Choosing the right self-publishing option for your book

There are a number of ways of publishing a book, and each has its pros and cons. Experience has shown us that authors who are clear about exactly why they are publishing tend to make the right decision on how to publish.

Below we've listed the more common goals behind publishing a book. By following each goal (click on the links), we then offer advice as to which self-publishing options we feel are appropriate in achieving each goal, and look at the pros and cons of each of the possible routes to self-publishing.

One general point is that marketing is key to selling books. If you are intending to sell your book through bookshops then you will need to consider how you are going to market your book to both the retailers and your potential readership. Marketing involves trade marketing and media/public relations marketing; without any marketing a book is unlikely to sell any copies other than to family and friends. In many ways, marketing is far harder but far more important to publishing a book that is to be made available for sale. If you are marketing your book you are likely to need copies for review, to show retailers and for retailers to put on their shelves, so you should be printing copies in advance rather than printing 'on demand'. Full details of the comprehensive marketing services that Matador offers its authors can be found on our website.

We also encourage you to contact us in person, either by phone or email, to discuss your options.

I am self-publishing because…

I want to see my work published as a book and hope to sell copies to friends and family, perhaps using 'print on demand'? Click to reveal...

Unless you have a large family or a lot of friends (!) you probably won’t need to produce hundreds of copies of your book. Depending on how many copies you feel you may need, we’d recommend one of three options:

Ebook

PROS

Publishing an ebook can be done very quickly and cheaply. You can reach an international audience easily.
CONS
There are millions of ebooks available now and differentiating yours can be difficult. Formatting for an ebook can be awkward, producing erratic results. Ebook formatting is limited so ebooks often look unsightly. Marketing an ebook can be extraordinarily difficult.

Print on demand (POD)

PROS

You can print as few as 1 copy of your book at a time, either as a paperback or hardback. This keeps your printing costs down while giving you the flexibility to order more copies whenever they are needed. You can also update the content of the book at any time. If you want you can also make it available for sale through online bookshops.
CONS
The unit print cost of a POD book is always far higher than printing in larger numbers. There are limits on book size and finish available, and printing colour books using POD is very costly. If you want to sell a POD book then you can only realistically do so through online retailers ­– high street bookshops rarely stock POD books. The sale price of a POD book often has to be very high to cover the high unit print cost.

Short run digital printing

PROS

Printing 100 or more copies of a book at the same time gives you a lower unit print cost and a better quality book. There is a far wider choice of book size and finish available, in either paperback or hardback. If you wish, you can sell your book through high street bookshops as well as online retailers.
CONS
This requires a greater initial investment than print on demand. If you want to sell your book but it doesn’t sell then your money will be tied up in book stocks.

OUR RECOMMENDATION….
If you want to minimise your financial outlay and print only when you need copies of your book then use print on demand. Similarly, if you want to make your book available for sale to online retailers without printing copies in advance, then use POD. If you want to sell books yourself and through bookshops and online retailers, but you don’t want to risk too much, then print 100+ copies at a time using short run digital printing.

Matador offers a full print on demand service, including distribution and marketing to online retailers. We also offer short run digital printing and distribution and marketing to high street and online bookshops.

I want to publish my book to 'test the waters' and see how it sells before committing a lot of time and money to it. Click to reveal...

Many authors are understandably cautious about investing too much into their book’s publication with no guarantee that it will sell, but they do want to try to get it into bookshops and more widely read. Because of the way that the book retailers work, there are some restrictions that you will need to take into account in deciding how to get your book in front of readers. Matador offers four routes to market for authors:

Ebook

PROS

Publishing an ebook can be done very quickly and cheaply. You can reach an international audience easily. An ebook can be a catalyst to publishing a printed book, as you can gauge whether there is an audience.
CONS
There are millions of ebooks available now and differentiating yours can be difficult. Formatting for an ebook can be awkward, producing erratic results. Ebook formatting is limited so ebooks often look unsightly. Marketing an ebook can be extraordinarily difficult, as the market is so widely spread.

Print on demand (POD) with marketing

PROS

You as author don’t pay for printing the books. The cost of printing is borne by the customer who buys the book. POD books are available through most UK online book retailers, and can be made available in some overseas markets like the USA.
CONS
POD books have a high unit print cost, thus the cover price on POD books tends to be much higher than is usual for a particular type of book, and this reduces the likely sales. There are a lot of limitations on format and finish on POD books. Because bookshops work on a ‘sale or return’ model, POD books are rarely sold in bookshops as they are unlikely to pay to print a copy unless it has already been sold.

Short run digital printing with marketing

PROS

Printing 100 or more copies of a book at the same time gives you a lower unit print cost and a better quality book. There is a far wider choice of book size and finish available, in either paperback or hardback. You can sell your book through high street bookshops as well as online retailers, usually at a realistic cover price. You can reprint 100+ copies at any time, or switch to print on demand to keep a title in print. The book can be actively marketed to and sold by bookshops, so your book is likely to sell more widely.
CONS
This requires a greater initial investment than print on demand. You may be left with unsold copies of your book. Printing 300 + 100 + 100 copies of your book in three different ‘print runs’ is more costly than if you had printed 500 copies in one go at the start.

