The best up-to-the-minute advice for any author on the brink of going it alone. Information on setting yourself up, professional presentation, printing, design, desktop publishing and marketing and promotion, as well as much more. Savour the success stories of Timothy Mo and Jill Paton Walsh, and weigh up the pros and cons of publishing in other media, from CDs to videos to the World Wide Web. This a complete handbook that takes the total beginner from a scruffy manuscript to a finished, marketed and saleable book. If you have the ability to put up a shelf then you can produce the books to go on it. And the costs involved are not necessarily enormous.
- Why get involved? Should authors publish themselves?
- Historical precedents. Famous self-publishers of the past and their stories.
- Present day self-publishing practitioners
- The publishing scene
- How to establish yourself as a publisher
- What do books consist of?
- How to prepare copy
- Printing processes and how they work
- Book design, not as arcane as you might think
- How to make production cheaper
- How to improve on basic print
- Can't cope? Advice on where to get advice. There are helpers out there.
- Desktop publishing is no such thing. How to use what it actually does
- Selling. The most important thin in a book's career
- Marketing and promotion
- Alternatives to traditional book publication.
- Poetry - a special case
- If it can go wrong it will. Disaster recovery.
Plus two great appendices:
- Organisations of interest (and use) to self-publishers
- Book lists - what guide books are available and how can they help. An essential list
What readers said on Amazon:
"This is an excellent and very encouraging book written in a light, accessible style with just the right amount of humour. Every page has a wealth of useful tips and information and, having read it, I feel far more confident about becoming a self-publisher."
"I read this book from start to finish in two days, completely soaking up the information. It provides a guide on all the basics to self-publishing with enough information to explore the concept further. Peter Finch hits exactly the right note of encouragement to do it yourself."
"It is an almost step-by-step introduction that covers all of the important stuff you need to know ...... I wouldn't be without it"
At the outset you simply get up one morning and say you are going to do it. There are no registrations, no forms to fill in, and no associations that you must join. But you will need capital. Even at its most inexpensive, self-publishing requires some input of cash. Luckily this is not like film-making where to get through the door costs an arm and every step of the way uses up a leg. Self-publishing, of a sort, is available to the individual with four reams of paper at £2.50 a time and free access to a photocopier. However, for anything worthy of being called a book you need to think in terms of at least a couple of thousand pounds. Volumes such as How To Publish Yourself can cost considerably more.
To be more specific over costs is difficult; there are so many variables - origination, paper, process, extent. You can make a book cost almost anything. Self-publishing is easily affordable by those earning an income, but also manageable by the retired and by those on support.
It is perhaps best in the beginning not to bank on getting your money back. Publishing is a profession of uncertainty, if you calculate prices correctly and make no marketing blunders then you might sell all you produce - there may be a small profit, if you've arranged things that way and this is a bonus. Most self-publishers operate somewhere between a hint of profitability and total loss - but not all. Some have produced best-sellers, and some have gone on to establish commercial businesses with the returns from their early success. It all depends on your aims.
In the commercial field, it is reckoned that out of every ten books published three lose money, four break even and three go into profit. Blockbusters are rare. The dreadful flop occurs every day. Large publishers can work on an average; the self-publisher has only one chance.
Publishing can only be made to pay if you don't value your own time at all Jonathan Cape
If you have got a job then do not give it up to become a self-publisher. Publish in your spare time until you can see where you are.
Where To Raise The Cash
Banks. self-publishing as commercial enterprise rather than paying hobby is the stance to adopt when approaching a bank. Loans may be offered but take them on with care. Profits from publishing can be a notoriously long time materialising. It has been argued that the process is such an intricate and detailed affair that eventual sales hardly justify the expenses involved. This may be true of many projects but not all. Good profits are there if you have the ideas and the experience. Self-publishers though are unlikely to find their titles racked out with the sausages at Sainburys and would in any event find the simple act of national distribution from garage or bedroom difficult to manage. Self-publishing is small publishing: there is a limit to what one person can do.
If you do intend operating commercially, be sure that you can do it all on your own. Present the bank with a detailed business plan - what and why you are publishing, your costings, your marketing plans and your imagined outcome. You will need to believe wholeheartedly in your project's success. Be prepared to put in immensely long hours. This is business we are talking about here. But then, if you enjoy it, it is not quite like work.
