Understanding Self-Publishing in the UK

July 14, 2023

Understanding Self-Publishing in the UK

Self-publishing has revolutionized the world of literature, providing aspiring authors with the opportunity to bring their creative works to life and share them with readers worldwide. In the United Kingdom, the self-publishing industry has witnessed tremendous growth in recent years, opening up new avenues for writers to showcase their talent and bypass the traditional publishing route. Whether you have a novel, a memoir, or a non-fiction book waiting to be unleashed, self-publishing in the UK offers an accessible and empowering path to becoming a published author.

What is Self-Publishing?

Self-publishing, in essence, refers to the process of independently publishing and distributing one's own book without the involvement of traditional publishing houses. Unlike the traditional publishing model, where authors rely on literary agents and publishing companies to publish their work, self-publishing allows authors to take full control of their creative vision, production, and marketing efforts. By self-publishing, authors retain ownership of their work and earn higher royalties, while having the freedom to make decisions regarding pricing, distribution, and marketing strategies.

While self-publishing has been around for decades, advancements in technology, particularly the rise of digital publishing platforms, have democratized the industry. Authors no longer need to invest large sums of money or navigate complex publishing contracts to see their books in print. With just a computer and internet connection, authors can now bring their stories to life and connect directly with their readers.

The Rise of Self-Publishing in the UK

The United Kingdom has been at the forefront of the self-publishing revolution, with a thriving community of independent authors who have successfully carved their own path in the literary world. In recent years, self-published books have gained increasing recognition and critical acclaim, challenging the notion that only traditionally published books can achieve success.

The rise of self-publishing in the UK can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, the digital age has transformed the way readers consume books, with e-books and audiobooks gaining popularity. This shift in reading habits has created a demand for diverse content, giving self-published authors an opportunity to cater to niche audiences and explore unconventional genres.

Additionally, the accessibility and affordability of self-publishing platforms have empowered authors to bypass traditional gatekeepers and reach readers directly. With user-friendly platforms like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Kobo Writing Life, and Smashwords, authors can easily format and upload their manuscripts, instantly making their books available to a global audience.

Furthermore, the success stories of self-published authors in the UK have inspired many aspiring writers to pursue this independent publishing route. Notable self-published authors like E.L. James, who achieved global fame with her "Fifty Shades of Grey" series, have shattered the stigma surrounding self-published books and showcased the immense potential for success.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of self-publishing in the UK, equipping you with the knowledge and tools to embark on your own self-publishing journey. From understanding the essentials of self-publishing to navigating the intricacies of book distribution and marketing, this guide will serve as your roadmap to achieving your goals as a self-published author in the UK. So, if you're ready to unleash your creativity, take control of your destiny, and share your stories with the world, let's dive into the exciting realm of self-publishing in the UK.

Preparing Your Manuscript

Before embarking on your self-publishing journey in the UK, it's crucial to ensure that your manuscript is polished and ready for publication. This section will guide you through the essential steps of preparing your manuscript, including editing and proofreading, formatting guidelines, and creating an eye-catching book cover.

Editing and Proofreading Your Manuscript

The first step in preparing your manuscript for self-publishing is thorough editing and proofreading. Even the most captivating story can be overshadowed by grammatical errors, typos, or inconsistencies. Therefore, investing time and effort in editing is essential to present a professional and polished final product.

One effective approach to editing is to start with a comprehensive review of the overall structure and flow of your manuscript. Assess the plot, character development, pacing, and thematic coherence. Consider seeking feedback from beta readers or joining writing critique groups to gain valuable insights and suggestions for improvement.

Once you've addressed the broader aspects of your manuscript, it's time to dive into the nitty-gritty of line editing. This involves scrutinizing each sentence, paragraph, and chapter for grammar, syntax, punctuation, and spelling errors. Pay attention to consistency in tense, voice, and narrative style to ensure a smooth reading experience.

Proofreading is the final step in the editing process and focuses on catching any remaining errors or typos. It involves meticulously scanning every word and punctuation mark, checking for spelling mistakes, missing or repeated words, and formatting inconsistencies. Consider enlisting the help of a professional proofreader or using online grammar and spell-check tools to ensure a thorough review.

