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Printing and Distribution for UK authors

If you decide to produce a print edition of your book, you need to think about two issues: how to have them printed and how to get the print editions into the hands of readers (a process called distribution). If you want your book to be able to order from all good bookshops, you also need to see if the distribution system you choose is used by Gardners, the main UK book wholesaler.

Print on Demand with Createspace
Createspace offers many advantages. The system is user-friendly and, provided you create your own files, it’s completely free with no set-up charges or fees for making changes. This makes it the ideal place to get started with publishing print books as your mistakes won’t cost you anything other than wasted time.  Another big plus with this system is that your books are automatically listed as in stock on all Amazon sites.

On the minus side for UK authors, Createspace is based in the US. Although books sold from are printed in the UK or Europe, any books you order for yourself come from the US which means they are subject to time delays and high delivery costs.  In addition, Createspace’s Expanded Distribution system only works in the US. I’ve heard that it’s a good solution for US authors, but it’s not much use to UK authors trying to sell this side of the Atlantic.

Ingram Spark
Ingram Spark is the self-publishing arm of the major POD supplier, Lightning Source. Although it’s a US company, it has a UK branch so you can get pricing in pounds and phone a UK number when you have a problem. They offer global distribution, and any copies you order yourself are printed in the UK with discounts for larger numbers and reasonable delivery costs. You choose the discount you offer retailers, and you decide whether to accept returns or not. 

In my experience, the service offered by Ingram Spark is steadily improving. Their staff are friendly and helpful, delivery is prompt and the quality of books is good. They handle the whole process from taking the order to delivering the books so you don’t have to do anything, and Gardners are willing to order through them.

The downside is that the price per copy is a little higher than with Createspace, although there are discounts for large orders. There are also set up fees and fees to make changes so mistakes can be costly.  But Ingram Spark is a good way to get worldwide distribution at low cost, especially when paired with using Createspace to supply Amazon.

Clays are a major UK book printer who are used by many traditional publishers. They have now set up a service for independent authors where, if you have a short print run with them, they will retain some in their warehouse and distribute them to Gardners for you in return for a small percentage of each sale (on top of Gardners’ discount). This gives you UK distribution but doesn’t supply any other countries.

Clays offers lower per copy prices than a print-on-demand service can give you as the more you order, the lower the cost of each book.  It can work well if you are in a good position to sell print copies yourself at events and also want the book to be available to order through bookshops.

Clays offer a wider choice of paper than you get with a POD service which may interest you if your book includes full colour illustrations and photographs. They can also provide covers with special features like spot laminating, although this will push up the price.

Other Printers
There are many other printers around the country who can produce a print run for you. Clays are the only one I have I have found so far who will handle distribution but there may be others. If you are in a good position to sell direct to readers and specialist outlets and you are happy to store and distribute the books yourself, this can work well. It all depends how much of a business person you are, how well placed you are to handle orders and how much time you can spare from your writing to deal with them.

There are also other companies that offer print-on-demand,  including I haven’t used Lulu myself but, judging by the sample prices on their website, the price per book is higher than with Createspace and Ingram Spark. Also, like Createspace, they are a US company and don’t appear to provide distribution to UK bookshops. 

Combining methods
It’s possible to combine using Createspace to supply Amazon with using Ingram Spark or Clays to supply bookshops and still have a supply of books at home that you can sell at events. It’s what I do, and I find it works well. However, if you want to use more than one printing method, you need to have your own ISBN. The free ISBN supplied by Createspace can only be used on their system.

Diana Kimpton

Selling books from your website

The easiest and probably the most effective way to sell books from your website is to link each book to the relevant page in Amazon. If you join the free Amazon Associate scheme, you’ll get commission on all sales that result from someone clicking through from your site to Amazon’s. That’s not just your book. It’s everything else they buy while they are there. I once got commission on a mountain bike which was very welcome.

You’ll also gain access to useful statistics on how many people click-through on your book links and what percentage of them buy.

Why Amazon?
Continue reading

Linking to multiple Amazon sites

When we’re publicising a book online, it makes sense to include an Amazon link to make it easy to buy. But that link will only be effective if it takes readers to the relevant Amazon shop for where they live.

I’ve struggled with this issue for a long time. As I live in the UK, it makes sense to link to, but I know some of my readers are in the US so they would like the link to take them to

Now I’ve finally found a solution to the problem. can give you a universal link that takes the reader to whichever is the appropriate Amazon site for them.  The link looks like this – – so it’s short and straightforward.

The service is free and works well so it’s definitely worth considering.

If you are an Amazon Associate, you can enter your ID after you’ve set up your first link. but if you do, make sure you only use the link in a way that follows the Amazon Associate rules.

Diana Kimpton

Title Trouble

It’s important to have the right title for your book.  The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul taught me that, because as I was so intrigued by the title that I made the decision to read Douglas Adams’ novel before I even knew what it was about.

matadorfrontcoverAs a result, I took care when choosing the title of my first young adult book. Throughout the months it took to write, I’d called the book Sasha’s Story. However, a quick search of Amazon showed this style of title usually belongs to “misery memoirs” – books about people who have overcome horrendous childhoods.

