How do I Self Publish my book in the UK?

A famous quotation goes something like “Everyone has a book in them.” and, although the quote goes on to say, “…and in most cases that’s where it should stay.” we at Blue Poppy Publishing think that there are still a lot of great books, both fiction and non-fiction that could and should be published.

A bit about Blue Poppy Publishing, Devon.

I am at great pains to point out that we are not a vanity publisher, but also we are not a traditional publisher either. I guess we are really an “assisted self-publishing” company, suitable for someone who has already decided to self-publish anyway but needs a little extra help.

That means that if we publish your book, we don’t buy the rights, or guarantee sales, but we will help with those aspects of self-publishing that you either can’t or won’t do yourself and, while we try to keep costs to a minimum, it will be you paying the bills just as if you did it all yourself.

Blue Poppy PublishingTM

Of course, we do still have to make sure we don’t publish a book that isn’t well written, interesting, original and well produced. Every book that carries the “Blue Poppy Publishing” logo will affect the sales of our other books. If it is good, then readers may want to try our other authors. If it is awful they will never forgive us.

Also, we tend only to want to work with authors from our local area, and then again, you might just want to do it all yourself and not involve us at all. So as crazy as it may seem, I’m going to set out some of the things you need to know to self-publish a book in the UK.

This will then link to other articles giving you more detail on each area.


The Basics of Self-Publishing.

Cost of Self-Publishing

Anything from nothing to a few thousand pounds is usual.

You can publish a book for zero cost, but you should be careful. A great deal depends on what your hopes and aspirations are for your book, but even if you only want to print off a few copies for close friends and family, you should at least take the time to ensure your book has been properly edited, even if that just means re-reading what you have written and trying to correct obvious spelling mistakes. You will also need to format the book and create a cover. If you are good at these things already, or are willing to learn, you may be able to do them yourself, although there is an art to book cover design that arguably extends beyond what can realistically be taught.

If you have ambitions to be a professional or semi-professional writer, then you really do need to spend some money to make sure your book is up to scratch. But how much should you spend and who can you trust in a minefield of companies who are out to take your money?

We have certain trusted editors, illustrators, cover designers, and printers whom we have used on previous occasions and I will provide their details. We also offer formatting and cover design and preparation in-house, although I make no claim to being a top cover designer I don’t charge much.

Yes, but how much?

How long is a piece of string? Well here goes.

Basic editing costs, as a rough rule of thumb, £10 per 1,000 words.
If your book needs a structural edit and major rewriting then I don’t know because we’ve never done that, all our authors can write a good enough book to start with. For more on editing see here.

Formatting is something you can do yourself, but if you don’t want to learn how, we can format a typical digital manuscript in ‘Word’ for £1 per 1,000 words. If your book needs to be formatted using inDesign it will be more and depends on several factors.

For cover design, again, most people can do this themselves, but if you can’t or don’t want to, you can spend anything from £10 for a plain one-colour cover with the title and author name, to several thousand pounds on a fancy production from a famous cover designer. We would suggest you don’t spend more than £500 though. The most we ever spent was £600 for artwork.

Printing; of course you don’t have to do a print run at all. You can use a Print on Demand (PoD) service, such as Ingram Spark and or Amazon KDP. We like to do a print run if we can though because the unit cost per book works out cheaper; sometimes a lot cheaper.

UK book parameters.

How big should your book be? What type of paper? Which font should you use? These are all questions that plague new self-publishing authors. The problem is there is no single correct answer to any of these type of questions, but there are at least a few possible guidelines you might want to follow.

Size matters

One option is to take a ruler into a bookshop and measure books similar to the one you have written. I did that. I felt stupid.

Novels

If you are talking about a novel, there is one best size for UK distribution. It’s 198mm x 129mm (we also produce some books in 195 x 125 for cost reasons of which more later) Other sizes can be used, but this is the size of most paperbacks you can buy in bookshops.

While on the subject of novels, there is a lot of dispute about how many words constitutes a novel. NaNoWriMo accepts 50,000 words as a full length novel and I’m going to accept that, although a great many novels are from 85-100k words these days. I think that fewer than 50k is a novella, and 10k is a short story.

Non-fiction

There are a range of sizes in non-fiction which can include the standard novel size, mentioned above. This is ideal for memoirs and narrative non-fiction for example. Other sizes, such as A4, A5, 9″ x 6″, 10″ x 8″ etc. are also common. A lot will depend on things like how and where you expect people to read the book. A coffee table book will want a large format, whereas a pocket guide to cheese will need to be, well, pocket sized. Who you choose to do your printing may also be a factor in your choice.