Formatting Guidelines for Self-Published Books in the UK

Proper formatting is crucial for creating a visually appealing and reader-friendly book. In the digital age, where readers consume books across various devices and platforms, adhering to formatting guidelines is essential to ensure consistency and compatibility.

When it comes to e-books, following the industry-standard formatting practices will ensure that your book looks professional and functions correctly on different e-reading devices. This includes using standard fonts (such as Times New Roman or Arial), setting appropriate font sizes, and incorporating consistent spacing and margins. Additionally, consider optimizing your e-book for different screen sizes, taking into account the varying font size preferences of readers.

For print books, formatting requires additional considerations. Pay attention to factors such as font choice, line spacing, and page layout to enhance readability. Ensure proper alignment, indents, and paragraph breaks for a visually appealing presentation. It's also crucial to determine the appropriate trim size (the dimensions of your book) and adjust the formatting accordingly to ensure a professional appearance.

Creating a Compelling Book Cover

The saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover," may hold true in the metaphorical sense, but when it comes to actual books, a captivating cover plays a significant role in attracting readers. Your book cover serves as the first impression and a powerful marketing tool, enticing potential readers to pick up your book and delve into its pages.

Designing a compelling book cover involves a combination of artistic creativity and strategic marketing. Consider hiring a professional cover designer who specializes in book cover design or, if you have the skills, create your own cover using graphic design software.

When designing your book cover, think about the genre, target audience, and market trends. Analyze covers of successful books in your genre to identify common visual elements and themes. Incorporate eye-catching colors, typography, and imagery that effectively convey the tone and essence of your book.

Remember, your book cover should not only be visually appealing but also communicate the genre and capture the reader's interest. It should stand out among the competition and entice potential readers to click or pick it up from a bookstore shelf.

By ensuring your manuscript is meticulously edited, properly formatted, and accompanied by a captivating book cover, you'll be well on your way to producing a professional and appealing self-published book in the UK.

Copyright and Legal Considerations

When venturing into the world of self-publishing in the UK, it's essential to understand the copyright laws and legal considerations surrounding your work. This section will cover the key aspects of copyright, obtaining an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), and registering your book with legal deposit libraries.

Understanding Copyright Laws in the UK

Copyright is a legal right that grants authors exclusive ownership of their creative works, protecting them from unauthorized use or reproduction. In the UK, copyright is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, which outlines the rights and responsibilities of authors.

As an author, you automatically hold the copyright to your original work as soon as it is created. This means that your manuscript is protected by copyright law, regardless of whether it is published or registered. However, to strengthen your legal rights and provide evidence of ownership, it's advisable to consider additional steps.

One way to protect your work is by including a copyright notice on your manuscript and other published materials. This notice typically consists of the copyright symbol (©), the year of publication, and your name. Although not mandatory, it acts as a deterrent to potential infringers and provides clear indication of your ownership.

It's important to note that copyright protection extends to the expression of ideas, rather than the ideas themselves. This means that while others may write about similar topics, they cannot directly copy your specific words, characters, or plot without permission.

Infringement of copyright can result in legal consequences, including financial damages and injunctions. Therefore, it's crucial to be aware of your rights as an author and take necessary precautions to protect your work.

Obtaining an ISBN (International Standard Book Number)

An ISBN is a unique identifier for books and serves as an essential tool for book distribution and inventory management. It allows retailers, libraries, and readers to easily locate and order your book. While obtaining an ISBN is not mandatory for self-published books, it is highly recommended, especially if you plan to distribute your book widely.

In the UK, ISBNs are managed by Nielsen UK ISBN Agency. You can apply for an ISBN by visiting their website or contacting them directly. Each format of your book (e.g., paperback, hardcover, e-book) requires a separate ISBN. If you plan to publish multiple editions or translations, each version will also require its own ISBN.

Once you have obtained the ISBNs, it's crucial to include them on the copyright page of your book, along with other bibliographic information such as the title, author name, and publisher. This ensures that your book can be easily identified and cataloged by retailers, libraries, and databases.

Registering Your Book with Legal Deposit Libraries

Legal deposit is a legal requirement in the UK that obliges publishers to provide copies of their publications to designated libraries. This ensures that the nation's published output is preserved for future generations and made accessible to researchers, scholars, and the general public.

