For independent authors looking to increase their bottom line and build a base of loyal readers, it’s all about branding, baby. And there’s no better partner than to help authors achieve their goals—it’s a one-stop shop for publishing, printing, and marketing. With its 20-year time-tested suite of free online tools, Lulu published half a million books in 2021.

Like other print-on-demand services, Lulu allows authors to publish to online and bricks-and-mortar marketplaces like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as to its own online company store. But a big part of what makes Lulu’s service special is the opportunity it offers authors to integrate direct sales into their distribution plan.

As Lulu brand engagement manager Chelsea Bennett says, “As the name suggests, direct sales offer an opportunity to connect directly with readers. You’re selling your book to them, not a faceless third party. Making a direct connection with your audience can have immense social and financial implications for your author brand.”

Lulu lets authors connect their websites to easy-to-use storefronts such as Shopify and WooCommerce, and then automates the printing and fulfillment process. Before the launch of these e-commerce integrations, if authors wanted to sell online, they had to do so either through a distribution channel or by fulfilling orders by hand in their free time. “Now you don’t have to worry about inventory or packing parties or guesstimating who bought your book through Amazon,” Bennett says. “With direct sales, you own your customer data, make more revenue per sale, and take control of your author brand.”

And creators can learn a lot from Lulu. “It all comes down to looking at your authorship as a business,” Bennett says. “Don’t work so hard to build an audience just to send them off to another website to buy your book. Keep your readers on your website and encourage them to sign up for your email list so you can stay in touch and let them know about upcoming projects.” Lulu can even help authors learn about search engine optimization, ad buying, creating a successful customer service strategy, and keeping up-to-date on ever-changing consumer trends.

“We have educational material available for all aspects of marketing, because that is such a huge part of being a successful author,” Bennett says. “You can find a ton of videos about marketing and author branding on our YouTube channel—just search for Lulu University—and we also have a fantastic blog that is updated every week with the latest tips and information to help authors succeed.”
But product creation is important, too. “On Lulu, we offer several resources to help our authors make something really wonderful,” Bennett says. “From guides and templates to blog posts, help articles, and video tutorials, we provide content around every stage of the publishing process.” Lulu offers an amazing 3,201 different product configurations. “Hardcover, paperback, saddle stitch, coil bound, we have it all,” Bennett says. And the company’s printing services aren’t limited just to books, either. Authors can use Lulu to create calendars, comic books, cookbooks, e-books, journals, magazines, photo books, and yearbooks, as well.

The company is also proud of its certification as a B Corporation. “By definition, it’s a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors ranging from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials,” Bennett says. “What this means to us is that there is more to life than a bottom line. If we really want to be successful, our employees, customers, and community have to be successful, too. We care about our impact on the planet and we care about our impact on people.”

At its heart, Lulu is all about storytelling, Bennett says. “Through stories we learn more about ourselves and the planet we share,” she says. “And the more you learn about this awesome place and the people who inhabit it, the more important it is to be a good steward for both.” And Lulu has no plan to deviate from its motto “publish, print, prosper.” “We will continue to invest in building tools for authors that put them in control and allow for meaningful connections with their readers,” Bennett says.