All about Aunt Lulu
Check out this article about the company.
You can create your own POD files (that is, converting a Word document to a [book friendly] PDF and uploading, then doing the same for the covers.) Note: Lulu's software will convert the Word doc to PDF for you, though the results may be less predictable. Their charge? $0.00. If you can do it all yourself, you can reap the benefits (assuming the sales go through Lulu's site; to get listed with Ingram and available on sites like Amazon, you need to pay out $149 for set-up fees.)
So what is the difference between Lulu and the other big POD companies? You're on your own. You design your own layout, your own cover (they do have a handful of basic templates) and your own jacket copy. Lulu makes money by adding 20% on to your royalty. (Example: The cost of the book to produce is $9.00 and you add a $5.00 royalty. Lulu adds another $1.00 as their cut, making the total cost $15.00.)
The other difference? No promo support of any type, including someone to make bookmarks or posters, etc.
Going this route is certainly for the tech savvy, but not necessarily for the techno-geek. You just need to understand some basic tools (like Adobe or some other free PDF converter) and know someone who can design a nice cover for you (please do not try to do it yourself, unless you are a graphic designer - the results can be hideous.) But this technology-based way to go is not surprising: the founder was one of the co-founders of Red Hat.
From the article:
Although Lulu.com's software converts authors' documents into something that can be published, the site does not see itself as a competitor to traditional book publishers. Instead, it wants to create a new market for anyone who wants to get published, not just for a small fraction of writers, Hutton said. "Our philosophy is to let the marketplace decide whether there's demand for a book or not," he said.
Then there is this article from Publish magazine that also profiles Lulu, here with more in-depth coverage on the technical side. You get the nuts and bolts of how it all needs to be put together (and you get to see why you pay the folks at iUniverse and Xlibris to do this nasty stuff.)
Another plus to this do-it-yourself method is having total control over the product (you can even stick a picture right in the middle of the text if you want to--something you would have to pay extra for if you went with Xlibris, for example.
I would not be surprised to hear more from the Lulu folks over the next few years.
MJ Rose weighs in on the article in the New York Times Book Review from this past Sunday. Not much to smile about, but she tells it like it is--and, as always, is right on the money.