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Getting an ISBN through Lulu – second try

I’ve now been through the process of publishing a book at Lulu and getting an ISBN from them. The process is necessarily convoluted and their wizards are unncessarily confusing. But it can be done.

Getting an ISBN from Lulu requires paying them $99 for the optional Global Distribution package. You can only do that after you’ve stepped through their publishing process. Only then are you given the ISBN. You then have to assign the ISBN to a new edition. Then you upload the updated materials for the new edition, including a cover and front page with the ISBN number on them.

Here’s a step by step:

Go through the normal publishing process. You’ll upload your content and your cover, specify sizes, specify a price, and be given an opportunity to buy a sample copy for yourself. At the end of it all, go back to your Publish tab. Click on the Global Distribution package link to the right of your book listing.

Go through the steps to pay them $99 Go back to your Publish tab. Note that you now have an ISBN.

Click on the “Accept or Deny” link Click on the “Reassign ISBN” link

On the next page, click on the “Assign ISBN to New Edition” button It will create a new edition for you and start up the Publish wizard again.

Do not continue. Close out of Lulu. Come back when you have your new cover with the ISBN printed on it.

Use a service such as to turn the ISBN number into a bar code. They charge $10 to email you a high resolution EPS file which you can then stick onto the back cover of your book.

When you have the new cover and content, go back to your Publish tab and click on your project title, which will start up the Publish wizard again.

(I ran these steps past the helpful support person on their live help chat line, and he approved.)

5 Responses to “Getting an ISBN through Lulu – second try”

  1. I didnt use the global distribution program, but was able to get an isbn for $55 from another site, . Tried to chat with lulu help desk but had computer problems. This seemed like an easy work around.

  2. Well, you seem to have had better luck than some with Lulu’s Global Distribution. This may have changed since I tried a few months ago, but I hit a huge problem: from what I can tell, it’s a silo based on proprietary software. LightningSource, on whom Lulu depends for printing, demands that the PDF files that it handles be generated only by Adobe software. If you are using any other PDF creator, especially the open source ones, they won’t print your book.

    This was especially bad for me, since I had worked on publishing my father’s novel using a somewhat old version of Adobe Framemaker, which had bugs in the PDF creation process. Once I went through some Linux tools to tweak it, it was no longer publishable through the Global Distribution. Attempts to get the message boards at Lulu to help just elicited the blunt uninformative arrogance usually associated with Linux communities. And, unfortunately, while I was trying to get it to happen, my father passed away without seeing his book published.

    I would be happy to learn that I might have simply misunderstood what was going on, and that it is possible to create Global Distribution books with open source tools. But I’m pretty sure that that is not the case. And I suspect that, if you learn that this is going on, you might be a tad less eager to cheerlead for them.

  3. Joseph,

    I did all of my editing and such in MS Word and then uploaded that file. The Lulu conversion wizard then took hold and did fine.

    My only (minor) complaint was that they took my bulleted lists and turned the bullets into some kind of weird symbol, but it didn’t detract from the overall book, so I left it alone.

    I never tried to upload a PDF directly, so I don’t know whether that’s a big problem or not.

    I don’t know if they’ve gotten a lot better in the last half year or not, but my only problem with the process was that it’s not really clear at what point you’ll have to pay for a new revision. They don’t make it obvious that the “approve” that you do in order to purchase the ISBN number is NOT the “final” approval, so changing your book again (for instance, to add the ISBN to the cover or copyright page) doesn’t cost you a modification fee.

    Oh, also, if you buy an ISBN from another source, what services do you lose from Lulu? I’m guessing they no longer do their funky “wholesale pricing” on your book, meaning some “discount” retailers may be less likely to want to sell your book, and you might have to submit it to “Books In Print” yourself.

    Just thoughts.


  4. Lulu does a great job for those who simply want to publish their memoirs or Aunt Jane’s cookery book, and so on.
    But if you really want to get serious you *have* to get your own ISBN and then the most important thing is distribution. For more than one book – or even one, if you *really* think it stands a chance of selling more than a couple of dozen copies – the only decent way is to go with either Lightning Source or Booksurge. The cost for producing a book through Lightning is, per copy, roughly half what Lulu charges.
    Disclaimer: I am a Lightning Source customer.

  5. I have recently published with Lulu. Works smoothly for pdf files. Word files are converted. The only catch is that the document must be to right dimensions (I learnt this the hard way after my first book). For 6″x9″ books choose 6.4″x9″ (Kugoya 6). The converters work great with Word Documents of the margins at: Top, Bottom(0.5″,0.5″) and Left, Right (1.15″ x 0.75″)

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