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.
There's a good description/definition of traditional publishing
on the Scholarly Kitchen website: see How Traditional Publishing Works by Joseph
Esposito 17 September 2018.
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. Clark's Publishing Agreements: A Book of
Precedents (Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd, 10th edition) is an
essential book which gives model contracts to follow.
If necessary get specialist advice - eg
from a lawyer or other publishing contract specialist - before
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
Copyright is a complex and changing area of the law and,
clearly, it is impossible to cover all aspects of permission here.
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, email 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 website also lists editorial
Marketing Your Title
It is vital that you compile bibliographic information on your
titles so that they can be accessed, viewed and ordered widely,
particularly online. Upload your information to Nielsen Title Editor. 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
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
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.
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.
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
Publishing Scotland set up BookSource, a distribution company
based outside Glasgow, in 1996. They currently handle distribution
for over 50 publishers.
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).
Waterstones has useful information on its website for independent publishers wishing to submit
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
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
On this website