Self-publishing your art books on Lulu

Lauren Simonutti is a Baltimore-based artist/photographer. Having been told that her work didn’t “fit in” in the US (and having more positive experiences in European and Australian markets), she turned to the web—more precisely, to self-publishing her artwork in print-on-demand books through Lulu—in order to reach her audience.

I’ve been interested in using print-on-demand for some time, so I contacted Lauren who kindly agreed to answer my questions about her experiences (and for me to publish her answers here – thank you, Lauren).

Lauren, how did you go about promoting your books on Lulu?

 sorrow...and the end of sorrow by lauren simonutti
“sorrow…and the end of sorrow” by Lauren Simonutti – available on”

Promotion is always difficult for me. I would rather work than spend time on marketing and I have very few outside resources so I have to find them myself.

Initially my promotion always begins with imagery/layouts that I create and post on deviantart and flickr. The majority of my sales have come via deviantart.

My work seems to hold much greater appeal in Europe and Australia than it does in the States, and in my home city of Baltimore I have been refused for every single thing for which I have applied and just this week was actually refused as a volunteer to work a photobooth at an arts festival (Artscape).

It’s become rather amusing but I have been told in no uncertain terms that here I simply do not fit in.

I mention all this because that is what brought me to the web in the first place. I make considerably more sales in prints or handmade artists books but does provide an alternative.

How easy was it publish your book with Lulu?  What did the process entail? Were there any problems?

Lulu is free which was its first appeal as I have no money.  The process of signing up was simple, it is best to give them a PayPal account for revenue payments as they are faster and require no minimum amount.  I had no problems.  I am adept at design so while it was time consuming that was because of my pickiness.

Now here’s the main issue.  When I signed on and for my two extant books there was the issue of starting with a blank slate – a simple white or black page.  Your picture placements were somewhat limited but not beyond reason and I opted to include the text into my JPEGs as opposed to using their text option.

They have since changed their options to themes – they have pre-ordained themes from which you can not alter page colour or even have a blank background.  This also leads sometimes to unwanted cropping.  I wrote them about this change (they do answer questions quite readily) and replied that the themes were greatly preferred by their clientelle.

Now keep in mind they keep good records, they pay revenues directly and without fuss and their Calendars which I make seasonally are really very nice.

After trying another option I have since gone back to Lulu and believe that using their ‘Portfolio’ book option I can get what I want, it will just take some tweaking and again the text will have to be incorporated in the JPEGs.  But I think it will work and there is the option of hardcover.

Important Note: I have noticed, not just with Lulu but with and a few others that you should lighten your JPEG in levels about 15 to 20% lighter (using the midtone arrow) than you want them to look.  Digital printing tends a little towards the dark side.

So that has been my experience.  I am working on the new portfolio book selection at this time.  Again, there is no financial outlay and no obligation and if you use the themes it is very fast and easy.

You can see Lauren’s work on her deviantArt account, her Flickr account, and, of course, her Lulu account.