The Book Publishing Process Laid Bare

Posted at 17:40pm on 8th February 2009
Photo: Author, Mel Menzies, at a Book Signing

Revised: January 2011

What do you do if you're an aspiring author but can't get your novel accepted by an agent or publisher?  You've been to every creative writing course available, read everything you can lay your hands on about writing and publishing a book, and followed up every lead - including the old boy in the Post Office who published a book on railway timetables via Agatha Christie's gardener's aunt and now knows all there is to know about the book publishing process.  You've trawled through the Writers' & Artists' Year Book, marked up every agent and publisher who deals with your genre, sent out your three chapters and an SAE, spent a fortune on padded envelopes and postage - FOR NOTHING!  You feel like throwing in the towel - together with the manuscript, your computer, the lot!  Stuff 'em all!


Believe me, you are not alone.  My other half and I had dinner with a charming couple yesterday evening.  She had been at a book signing / talk I had given locally, and asked if I would be willing to speak to her husband.  As they live only a few houses up the road from my daughter's home (and the sea views are stunning from there) we happily agreed.  The husband has written four novels and, despite every effort, has been unable to find said agent or publisher.  He wanted to know how to get a book published.

If this describes your experience, read on.

If traditional publishing fails, there are four other ways of bringing your work before the public.  They are:

  1. Vanity Publishers.
  2. Self-Publishing.
  3. Print On Demand Publishers.
  4. Blogging / e-books.

So what is the difference between each, and does one have the edge over the others?


I have only one word to say: DON'T.  It will cost you huge sums of money.  The promises made to you regarding sales are unlikely to be met.  Unless you want to produce a product for a very few family members and are willing to splash out mega-bucks, you will be hurt, angry, disappointed, and impoverished.  Jonathon Clifford, who was invited to address the UK's House of Lords on the subject, has written about this in The Writers' & Artists' Year Book


Self publishing cannot, actually, be described as a single service. True self-publishing means that you will be taking the place of the publisher.  In that role you will need to do your own typesetting, get quotations from printers, artists and book cover designers and book-binders.  You will need to get your own ISBN (the International Standard Book Number) which identifies YOU (as the publisher) and your book in a unique, internationally recognisable code. 

Put together, these activities will require huge amounts of effort and money.  You will almost certainly have to order your book in large quantities to keep the costs down sufficiently for you to make a decent mark-up.  This, of course, means that you will also have to store them.

Does self publishing work?  For some, yes.  G.P.Taylor, author of the bestselling fantasy novel Shadowmancer (there's a good write up on Amazon) wrote about his experiences of storing and mailing thousands of copies of his book.  And he was, eventually, taken up by Faber.  (More about marketing on another occasion)  Well-known novelist, Susan Hill, also self-published, setting up to do so.


What is print on demand?  Easy!  It does exactly what it says on the tin.  Books are printed singly, or in multiples of your choice, all at the same price.  You do not, therefore, have the problem of a big financial outlay; nor that of storing large quantities of books. 

Instead of having to traipse around getting quotes from different printers, book-binders etc. you can make a simple comparison between the increasing numbers of print on demand publishers undertaking this new technological approach to publishing.  Details of a few of the better known companies are as follows:


WHAT IT COSTS YOU: Set up Fees: $1,567.00

EXTRA COSTS: $500 to complete in 1 month.  Photos and graphics charged extra.  Charges to return your files to you if you choose to leave company.

COMPLETION: 6 months.


iUniverse - now owned by AuthorHouse:

WHAT IT COSTS YOU: Set up Fees: $699.00

WHAT YOU GET: 5 "free" copies

EXTRA COSTS: Photos and graphics charged extra.$300-£1,500 to retrieve your files if you choose to leave the company. 

COMPLETION: 3-4 months.



WHAT IT COSTS YOU: Set up Fees: $839.00 (less if submitting own cover)

EXTRA COSTS: For many services



WHAT IT COSTS YOU: Set up Fees: $1,844



WHAT IT COSTS YOU: Set up Fees: $1,323

WHAT YOU GET: 5 "free" copies

EXTRA COSTS: $349 for 2 monthly completion, plus charges for photos/graphics

COMPLETION: 4-6 months



WHAT IT COSTS YOU: Set up Fees: $517 ($317 if submitting own cover).  Only $99 for returning authors on second and subsequent books.

WHAT YOU GET: 1 proof copy.  35% royalty on public sales; 15% on wholesale orders.

EXTRA COSTS: None. ISBN included.  No extra charges for graphics.

COMPLETION: < 1 month.

For further details of this company see:


As you can see, I've left the best till last.  And as I have experience of this company, I can vouch for the service.

  1. You get one-on-one service from Angela.  She and her husband, Richard, own the company.
  2. You get help with any problems you may encounter in uploading your material.
  3. Costs are all inclusive.
  4. UK customers' orders are fulfilled in UK and shipped from UK, hence reducing shipping costs.
  5. The product (i.e. the book) is of excellent quality: clearly printed on good, white paper.
  6. If your POD book is taken up by a mainstream / traditional publisher, there are no severance fees to be paid to Booklocker.  You own your files at all times.

RELATED CATEGORIES: For further reading, click links below


OTHER CATEGORIES: Click links below



PERSONAL GROWTH & RELATIONSHIPS (inc Personality Test & Drama Triangle

Do let me know if you have had a good or bad expereience of any of the above companies. Although comments are now closed on this post, I will write an additional article to alert others to the merits / disadvantages of your findings.

Your Comments:

20th February 2009
at 3:13pm

I am currently using Lulu and nearing the end of the publishing

I have to say that after researching various ways of publishing,
Lulu is the best option for me.

I have paid for the UK ISBN Distribution at about
£79.00 then you will need to send copies to the
British Library a legal deposit once your book is

You are then able to buy your book at a cheaper rate. The
£79.00 includes 10 ISBN's and the paperwork so
that your book can be made available through Amazon, Waterstones

I had an illustrator design my book cover for me but apart from
that and the £79.00, it has been very affordable.

Of course you need to promote and market your book and buy in
bulk if you want to sell directly yourself, but Lulu now have
printers in the UK, which is great. I am currently working on
promotion ideas as part of my royalties will be going to a charity
and now have a website dedicated to the book and theme.

It has been a long process, but if you are prepared to put in
the hours and proof read and edit over and over again and pay for
the distribution, it is possible to have a good set up. I have had
one copy so far to check through and I am really pleased with the

The forums on Lulu are very helpful and there is one dedicated
to the UK.

If you don't want your book to be available through
bookshops etc..customers can order directly through your LULU

Hope that helps.

25th February 2009
at 4:15pm

Thank you, Anita, for sharing your publishing experience. Lulu
has obviously been the answer for you, but I would still urge
readers to look at other POD publishers such as Booklocker.

I've just taken a look at your website and see that your
book covers a very worthwhile topic. I do wish you every success
with the venture.

If anyone else has similar experiences, perhaps they, too, would
share them with us all. Mel

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