Publishing A Book Via Lulu

This post is simply my recipe for publishing a book via Lulu although a lot of it may be relevant for anyone wanting to write up and format a book.

Though to be frank, I’ve had a lot of trouble getting the images printed correctly. With a lot of help from Lulu support we finally got good copies last week. Hence the delay in posting about the  GR5 Honeymoon ebook.

Next time (and there may be a next time!) I think I’d use Blurb since they review well for image printing. I may still use an uploaded PDF with Blurb rather than using their (admittedly very good) downloadable book creation tool since I think I’ll want more control over how it hangs together (plus I believe you don’t get much choice as to the style of cover with that tool – though I may be wrong!).

There is a wealth of instructional material on the Lulu site. But because there are a great many different options, I thought a very specific path through it all might be helpful to someone.

Besides – I wrote all this out as I went along so it seems a shame to waste it!

Recipe for publishing a book via Lulu:

Start with Google Docs:

To get the basic text right we both transcribed it into a Google Document (a free, online version of a Word document) and proof read it there. This meant we could work on it at the same moment and not clash.

It also meant it was pretty safe from hard drive failure and we could work on it from wherever we had an internet connection. But I still downloaded it as a Word document now and then out of paranoia.

Move over to a local copy in Open Office:

We then copied the whole thing into an Open Office Write document (which is another, free but not online version of a Word document) using a simple select all: Ctrl+A, then: Ctrl+C in the Google Doc and then a Ctrl+V in the blank Open Office Writer doc.

Working on a locally stored copy of the document gives you the ability to copy and paste images directly into it (using the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V). Not something to try with Google Docs since, even if Google Docs could allow you to paste images in, the image would have to upload before it could be shown in the document – meaning the process would be painfully slow on all but the most ludicrously high bandwidth connections.

If you’re working in Open Office – save in “Open Office” format! I was happily saving in “Word XP” format when I noticed that the Headers and Footers disappeared. It turns out that they are lost when going converting to and from Word documents (I’m not sure if they come out in an exported Word document since I don’t have MS Office).

At this poin it’s worth taking a look at the Lulu Book formatting FAQ.

For some reason, the Google Doc had used a mixture of newline and carriage return characters. So? Well they create different sized gaps in the text – which looks odd.  Here’s how to remove them easily in Open Office:

  • Open the Find And Replace dialog: Ctrl+F
  • Put this text in both Find and Replace fields: \n
  • Click More Options
  • Tick the “Regular Expression” box
  • Click Replace All

Decide on the size of the book. With all the images we wanted to include, we went for the (standard) 20.95 x 27.31 cm.

Resize the pages to fit within the printed size of the book:

  • Ctrl+A to Select All
  • Format menu -> Page… -> Page tab

I decided against using “Full Bleed” (to print right to the edges) since that seems only to be appropriate when you want images to fill a page rather than text that needs a margin around it (unless I am misunderstanding it!).

Choose a font:

The received wisdom here is that a sans-serif font (like Arial) looks better on the screen and a serif font (like Times New Roman) looks better in print.

I simply don’t agree. I prefer a sans font in both formats so decided on Trebuchet MS.

  • Select all: Ctrl A
  • Select the font from the drop down.

Insert Page Numbers that are on different sides for right and left:

You’ll probably want to have no page number on the first page (probably a title page) then page “2” appear on the second. Then, unless you have the page number in the middle of the page, page numbers should be on the right for odd pages, and the left for even (otherwise every other page has the number hidden inside the spine!). The first part of this process is very well decribed here (you might also want to look at the wiki page) but here’s a blend of both those instructions with some tweaks:

  • Assign a different page style to page 1
    • Place the cursor on the first page
    • F11 -> Click on the 4th icon from the left: “Page Styles”
    • Double-click “First Page”
  • Place the cursor in your second page and see what page style shows in the Stylist – probably “Default”
  • Right-click “Default” and select Modify
  • Choose “Header” or “Footer” tab (wherever you want your page numbers) and tick “Footer On” (or “Header on”), un-tick “Same content left/right” -> OK
  • Insert the page numbers
  • Go to the footer on that page, place the cursor inside it: double-click the page where you think the footer is or turn on View menu -> Text Boundaries to see it
  • Insert menu -> Fields -> Page Number
  • Select the number and hit the Align Right button
  • Repeat on the second page but this time leave it aligned left
  • Check the numbers are running okay down through the document

Insert a gutter:

A “gutter” is way of shunting the pages over to allow for the binding. Each odd and even page needs to be shunted a different direction, away from the binding.

