Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Blind, Disabled Writer Successfully Publishes Own Books Through Lulu

By Shirley Cheng

Writing and publishing is a process that is both challenging and rewarding for most people, especially for those who are blind and physically disabled, and this is the case with me. Having lost my eyesight at the age of seventeen, I no longer could express myself in my artwork, so I turned to writing to share with others my imagined worlds and creations. I became an author at the age of twenty, completing three books within one year. I wrote my books using a screen reader (computer software) that reads what's on the screen and tells me which keys I type. It has great functionality that enables its users to use most computer programs with relative ease.

When I first started out as a professional writer, I was clueless to as what I should do to publish my books. I never heard about self-publishing or print-on-demand-technology, nor did I know that traditional publishing is not the route for everyone. I began by researching on the Internet and joining discussion e-mail groups consisted of writers, publishers, editors, and other professionals in the publishing world. I searched for publishers, and learned what to look for in a publisher. For my first book, I first published it with a small publisher who uses print-on-demand technology. It differs from many other print-on-demand publishers in that they review manuscripts in order to accept those of high quality for publication. I was thrilled when my book was accepted, and in a matter of a few months, it was published.

For my following two books, I decided to self-publish them through Although is listed as the publisher since I bought my ISBNs through them, I still consider myself as a self-publisher, for I have completed every self-publishing task, including formatting my manuscripts, on my own without eyesight; I had to upload the formatted ready-to-publish pdf files onto Lulu's servers, set the binding type, color, specification, pricing, etc. I also found editors and artists to design my covers. primarily acts like a printer (you have to format your manuscript, make it ready to print, find editors/designers, etc). Whenever I need more copies of my books, I simply order them through at the printing cost without any other fee. Lulu also fulfills my orders when people order my books through them or from and other booksellers, like brick-and-mortar bookstores.
I highly recommend Lulu for several reasons:
  • There are no contracts to sign; there is only the member agreement (the usual terms of service)
  • You retain full copyrights to your work
  • There are no fees to publish any work (but you have the option to buy one of the two ISBN services they offer)
  • You can make your books available through Ingram by purchasing their ISBN service, and it will in turn make your books available on and other major outlets; and bookstores and libraries have the ability to order and stock your book
  • Publishing is instant; after you upload your file onto Lulu's server and specify the options, your book is immediately published once you click on the last button at the end of the simple steps. Once it is published, it is immediately available for others to order through Lulu. (Getting listed on Amazon can take up to eight weeks.)
  • You have the option of making your book available only to yourself through Lulu, so you can order a copy to make sure everything looks okay before making it available to the public
  • You can publish your books in different sizes and binding types (i.e. trade, textbook-sized, perfect, coiled, stitched)
  • You can use your own ISBN instead of theirs, so you will be the registered publisher of your work
  • Their printing quality is quite high, combined with paper of fine quality and glossy covers
  • 24/7 availability--you can publish, revise, and order your book anytime
  • You can revise your book anytime for an unlimited number of times, and it's free, unless you have their ISBN+ Distribution where you have to pay about $80 for any revision
Publishing through Lulu has been a wonderful experience for me. Since I do everything myself, depending solely on a computer, and cannot travel to any printers, using Lulu's printing services have been a dream come true for me. Lulu, like any other company, is definitely not for everyone, but it is perfect for me.

Shirley Cheng (b. 1983), a blind and physically disabled motivational speaker, poet, author and contributing author of twelve books,has had severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since infancy, and did not receive any form of education until age eleven. She mastered grade level in all areas after about 180 days of schooling in elementary school before she entered middle school. After a successful eye surgery, She hopes to earn multiple science doctorates from Harvard University. Despite her multiple disabilities, Shirley is living the life she loves and she empowers, inspires, and motivates others to do the same. Be inspired by her books, including The Revelation of a Star's Endless Shine, and her newsletter Inspiration from a Blind, to which you can subscribe via her site at

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