RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – To mark its 20-year-anniversary,, the self-publishing firm started as a side hustle by Red Hat founder Bob Young, is rolling out its own ecommerce solution: Lulu Direct.

The firm says the tool will now make it even easier for authors and creators to sell their works directly to consumers.

“By increasing our investment in the ecommerce channel, Lulu has repositioned itself as a player in several high-growth sectors including ecommerce, mobile, dropshipping, print-on-demand, and the greater creator economy,” Lulu’s VP of Marketing Matt Briel explains.

How it works is simple: Lulu Direct is integrated with popular ecommerce providers like Shopify and WordPress plugin, WooCommerce. Within its dashboard, authors can now connect books directly to these providers, while using the Lulu network for automated print and fulfillment.

Lulu lives on: Now 20, Red Hat founder Bob Young’s self-publishing firm keeps innovating

“This gives authors complete control over retail choices and the ability to sell globally at the push of a button,” the company said in its release.

Among the other benefits: authors keep “100%” of revenue, can gather key customer data for future marketing opportunities, and can customize packaging and branding.

“Now, more than ever, creators need the ability to connect directly to their audience base and take control of their brand,” Briel said. “This requires ownership of the customer experience from beginning to end, which is where the ecommerce channel really opens up new opportunities for today’s creator economy.”

Back in 1993, Lulu’s founder, Young, was unemployed and working out of his wife’s sewing closet to launch Red Hat, the open-source enterprise software provider bought by IBM for $34 billion in 2019.

Young stepped down as Red Hat CEO after the company went public in 1999. Determined to share his story, he employed a hybrid publisher, but was left “frustrated, disappointed, and dissatisfied with the nominal results,” it said on Lulu’s website.  So he decided to take matter into his own hands and launched

Since launching in 2002, it has enabled more than 2 million creators to publish over 300,000-plus projects, including books, calendars, journals, and magazines. It has a staff of about 70 people in its RTP headquarters, as well as two small teams in Germany and Poland.

Lulu also works with the North Carolina State University Entrepreneurship Initiative to host the annual eGames startup competition. The program works with students to create and develop business ideas.

“Lulu is beautifully positioned to continue to prosper going forward doing what they always do – making the world a better place for creators and their audiences,” Young told WRAL TechWire.