Since its founding in 2002, Lulu has helped more than one million authors publish their own books and reach global audiences. With its current print-on-demand service, global distribution partnerships, and the Lulu bookstore, the company continues to enable the careers of thousands of authors every year. But after publishing so many titles—and watching self-publishing grow into a widely popular and powerful way for authors and businesses to spread their stories and ideas—the company realized it was time for a big refresh.

"Our current platform had become outdated and was not meeting the needs of our community as efficiently as it had in the past," says Matt Briel, Lulu v-p of marketing. "Our decision was to do a total rebuild! The first thing we wanted to tackle was finding a more efficient and agile way to communicate with our print facilities all over the world. The obvious choice was a new set of APIs. Given the customized and entrepreneurial needs of many of our users, we decided to make it an open-source API so that users could also tap directly into our print network and automate their print and fulfillment processes."

For users who needed an easier way to integrate, the Lulu xPress app was built, in partnership with Shopify, to utilize the open-source Print API. The integration with Shopify, the popular e-commerce platform, lets authors sell books directly from their own sites, without having to send prospective buyers to other sites to make a purchase. Together, these tools give authors more control over how they sell, promote, and distribute their books directly to their audience.

Lulu still offers the option for authors to sell books through the Lulu bookstore, with Lulu printing the books, fulfilling the orders, and giving authors 80% of the revenue, among other distribution options. However, when authors use the open-source Print API and the xPress app for Shopify, Lulu serves as the printer only, passing 100% of the revenue on to creators. "Continuing to develop and innovate our platform with open-source is just a natural progression of Lulu's mission to empower creators to prosper, whatever that might look like for them," Briel says. "Our open-source Print API is allowing authors, entrepreneurs, businesses, nonprofits, and others to save time, earn more money per sale, and maintain total control of their brand."

The decision to create new ways for authors to utilize Lulu's tools was made in response to the evolution of self-publishing. "The quality of self-published books has dramatically improved since 2002," Briel says. "Today you can go into a bookstore and put a self-published book right beside a traditionally published book and, in most cases, have no idea which is which. The technology and mentality have come a long way."

And authors are taking advantage of this shift in perception. "Self-publishing is quickly becoming the go-to method for authors, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and creatives alike to try out new ideas and diversify income," Briel says. "Social media has also played a big role in the evolution of self-publishing. Creators have more resources than ever to build their brand and connect with their audience on a personal level. The ability to meet readers where they are has immensely improved both marketing efforts and book sales."

Briel says there's more in store for Lulu users: "Be on the lookout for a completely new Lulu experience this year!" And, he says, the company is committed to being "a force for good, not only by removing barriers to publishing but also through a commitment to sustainable practices, transparency, and accountability. And we hope others in the industry will do the same." Through its evolution, Lulu is equipping authors with all the tools they need to achieve their publishing goals.

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