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When you think of self-printing books online you might traditionally think of a photo book or scrapbook. But with Blurb’s tools and low costs, the ideas for books are as endless as your imagination. From creating a quarterly magazine for your neighborhood, to selling a children’s book to retailers across the country, or marketing a business eBook to your existing blog readers. Blurb is not only the engine behind designing beautiful photo books but they are also the ones behind the scenes that handle fulfillment, making it risk-free in that you do not have to worry about sitting on extra inventory or the hassles of shipping.
Let’s get to know the company and all that they have to offer both novice writers and veteran authors alike. We should note that Blurb did give us the chance to try out their photo book service, but it did not in anyway affect our opinion on them. Testing their product was so we could give a more accurate, better quality review.
Here’s a quick overview on how Blurb stacks up against the competition. If you’d like to read a more in-depth list of pros and cons on Blurb including pricing and more, read our photo book comparison article.
In 2006, Eileen Gittins was looking for a simple and cost-effective way to print a book of her photos. Through frustration came Blurb: the world’s first self-publishing platform, paving changes in the publishing industry and riding the wave ever since. What started as an idea is now an award-winning website and also one of the fastest growing media companies that employ more than 100 passionate book creators worldwide. Over the years, Blurb has printed and delivered over six million books to a half million customers. So, Blurb has the experience and expertise of a large business, but with the personal attention and customer service of a mom and pop shop.
Whether you are creating a photo book for fun for friends and family or you are a budding author wanting to publish a good looking, quality book for a reasonable price, Blurb is the one-stop shop. Need some inspiration? Check out our photo book idea article. They have all the tools you need to make it easy to create and/or sell your personal or business books or e-books. From content creation to layout and delivery. Blurb offers a wide range of options and resources for both large and small quantities all at an affordable rate.
Blurb Promo CodeBlurb consistently runs coupons on their website, use this link take advantage of these offers!
1. Picking a Blurb Format
Before getting too far down the path of designing, you’ll first want to determine the purpose of the book, so you can select the proper format. Who is the audience, how much do they want to pay and do I want to make money? If reselling is not your thing, then it just comes down to how much you personally want to spend. Something else to think about is other formats (like eBook) and/or perhaps selling your book down the road. Here’s a quick overview of the various Blurb book printing types you have to choose from.
Whether you’re printing one book or a large quantity for family and friends, photo books are printed on high-quality matte or gloss papers and come in a variety of sizes and covers. You have three options for the cover (soft, image wrap or dust jacket) and you can do square, landscape or portrait orientation. There are also five types of papers to choose from, everything from the standard semi-matte up to the premium semi-gloss or proline pearl. You can print up to 440 pages which gives you plenty of room to squeeze in memories to share for years to come.
- Ideas: Instagram books, anniversary or birthday albums, travel guides, baby yearbooks, cookbooks.
- Price: Starts at $12.99 for 20 pages.
The trade book format is a lower-cost printed book that comes in three sizes and either color or black and white. Trade books have the same three options for covers (soft, image wrap or dust jacket) and two options for printing methods: standard or economy (which affects the quality and type of paper). If you’re looking to distribute your work internationally or beyond friends and family, this is a good option for you.
- Ideas: Coloring books, poetry or love letters, custom journals with blank pages, portfolios.
- Price: Starts at $2.49 for 24 pages.
Blurb magazines are another economy printing method to mass-distribute to a larger audience. Magazines are one size (8″x11″) but come with two printing options: economy and premium. Premium is printed on slightly heavier stock and has a more glossy newsstand look and feel. Either way, you can print just one copy or order in bulk (discounts for 10 or more).
- Ideas: Fashion look books, community or organization publications, company news.
- Price: Starts at $3.99 for 20 pages.
Ever dreamed of reading your work on a digital device? Blurb makes it possible to publish e-books in digital format with the click of a button. Blurb can convert your books to either fixed-layout (for Apple iPad) and reflowable (that works for iPad and Kindle devices). They even help you with getting it uploaded/approved by retailers like Amazon and iBooks (more on that in the next section).
- Ideas: How-to guides, white papers, novels.
- Price: Free for reflowable, $9.99 for fixed-layout.
Other Custom Features
From foil stamping to embossing, headbands and ribbon markers, Blurb has a number of special add-ons that you won’t find on other photo book printing sites. It’s those little touches and extra features that make Blurb the ultimate book printing service setting them apart from the rest.
- Price: Varies depending on the particular add-on feature and quantity.
Feeling overwhelmed? A good place to start is their pricing calculator to select variables like size, format and quantity (up to 300) and then see what the breakdown is per book. Or, if you want to see a side by side comparison per individual book you can use their pricing table to get a better idea.
2. Creating Your Blurb Book
Once you’ve selected the type of book you want to create, the next step is to find the tools to help bring your ideas to life! Whether you are a professional graphic designer or computer illiterate, Blurb caters to all levels of experience. You can use their online editor, download their own software to your Mac or PC or sync with other programs like Adobe creative suite. And the best part is they are all free to use! (Assuming you already have a computer and the software it integrates with). Here’s a quick overview of each option.
- Online Photo Books – A fool-proof, simple way to make a book using their free online editor. No software or plug-ins required. It is a little more limited than using Booksmart or Bookwright but does allow for some basic customization like fonts and colors. You can auto-import your photos from a number of services like Instagram, Flickr or Facebook and begin designing in a matter of minutes!
- Bookwright – Their free software to create your book and/or a PDF using one project file. It requires you to create an account, but after downloading and installing it’s very user-friendly and has a number of bells and whistles.
