All Spin or Win-Win? Either way, don’t fall in.

Publishing Overview.

dont fall in

This was written in 2016 and in only 2 years some of these self publishers or Solutions Providers are no longer with us. Sorry for any inconvenience caused. We’ve updated links to the best of our ability . . .

It’s never been easier to get your own work out there. You can publish by yourself digitally or print on demand. Others can also do it for you. These ‘others’ can be mainstream publishers via an agent, independents that you approach yourself, or solutions providers who straddle the whole market.

There are obvious points to look out for and perhaps the keys to all this are editing, marketing and reputation. If you are using a ‘hybrid’ remember that cost is no guarantee of service provided. And let’s not forget the crowd-funding vehicles like Unbound in the UK, Kickstarter and Publishizer in the US. (Although both seem to particularly like authors who already have a strong social media presence and Publishizer leans towards creative non-fiction more.) The Ebook model has new kids on the block, Pronoun, offering its one stop shop. They connect you with a database of cover designers, editors, copy editors, and marketing specialists.

Mainstream Publishers

It is possible to approach most, but not all, indie publishers direct, cutting out the need for an agent. This is not usually possible for mainstream publishers unless it is a non-fiction work, in which case Publisher Lookup is a brilliant resource.

Mainstream Agents

These options are for agents within the UK. A few databases exist on-line that you could use as a starting point:

The Association of Authors’ Agents has links to the various members’ sites where you can then check their submissions policies. It is more of a starting point than an exhaustive list, but it’s free.

The Agent Hunter has a searchable database of agencies and agents, their likes and dislikes and submission policies. It also offers lists of independent publishers. It can do a lot of your sifting work for you. Fees start from as little as five pounds.

The Writers and Artists website also has a comparison vehicle for self publishing although it charges a flat fee to all providers that are listed.

We wrote an article comparing agent hunter with W&A which may be of use to you.

As we are based in Europe, our focus, understandably, is on the UK market. But here is a database of US publishers. We hope it helps.


You have the choice to print digitally with companies such as Amazon Kindle Digital Publishing, Penguin Random House, Pronoun, IngramSpark and a host of solutions providers, from those who assist, e.g. Lulu, to those who are subsidy or vanity publishers. You can also Print On Demand (POD) or choose to go with offset printers. One strategy would be to publish digitally and if a market is created consider at that point whether to print hard copies, paperback, hardback, via POD or offset.

Amazon has a comprehensive business strategy and is the uncontested digital leader, a clear majority of e-book buyers go there first and it uses its database of purchasers to great effect. It offers Ebooks with KDP and POD with CreateSpace, but only for paperbacks.

Penguin Random House also has a self-publishing vehicle. The self-starter pack is free, except the author hands over 15% of online sales; the same percentage applies for $59, $149, and $249 packages, respectively. Interestingly, the service costing $399 does not claw back any percentage from online sales. This is only for Ebooks.

Vook is now part of Pronoun which offers a similar service to BookCountry, except it pays for your Ebook ISBN number. It’s a good deal and well worth checking out. They really can guide you through the whole process so that you end up with a quality product.

IngramSpark offers print titles, POD, and Ebooks. It exploits the Ingram Distribution Channel with over 30,000 wholesalers, retailers and booksellers in over 100 countries. It also offers other distribution channels and, like competing platforms, provides clients with a comprehensive portfolio of booksellers. It tantalises with the all important ‘Sale or Return’ facility for POD books. This makes it possible for you to get your self published book in bricks and mortar book shops. It also offers Hard Back as well as paper back. (Lightning Source is for medium sized and large publishers.) Ingram Spark, much like the others, has a file creation guide that is kept updated and available from their website. It guides you through the process so you can do it alone without Publishing Solutions Providers.

Lulu is a large solutions provider that also gives the options of hardbacks. In addition it has a free marketing guide when you sign up. Arguably one of the best of the middlemen, or publishing solutions providers.

All of those listed above give help in getting your ISBN number.

What is an ISBN?

An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number. It is a product number used by major book-selling chains, internet sellers like Amazon, bibliographic databases such as BookData online, etc. It is not a legal requirement in Britain and Ireland, nor Spain, so if you never intend to sell your book it is not essential.

You can buy single UK ISBN numbers for 75 GBP or in batches of 10 for 149 GBP, so get writing…If you are in a hurry to get that book on the virtual or bricks and mortar shelves you will need to allow ten days from receipt for issue of ISBN. If you are based outside of Ireland and Britain, irrespective of nationality, you will not be able to get an ISBN from the British Isles agency. So use a UK address and do it when in the UK

How do I contact the ISBN Agency?

Registration Agencies: ISBN Agency
Tel: +44 (0)1483 712 215
Fax: +44 (0)1483 712 214

Is it the same for a Spanish ISBN?

You can apply for a single ISBN as author/editor for a total cost of 45 euros including IVA. You can also buy an enhanced data compilation which may help in the marketing and distribution for an extra 45 euros. More details of the Spanish ISBN are available here, but in Spanish or Catalan only.

Small Print.

Think about the terms and conditions. For example, sign an exclusive for Amazon’s KDP, tied in to Amazon for higher royalties, and this will be the only list you can hit. Selling on different platforms is not an option.

Mainstream Publishers are working to margins where up to 30% of their sales revenue goes to authors and an average of 15% of that figure will go to agents. The discounts granted to the book trade, essential to gain exposure in the shops, can reach 60 per cent of the published price of a book. Also, Trade Publishers suffer from high returns of unsold books from retailers and wholesalers. One of the reasons that bricks and mortar booksellers do not like to stock SelfPublished books is not about the quality, but the ‘sale and return’ facility. That is why IngramSpark’s ‘sale and return’ policy for POD is so inviting, even when it means they will be receiving back your book from the bookstore only to destroy it. (Delivering it back to you would be economically unviable and it is you who would foot that bill, perhaps if you had it delivered to a US address it would be worthwhile.)


Any author has to think about Marketing. More so if you are doing the whole process yourself. Stay focused on who would read your book and identify with them. Target them, advertise to them, pitch to them, stress that you are part of the same tribe and that they will enjoy what you have to offer. Market with tweets, FaceBook and LinkedIn messages, upload a video or podcast on shared sites like YouTube, Vimeo and the like, but this is really just a twist on the mailshot, flyer and advertorial in the local paper. Traditionally this kind of marketing has a low return of approximately 1%. Plus, the more that everyone does this kind of marketing, the more ignored it becomes by people continuing with their busy lives. Another way to generate awareness is to offer a newsletter for people to sign up to, but it can’t just be about selling your book, it has to be of objective value in substantive content that gives the reader something else. We’re all trying to make it in this world not just you, so why should I take time out of my stressed life to make you rich? The answer is, of course, by offering something I want, by connecting and helping me on my life’s journey, even if just superficially for a couple of days, a blinking of an eye. If you control your own promotions, even free printed versions with digital downloads, if you have a deadline and a sense of urgency, if you pierce human inertia and get us to act, even just by clicking on a download link, then you will garner sales and even move up the best seller charts.

Mainstream Publishers focus on the pre-release date with advance reader reviews and interviews if the writer is important enough. The so called ‘carwash’ is reserved for famous people’s memoirs and already established Best Sellers’. Usually, it’s not for the likes of us, so we need to think about creating interest to the run-up of the launch date, during and immediately after the launch and then keep the momentum going with targeted campaigns.

Finally, here is an excellent website for marketing advice, well worth looking at.

Good Luck.

Tracy Thomson

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