Lulu's independent publishing platform has always been nothing short of amazing, and that hasn't entirely changed. However...
Lulu's publishing process is completely free, the only expense coming in the form of the single $5-10 proof copy one is required to order with each revision before it can be approved for publishing--a requirement that makes absolute sense.
It's a great platform, and more than likely remains so--I just can't tell for sure right now.
The problems lie with major changes to the user interface and publishing process that have been implemented recently, the latter in particular. The new UI is pleasing, but the publishing process is now a nightmare.
For starters, all files, all copyright, title or text pages, images, etc. you want included in your book must be compiled into a single PDF--it's no longer possible to upload the components as separate files and reorder them as needed.
Okay, this would be fine, only a slight annoyance, if not for the obstacles you might encounter in creating this PDF: unembedded fonts, transparent elements (which can be very hard to locate and eliminate if you don't know what or where they are, seeing as they are, after all, invisible), images that aren't exactly the right resolution.
Fixing these problems, even the transparent components, is relatively easy--if you know how. I had to learn how, and even then, some of it could not be done on my Chromebook. I had to send files to my husband (who, for the record, has a job of his own to do), so he could make the necessary conversions on his PC, then send the PDF's back to me.
To be fair, these were issues with my Chromebook and my own knowledge base, not with Lulu. But even after the problems with the PDF had been removed, I still got warning messages after uploading the thoroughly scoured-for-issues file that there were unembedded fonts and transparent elements detected in it.
So... is the PDF formatted correctly, or is it not?
I was allowed to finish the revision process and purchase a proof copy for approval--which, when it arrived, I found was the old, unrevised version. So what exactly is going to go on the market if I hit the Approve Revision button? The revision that I was apparently allowed to make? Or the old version that was on the market before?
And this isn't the only confusing issue I ran into. I have two other projects I've revised, and all three seem, from what I can tell given the stated current status of each project, to be undergoing a slightly different revision/publication process.
One seems to be taking days to move on to the "purchase proof copy" stage, and the other seems to have skipped that step altogether, going straight to the "distribution review pending" stage--with nothing indicating to what the differences may be attributed.
I've also created a fourth project, a new ebook. However, before I was able to advance to the final review stage, a message popped up saying that there were details left blank somewhere in the project. I went back and thoroughly checked each stage, and every detail is filled in as required. But the system will not allow me to review and publish the project, due to the missing details that are not missing.
Simply put, there are several things about Lulu's new publishing process that are inconsistent or unclear, leaving one with no reliable idea of exactly what is going on with any given project. That's a very nerve-wracking and frustrating position to be in when it comes to one's livelihood.
Another, though comparatively insignificant, issue is that there no longer seems to be any way to retire or delete projects, leaving one's projects page cluttered with old abandoned drafts--or worse, example or empty projects.
Either this new system was rolled out way too early, or it is vastly inferior to the perfect one Lulu had utilized for years before. Either way, it has been a disappointing and frustrating experience.
Lulu seems to be aware that there are issues, at least, because their support page says right on it that they are overwhelmed with inquiries for the time being, but they are doing their best to get to all of them in a timely fashion.
So here's hoping that in the preferably near future, Lulu will once again provide the user-friendly, clear-cut experience they did for so long before. Because as it stands now, it's a mess.