Children’s Books

With younger children’s books (3-7+ years) all bets are off. They can be all sorts of sizes. That said, a square format 8″ x 8″ is a good starting point. 8″ x 10″ in either landcape or portrait can also work, as can A4 or A5.

Novels for older children (6+ years) will usualy fall into the same category as novels for adults. Rules for children’s non-fiction are equally reflected in those for adults.

Paper quality

If you use a PoD publisher like KDP then you don’t get much choice. You can’t uaully print hardback editions either. If you use a printer you have far more parameters. It’s a minefield of options for different purposes, but the first and biggest choice you have to make is whether to use white paper or cream (or beige or whatever they call it). The choice is relatively simple.

  • Novel? Cream
  • Non-fiction? White
  • Kids’ picture book? White

I like to use 90gsm instead of the standard 80gsm because a teeny bit more luxury is worth it for a nicer product feel. Will the customer notice? Not consiciously, no; but subconsciously they will.

For children’s books I tend to think 115gsm is preferable, and have even gone to 150 gsm, for example on the luxury edition of “Teeny Tiny Witch”.

Fonts

This begins to fall under formatting, which is a whole separate subject in itself. As a very rough guide, print books for regular readers should use a “serif” font. I use Garamond for adults and young adult books or Century Schoolbook for children’s books, although others, such as Times New Roman, Georgia, or Palatino are just as good. Note that different fonts look larger or smaller than each other for a given size. Of these Garamond is the smallest, which is why I usually use it at 12pt. Century schoolbook is the largest of those shown here, and I tend to use 12pt for older children (8-12) and 14 point for younger readers (6-10).

Different serif typefaces shown in size order from smallest, Garamond, to largest Century Schoolbook. The fonts shown are Garamond, Times New Roman, Georgia, Palatino, and Century Schoolbook.

For very young children, beginner readers, I prefer to use a simple sans serif font with ‘single story’ A, and G etc. however, following the golden rule of never using ‘Comic Sans’ I searched for alternatives.

Please don’t imagine there are any hard and fast rules for children’s books, but I like to try and give them a fighting chance of reading for themselves by using a familiar and fairly regular font which resembles how they are first taught to write.

If you want to get creative, do it in the headings.

Fonts for reading are clean and simple. It is never a good idea to use any fancy font for the main body text. If you want to use a fancy font on the cover, or in the chapter headings go for it. But even then, don’t go too crazy.

14 thoughts on “How do I Self Publish my book in the UK?”

  1. Hello. I’m a full time yoga teacher living presently in the mountains of Central Portugal with rescued dogs. O got stuck here nearly two years ago rescuing a dog and setting up a yoga Centre, but got caught in the wildfires here. Ive written a nonfiction account about about our evacuation from our home in an old Landrover through the foothills to escape the wildfires , and this journey joins with nature, animals, the environment and yoga, particularly the old yogic texts like the Bhagavad Gita and their relevance to all of us, how we can move to a better place.
    I’ve written and indie published two books previously, via Evergreen a Graphics about ten years ago.
    I need help now with getting this book into print, a short hardback run, and if possible additionally some assistance with the right Ingram Sparks format for their ebooks. The first miracle would be a proof read and edit, help with cover design and so on . Can you please help with this ?
    I went to Exeter University back in the last century and teach in mid Devon when in the UK. I have a cottage near Tiverton which I share with my partner , a Bhuddist psychotherapist practicing in Devon .
    Best Wishes, Steve.

  2. Hi Steve, yes, we can help you with this.
    We can put you in touch with excellent editors and if you wish we can format your book ready for print and also produce a cover for you.
    Happy to offer advice about any aspect you are unsure about and, possibly produce a print run here in Devon.
    We can’t help much with Portuguese distribution though.

  3. Hi, I have nearly finished my book, have never written before, but I was really ill and want to write about my personal journey to raise awareness and what’s really like to be a patient. Can you give me some pointers on where I go from here to get it published please?

  4. It’s really important to tell your story if you have had to overcome a difficult illness.
    Obviously what you don’t want to do is spend a fortune you presumably don’t have and end up with boxes and boxes of books that you can’t sell.
    Every route you choose has pros and cons and it is difficult to give helpful advice without knowing what your hopes are for the book.
    I would always prefer every book to have a full professional edit, cover design, and layout, but if you want to break even then you need to be selling a few hundred copies to cover those costs.
    The alternative is to rope in good friends who are good at nitpicking, and do most of the work yourself.
    Hopefully the info here is useful for starters and I plan to add more soon.