Arts Boards. If your venture is less a business and more an act of creative-writing - self-publishing in the long an impeccable tradition described in Chapter Two - then one would imagine it easy enough to obtain a grant from one of the many local arts boards, councils and associations. Unfortunately this is almost uniformly not the case. It is not that creative writing and small publishing themselves are ineligible for aid. They are not. It is the self-publishing that apparently disqualifies. A number of boards regard as suspect individuals sponsoring their own books and most will only consider aid if the publisher and author are unconnected. The fear of subsidising vanity rather than art is real. Despite this, arts boards are often able to advise on local printing co-operatives, marketing initiatives, subsidised promotion schemes and the like. Coverage varies from region to region with some far more interested in the fate of literary ventures than others.
All associations run a magazine or news-sheet of some sort. These range from a photocopied handout of information for writers' circles to a full arts glossy containing articles and reviews. Such periodicals will almost certainly be willing to give coverage to local creative activities.
As an alternative the notion of self-publishing could be dropped and, with an accomplice, a genuine small press established. Plan to publish more than one title. Such ventures are eligible for grant aid in some regions. Take care to avoid out and out deception.
The Arts Board for your area should be in the telephone directory. If in doubt consult the listings in either A & C Black's annual Writers' & Artists' Yearbook or Macmillan's The Writer's Handbook, edited by Barry Turner.
Arts Councils, a step-up from the boards, are even less likely to sponsor a self-published title although they do run a number of promotional and other initiatives and are usually a good point of contact for information and advice. There are four in the UK - England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as a southern Irish council in Dublin. Contact details can be found in the yearbooks referred to above.
Lottery & Pools Money. Applications to the National Lottery are a possibility although for a self-publisher meeting the principle criteria may be difficult. The sums of money asked for need to be large (£5000 minimum at the time of writing) and the venture "an arts project which will be of benefit to the community in general". If you can manage that then contact the Lottery c/o your national Arts Council. The Foundation For Sport and the Arts, which distributes pools money, has a similarly complex set of application criteria. Terms and conditions, however, are regularly amended so it is always worth asking. The Foundation For Sport and the Arts is at PO Box 20, Liverpool L13 1HB (0151 259 5505).
Sponsorship. Current economic thinking favours free enterprise helping the arts to help themselves. Sponsorship is available from big business to those activities which by association are most likely to enhance a company's identity. An oil company will benefit by having its name in an opera programme, a wine wholesaler will promote piano recitals because the image is right. For the business there can be tax savings too. Such considerations are unlikely to be of use to the self-publisher but sponsorship at a lower level need not be completely ruled out. A brewery may consider sponsoring a sports book, small businesses may help your guide to local eating, while on a different scale the council may wish to be associated with a history of the town.
Mogg Williams, a former miner and a folk poet of the South Wales coalfields, very successfully financed his collection of verse Mogg's People by selling advertising space in it to local shops. His previous books - all self-published - commented stringently on the lot of the miner in the 1980s amid closing pits and devastated communities. They were sponsored by the National Union of Miners and during the long strike by various miners support groups.
The Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts (ABSA), an independent membership organisation set up by and for businesses who wish to arts sponsor publishes a useful handbook. The ABSA/WH Smith Sponsorship Manual is available at a small charge. Contact ABSA at Nutmeg House, 60 Gainsford Street, Butlers Wharf, London SE1 2NY (0171 378 8143).
To gain sponsorship you will need to write a lot of letters. Stress the benefits to the community in what you are doing. There is no gain for a business sponsor simply to be associated with vanity. Pick companies with a large public. Concentrate your efforts on those with a previous record of sponsorship or those who would gain the most from being connected with what you are trying to do.
Other Sources. If you are willing to hunt a little there are a number of other sources of help available. The UK is well served with a network of TECs - Trading and Enterprise Councils, (known as LECs - Local Enterprise Councils in Scotland), Local Enterprise Agencies and other local and centrally funded advice centres. Ring Business Link (0345 567765) in England and Scotland or Business Connect (0345 969798) in Wales who will put you in touch with your nearest appropriate contact.
Enterprise agencies are funded from a mix of local authority, government and private sources. Their brief is to support new ventures and, so long as you are willing to angle it appropriately, self-publishing can be made to count. The key here is to be seen to be establishing yourself not as a writer but as a publisher. The fact that your first title will be by yourself is incidental. The agencies will see you as a potential future employer or at very least as an enterprise viable enough to keep you off the streets for a bit. They will offer you training in marketing, in production, will help you formulate a business plan, identify your funding short-fall and put you in touch with all available sources of finance from local authority grant aid to bank loans.
