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Review of Lulu.com for creating a journal

Here I’m reviewing Lulu, a self-publishing company, for the purposes of creating a personal journal.

I wanted to create my own journal with a format that suited me, and it was surprisingly difficult to find somewhere that would do that at a cheap price point. Finally, I found Lulu.  In the past I had created personal items using Blurb, but that involved downloading software which wasn’t the easiest to use. I wanted something where I could just do it using a web browser.

With Lulu, I was able to create a Word type of document, convert it to PDF, and then upload it to Lulu. Boom – that’s the interior done! It took me less than 30 minutes to handle all aspects of the interior of the document. As you’ll soon see though, I found it a little more frustrating to create the cover, but it still worked out beautifully.

Here are the pros and cons of using Lulu for creating a personal journal:

Pros

  1. Easy to use. The whole process is pretty self-explanatory. There are 3 steps: 1. you have a Word document, 2. you convert it to PDF (you can do that step in less than 1 minute from within Word), and 3. upload it to Lulu. It takes virtually no time at all.
  2. They have a Word template document to get you started. The template is optional, but I found it to be a huge help: simply select the size of item you wish to create and there’s a matching template that you can use for your Word/Office/Whatever document. This means you’ll wind up with appropriate mirror-imaging of odd and even pages: the page numbers on the outside of the page; the larger margin on the bound side, etc.
  3. No cost unless you actually order something to be physically printed and shipped to you. No subscription cost, no nothing to get started – just create your item.
  4. Very fast and easy to use to create the interior of your document. 
  5. Able to support non-standard fonts if embedded properly into the PDF; I actually did this and can attest it works beautifully. They have an easy-to-follow tutorial for how to do this.
  6. Shipping costs are nice and low.
  7. Lulu can handle non-standard work setups.  I used the Opera browser to do everything on Lulu; I used LibreOffice to create my interior instead of MS Word; and my OS is Linux. This is pretty much as non-standard as it gets, and everything was handled perfectly. Other companies like Blurb expect you to download software that only works on mainstream operating systems, so it was refreshing to see Lulu be able to handle your method of doing things.

Cons

  1. The cover-making process was not as easy as it would seem. Even though all I wanted to do was upload an existing image for use as a cover, it complained if the dimensions were not ideal. I would have preferred it trying to fit the image to the cover. I understand if resolution could be a problem, but they could create an alert or warning for situations when that is the case.
  2. They have two types of methods for making a cover; the new method and the legacy method, which was confusing. I picked the new method, but was puzzled as to why they would bother keeping a legacy method. For reasons of simplicity they should at least remove the legacy option from a new user’s account if they’re seeking for everyone to switch to the new method.
  3. Shipping costs were not outlined before the ordering process but on a positive note they really do make every attempt to keep costs low. My shipping was around the $5 price point, which was very reasonable. Still, I’d like more of an effort from them to be more transparent about shipping prices prior to ordering. I understand that exact pricing will depend on weight and destination of order, but some guidelines would still be helpful.
  4. After I ordered my journal to be shipped, I received an email from Lulu informing me that my journal had no cover yet! This was alarming, since I had certainly created a cover, which was shown clearly on image of ordered item. At first I was concerned my journal would arrive with a blank cover. But then I figured this was just an email glitch, which turned out to be the case: my item arrived with the cover exactly as I had created it. Still, there is no need for them to scare users in that way after their order has shipped.

Conclusion

Based on my experiences using Lulu.com for creating a personal journal, I recommend it. Everything worked out fine and I was happy with the end product. Lulu is capable of a lot more than personal journals; it’s designed as a self-publishing service for authors. So if you’re seeking to do something a lot more advanced than a journal, Lulu can do that too.  I’d definitely use them again. When I run out of journal pages to write in, I’ll head to Lulu to design a new journal – or if I’m strapped for time, I can simply re-order another copy of my previous creation.