  5. Really enjoyed reading your information on self-publishing with Blue Poppy, but did someone get tired by the time they reached the heading PAPER QUALITY? I found the following typo errors! ‘coice’, ‘realtively’, ‘mor’, and ‘consiciously’! Fun aside (sorry!), I have completed a novel set against the backdrop of the First World War. It is less about the war than about the relationships between three young men serving in the same regiment and their service in France and Belgium, a love interest for one of them and a blazing hatred of one of the young officers for another, with unforeseen consequences. I wonder if you would find this of any interest? I also can’t guarantee the manuscript is spelling mistake free! Also, I am afraid that I am not very computer-savvy.

  6. Ha ha, yes, I have the attentions span of a … where was I?
    Thank you for the corrections. I have edited the page now.
    Your story concept sounds great. It would probably sit well next to “Barefoot on the Cobbles” which is set in the years leading up to and including the first world war.
    And don’t worry, nobody expects a first draft to be error free. I’m still waiting to see a first edition that is unquestionably error free.
    The good news is, you don’t need to be very computer savvy if you work with me because I try to do the things you can’t do, and help with the things you need help with, rather than providing a one-size-fits-all package.

  7. Hi,
    I’m a newly retired teacher and have just finished writing my memoirs on my humerous engagements with my students over the years. I want a few former colleagues and family to have copies so I’m not looking for a huge readership and I don’t have a lot of money to spend. It’s with a copy editor at the moment. I have a few people doing a few drawings and could get a package to complete the cover. How do I actually do about the printing aspects as quite a few companies always advertise a full package in addition to printing and publishing?

  8. Hi, ive just completed a non fiction work on gypsy traveller stories of 10 chapters with illustrations and photos. ive previously published a few books indie. Have a record of writing articles for magazines as a well known expert on the subject and knowledge i provide talks to groups and schools over the years etc. Can you help me to self publish this book.

  9. Hi, I will email you separately.
    I am happy, indeed keen to publish any book concerning Gypsy/Romany/traveller communities, providing it is written by someone from those communities, or at the very least is written sympathetically and with consideration.
    It does sound, from your comment, that this will not be a problem.
    I have a particular desire to counter the racism that these communities suffer in any way that I can.

  10. I wrote a book in serialised format for my grandchildren ( aged 7 and 4) during lockdown 1. Two of my childhood friends who were keen on art got interested in my weekly chapetrs and offered to illustrate the story as it developed. We ended up with a tale 33 chapters long- an adventure that took the children’s pet cat and a toy mouse across the world while humans were in lockdown. It became a story of connections with family and friends around the world and all those included were engrossed! They all suggested I must publish it. Time may not be on our side- one of my illustrators has serious cancer, the other has arthritis and I have multiple sclerosis . What do you suggest I do? I have their illustrations and my script is quite robust. I sent it to a publisher who was prepared to publish it but use their own illustrators at a cost of £3,000- money I do not have, neither do I want to “ditch” my friends. I am thinking self publishing may be the way forward?

  11. Crikey Margaret. Three grand to do artwork when you already have artwork?
    Daylight robbery!
    Now, to be clear, it is not unrealistic to expect to pay hundreds or even thousands of pounds for really good artwork for a book.
    But that does not mean you have to if you have friends who have already done it for their own pleasure.
    You absolutely should pay them if you do publish the book and start to make some money back, but it would be stupid to pay a new artist unless the existing artwork is terrible.
    A quick note on publishers.
    There are generally two types: traditional publishers, and assisted self-publishers (sometimes called vanity publishers).
    Traditional publishers take control but, and this is important, They Pay You; not the other way around.
    The other type expect you to pay for production, and, therefore, they should NOT be taking control.
    I personally think that if you find a publisher that wants you to pay for your production and printing costs, but expects to have creative control, or to own your copyright, then you should run; run away, as far and as fast as you can.
    If you have to pay for an editor, and artists, and layout, and printing, then you jolly well OWN that book. You own the rights, you own the product, and you are entitled to the final say on every single artistic decision that is made.
    The only right a publisher who is not paying for the book has, is to say they don’t want their logo or name on the book.

  12. Thank you very much Oliver, so heartening to hear your views. To be clear, I have just been sent a contract by the “hybrid publisher” that is now offering to produce the book for £2,400 with fewer illustrations than the original amount, but using their illustrators none the less. The contract implies that I would have regular contact over general editorial decisions and I would own the copyright but is this still too high a price to pay? They would let me have 25 complimentary copies and 40% of net royalties but it could take a year to produce. Would it be too difficult for me to “go it alone” in the publishing jungle?

  13. Hi, Margaret.
    Yes it is far too much for 25 copies of your book.
    Of course you could spend that much on a professional edit and getting a print run done, but you should own those books.
    I’ll email you and if you are willing to let me see the manuscript, I should be able to give you a better price and deal.

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