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What is print-on-demand?

Traditional publishing involves printing a large quantity of books at once (called a print run), storing them in a warehouse and sending them out in response to orders from bookshops and wholesalers. For years, this was the way the book business worked and self-publishing involved either finding a distributor for your books or, more likely, storing boxes of books in the garage or under your bed and queuing at the post office to send them out in ones or twos.

The arrival of digital printing made shorter print runs more feasible, which meant you didn’t have quite as many books to store, and  it also introduced a completely new alternative: print-on-demand (POD). Under this system, the files that make up your book are stored on a computer. When an order comes in, a copy of your book is printed and sent out direct to the customer.Print-on-demand is brilliant for self-publishers. There are no books to store, no money tied up in stock and no more queuing at the Post Office. Even if you are mainly expecting to sell ebooks, POD allows you to offer a paperback as well at minimal cost so you have physical books available for reviewers and for the gift market. (Ebooks are great, but you can’t wrap them up.)

Createspace is Amazon’s own POD system and well worth considering because it is user-friendly and produces good quality books that are automatically listed as in stock on Amazon. As long as you provide your own pdf files for the cover and the interior (made by you or someone you’ve hired), Createspace charges you nothing for putting the book on their system. There is also no charge for changing the file later when you’ve spotted the inevitable typo that slipped through the net. You will have to pay for a printed proof, but that’s a good investment to make sure everything is okay before you put the book on sale.

There are plenty of other POD suppliers and one of the biggest is Ingram Spark: the self publishing arm of Lightning Source. They charge set-up fees, but they sell to wholesalers and retailers worldwide so they provide you with the ability to say “available from all good bookshops”. Using Createspace for Amazon sales and Ingram Spark for everything else is a popular choice for indie authors because it gives you wide distribution plus “in stock” availability with Amazon. However, that’s only possible if you use your own ISBN – not one supplied by Createspace.

Diana Kimpton


Books about writing

Success at self-publishing fiction depends on having a good novel to sell and that, in turn, depends on the quality of both the story and the storytelling. Here are some books to help you create and tell stories that people want to read.

Story Engineering
by Larry Brooks
(Writers Digest Books)
I love this book because it helped lift my storytelling to a new level. Larry Brooks concentrates on what he calls the 6 core competencies of successful writing: concept, character, theme, story structure, scene execution and writing voice. He doesn’t lay down prescriptive rules. Instead he helps you understand the reasons why some stories work better than others and apply the same principles to improving your own books.
Buy paperback from Amazon
Buy ebook from Amazon

Plot and Structure
by James Scott Bell
(Writers Digest Books)
There are quite a few books that try to explain how plot works, but this is one of the few that really show you how to tackle the process of plotting. My own copy is dog-eared from frequent use, and it has definitely helped to improve my writing. Starting with a quick look at plot structure, James Scott Bell rapidly moves on to ways to find ideas and develop them into a strong story. The book is packed with useful advice and exercises to trigger your creativity and help you find ways to strengthen your plots. Highly recommended, whether you like to plot in detail before you start writing or prefer to dive straight in and see where your characters lead you.
Buy paperback from Amazon
Buy ebook from Amazon

Description and Setting
by Ron Rozelle
(Writers Digest Books)
Don’t be fooled by the title of this book. It’s not about poetic descriptions of sunsets. It’s about drawing your readers into your story and bringing your characters alive. Using well-chosen examples, the author explains how to cut the clutter from your story, explores the issue of showing rather than telling and shows how to use all your senses while creating scenes. She also looks critically at the tools you can use – including adverbs, metaphors, cadence and punctuation – and shows how to use them for best effect.This is a useful book for writers who are just getting started and for the more experienced. I found it helped me see what I was doing right as well as showing me ways to improve.
Buy paperback from Amazon
Buy ebook from Amazon

The Writer’s Journey
by Christopher Vogler
(Michael Wise Productions)
Some of the most enduring stories are the ancient myths so it’s sensible to try to learn from their success. Christopher Vogler classic book looks at the structure of mythical tales and how we can use that structure to add strength to your own plots. He uses screenwriting to illustrate his points, but these are equally applicable to novels.
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DRM stands for Digital Rights Management and is the name for any mechanism intended to stop the pirating and redistribution of digital files.  The methods vary depending on the type of file, but all DRM systems have one thing in common – they don’t really do the job for which they’re intended! Continue reading

Writing picture books

Do you want to write a picture book? Are you tempted by only having to produce a few hundred words instead of the thousands required for a full-length novel? Well, don’t be fooled. Successful picture book writing is far more difficult than it looks. Continue reading

Writing a series

There is no doubt that series sell. Once readers have enjoyed one book about a character, they are likely to want another, and ebooks make that next book just a click away.

Before you can create a series, you need a really strong idea. Take time to get this right and make sure you have the two essentials: Continue reading

US tax for UK authors

If you sell your books in the States, any money you earn there is subject to US tax. As a result, Amazon, Draft2Digital and other US companies will deduct 30% withholding tax from everything you earn through them. However, the US and UK have tax treaties designed to stop people being taxed twice on the same income. As a result, there are three ways to deal with this issue.

Continue reading

Finding pictures for covers

The right picture can bring your cover to life, but you can’t just download a picture you like from the internet and use it without permission. That would be a breach of copyright and could result in you being sued. And It wouldn’t work anyway as most pictures online are very low resolution – much too low to use on your book cover. So how can you get the right picture? Continue reading

FAQ about ISBNs

The International Standard Book Number system is designed to help the bookselling industry control stock. In the UK, it’s also used as the basis of the Public Lending Right systems which pays authors a small amount each time their book is borrowed.

Do I have to have an ISBN?
No. There is no legal requirement to have one for your book, but you will need one if you want to sell through bookstores. The ISBN is attached to the format of the book, not the content, so hardback and paperback editions need different ISBNs. Continue reading