Start-up help under the New Business programme which offers assistance in the form of a small weekly grant running for six months may be just what you need. On the other hand if you are still young (twenty-nine years old appears to be the official watershed) then assistance from The Princes Youth Business Trust may be applicable. Or your local authority may run a community development programme which you can access. Much depends on where you live. The maze of possibilities may be complex but enterprise agencies know all the angles. If your publishing is to be of any scale they can certainly help see you through.
Private loans. The final approach and the most traditional. The private patron goes back to before the birth of print. I have heard of writers advertising in the newspapers for them but I have no knowledge of how successful such a ploy may be. If you have connections use them. If you haven't, you can always ask your family and friends. Spread the burden widely. If the project fails, small amounts may be forgotten; large debts stay in memory for a considerable time.
Business Names. All self-publishers are advised to adopt a name other than their own under which to trade. This is the publishing imprint and its existence will add credibility to the venture. Disc jockey Ron Ellis sold far more copies of his self-done Cape poetry lookalike Diary of a Discotheque under the Nirvana Books imprint than he would have under his own name. The list of Nirvana Books consisted entirely of one title, but only Ron Ellis knew that. Adopt an air of enterprise, give the impression that there are more than one of you. If you succeed that may well turn out to be the case.
The name chosen should unite commercial usefulness with authorial aims. Nirvana Books suited Ellis perfectly by combining a reference to publishing with that of an artistically stimulating mental state. Had the imprint been called, for example, "Heavenly Enterprises", then the image presented would have been completely wrong.
There are few restrictions on the name you choose and no registration is required. It is advisable though to avoid selecting a name already in use elsewhere. Check with Companies house, Crown Way, Cardiff CF4 3UZ (029 2038 8588). There are also a number of sensitive words and expressions which cannot be used as part of a business name without permission. These include "bank", "Royal", "Foundation" and "International". The restriction is to prevent individuals from implying that their business is something that it is not. Again check with Companies House. A set of notes for guidance are available free of charge. Business names used on letters, orders for goods and services, invoices, receipts, etc., must be supplemented by a reference to the name of the actual owner. This can best be accomplished by printing at the foot of the document something like "Ron Ellis trading as Nirvana Books" or "Ron Ellis sole proprietor".
You should inform your bank and open an appropriate account. Payments to you will be made in the name of the business and these are usually ineligible for clearance through your private account.
Copyright. In broad terms, a complex subject but for the purposes of self-publishing relatively simple. The provisions are contained in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and enhanced by the memorably renamed Duration of Copyright and Rights in Performance Regulations 1995. This body of legislation provides, among other things, for the protection of the writer's text but not the ideas or the images or the sense of that text. Copyright covers the actual form and style of words used, rather than what they say. It applies to completed books, fragments, notes, even the preliminary written sketch you may make on the back of an envelope. Copyright covers hand-written, printed and electronic material, be it in single or multiple copies. This protection is yours until you die, when it passes to your estate and then persists for a further 70 years before emerging into the public domain. In addition an author has the right to be identified in print as the originator of a piece work, no matter who actually ends up owning the copyright. So long as the writer has 'asserted' his or her 'moral rights' by including an appropriate statement to this effect either at the end of the text or with the publication data at the start of the book the rights are secure. A typical assertion might read:
Peter Finch is hereby identified as author of this work in accordance with Section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 2000
There is no registration for copyright under British Law. It is yours the moment you cause written words to come into being. Copyright under International Law is protected by including on the verso of the title page the symbol (c) followed by the date and the name of the copyright holder. Thus:
(c) 2000 Peter FinchCopyright is like property. It is possible to sell it and to rent it. If you sell it then it will be the purchaser's name which appears next to the copyright symbol rather than your own. If you rent, as in the case of allowing an item of your work to appear in an anthology edited by another, then the copyright in the item itself remains entirely yours. The selection, the run of choices used in that anthology, will be the copyright of the editor.
Much confusion arises from the practice, common before the Copyright Act of 1911, for writers to sell their copyrights outright. With the advance of the royalty system such deals have been largely supplanted.