As a self-published author, registering your book with legal deposit libraries is an excellent opportunity to increase the visibility and reach of your work. The six legal deposit libraries in the UK are the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Library, and Trinity College Library, Dublin (for publications in Ireland).

To fulfill the legal deposit requirement, you will need to send copies of your print book to the British Library and the other relevant legal deposit libraries within one month of publication. For digital publications, you can provide access through a designated web archive or submit a digital copy directly to the British Library.

By registering your self-published book with legal deposit libraries, you contribute to the preservation of the UK's cultural heritage and ensure that your work is accessible to future readers and researchers.

Understanding the copyright laws, obtaining an ISBN, and registering your book with legal deposit libraries are crucial steps in protecting your intellectual property and ensuring your self-published book is properly documented and accessible. By navigating the legal landscape of self-publishing in the UK, you can confidently publish your work while upholding your rights as an author.

Choosing the Right Self-Publishing Platform

Choosing the right self-publishing platform is a crucial decision that can greatly impact the success of your book. With numerous options available, each offering unique features and benefits, it's essential to evaluate and select the platform that aligns with your goals as an author. In this section, we will explore popular self-publishing platforms in the UK, compare their features, fees, and royalties, and provide tips for selecting the platform that suits your needs.

Overview of Popular Self-Publishing Platforms in the UK

  1. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP): Amazon KDP is one of the most widely used self-publishing platforms worldwide, offering both e-book and print-on-demand (POD) services. With KDP, you can publish your e-book on the Kindle Store and make it available to millions of readers. Additionally, KDP allows you to create a paperback version of your book using their POD service, making it accessible to readers who prefer physical copies.
  2. Kobo Writing Life: Kobo Writing Life is a self-publishing platform specifically designed for e-books. Owned by Rakuten Kobo, this platform offers a user-friendly interface and allows authors to reach a global audience through Kobo's e-bookstore. Kobo also provides promotional opportunities and marketing tools to help authors boost their book sales.
  3. Smashwords: Smashwords is a popular self-publishing platform that specializes in e-book distribution. It offers a simple and streamlined publishing process, allowing authors to upload their manuscript in various formats and distribute it to major e-book retailers, including Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books. Smashwords also provides tools for formatting and marketing your e-book.

Features, Fees, and Royalties Comparison

When choosing a self-publishing platform, it's important to consider various factors, including the platform's features, fees, and royalty rates. Let's compare these aspects for the popular self-publishing platforms in the UK:

  1. Amazon KDP:
  2. Features: Kindle e-book and paperback publishing, Kindle Select (optional program offering additional promotional benefits)
  3. Fees: No upfront fees; Amazon deducts a percentage of each sale as a distribution fee
  4. Royalties: E-book royalties range from 35% to 70% based on the price, while paperback royalties vary depending on factors such as trim size, print cost, and distribution channel
  5. Kobo Writing Life:
  6. Features: E-book publishing, global distribution, promotional opportunities
  7. Fees: No upfront fees; Kobo deducts a percentage of each sale as a distribution fee
  8. Royalties: 70% royalty for e-books priced between £1.99 and £9.99; lower royalty rates for e-books outside this price range
  9. Smashwords:
  10. Features: E-book publishing, distribution to major e-book retailers, promotional tools
  11. Fees: No upfront fees; Smashwords deducts a percentage of each sale as a distribution fee
  12. Royalties: Authors earn up to 85% of the net sale proceeds for books sold on the Smashwords website and up to 60% for books sold through their distribution network

Tips for Selecting the Right Platform

Choosing the right self-publishing platform is a personal decision that depends on your specific goals and preferences. Here are some tips to help you make an informed choice:

  1. Research and compare: Take the time to research and compare the features, fees, and royalties of different platforms. Consider your publishing goals, target audience, and desired distribution channels.
  2. Consider your book format: If you plan to publish both e-books and print books, platforms like Amazon KDP that offer both options can be advantageous. However, if you prefer to focus solely on e-books, platforms like Kobo Writing Life or Smashwords may be more suitable.
  3. Evaluate marketing and promotional opportunities: Look for platforms that provide promotional tools, marketing resources, and opportunities to increase the visibility of your book. Consider whether the platform offers promotional pricing options, access to reader reviews, or participation in promotional campaigns.
  4. Read user reviews and testimonials: Read reviews and testimonials from authors who have used the platforms you are considering. This can provide valuable insights into the user experience, customer support, and overall satisfaction with the platform.

