I’ve just spent all day getting the hardback version of The Glittering Cage ready on Lulu.com.
Lulu do make producing a book remarkably easy. They convert your Word document to PDF and you just have to make sure the page size of your document matches the size of book you’re producing.They even have a cover design wizard which is very simple to use (though the results are distinctly amateur).
However, if you want more control over the cover design, you have to produce a full image consisting of the front and back faces, the spine, and for a hardback, the inside flaps as well. And here you have to be very precise. The front and back covers have to be exactly 1913×2850 pixels (for a 6″x9″ book), and the spine width has to be calculated according to how many pages are in the book (354 pixels in my case for 457 pages). You then have to combine these five elements into a single image which must be 300 dpi (dots per inch) or it will look blocky when printed. And then you have to generate an ISBN number, download the barcode image of it, and add it to the full cover image. You also need to allow a bleed edge around the whole thing to allow for the printer trimming the paper wrap cover.
It’s not a process for the faint of heart and requires some basic knowledge of graphics packages like Photoshop or PaintShop Pro. Even then, you really need to buy a review copy to check. And if you find you got it wrong, that’s £15 or so wasted.
The Print On Demand (POD) industry of which Lulu is one of the best is a quite remarkable tool for authors, and quite liberating. The only downside is the cost as printing a single copy of a book is bound to be expensive compared to the large productions runs the traditional publishers use.