  • F11 -> Click on the 4th icon from the left: “Page Styles”
  • Right click each of the page styles you’re using (Default and First Page probably)
  • See also the Open Office page on this
  • I went for: Inner 2.70cm Outer: 1.70cm

Add a table of contents:

  • Insert -> Indexes and Tables -> Indexes and Tables…
  • F11 -> Click on the 1st icon from the left: “Paragraph Styles”
  • Find Heading 1 and right-click it -> Modify…
  • Select the font etc to style the headings the way you want them
  • Optionally add a page break before each heading: Text Flow tab -> Breaks -> tick Insert, Type: Page Position: Before
  • Select the first heading, use the “Apply Style” drop down (usually in the top-left, below File) to select Heading 1
  • Select that first heading, and double-click on click the “Format Paintbrush” icon (Note: double-click! that lets you paint the style again and again)
  • Scroll down and “paint” the Heading 1 format over each heading
  • The table of contents needs to be updated before it will show changes you’ve made in the document
  • Right click it, and select Update Index/Table
  • You’ll want to change the default Styles used within the document to suit your taste. That way everything you write or edit will be formatted correctly from the first
  • Hit F11 to get up the Styles Browser
  • These are the “styles”, font size, position, spacing etc. that can be applied to different parts of the document. If you select something, then double click the name of a style, that style gets applied to that selection
  • But that’s not what you want to do here. You want to change the “Page Styles” which can also be applied by double clicking, but you only need to have your cursor on a page for it to be applied to that page AND all other pages in that section
  • Most of the time you’re likely to only have two sections, First Page and Default
  • (Autoupdate just means if you change the style of one of the elements in the document, all the other elements with that style will be updated too)

Check what Lulu makes of it:

Create a copy of the document, open it, delete all but about the first 30 pages and upload it. Then check how it appears by exporting as PDF following the Lulu instructions for Open Office and uploading it, then downloading it (something to do in the background!). You need to download it I believe, because I think that Lulu munges the PDF somehow…

Add the pictures:

It’s best to reduce the images in size to around 800 pixels since the size that they will be printed is almost certainly far smaller than the original images you have. You can embed them at full size but it will make a very large file size for the document.

We had them all in Picasa which made it very easy to export them at 800 pixels each (Ctrl+Shift+S).

It’s best to develop them all in sRGB (if that means nothing to you – relax, they’ll already be in sRGB unless you’ve used something like Lightroom and set a different colour space for the output).

Also, it’s best (with Lulu at least) to err on the brighter side.

I have a wide monitor and opened the images in Picasa Photo Viewer that comes with Picasa (if it doesn’t open when you double click a picture, open Picasa, Tools -> Configure Picasa Photo Viewer).

This step isn’t really required but to make life easier it’s nice to have the focus switch from Open Office to Picasa Photo Viewer as you move the mouse over then:

  • Install the Microsoft Tweak UI Powertoy
  • Start -> Powertoys for Windows XP -> Tweak UI -> Mouse -> X Mouse
  • Tick “Activation follows mouse” (you’ll want to untick this again later – it gets pretty annoying!)

Add each image into the document:

  • Open in Picasa Photo View (double click one)
  • Ctrl+C
  • Ctrl+V into the document
  • Hold Shift and grab a corner with the mouse to resize the image whilst keeping the aspect-ratio correct

Adjusting images for brightness within the document:

We went through considerable pain trying to get the images to print with the same level of brightness as they appear in the document.

In the end, I paid an offshore firm to adjust the gamma (note – gamma, not actually brightness!) of each image for me and printed that. We increased the gamma from 1 to 1.5 in most of the images (I hand edited many back after they had adjusted every one).