- Booksmart – An older, original software that Bookwright replaced, but is still available (and is what I’ve used). It allows you to import blog content, or photos on Flickr as well as add page ornaments, decorative backgrounds and borders. Although a little more limiting than Bookwright, it gives you a lot of freedom to adjust layouts, crop photos and add your own personal touches.
Adobe Creative Suite Plug Ins
- InDesign – Use a number of pre-designed templates or start from scratch on your own using software you’re already familiar with. And when you’re ready you can upload your files to Blurb’s site without leaving InDesign.
- Lightroom – Another option for integrating with Adobe’s existing photo editing software — it’s great for photographers and photo books because of the enhanced photo re-touching capabilities.
Note: Both Creative Suite plug-in options require you to buy/download Adobe software sold separately.
If you’ve already created your book in another program, you can simply upload your document as a PDF or Word Doc using their specifications and handy step-by-step guides.
Have writer’s block? Need help with visuals? Want a cover that looks professional or a book translated into another language? Or simply don’t have time? Use Blurb’s new Dream Team, an online collaboration database of contributors that can assist with everything from ghostwriting to illustrations and more! Browse by service, view their bio, location and check out their Blurb store and online portfolio then contact and work directly with the artist. The Dream Team is an innovative solution that you won’t find from other online book printing websites.
3. Distributing Your Book
After you’ve worked on your book, you might be interested in sharing it with others (and perhaps interested in making a little money too!). The great thing about using a third-party (besides not having a garage full of books and being out a big investment upfront) is they deal with all the back-end logistics like shipping and payments as well as handle the customer service and support. If a book is lost or damaged, the buyer will work directly with Blurb (instead of you) to get it fixed. You’ll have the Blurb team support so you can focus on creating quality content and not processing refunds or tracking packages. Blurb also partners with some of the industry’s top resellers to help you get your books to a global market. Below is some more info on the ways you can sell your book online with Blurb.
Blurb Direct Sell
You decide what the markup is and keep 100% of the profit (or 80% of the price of the e-book). Blurb gives you a widget to embed your store directly within your existing website or Facebook page, so a customer never leaves — making for a seamless purchase. They also give you an online dashboard to track your sales, and when you make a certain amount, they’ll deposit the money into your PayPal account.
Blurb’s Personal Storefront is an e-commerce enabled widget that you can embed anywhere you have a presence online: your website, Facebook page, a partner blog, etc. It allows your customers to preview and purchase your book right there — without having to click-through to another site. Just copy and paste a little snippet of code and you’ve opened up your own mini bookstore.
In April 2014, Blurb signed a deal with retail-giant Amazon to allow users to sell with only a 15% cut of the retail price going to Amazon (versus upwards of 45%) plus $1.35 per copy. In exchange for a lower fee, Amazon gets access to hundreds of thousands of authors and titles to add to their database. By selling through Amazon you might get fewer margins, but you’ll gain a larger audience by tapping into their ability to compete in search results and marketing. Blurb takes care of the submission process with Amazon and once approved your orders will be printed via Blurb and shipped by Amazon. Like Direct Sell, you can track and see reports on an online dashboard and payments will be made via PayPal.
Apple iBook Store
Blurb also has a relationship with Apple’s iBook store to make it easy for you to sell your book for iPads. They submit your book to Apple for consideration and after review and upon acceptance, you’ll be able to share a download link for your book in the iTunes store! It’s a little more rigid process and not guaranteed, but if you’re not approved the first time, they’ll give you suggestions and you can always resubmit.
Other Distribution Options
Blurb also has a relationship with Ingram for publishers to help get your book on bookshelves across the globe. They can also work with you on large volume fulfillment so you can take advantage of price breaks by ordering in bulk, but then use their facilities to store your inventory until it’s time to ship. Contact Blurb for more information if you’re interested in either of these options.
Additional Blurb Resources
From attending industry conferences and festivals to hosting their own online workshops via webinar, Blurb has a plethora of support and tools to help you along the way. You can call them with quick questions, refer to their FAQs or submit an online ticket for more specific technical questions. For instance, as soon as I placed an order, I realized I had selected the incorrect shipping address and they were able to fix it within minutes.
Need some inspiration? Browse their bookstore to see what others have published or get lost reading stories and editorial pieces about writing in their beautifully designed blog. Search by keyword or select a category to get ideas.
A Personal Testimonial
Even before we had the chance to test out their book printing service for this review, I was already a user of Blurb for personal projects for years. I chose Blurb over other photo book companies because I like that they give you the freedom and flexibility that most other online photo book services don’t have as far as design and layout. While it takes a little learning up front on the software (I used the Smart Book app), it’s pretty user-friendly. Once you import all your photos from your source, you can then edit in offline mode. It was a great project to work on while on a recent road trip with my husband — while he drove, I secretly worked on a photo book in the car. I then saved and ordered once I was back online. I also used the BookSmart app to create two photo books for my parents’ anniversary. Doing them soft cover saved me quite a bit of money and I was able to print two for the same price as one hardback book. And, their customer service was extremely responsive and helpful in ensuring they shipped to the correct location and they arrived ahead of schedule.
Blurb Behind the Scenes Video
So you’ve clicked “order.” Great! Now, you can sit back and relax. While you’re waiting for your book to arrive, take a behind-the-scenes look at Blurb’s production center to see book printing in action and all the people who ensure your book arrives in good quality and on time.
What Do You Think of Blurb?
Have you designed a Blurb book before or had an experience with self-publishing? What tips or tricks do you have? We’d love to know!