By thoroughly researching and evaluating the features, fees, and royalties of different self-publishing platforms, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your publishing goals and maximizes your book's potential for success.

Publishing and Distributing Your Book in the UK

Once your manuscript is refined and ready for publication, it's time to explore the various options for publishing and distributing your book in the UK. In this section, we will cover the essential steps for setting the right price for your book, publishing in eBook and print formats, and maximizing distribution through different channels.

Setting the Right Price for Your Book

Determining the optimal price for your book is a critical decision that can impact its sales and profitability. Consider the following factors when setting the price:

  1. Market Research: Conduct thorough market research to understand the pricing trends in your genre. Analyze the prices of similar books, both traditionally and self-published, to gauge the price range that your target audience is willing to pay.
  2. Production Costs: Take into account the production costs associated with your book, including editing, formatting, cover design, and any marketing expenses. Ensure that your pricing strategy allows you to cover these costs while still being competitive.
  3. Value Perception: Consider the perceived value of your book compared to others in the market. Factors such as genre, length, quality of content, and author reputation can influence how readers perceive the value of your book.
  4. Promotional Strategies: Evaluate whether you plan to implement any promotional strategies, such as limited-time discounts or free promotions. Adjust your initial pricing accordingly to accommodate these strategies.

Remember that pricing is not a fixed decision. You can experiment with different price points over time, monitor sales data, and adjust accordingly to find the sweet spot that maximizes both sales and revenue.

eBook Publishing and Distribution

Publishing your book in eBook format allows you to reach a wide audience of digital readers. Here are the key steps to publish and distribute your eBook in the UK:

  1. Formatting and Conversion: Ensure that your manuscript is properly formatted for eBook conversion. Convert your manuscript into popular eBook formats such as ePub or mobi, which are compatible with various e-reading devices and platforms.
  2. Uploading to Self-Publishing Platforms: Utilize the self-publishing platforms you selected to distribute your eBook. Follow their guidelines and upload your formatted eBook file, along with the necessary metadata, book description, and author information.
  3. Maximizing Visibility: Optimize your eBook's visibility by selecting relevant categories, keywords, and descriptive metadata. These elements help potential readers discover your book when browsing online stores. Consider investing time in keyword research and crafting an engaging book description that entices readers to click and purchase.
  4. Promotion and Marketing: Develop a comprehensive marketing plan to promote your eBook. Leverage social media platforms, author websites, and online advertising to create awareness and generate interest. Engage with readers through blog tours, author interviews, and collaborations with book bloggers to expand your reach.

Print-on-Demand (POD) Publishing

Print-on-Demand (POD) publishing allows you to offer your book in physical format without the need for large upfront print runs. Here's how to publish and distribute your book in print format using POD:

  1. Formatting and Design: Format your manuscript specifically for print, taking into consideration factors such as trim size, margins, and font choices. Ensure that your book interior is aesthetically pleasing and easy to read. Design an eye-catching book cover that conveys the essence of your story and appeals to your target readers.
  2. Selecting a POD Service Provider: Research reputable POD service providers in the UK, such as Amazon KDP's paperback service or other independent publishing companies. Compare their services, pricing, quality of prints, and distribution reach to select the one that aligns with your goals.
  3. Uploading and Reviewing: Follow the specific guidelines provided by your chosen POD service provider to upload your print-ready files. Review the digital proofs and make any necessary adjustments before approving the final version.
  4. Distribution Channels: POD service providers typically offer distribution options that make your print book available for purchase through online retailers, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Ensure that your book's metadata, pricing, and availability are accurately set to maximize its discoverability.

By effectively publishing and distributing your book in both eBook and print formats, you can reach a wider audience and cater to readers' diverse preferences. Remember to continually promote your book through various marketing channels to generate interest and drive sales.

Marketing and Promoting Your Self-Published Book in the UK

Marketing and promotion play a vital role in the success of your self-published book. In this section, we will explore various strategies and tactics to effectively market and promote your book in the UK. From crafting compelling book descriptions to leveraging online advertising and offline marketing tactics, we will cover it all.

