I had the great delight to find a box sitting on my front porch when I returned home this evening, after having spent the holiday weekend with my parents. It was, in fact, my first look at the actual, for-real printed copies of my book. (Comic Book Fanthropology if you haven't been paying attention around here.)
After my initial SQUEEEE!!!! reaction, I actually took a more critical look at the books themselves. This was, in point of fact, the first time I'd ever seen Lulu-printed books in person and I was curious to look at the printed quality.
The covers look great. I was a little concerned about the color shifting one way or another, but it seems to have hit spot-on. I uploaded the cover as a whole to Lulu as one image, and the printing did seem to a scooch to one side, but it's only noticeable in that the title on the spine is 100% centered. It's still well within legibility tolerances, though, and it's only worth noting because I'm a nit-picky designer that way.
The interior looks good as well. Good quality paper, solid binding, very clean trim around the edges. I'm very pleased with all of that. I'm also pleasantly happy with the overall dimensions, too. I was a little concerned that it would feel too light, like you might be holding more of a thick pamphlet. But that's not the case at all. Although it is a bit thinner than other books I made some initial comparisons to, it's hardly noticeable on a quick visual inspection. It looks and feels like a real, bookshelf-worthy book.
The printing itself has some very rich blacks, which make the text and illustrations really pop off the page. The art that has some decent-sized blocks of black look especially good. All of the half-tones work very well, too. I was a little concerned about moiré patterns showing up on some of the pieces, but it only occurs on one and then, only slightly.
The rich blacks do mean, however, the photos tend to run a bit darker than I'd like. Not so dark that you can't see them or anything, but it does obscure some of the background details a little more than I'd like in some photos. On the plus side, there was one photo that I was concerned would be too hard to read well, but the rich blacks make the salient portions of the image quite legible.
The cropping of individual pages varies a bit more than I would've expected. Nothing so drastic as to be of significant concern, but -- again, speaking as a nit-picky designer -- it's not quite as consistent as I would ideally like to see.
As far as issues I had more direct control over, I'm generally pleased overall. I was glad to see my graphic designer "tricks" in the layout worked the way I'd intended, most notably the Fan Profile pages. In looking at the final, printed version, I probably could've stood to add a little more space on all the page margins. But, here again, that's more of a nit-picky designery thing -- there's nothing that's not legible because I ran type too close to the spine or whatever.
Overall, I have to say that I am VERY pleased with how the book looks. I think it turned out exceptionally well, given that it's my first book and my first interaction with Lulu. I will freely admit to more than a bit of trepidation before now on whether I had made any number of "right" choices with this book; those concerns are all gone now. (With the exception of the content itself!) I would absolutely recommend Lulu to anyone hoping to get a book published, provided they weren't trying to get rich doing so!
Feel free to head over to ComicBookFanthropology.com to pick up a copy for yourself!