Category Archives: Publishing

Resources for publishing print books

When I first decided to do a print edition of There Must Be Horses, I intended to pay someone to lay out the book for me. But most designers use Adobe Indesign so I wouldn’t be able to make any last minute edits myself unless I bought the same software. At £650, that was seriously expensive and way outside my budget.

Thankfully an internet search showed up a viable alternative that was much, much cheaper: Serif Page Plus. At around the same time, I met an author at the Winchester Writers’ Conference who had used PagePlus to create his book. The end result looked so professional that I decided to give the software a try, and I’m really glad I did. (I used PagePlusX6 but this has now been replaced by PagePlusX7.)

Tackling a task I had never done before with software I had never used was a pretty ambitious project involving a huge learning curve. I initially felt very daunted, but I soon found there is plenty of useful information on the web as well as Serif’s own tutorials. There’s even a phone helpline where an extremely helpful man patiently talked me through something I was finding extra tricky. Once I’d learned how to use master pages for internal design and layers for cover design, I was able to experiment and discover the full power of this excellent software package.

Page Plus produces high quality pdf files ready for sending to the printer. But before I was ready to do that, I needed to understand the conventions of book layout and learn how to make professional decisions about fonts. For this, I turned to several other resources.

  1. The books on my bookshelves.
    Looking at these helped me see that the odd numbered pages are always on the right and that new chapters start further down the page than the rest of the book does. They showed me the most common size for books like mine, the usual number of lines per page and the way copyright information is usually laid out.
    An excellent site full of advice on book layout and cover design.
  3. Createspace
    Amazon’s user friendly POD system offers helpful advice and templates to help you lay out your book. I found its article on creating pdf files particularly useful.
    A useful source of free fonts.
  5. The Non-Designer’s Design and Type Books
    I love this book by Robin Williams (which is actually two books in one). It’s an excellent introduction to design and type for beginners, packed full of visual examples that demonstrate the difference even small changes in layout can make. I found it invaluable for understanding which fonts to choose and how to decide about leading (the technical term for line spacing). It’s also useful for designing information sheets, bookmarks and other publicity material.

Many people have commented that the print edition of There Must Be Horses looks very professional so these resources worked for me. Why not give them a try?

Diana Kimpton

Pricing your book

Pricing is an issue for all businesses, not just self-published authors. The most important thing to remember is that the right price for any product is the one that people will be willing to pay. And the best way to get to grips with that is to think how price influences what you buy yourself.

Suppose you want to buy a watch. There are eight on offer – one for £60, six for £20 and one for 99p. If you’re like me, you’ll look at the six that are the same price and decide that’s the going rate for a decent watch. The one for £60 looks expensive in comparison so you’re likely to reject it unless there is a compelling reason why it’s worth the extra money.  And the one for 99p looks too cheap which suggests there might be something wrong with it.

The same applies to books. If yours is much more expensive than all the similar books on the market, you’ll need to work hard to persuade readers that the extra cost is worthwhile. And pricing too low on a permanent basis can sometimes give the impression that the book is poor quality. However, everyone loves a bargain so reducing the price for a limited period can influence buyers a great deal. Think how you might have reacted if the £60 watch was reduced to £20 for one week only. Which of those 7 equally priced watches would you have been most likely to buy?

Pricing ebooks
The costs of producing an individual ebook are so low you can almost ignore them. All you have to part with is the share to the retailer. The rest is yours to keep so you can afford to experiment with different prices to see how readers react. This is easiest to do if your book is only available on Amazon as you’ve only got one outlet to worry about, but changing prices on other outlets through Draft2Digital is quite quick too.

If you have a print edition of your book, the price of that will affect how people feel about the ebook price. Readers expect the ebook to be cheaper so pricing the two the same will make your ebook look expensive and put buyers off. But pricing the ebook well below the print price will make it look like good value, even if that price might have looked high on its own. As a rough guide, pricing an ebook at one third of the price of the print book seems to work.

Pricing print books
You have less flexibility when pricing print books because you have to cover the cost of producing the individual book as well as the discount to the retailer (which can be as high as 60%). As a result, the price of your print edition will need to be substantially higher than your ebook in order to make a profit. However, if you want to sell many copies, your book needs to cost about the same as other books of a similar type.

This is really important. One bookshop manager told me that the main reason he turns down many self-published books is because they are too expensive. He can only make money if he sells books, and he knows his customers won’t pay £12 for a paperback novel from an unknown writer when the competing titles are all priced at £7.99. So before you decide on a price, research the cover price of books of a similar type. (That’s the full list price – not the discounted price that often shows on Amazon.) 

Non-fiction books tend to be more expensive than novels so it’s easier to be competitive when pricing those. The reverse is true of children’s books which tend to be cheaper than books for adults so being competitive is more difficult although it is still essential.

Once you’ve done your research, do some sums to work out how much profit you will make at the various prices you might charge. Make sure you include the discount to the retailer which is always at least 35% and often higher, especially if you’re selling through a wholeseller. Obviously you’ll save that if you sell direct but you still need to take postage into account. 

