websites and Lulu seems to be quite popular

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northern California

      Deborah, thanks for sharing that resource!

    • profile image

      Deborah Toyin Longe 

      9 years ago

      This is really informative and straight to the point. Excellent piece! I will be working with Createspace, for the simple reason that I don't want lulu listed as the publisher on my books, and that's the only option they have for a size 4.25 x 6.875. I've worked so hard on my books to have another company claim the credit (lol). Lulu will only be printing and partially distributing the books - don't see how that makes them the 'Publisher'. Thanks Much!

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you Winsome, and best of luck Christin! Lulu is very easy to use and I hope that you find it helpful!

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 

      9 years ago from Midwest

      This was a great hub. I have looked into Lulu previously, but have never quite fully finished that manuscript of mine. I plan to get cracking and finishing/publishing a book of my own really soon though!

    • Winsome profile image


      9 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      GV I'm glad you stopped by one of my hubs--it's good to meet you and after reading all 451 of your hubs I feel I can handle anything life throws at me....ok I only read this one, but I hope to get to the other 450 soon. Thanks for a lovely learning experience. I'm trying to have fun and educate at the same time with a few serial hubs--Murder by Chatroulette is an excuse for me to talk about interesting places with a little intrigue thrown in. Cheers. =:)

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks Simone!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Great advice! It was fun to go through the steps as you've outlined them, imagining what it would be like if I were to self-publish a book someday. Man... what a great deal of work!

      I appreciate your tips on copyright and the lowdown on Lulu. What a helpful Hub! Thanks for writing it!

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


      10 years ago

      OMG! Thank you! Thank you! This is exactley what I have been struggling with. I needed a step by step holding my hand while going through this process. The explanation about coverting to PDF is greatly appreciated. You are so cool! Big hugs! and deep gratitude!

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A Johnson 

      10 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      I've been doing a lot of research about this topic and was glad to see your hub here. I appreciate all the info on Lulu. Also looking into Smashwords. Thanks for an informative hub.

    • Cumulonimbus profile image


      10 years ago from Buffalo,NY

      thank you! every writer needs to read this

    • Heart Felt Book profile image

      Cheri Taylor 

      10 years ago from New York, NY

      this was great the hub..i signed up for lulu but havenot publish yet..but now i will follow through thanks

    • GALAXY 59 profile image

      Galaxy Harvey 

      10 years ago from United Kingdom

      Very usfull and informative hub. I have two novel length stories already written and have been looking around for ways to get them published and out there. This hub and the comments have given me lots of ideas. Thank you for making this great hub.

    • Lita C. Malicdem profile image

      Lita C. Malicdem 

      10 years ago from Philippines

      Ohh, this is great! I'll recommend this hub for all its details to friends who want to self-publish, too. I'm not good at writing volumes, myself. Thank you.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      To get a book published cheap the best I have found is which is a subsidiary of

      "Getting Back To The American Dream" was an idea for a book less than 2 months ago. Now, for less than $100 (and most of that was 2 express shipping charges) I just saw the book listed on Amazon for the first time about 2 minutes ago. It has its own ISBN number.

      I got tired of waiting around for an editor or proofreader to become available. I read the book 4 times myself and changed about 15 minor mistakes on that 4th read. I "approved" the second Proof copy and two days later the book is available on Amazon. It was amazing! Feels good!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I have to admit though this hub isn't unique in content, it is more detailed in "literally" explaining what one has to do. Other hubs and articles about self-publishing simple "tell" what SP is, where you kinda "showed" WHAT TO DO. That single element sets your hub apart from the other redundant ones "attempting to enlighten" people on "how" to SP (in which they absolutely don't).

      Good job. Thanks for being "specific" and not vague.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      10 years ago from Wales

      Your hub is really useful and I'm voting it up. I am pretty new to sharing my writing and therefore hubs such as yours are priceless. I will also be bookmarking it for future reference. Thank you for sharing this very useful information. I will be back in a bit to read some more of your work. Take care.

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you all for your comments! film critic, I have not published anything with Lulu since, but I would still recommend it from my prior experience.

    • film critic profile image

      film critic 

      10 years ago

      Nice Hub. So now that the hub is 3 years old - and your book has been with them for three years - do you have any further insite into the Lulu process? Have you published other books with them? Thanks!

    • veejay23 profile image


      10 years ago from South Africa

      Good post and very informative, I like it

      God bless

    • Garrett Mickley profile image

      Garrett Mickley 

      11 years ago from Jupiter, Florida

      Awesome, thank you! My site is looking to publish a book and we want to self publish, so this helps out a lot!

    • theherbivorehippi profile image


      11 years ago from Holly, MI

      This was very helpful information! Thanks!

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 

      11 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      This is a good Hub on getting self-published! Lulu seem to cover all the bases!

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you Rebecca, Halley, and global for your comments! Authors, I've never heard of Create Space, but that's great to know!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      You're on spot with your detailed advice. Let me add that Create Space is even easier that LuLu. As for book sales, I learned early on publishers (small to mega-weights) DO NOT sell authors' books. They include them in their catalogs, on their websites and display them at book tradeshows BUT they don't sell them (exception: text books).

      Writers need an "author's platform" and why I am using AuthorBook to talk about how to sell books in today's market. Your Hub is super - thanks.

    • globaltechsource profile image


      11 years ago

      very informative- great read

    • halleyhoops profile image


      11 years ago from west palm beach

      this was exactly what i needed to read.

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 

      11 years ago from Canada

      lulu is the name I've seen a lot when I mention self-publishing but I didn't know much about until now thanks!

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Northern California

      Fair enough, Singular Investor. That's the case for me!

    • Singular Investor profile image

      Singular Investor 

      11 years ago from Oxford

      Lulu is certainly interesting but as far as I know people don't sell many books - most books are bought by the author or his friends and family

    • Kimberly Bunch profile image

      Kimberly Bunch 

      11 years ago from EAST WENATCHEE

      Great stuff! Here's what I wrote on writing:

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks everyone! I hope that you can see how easy it can be to publish : ) Good luck, everyone!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      WOW - coincidence. I was asking around if anyone knew anything about and here is your hub. Thank you so much. I am on my second edit for my book and I wanted to get some feedback on which publishing company to go with.


    • anujagarwal profile image

      Anuj Agarwal 

      11 years ago from Noida

      Very Informative Hub. I am writing a book and was having no idea about how to get it published. Your hub gave me good information and encouragement. Thanks glassvisage.

    • Judy Cullins profile image

      Judy Cullins 

      12 years ago from La Mesa, CA

      Excellent Hub!

      I would like to add that even POD publishing can be costly and writing ebooks offers an even less expensive route with more control.

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      how would a little kid publish a book

    • Marti profile image


      14 years ago from Grain Valley

      I've published two books through Lulu and was very pleased with the results. I used their PDF converter. I just had to format my Word document to the correct size, as you stated.

      Great information - thanks for sharing!

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 

      14 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Thank you for this information. I have a couple of half finished book projects sitting on the backburner mainly for lack of knowing how to proceed. Your Hub is encouraging me to reconsider and get moving on these again. Thanks

    • The Lokaine Narra profile image

      The Lokaine Narra 

      14 years ago

      This is a wonderful blog detailing step-by-step how to become published.

      Thank you for taking the time to write about the experience and to bring into focus

      the behind-the-scenes mysteries of the self-publishing industry.



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