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29 April 2017

Starting Up As A Publisher

What is Publishing

Publishing is a complex business covering all the usual tax, financial and employee matters as well as the particular industry elements of selecting content, scheduling, editing, design, production, marketing, sales, and distribution.

 

Business structure

If you are setting up as a publisher, you will need to consider what would be the right legal structure for your business eg: sole trader, partnership, limited liability partnership or limited liability company. A good source of information about business structures and setting up a business generally, is the Business Gateway website aimed at new and growing businesses in Scotland.

 

Contracts: author and services

It is always advisable to issue a contract to your author and anyone who provides services such as a freelance designer. Clarks' Publishing Agreements: A Book of Precedents (Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd, 8th edition) is an essential book which gives sample contracts to follow.

If necessary get specialist advice - eg from a lawyer or other publishing contract specialist - before signing.

Be aware of the kinds of rights and permissions that are granted to you under the terms of the contract and ensure that you get all that you need eg

  • an author's contract does not automatically include all rights such as audio book rights
  • commissioning an illustration for a book cover does not automatically give you permission to use it for other goods such as a mug or book bag.

Publishing Scotland member publishers sign up to a Code of Practice in their dealings with authors. There is also an Author and Publisher Voluntary Code which is the result of a collaboration between the Society of Authors in Scotland and Publishing Scotland.

 

Copyright

Copyright is a complex and changing area of the law and, clearly, it is impossible to cover all aspects of permission here. The UK Intellectual Property Office website is a good source of general information about copyright.

PLSclear is an online service that allows you to search, identify, request permission and have it sent on to the publisher. It is operated by the Publishers Licensing Society. It is free to use for occasional users.

The BBC has information on copyright on the Copyright Aware section of its website.

For some general guidance, see our Copyright Factsheet.

The Publishers Association Copyright Infringement Portal (CIP) began its life in 2009 and over the last 5 years CIP users have served over 2.8 million cease & desist notices to infringing websites. In 2015 CIP was relaunched after being upgraded. For more information, see the CIP site. Publishing Scotland members can get a discounted subscription. For information, sign in to the members login area of this website or email Claire Anker at the PA.

 

Royalties and fees

These can vary depending on the format of the work, the nature of the involvement in it, and the type of publishing (eg from around 10% in trade paperbacks to 50% for ebooks). Ask around. In some areas of publishing it is more common to pay a fixed fee.


Producing the Book

New technology is clearing away old methods of book production and there are many ways of getting your titles produced. You may consider using freelancers to help with editing, proofreading, picture research, design, marketing, and other aspects. Those printers, typesetters and freelancers who are Network Members of Publishing Scotland are listed on the Network Members pages. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders also lists editorial freelancers. Our distribution company BookSource provides an ebook service for small publishers.

See our Digital and Editorial Factsheets.

 

Marketing Your Title

Bibliographic data

It is vital that you compile bibliographic information on your titles so that they can be accessed, viewed and ordered widely, particularly online. Send your information to Nielsen BookData. The bibliographic essentials, recommended by BIC (The Book Industry Communication) are to be found on their website (guidelines for ebooks recently added) - start with an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) obtainable from the UK ISBN Agency. If you list your titles with Nielsen, they will automatically be listed on Amazon UK.

Thema is a new global subject classification system for books, which has already gathered wide international participation. It is intended for use by all parts of the book trade, aims to be globally applicable, and is tailored for commercial use within the trade. For more details, see the EDItEUR website.

Most titles benefit from having an Advance Information sheet. This will contain the bibliographic data as well as the cover rough, if available, and the blurb. This sheet should be sent to bookshops, as well as Nielsen, at least 16 weeks ahead of publication.

For more information, see our Bibliographic Data Factsheet.


Reviews

Because of the limited space for reviews in the traditional print media, it can be difficult to attract the attention of reviewers. Newspapers, magazines etc will have reviewers details online and you can contact them direct. There is also a huge amount of blogs, sites and other news agencies online who would be worth targeting, depending on the nature of the book.

 

Distribution

Depending on what you can afford, using a dedicated book distribution company can help facilitate the selling of your titles. The company is unlikely to take on a single title however and it may be worth waiting till you have built up a certain mass of titles before approaching distributors. Expect to pay between 9% and 16% of turnover on distribution costs if using a third-party company.

Publishing Scotland set up BookSource, a distribution company based outside Glasgow, in 1996. They currently handle distribution for over 50 publishers. They also provide an ebook service: conversion,metadata, distribution and sales reporting.

There's more information in our Book Distribution Factsheet.

 

Selling to bookshops, supermarkets, libraries etc

Discounts will vary depending on the nature of the outlet and the size and scope of your company, as well as the type of book. It is your responsibility to negotiate with sales channels. For more information, see our Trade page. For members, there is a Trade Factsheet in the members area.

For a broader insight into the numerous opportunities offered by the vast range of ebook licensing models, see A Guide to Ebook Licenses Purchase Models for Libraries and Publishers by Bookwire, in collaboration with Dosdoce.com (24 November 2015).



Rights

If you have a title that has international potential, you may consider trying to sell rights to publishers in other countries. However, this is a far from easy task and requires patient research into suitable companies and then sometimes protracted negotiations. Most publishers will try to attend at least one book fair to ascertain likely international partners. The major book fairs take place every year in London, the USA, Frankfurt and Bologna (for children's books).


Alternatively, some publishers use agents or scouts to represent them and carry their titles to bookfairs. It is not an easy thing to find out who these agents or scouts are so ask around.

See our Book fairs page.


Resources

Publishing Scotland Factsheets

On this website

Books