Although Sasha is in foster care and her childhood has been pretty miserable so far, this book wasn’t about her past. It was about her future and, in particular, about her love of horses. As my target readers were horse lovers, I realised that I needed to change the title to one that would appeal to them and show up on relevant searches they made on Amazon.  I decided to concentrate on the keyword “horse” and, after a lot of trial and error, I settled on There Must Be Horses – a title that’s worked well and proved as effective as I’d hoped.

Unfortunately, in my case, a lesson learned isn’t necessarily a lesson remembered.  When I published my children’s novel about an alien who comes to earth disguised as a green sheep, I forgot about the importance of finding the right title. I’d called the book The Green Sheep while I was writing it so, without thinking hard enough, that was the title I used when I published the book towards the end of 2014, Continue reading

Indents in ebooks

One of the most frequent questions we are asked by self-publishing authors concerns problems with paragraph indents. If you print out your Word document and everything looks OK, why do things get in a muddle when you turn it into an ebook?  Continue reading

How many books will I sell?

 It’s impossible to tell how many books you will sell because it depends on so many factors.

  1. The quality of your book
  2. Whether people like it enough to recommend it to others.
  3. The strength of the opposition from other similar books.
  4. The size of your target market.
  5. The price you are charging
  6. The quality of your marketing.

Notice that I’ve put marketing last. No amount of marketing will sell a bad book, but a good book may sell well without much marketing if it gets word-of-mouth recommendations. Continue reading

Making your readers care

The success of your story depends on your readers identifying so strongly with the characters and events that they care about what happens next. If they don’t care, they’ll stop turning the pages and, in the case of an ebook, they won’t want to hit the buy button after they’ve finished the sample.

To work out how to make your readers care about your stories, start by thinking what holds your attention. And to help you do that, take a look at this piece of writing.

A man lay behind the  hedge holding a rifle. He took aim at another man walking towards him and fired.

This should be a dramatic scene with lots at stake because someone might die. But do you care about it. I know I don’t. I feel distanced from what’s happening because I don’t know anything about the people involved. Who are they? Why are they there? Which one should I be supporting?

So let’s look at the same scene again with the addition of a few extra facts. Continue reading

Publishing children’s books

All the information on this site is relevant to publishing children’s books. However, if that’s what you are planning to do, there are some important considerations you need to keep in mind.

Low ebook sales
So far, there has been a lower swing to ebooks in children’s publishing with the majority of young children still reading on paper. No one knows why this is the case. It could be because it’s more fun to cuddle up to Mum with a paper book than an ebook or it could be because books are more resilient to being trodden on than Kindles and tablets.

Whatever the reason, publishing purely in ebook format limits your sales more dramatically with a children’s book than with a book for adults. That makes a print edition an important part of your publishing plan.

You can’t wrap an ebook
Many children’s books aren’t bought by children at all. They are bought by parents, grandparents and other friends and relatives as presents and these people all want to buy a paper book they can wrap up. This is another reason why it’s important to have a paper edition of your children’s book.

Picture books for pre-school children are normally illustrated in full colour. Chapter books for beginners and newly-confident readers are usually illustrated too, often with black and white line drawings rather than full colour. Paying an illustrator to produce these pictures pushes up the cost of publishing considerably. If you want to produce children’s books on a very limited budget, aim for the older end of the market (8+)  where there are usually no illustrations at all or maybe just one picture above each of the chapter headings.

Printed children’s books are normally priced lower than books for adults which means profit margins are tighter. Traditional publishers can overcome this with the lower per-copy costs that comes with large print runs and with cost sharing deals with foreign language publishers. However, neither of these options are available to self-publishing authors and the higher per-copy costs of print on demand can make it difficult to price your book competitively.

All these issues make it harder to be successful self-publishing children’s books than it would be if you tackled a popular genre like romance. However, writing and publishing for children brings satisfactions beyond the purely financial ones. Your books can turn children into readers, stimulate their imaginations and introduce them to whole new worlds.

Diana Kimpton

Creating covers for print books

The cover of a print book has three parts: the front cover, the spine and the back cover. These three components are printed together as a large rectangle that wraps around the pages to create the finished book. When it’s laid out flat, a print cover looks like this:


The front cover
This is what most people think of when we talk about book covers. It’s the part of the print book that shows when it’s placed face out in a book shop, and it’s the part that shows when the book is listed in an online bookshop. You can find out more about designing the front cover in our article on the basics of cover design.

The front cover of the print book is usually the same as the ebook cover. However, if you’ve already created an ebook cover with a photo or other picture running right up to the left hand edge you will need to change it a little for the print edition. This is because, with Print on Demand, there is a slight variation in the position of the folds either side of the spine so there is a risk that the picture may wrap around onto the spine or end slightly short. Continue reading

The Basics of Cover Design

A good cover is vital to your book’s success because it’s the first thing your potential readers see.  If you have a good eye for design, the right software and the experience to use it, there’s no reason why you can’t try to create your own cover.

If you haven’t got the right skills or you find the task too hard, it’s best to pay an experienced designer to help you. Don’t penny pinch and use an amateurish cover because that will suggest that the contents of your book are amateurish too. But even if you are using a designer, it’s still worth learning the basics of cover design so you understand what they are doing. Continue reading