If you wish to quote from or use sections of the work of others in your book, authorisation is usually required from the copyright holder in advance and a fee payable. The let-out under the Acts is that a certain amount of quotation for the purposes of research, criticism or review, is allowed without permission so long as sufficient acknowledgement is given. By convention, British publishers have agreed that in order get round the problem of the unscrupulous beginning their books "As Bill Bryson says...." and then proceeding to quote the whole of Notes From A Small Island, quotations shall be limited to a single extract of up to 400 words of prose, or a series of extracts of not more than 300 each and up to a total of 800 words, or 40 lines of poetry but not more than a quarter of a poem. The overriding factor is that the quotation must not represent a substantial part of the original work. The system is known as 'fair dealing'.
In addition to written work, copyright also exists in illustrated material, works of art, maps and photographs. Here it usually rests with the artist or photographer responsible except for commissioned works where it rests with the initiator of the commission. Should you wish to use such copyright material permission must be obtained in advance.
A good outline summary of copyright law appears in Amanda L. Michaels' article in the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook. An essay by Barry Turner on the practical implications can be found in Macmillan's The Writer's Companion.
Another illusion, seldom entertained by competent authors is that...others are waiting to plagiarise their work. I think it may be said that the more worthless the manuscript, the greater the fear of plagiarism. Sir Stanley Unwin, The Truth About A Publisher
Plagiarism is much less prevalent than most people think. There are far more ideas, images, poems and stories around than there are places to publish them. Why bother to steal? Although unfounded, it is still a common fear. If your written words are used, without your permission, then you have a right to legal recourse against the user. If your work is found masquerading as the work of others, you have a right to a similar action, although the case will be harder to prove. If you are in real fear of this happening it is possible to take out some insurance and deposit copies at Stationer's Hall who will charge you £35.25 for a registration covering seven years (The Registrar, The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, Stationer's Hall, Ave Maria Lane, London EC4M 7DD 0171 248 2934), or more simply send a copy of the mss to yourself by registered mail and without opening it keep it in a safe-deposit at your bank. Such rather extreme precaution will establish beyond doubt the existence of a specific work at a specific date. This is a prerequisite in a successful action for plagiarism and will, no doubt, help some people sleep at night.
Libel. This is defamation published in permanent form. It is unlikely that self-publishers will find themselves in court but in times of changing values the possibility, no matter how remote, is worth guarding against. An action for libel is usually a civil one with the aim of obtaining both damages and a court injunction to prevent repetition. Legal aid is not available. A successful action needs to prove that the libel was published by the defendant (you), refers to the plaintiff (the person libelled) and is defamatory. It is no defence to say that you didn't mean it or that your intentions have been misunderstood. Libel actions can be defended by proving that the statements were justified, or were the truth or fair comment.
Occasionally, criminal prosecutions are made against those responsible for perpetuating a libel. The circumstances usually involve statements regarded as obscene, seditious, blasphemous or inciting racial hatred. Those responsible can include the bookseller and the printer as well as the publisher. Legal advice should always be taken if problems arise.
Book-Keeping, Tax and VAT. Keeping records of income and expenditure probably seems of minor importance to a self-publisher. Initially, there are few transactions and they are spaced far apart. The problem comes when things start to multiply, as they have a habit of doing, and cheques in payment of invoices and bills for services arrive by every post.
A simple cash book (or spreadsheet program if you are computer literate) is the answer. Date and record all transactions from the outset. Retain your receipts and make copies of all bills. This will enable you to keep track of your finances and to accurately cost the overall venture. Unless you clearly appear to be making money, the Tax Office shouldn't bother you although under Self-Assessment you are now obliged to keep records of all you do. Even if you do find yourself in the lucky position of moving from the red side of your bank balance into the black, it does not necessarily mean that tax is payable. Read the sections relevant to taxation for writers in The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook (A & C Black) and employ an accountant. Their fees will almost certainly be covered by the amount they will help you save.
VAT is not yet levied on books but there are continuing rumours that eventually it will be. It is charged on all supplies and services including those for individual aspects of book production. Complete books remain zero rated, VAT free. In other words if, as a publisher, you separately employ your own typesetter and binder, the invoices for their services will carry VAT. If the printer employs these firms on your behalf and subsequently provides you wit one full invoice for the complete job (for books) then it will be VAT free.
Under appropriate circumstances VAT can be recovered by registering a publishing business for VAT purposes but most self-publishers will operate at too low a level to be considered.
