Category Archives: Business side of self-publishing

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?
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Public Lending Right

When a library buys a print book, it can lend it to as many people it likes. The only restriction is the physical strength of the book – lending ends automatically when the pages fall out. To compensate for any resulting loss in sales, the UK government puts aside a chunk of money each year which is divided up amongst the authors whose print books have been borrowed.

This is called Public Lending Right (PLR) and the  system works like this:

  1. Authors register their books with the Public Lending Right office.
  2. The PLR office collects data on loans from a selection of libraries around the country.
  3. The PLR office extrapolates from that data to work out an estimate of how many times each book has been borrowed in the whole country.
  4. They calculate how much they can afford to pay per loan and pay that to every author in the scheme. To stop the most successful authors taking nearly all the money, no one can be paid more than a set maximum. (£6,600 in 2014). There’s also a minimum threshold of £1.

PLR is a great system for authors. It works extremely well and provides a welcome income boost. It’s also very gratifying to see how many times your books have been borrowed, especially those that are long out of print. So make sure you register each edition of your book that’s available in the UK.

The UK isn’t the only country with a PLR system. The Irish system works in a very similar way and is administered by the UK PLR people so you can opt to join that when you register your books in the UK.  Other countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, pay out their PLR money to UK authors through the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS).

Diana Kimpton


Beware of the small print

Whichever route you take to publish your book, one thing is certain. You’ll have to deal with contracts. They are long, boring and often hard to understand, but never make the mistake of signing on the dotted line or ticking the appropriate box on the website without being 100% sure what you are agreeing to.  .

I’m not a lawyer, but over the years I’ve learned a little about contracts. The most important thing to remember is that everything in them is there for a reason. Don’t believe anyone, not even an agent,  who says you don’t have to worry about a clause you don’t like because no one will actually put it into effect. If that was true, the worrisome words wouldn’t need to be there in the first place.

What rights are you giving up?
Your future income from your book depends on your copyright so it’s vital that you don’t part with it, either deliberately or by accident. However, as no one can produce a copy of your book without your permission, you will need to grant a license to any publishing companies that you work with.

Many publishers (especially the traditional ones) will want that license to grant them every right in your work that exists, with a proviso about ones later invented. But, before you agree to that, ask if they are in a position to use all those rights effectively. This is particularly true of film and translation rights. Before you license those, make sure the publisher has a good track record in selling them. Otherwise you can end up with the rights languishing unsold or the frustrating situation of having to pay the publisher a percentage when you’ve actually found the buyer for the rights yourself.

If you’re self-publishing, most of the companies you use will only need non-exclusive rights which leaves you free to work with more than one company at the same time. (eg Kobo and Kindle Direct Publishing). But traditional publishers usually ask for exclusive rights to protect the investment they are making. Before you agree to that, think carefully about the next point.

How long will the contract last?
Nothing lasts forever. Publishing companies go bust, and even your copyright expires 70 years after your death. As a result, a publishing contract needs to have some sort of termination clause. In the old days, this would state that your rights reverted to you if the book went out of print. However, that doesn’t work well these days because ebooks and POD books remain available for ever. So it’s better to have the reversion clause come into effect when sales drop below a certain level or, better still, to have a fixed term contract that automatically comes to an end after a set number of years. For self-publishing, you need flexibility as the markets change so it’s good to have the ability to cancel the contract after a set notice period.

It’s also important to have the rights automatically revert to you if the business ceases to trade or goes into liquidation. Otherwise you can end up in a legal limbo, with no one to ask for your rights back. I learned this the hard way as the first POD company I used years ago went belly up with no warning and disappeared completely. Luckily the contract was non-exclusive so I wasn’t totally stuck – just out-of-pocket and a little wiser.

Danger words
There are some words that should always sound alarm bells when you see them in contracts, agency agreements or website terms and conditions. Two that particularly worry me are permanent and irrevocable. If you spot those, read everything else very carefully and be prepared to walk away rather than commit to something you can never get out of. The word exclusive is sometimes necessary but the sight of it should always make you extra cautious. Be sure to check out how long the exclusivity will last and what benefits you’re getting in return.

Non-competing works clauses
These have become a feature of traditional publishing contracts and are a major reason why I prefer self-publishing. Originally they were fairly reasonable: the author only promised not to sell another publisher an abridgement or extension of the same book. But over the years, they have become more and more restrictive as publishers seek to control their authors future careers. I was once asked to sign a contract that stopped me publishing any book that competed with the one I was selling. When I commented that this seemed to mean I could never write another book for the same age group without their permission, the publisher said I was right and that was exactly what they wanted. That was totally unacceptable to me as it would have grossly restricted what I could do in the future so I turned down their offer and sold the book elsewhere.

You need to watch carefully for non-competing works clauses because they are sometimes hidden in other parts of the contract, especially the warranty. If you spot one in a traditional publishing contract, try to get it taken out or watered down as much as possible and time limited (so it expires after a year or two rather than lasting for the full term of the contract). And only agree to it if you are happy to live with the consequences. Don’t just cross your fingers and hope no one will apply it. You might live to regret it.

Any sort of non-competing works clause in a contract for self-publishing services should sound alarm bells so loud that they deafen you as you run away. If you’re paying all the costs, you should always keep full control and freedom.

Finding out more
Contracts are a huge topic so this post has only touched on some of the issues they raise. You’ll find plenty of other useful information on the subject at and

Getting advice
If you have an agent, they will help you with the contract. But be careful – anyone can become an agent so there is no guarantee that yours knows what they are doing.  If you haven’t got an agent or you don’t want to rely on the one you have, you can get contract advice from The Society of Authors and/or from a lawyer with relevant experience. 

Diana Kimpton



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

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.

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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