Information Technology Dark Side

Struggles of a Self-Taught Coder

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My Lulu Experiment

August 6th, 2007 · No Comments

Dave Christiansen, Managing EditorDave Christiansen is the founder and managing editor of He manages projects for a Fortune 100 financial services company and writes and talks about project management. He can be reached at

I’ve been wanting to test the self-publishing waters for a long time, but I’ve been a little hesitant to do so, particularly with something like my novel, Genesis 2.0. I’m not at the point where I’m willing to experiment with something I’ve invested so much time in (yet). At the very least, I wouldn’t want my novel to be my very first foray into the realm of self-publishing.

So, I’ve decided to try it with a short story I’ve written called Alter Ego. It is an Information Technology murder mystery with a twist that will disturb you. You can read the opening pages, look at the cover, and even buy a copy (paper or electronic) at

Now, about the publishing process. I chose Lulu because of their fee structure. Unlike iUniverse or some of the other self-publishing companies, Lulu doesn’t charge any upfront fees if you don’t want special services, like an ISBN or distribution through and other retailers. They are able to do this using print on demand (POD) technology – they won’t make a single copy of my book until someone decides to purchase it.

For my experiment, I decided to go with the most basic format I could, just to get used to it. If I sell twenty copies, then I’ll upgrade my project to include some of Lulu’s other services.

It was surprisingly easy to self-publish with, but you have to be prepared to do book layout. Fortunately for me, that is pretty easy with my iMac – it took me about twenty minutes to get my story set up in pages to print as a 6×9 paperback. You don’t have to be an expert – all you really need to be able to do is take a similar book off your shelf (in my case I used an old Dragon Lance novel) and copy it’s format. Then, you upload your document to Lulu and it is converted to a printable PDF.

Next you create your cover, using Lulu’s art or your own. I chose to use Lulu’s art for my cover because I’m simply not very artistic. I’d like a more interesting cover, so if any of you read Alter Ego and have good ideas, please let me know. It was really pretty easy to do.

Once your book is ready, the last step is to decide how much money you want to make off each copy. That’s right. You set your own margin. tells you how much the production cost of each book is, and you decide how much you want to make.

My first copy will arrive at my house early this week. I’m very eager to see the quality of the binding. Lulu offers a variety of binding options, including perfect binding, saddle stitched, and coil. Unfortunately, Alter Ego is so short that I had to go with saddle stitched. I would have preferred perfect binding, like thicker paperbacks, but… I’ll just have to try that option out next time.

Please feel free to post comments about or Alter Ego here if you like.

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