What is Print-On-Demand?

Print-on-demand is a method for printing books (and an assortment of other products!) at the time of purchase.

Historically, products would be created hundreds or thousands of units at a time. This reduced production costs but created the need for storage. And even with the production cost reduced, buying a thousand books at a time is not cheap.

Lulu uses print-on-demand to print your book when an order is placed. We print one, ten, or one hundred copies per order, based on how many you or your reader needs.

Your book is printed using a digital file (in PDF format) for the interior and the cover. Using a PDF enables Lulu to print your book from any printer in our network, ensuring faster delivery time for your readers. You can learn more about the paper stocks here and about the printing process here.


View a book's full journey from thought to print in our video, Life of a Book

Print-On-Demand Specifications and Terminology

All printed pages and covers must be trimmed to size. Lulu’s trimming tolerance is 0.125 in for all files. When preparing your PDF, please follow these guidelines to ensure your project prints correctly. Please read our article PDF Creation Settings for detailed requirements.

Trim Edge

The edge where the page is cut. Also referred to as the final trim edge.

Bleed Area (Full Bleed)

Located 0.125 in beyond the Trim Edge on all sides, the bleed area represents material that will be trimmed. Push any images or designs intended to print to the Trim Edge to the Bleed Edge.

Safety Margin

Text and other important elements should be placed within the Safe Margin. Situated 0.125 in from the Trim Edge, the Safety Margin encompasses the Live Area of your page. This will ensure that no content is lost due to variation due to trimming.

Live Area

All content in the Live Area is safe from trimming variance.

Understanding Print Variance

All manufacturers strive to produce 100% accurate products. However, as with any mechanical process, there are tolerances that should be taken into account. Our trimming tolerance is 0.125 in toward the front and back cover. Designing your content with sufficient margins and variance in mind will help you avoid issues with spine text alignment and any cut-off text around the edges of your content. When building your file, please follow the guidelines below to ensure your project is printed correctly.

Cover Spine Design

Spine placement can shift slightly during production. To allow for small amounts of variance, we encourage authors to follow these guidelines when creating their cover and in particular when preparing their spine.

  • Do not include text that fills the entire width of the spine. Any shifting will cause text from the spine to run over onto the front or back cover. Leave at least 0.125 in between the spine text and the edge of the spine on both sides of the text.
  • Do not include text on projects of 80 pages or fewer. For books with a low page count, the slightest shift of spine placement will cause your spine text to run over on the front or back cover.
  • Omit any images or solid colors/stark contrast that run right up to and stop at the spine on either the front or back cover. Keep the spine the same color/graphic as the rest of the cover.
  • If your spine will be a different color from the rest of the cover, design the entire to intentionally include the spine color or graphic wrapping around the front and back covers.

Download the Lulu Book Creation Guide for the full list of file requirements and helpful tips for creating a print-ready PDF.