International Standard Book Numbers. ISBNs are unique reference numbers printed on a book's back jacket and the verso of its title page. There is no formal obligation on self-publishers to use them, but they will benefit enormously is they do. ISBNs consist of a 10-digit series which identifies the country of origin, the publishers and the specific work. The final digit is a check digit which mathematically checks the correctness of the preceding nine. For example 0 85031 777 0 from this book where 0 identifies Britain, 85031 Allison & Busby, 777 this specific edition and 0 the check digit. Numbers are allocated, at a cost of around £50 a time, by the ISBN Agency, a division of J. Whitaker & Sons Ltd at 12 Dyott Street, London WC1A 1DF (0171 420 6000).
Self-publishers are advised to request an ISBN from the Agency as soon as they have a definite title for their book. Those with a list of titles are encouraged to purchase the print-out of a block of ISBNs and to allocate the numbers themselves.
Down the corridor from the ISBN Agency are Whitakers Bibliographic Services. This division of the company is able to help publishers considerably by including their titles in a number of bibliographic directories and lists. Publishers are required, at least three months in advance of publication, to complete a Whitakers' Information form detailing their work. This enables the title to be included in the weekly Booklist published in The Bookseller. This periodical, "the organ of the booktrade", is used by both bookseller and librarian as a prime source of reference to new titles. Inclusion in it will inevitably result in sales. Notified titles are entered in Whitakers' main Bibliographic File, a comprehensive database of some two million English language titles. This database is used as the source for a variety of information publications in hard-copy, on-line, microfiche, and disc versions including Bookbank, Whitakers' Web, British Books In Print, and New and Forthcoming Books, as well as a variety of directories covering publisher's names and addresses and ISBNs. The database is used by Teleordering, the booktrade's computer based ordering system and is also sold on to bibliographic database providers abroad, including the United States. Whitakers' service is absolutely invaluable and, to the self-publisher, entirely free. Fuller details together with a supply of information forms can be had by writing to their main office listed above.
Bar Codes are the machine-readable stripes found on almost all consumer products these days. These represent a thirteen digit sequence consisting of the prefix 978 representing the product (a book), the fist nine digits of your unique ISBN plus a new check digit. Supplementary bar codes known as "addons" can also be obtained to represent the price. In a trade where stock-control, ordering, sales data and till operations are increasingly handled by computer bar codes can be regarded as an essential part of book production. Once you know your ISBN a code can be prepared for you in hard-copy, disc or film format by one of a number of specialist providers. Bar codes should always appear on the book jacket, back, bottom right. Print them as they are, do not reverse them out in order to improve the design, as one small publisher of my acquaintance did. Code readers in shops like things simple. Bar Codes for self-publishers can be obtained from Axion Auto ID Ltd, Church Road, Weston-on-the-Green, Bicester OX6 8QP (01869 351155) or Axis Multidata, Maestro House, 4 Fir Road, Bramhall, Stockport SK7 2NP (0161 440 9877).
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data Programme. This provides for library catalogue information to be provided to the library service at least three months in advance of publication. This information is included in the British National Bibliography available to libraries and other interested parties world-wide. Participation is not compulsory but is free. It will certainly help sales and is thoroughly recommended. CIP data details the title's Dewey decimal classification, its Library of Congress subject heading along with information on its author set out in a format useable by library catalogue systems. Publishers today, other than those in developing countries, have dispensed with actually printing this data in their books substituting instead on the verso of the title page the standard acknowledgement:
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from
the British LibraryThe scheme is administered for the British Library by BDS, (Bibliographic Data Services) Ltd, 24 Nith Place, Dumfries DG1 2PN (01387 266004) who can provide advance information forms. Further details can also be obtained directly from The British Library, National Bibliographic Service, Boston Spa, Wetherby, West Yorkshire LS23 7BQ (01937 546989).
Starting in self-publishing is no more complex than assembling a pack-flat wardrobe from MFI. It can be done on the kitchen table with a pot of glue and some scissors. Work progressively. Learn as much as you can from anyone in the profession of books you come into contact with. As a new self-publisher you are a small and inexperienced operator. You must learn to help yourself.
Copyright Peter Finch
Book Typography - A Designer's Manual by Michael Mitchell and Susan Wightman. Libanus Press
(Rose Tree House, Silverless Street, Marlborough, Wilts SN8 1JQ - www.libanuspress.co.uk).
The book that explains it as it should be. An absolute delight to hold and to read. The best guide to book typography on the market today - why, how, where and what for. Typography is not simply a matter of setting the type and throwing it down as this carefully produced work shows only too well. If you are self-publishing do look here before you start.