My first LuLu Experience…..(Pic Heavy)

So yesterday my first orders from LuLu.com came in.

For those who somehow aren’t aware of them, LuLu is Print on Demand (or POD) service for companies, publishers and independent authors to sell their books online. Anyone with a finished product can upload their PDFs to them, and charge a fee based on the cost of printing + the amount they tack on for profit. It’s not the best publishing solution, but, it has allowed many awesome indie writers (especially in the gamer market) to get some exposure and generate some side income for their works.

The orders in particular were hard copies of the role-playing games  Hearts & Souls and High Valor from Silverlion Studios.

These are both games I’ve had digital copies of prior. High Valor, as my regular readers already know, is a game I really enjoyed and I figured it was time I had a real hard copy and not just my PDF print outs.  At the time of ordering, LuLu was having a sale so I decided to toss in Tim Kirk’s super hero rpg as well.  This post isn’t going to be covering the games, but the quality of my LuLu purchases (since I’ve already seen the products in a digital format and home-printed.)

Right off the bat, the covers look damn good. The color of the artwork came out nice and rich. The hardback covers themselves are very sturdy, and from what I can tell the bind work on the spines appears more than adequate.  The pages of these titles were printed off in black and white, and the paper and print quality feels traditional. Neither used the glossy, full colored print jobs that you’d expect from WOTC or White-Wolf, but, they’re a finer stock than the pages I printed off at home. I would compare the books “feel” akin to, say, the original Spycraft book, or most 3rd party d20 books (not Paizo).

As for the quality of the printing, High Valor looked marvelous. The fonts printed across special scroll-parchment type backing didn’t conflict at all. Browsing through the book, all of the print looked clear to read (even the special hand-written fonts in some of the background stories were very, very legible) and it even appears more lavishly decorated (in a helping, not hindering way) than my preview copy I was originally sent. My one gripe, however, were the illustrations came out much, much darker in tone. Compared to my original home print outs, the illustrations lost a lot of detail in the darkening. It’s honestly a minor flaw, but very noticeable to me after using a PDF print out for so long. I don’t fault Silverlion Studios for this at all, and for all I know I could just happen to have “one of those copies.” It’s not major enough to send back or make me feel I didn’t get my money’s worth….but I felt it was worth mentioning for others who are curious about the quality of POD titles from LuLu can be.

My copy of Hearts & Souls, however, did have some interesting “quirks” to it. The big one I noticed was the first 20 or so pages didn’t appear to be fully cut in the production. I’m not sure if the photo to the left caught the details well (was using my phone), but I had to go between each page individually and carefully tear at the perforations like a kid opening a standardized test packet, trying delicately not to tear anything. I was successful but, if you look closely you can see the first few pages will always have that perforated texture to them.

That said, the print inside looked fine. Most of the images came out sharp, although some title fonts and a few sketches looked a tad pixelated. To be fair, this was Silverlion’s first published work, and the PDF is a bit older. He also has a second edition in the works, and after seeing the presentation done for High Valor, I have faith that any design issues in H&S will be improved drastically. That said, inspiring game writers (including myself) may want to take note how picky POD services will be with the quality of your document designs.

LuLu as a Service

I will say POD is not a feature to be used for the impatient. I placed my order on December 29th, and paid for slightly better shipping. My order arrived yesterday, on time mind you, on January 12th.  When purchasing from these guys, they give the disclaimer that it will take 5-8 days to print and prepare your order, followed by the shipping time. So if you order something on there just hoping to have it before a friend’s birthday or the next game-con, take this into consideration

The other factor is price.  The books on there may at times feel pricier, especially compared to more mainstream games backed by big publishers. The truth is LuLu does set a pretty price as the base cost for their books, and the writer trying to make anything off of it has to add on top of their fees. It’s the nature of the beast. That said, I do feel I got my money’s worth, and my books look far better than what I could have paid Staples to do for me (which wouldn’t hold a candle imo.)

As to whether or not I’ll order from LuLu again depends entirely on the specific product I’m ordering. Stuff like Labyrinth Lord, Mutant Future and the like I would probably more likely print off my own PDFs (maybe even consider purchasing the “full art” versions). Fuller, more stand alone games where a lot of work was put into them….I’d suck it up again and consider a LuLu copy, especially if it’s a game that becomes part of my regular rotation.

It does have me curious about DriveThru RPG’s print on demand service now, to see how well they’ll compete in terms of service, speed, quality and price. I was eyeballing a few older titles (SR 1st Edition being one of them)…..so expect a follow up post once I have additional money to toss.

I leave you guys with a pic of the world map printed on the back of High Valor, just because it came out AWESOME.

6 thoughts on “My first LuLu Experience…..(Pic Heavy)”

  1. We’ve used LULU for quite a while at Nevermet Press; and I’ve just recently received my OBS/RPGNow.com proof’s for their new POD service. The main difference between the two is the type of printer they use. Without getting too technical – RPGNow.com uses Lighting Source as their print service; LSI uses CMYK printers. Lulu uses sRBG printers. We’re talking color here; the big difference is that the LSI printed books have MUCH richer blacks that what you can get from LULU. So, assuming the publisher knows that there are differences in the process (see below), the RPGNow.com printed books have the potential to look MUCH better than Lulu (which IMHO is already really good).

    The tricky part is though is that the PDF you use for these two services has to be re-calibrated for each of them; depending on the color space the physical printers use (sRBG or CMYK) – if a publisher fails to do this for their pre-press PDFs – then the resulting books will look terrible. I made this mistake a long time ago with Open Game Table; and it took ordering 3 or 4 proofs before I figured it out. Hopefully the publishers who decide to use RPGNow’s print service will figure this out too – but I expect there’s going to be some challenges ahead for many of the other small press publishers out there.

    1. Awesome input, Mr. Jacobs! Thanks for dropping my blog and enlightening me on the printer differences between the two services!

      I also want to point out to readers: I am definitely NOT discouraging ordering from POD services or using them! Quite the opposite….I was impressed with the quality. I just wanted to deliver a heads up so folks aren’t taken back when using this alternative publishing service.

  2. My pleasure. I’m still relatively new at this whole POD thing myself – so I’m sure more experienced publishers would have far more to say. Nonetheless, I was VERY happy with Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom when I got back the proofs from Lulu.

    BTW – -have you looked to see if those games you bought were available through Amazon or B&N.com? Lulu distribution feeds into those channels and (strangely) shipping is WAY cheaper and often times the books come faster (but the publisher makes much less revenue). I dunno if SIlverlion uses a distributor or not; but it’s something to consider.

    1. To be honest I didn’t check; but I’d rather make sure as much of my cash goes into the authors’ pockets as possible when dealing with these things 🙂

  3. For years I’ve never really pursued printing my rpg (we all have one, right?), but when I heard of POD – I just thought was cool. Now all I have to worry about is art!

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