This is the recipe for that gamma adjustment (you shouldn’t need to do this of course!)

Go to the View menu -> Toolbars -> ensure “Picture” is ticked

Select the first image in the document.

  • Click the “Color” button in the middle of the floating “Picture” toolbar
  • Adjust the “Gamma” control (at the bottom) and set it to 1.50
  • Click each image within the document in turn and adjust the “Gamma” control to the same value

The above is a very good reason to have one book printed and sent to you for proofing!

Add a Creative Commons license:

Consider adding a Creative Commons license with a link back to your web site. Once you generated the HTML, put it into a text editor and enclose it in html tags before opening it in a browser and copying the text into the document. (Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V).

Here are the basics of an HTML document: to use in Notepad:

<body>Replace this with the HTML from the Creative Commons site!</body>

Final checks:

Run down through the document, and insert Page Breaks with Ctrl+Enter (these are where a fresh page will be started when it’s published).

It’s a pain, but go through and move each image that’s been automatically sized to fit the margins as you’ve pasted it in. Just move them down a bit, then Ctrl+Z to undo that.

Why do something so odd? Because sometimes text gets hidden behind images.

As soon as you move or resize an image, any sneaky hidden text leaps out from behind it. So any that have been resized are fine, you only need do this to ones that are the filling the whole width of the page because they were automatically resized to fit as you pasted them in. I found a whole paragraph hiding behind an image when I did this. Spotting a single absent paragraph by any other method is very hard to be sure to do!

At this point I made a final search for words that I repeated too often since it was recorded as an audio diary: “So”, “nice”.

Then some final checks:

  • Recheck layout and page flow
  • Update the table of contents
  • Check the header and page numbers are still there
  • Spell-check one last time

Export as PDF following the Lulu instructions for Open Office.

Upload the main body of text now. This can take a while (I actually found it more reliable to use the web interface, rather than the FTP interface that Lulu recommends for larger files). This allows you to have a sanity check of the document at full size but also allows you access to the Cover Creator screen

Create a cover:

You can use the covers provided by Lulu but to be honest I’d only want to use my own. I chose a picture that could run all the way around from back to front.

I used Paint Shop Pro. You can download an evaluation version for a one off bit of work like this or you could use an even cheaper application like Pixel Image Editor which I think should be able to cope easily enough

  • Calculate how big the cover should be with the Spine Calculator (I made it 48.29 cm X 31.75 cm) and create a blank Open Office Writer document of that size.
  • Export that document as PDF.
  • Upload your blank document. It will likely fail since it’s the wrong size by a fraction
  • It will then tell you the size it really wants!
  • Change your document to be the size it really wants…

In Paint Shop Pro:

  • Resize the image so that the the smallest side is the right size, the other side was a bit over (Untick “Maintain Original Print Size”)
  • Crop tool, set to CM and crop off the extra bit of the image
  • Add in text using a manually set point size of 160 Trebuchet MS for the title, add it, right click the “Floating Selection” in the layer palette and Promote to full layer and name it “Title”
  • Do the same at 80 point font for the authors
  • Save as both native PSP (for later tweaking) and as PNG for inserting into Open Office Writer

In Writer:

  • Open your cover document that you uploaded earlier (to check for size)
  • Insert -> Picture and load in the PNG version


Download the PDF document that you earlier uploaded to Lulu and give it a once-over.

Finally set up whatever options you want regarding purchasing as per the Lulu site.

I would take Lulu’s advice at this point and get a copy done and sent to yourself so you can check it over before getting any more printed or making it public.

4 Replies to “Publishing A Book Via Lulu”

  1. Thanks Dave – it copes with PDF as well which is necessary for the upload to both Lulu and Blurb.

    But having to work out how to do all the above in another editor may be more than I fancy taking on! Open Office does a nice job of it luckily :)

  2. Thanks Mark :) It’s always good to hear that my occasional, very dry, “recipe” syle posts are actually interesting!

    I hope it helps someone with creating a book of their own. It’s a very satisfying thing to do.

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