Make sure you do these calculations before you commit to producing your print book. If you can’t afford to price it competitively without making a loss, you may need to have a rethink about the best way forward. But sometimes it’s worth having a print-on-demand version of your novel, even if the profit is tiny as it gives you something to sell at events and to give to reviewers.

 Diana Kimpton


The cost of self-publishing

When you self-publish, you have to pay all the costs of producing your book. But how much are those costs going to be? I’ve seen some widely varying estimates online and some terribly high charges asked by some of the companies that offer to do all the work for you. So, to give some clarity to the situation, I’ve decided to tell you how much I spent to produce my latest book.

matadorfrontcoverThere Must Be Horses is a 49,000 word novel for teens/young adults without illustrations. Before I started down the self-publishing road, I set myself a maximum budget of £2000 so I was pleasantly surprised to find I only spent £650 to produce the book in both ebook and print-on-demand format. Here’s a breakdown of where the money went.

I decided that I wanted my own ISBNs so I bought a block of 10 for £121.98. I used three for There Must Be Horses – one for the print edition, one for the Kindle book and one for the epub edition. The £650 includes the full cost of these, but I’ve got seven left over for other books.

Structural Edit
I was determined to produce a book to the same standards as a traditional publisher so I paid a professional editor to do a proper, structural edit. She commented on how the book worked, picking up bits of the plot that didn’t quite work and highlighting places where the motivation wasn’t clear, behaviour wasn’t believable or the pacing went wrong. I paid an hourly rate of £22.50 to someone I had worked with in the past and whose opinion I trusted. I’d already done several rewrites by the time I gave it to her so she didn’t have too much work and the final cost was £162. Obviously this would cost you more if your book had more structural issues.

Copy Edit
Once I’d finished sorting out all the issues raised by the structural edit, I handed the book over to an experienced freelance copy editor. He picked up spelling and punctuation errors (I’m dreadful with question marks) and subtle issues such as using a mixture of em-dashes and en-dashes – an error caused by the way Word works. He also pointed out an issue with chapter lengths that I had introduced while sorting out the structural edit. He charged £18 per hour and the total cost was £112. Again, this would be more expensive if the book contained more errors so I gained from having given him a relatively clean manuscript.

I had originally decided this was beyond me and commissioned a cover designer recommended by a friendly small publisher. The price was going to be £350, but the designer had taken on too much work and, when the cover was three months late, I decided to cancel the order and try designing it myself. With some help from my husband who has done a course in Photoshop and feedback from long-suffering friends, I finally created both the ebook and print covers myself. The costs involved were £111 for pictures from and £51 for a copy of Serif PagePlusX6 – powerful, inexpensive software that’s ideal for self-publishers.

Ebook creation
Steve and I are web designers so this was something we managed easily using software we already had and free software we downloaded. It’s a pretty straightforward process if no pictures are involved so, even if you’ve no technical experience, you can do this yourself using  Amazon’s KDP system and Draft2Digital’s system. For me the total cost was zero.

Interior design for print
I started off thinking I would have to pay for this and was quoted £350. But I didn’t want to end up with an InDesign file that I couldn’t edit myself when I spotted a typo so I decided to try doing it myself using PagePlus. It took me a while to get the hang of the software and to understand the principles of book design (more of this in another post) but, with the help of an excellent book, a kind man on the PagePlus helpline and, I finally produced a book that looked professional and had all the features I wanted. (dropped caps at beginning of chapters, clear text, good line spacing). Apart from the software that I’ve already included, the only cost was a copy of The Non-Designer’s Design and Type Books for just under £30 – expensive but really useful.

Print-on-demand set up
I produced the print-on-demand edition with Createspace using the pdf files for the interior and cover that I had produced with PagePlus. As a result, the only cost was £23 for two paper proofs. One would have been enough if I’d spotted the problem with the first one in the digital proof checker provided by Createspace but the fact that I didn’t proves the value of getting a proper proof copy. A large part of this cost was fast delivery to the UK. If you are based in the US, the proofs will be less expensive.

By the time I had spent that £650, There Must Be Horses was on sale in Amazon and the Kobo shop on both sides of the Atlantic. I hope this gives you some useful figures to compare with the thousands that some self-publishing services charge (usually without any editing). 

Diana Kimpton

The changing world of publishing

At the Romance Writers of America’s conference in 2013, there weren’t enough takers to fill all the available appointments with publishers and agents. This news filled me with excitement because it signals the big change in the world of publishing that I’ve been dreaming of – the time when self-publishing became easy enough for authors to choose as their preferred route instead of beating at the barriers set up by the publishers and agents. Continue reading

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


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

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

Getting help with self-publishing

Traditional publishing is a team effort. No one at a publishing company can do everything, so the company hires full time staff or freelancers to do the various jobs involved in producing a book.  The same applies to self-publishing. When you decide to take the independent route, you become a publisher and, just like the CEO of Penguin, you can buy in the skills you need from experts. So let’s look at the steps involved in publishing a book to see where you may need help. Continue reading