Building Your Author Platform

Establishing a strong author platform is crucial for connecting with readers and building a loyal fan base. Here are some key steps to build your author platform:

  1. Author Website or Blog: Create a professional author website or blog where readers can learn more about you and your books. Showcase your book covers, provide author updates, and offer exclusive content to engage readers.
  2. Social Media Presence: Utilize social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to connect with your target audience. Share engaging content, interact with readers, and promote your book effectively.
  3. Email Newsletter: Build an email list of interested readers who want to receive updates about your books. Offer incentives, such as a free chapter or exclusive content, to encourage readers to subscribe.
  4. Engagement and Networking: Engage with readers and fellow authors through online forums, writing communities, and social media groups. Participate in discussions, offer insights, and build relationships within the literary community.

Book Marketing Strategies

Crafting a compelling book description, implementing targeted online advertising campaigns, and leveraging book reviews and testimonials are key elements of effective book marketing. Let's delve into each strategy:

  1. Compelling Book Description and Author Bio: Craft a persuasive and engaging book description that captures the essence of your story and hooks potential readers. Highlight the unique selling points of your book and its appeal to your target audience. Additionally, create an intriguing author bio that showcases your writing credentials, experiences, and personal story.
  2. Online Advertising Campaigns: Utilize online advertising platforms, such as Amazon Advertising, Facebook Ads, or Google Ads, to reach your target audience. Set specific targeting parameters based on reader demographics, interests, and genres to maximize the effectiveness of your ads. Monitor and tweak your campaigns regularly to optimize results and ensure a positive return on investment.
  3. Leveraging Book Reviews and Testimonials: Encourage readers to leave reviews of your book on platforms such as Amazon, Goodreads, or book review blogs. Positive reviews act as social proof and can influence potential readers to choose your book. Consider offering free review copies to reputable book bloggers or influential reviewers in your genre to generate buzz and gain exposure.

Offline Marketing Tactics

While online marketing is essential, offline marketing tactics can also play a significant role in promoting your self-published book. Consider the following strategies:

  1. Book Signings and Author Events: Organize book signings or author events at local bookstores, libraries, or literary festivals. Engage with readers, sign copies of your book, and create a memorable experience that fosters a personal connection with your audience.
  2. Approaching Local Bookstores and Libraries: Reach out to independent bookstores and libraries in your local area to explore opportunities for book placement, author readings, or partnerships. Offer to conduct workshops or give talks related to your book's genre or subject matter.
  3. Collaborating with Influencers and Book Bloggers: Connect with social media influencers and book bloggers who have a significant following in your genre. Offer them a copy of your book for review or collaborate on promotional campaigns to tap into their audience and expand your reach.

Offline marketing tactics provide a tangible and personal touch to your book promotion efforts. They allow you to connect directly with potential readers, create memorable experiences, and build relationships within the local literary community.

By implementing a comprehensive marketing and promotion strategy that combines online and offline tactics, you can increase the visibility of your self-published book, engage with your target audience, and ultimately drive sales and success in the UK market.

Publishing Testimonials

I used Publishing Push to publish my novel and am completely satisfied with the service I received. In all my contacts with the organization, I found staff to be knowledgeable, professional and effective. Their friendly and helpful approach has been a welcome bonus.

Michael Brookes

Great experience and first class service! Huge thanks to Sophie and the team!

Mark Stuart

Brilliant experience working with Publishing Push. They kept me in the loop throughout the entire process and were supportive...All the staff were easy to communicate with and equally as talented with their skills. They streamlined the process...Would recommended Publishing Push.


I came to publishing push with very little vision other than my story. Their staff and process made it extremely easy to produce an amazing end product. I am so happy with the outcome. Thank you.

Mr Orchard

Working with Publishing Push was a complete pleasure...Publishing Push remove the worries and hassles so the Author can progress with their work unencumbered by the technical details of publishing. Publishing Push made the publishing experience extremely straightforward; I would not hesitate to publish through them again or to recommend them to any aspiring author.

Kate Taylor

Thank you so much Benjamin and the Publishing Push team! I cannot thank you enough for your dedication and determination to get my book published! You went above and beyond. I am so proud and happy how the book turned out. Such lovely friendly down to earth people! God bless you all! Wishing you all the best! Many thanks, Michelle 😊


Want to know more? Get in touch!

Speak to our Publishing Consultants

Book a Call
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.