Long run digital or litho printing with marketing

PROS

Printing between 500 and 1000 copies digitally gives a far better unit print cost and thus a greater profit margin on your book sales. Because of the number of copies available, your book can be sold by a team of sales reps into bookshops, so sales should be greater.
CONS
You may be left with unsold copies of your book and thus unable to recoup the money invested in printing. You may have to pay to store your books somewhere.

OUR RECOMMENDATION…
If you want to make your book available as cheaply as possible then opt for print on demand. However, sales are likely to be fairly low. If you want to get a better quality book and make it available through bookshop, use short run digital printing and print between 300 and 500 copies, then reprint when necessary. If you are looking to maximise your penetration into the book retail market then print 500-1000+ copies and take advantage of book industry trade sales representation.

Matador offers print on demand, short run digital printing and longer run litho printing. We have a dedicated trade marketing and PR department. We have full trade sales distribution and sales representation to bookshops.

I see my book as the start or continuation of my career as an author, and want to see it on the shelves in bookshops selling to as wide an audience as possible. Click to reveal...

If you are serious about your writing then you’ll want to get your books read as widely as possible, and that means getting them into bookshops in front of readers. You may also want to use your book to attract the attention of an agent or commercial publisher. Either way, you need a book that is produced and marketed to a standard comparable to any commercially published book, and that is distributed through as many retail channels as possible. We think you have two options:

Short run digital printing with marketing

PROS

Printing 500 or more copies of a book at the same time gives you a lower unit print cost and a better quality book. There is a far wider choice of book size and finish available (eg. embossing, spot UV or linen laminated covers). You can sell your book through high street bookshops as well as online retailers, at a realistic cover price. You can reprint at any time. The book can be actively marketed to and sold by bookshops by our team of sales reps, so your book is likely to sell more widely.
CONS
This requires a greater initial investment than print on demand. You may be left with unsold copies of your book.

Litho printing with marketing

PROS

Printing over 1000 copies with litho printing gives a far better unit print cost and thus a greater profit margin on your book sales, along with the widest possible choice of format and finish. Your book can be sold by a team of sales reps into bookshops, so sales should be greater.
CONS
You may be left with unsold copies of your book and thus unable to recoup the money invested in printing. You may have to pay to store your books somewhere.

OUR RECOMMENDATION…
It isn’t the number of copies you print that necessarily determines how many copies you will ultimately sell, but getting those copies into bookshops and raising awareness among readers is key to selling. Whether you decide to play it safe and print 500 copies or print more to benefit from the lower print costs that economies of scale give, trade marketing and media/public relations is a necessity.

Matador offers short run digital printing and longer run litho printing. We have a dedicated trade marketing and PR department and full trade sales distribution and sales representation to bookshops.

I want to use my book as part of my business, or to develop my business further. Click to reveal...

Many businesses need to publish a book as part of their business model, or want to do so to strengthen the reputation of that business. Quality is usually a key issue with a book published for use by a business, as the quality of your book reflects your business. We suggest that there are two options:

Short run digital printing

PROS

Printing 100 or more copies of a book at the same time gives you a lower unit print cost and a better quality book. There is a far wider choice of book size and finish available, in either paperback or hardback. You can sell your book through high street bookshops as well as online retailers, usually at a realistic cover price. You can reprint 100+ copies at any time, or switch to print on demand to keep a title in print. The book can be actively marketed to and sold by bookshops, so your book is likely to sell more widely.
CONS
This requires a greater initial investment than print on demand. You may be left with unsold copies of your book. Printing 300 + 100 + 100 copies of your book in three different ‘print runs’ is more costly than if you had printed 500 copies in one go at the start.

Litho printing with marketing

PROS

Printing 1000+ copies gives a far better unit print cost and thus a greater profit margin on your book sales. Because of the number of copies available, your book can be sold by a team of sales reps into bookshops, so sales should be greater.
CONS
You may be left with unsold copies of your book and thus unable to recoup the money invested in printing. You may have to pay to store your books somewhere.

OUR RECOMMENDATION…
How you publish your book really depends on whether you are going to use it as part of your business for your customers direct, or whether you want to make it available for sale. It will also depend on how many copies of your book you require as part of your business.

Matador offers print on demand, short run digital printing and longer run litho printing. We have a dedicated trade marketing and PR department. We have full trade sales distribution and sales representation to bookshops.

I or a relative has an interesting life story and want to share it with others. Click to reveal...

There are many interesting lives out there, and many people want to record their life history, or that of a relative, for posterity, or to sell to a wider audience. How you publish will depend on whether you want to make your book available for sale to the public. There are two options

Print on demand (POD)

PROS

You can print as few or as many copies as you need as you need them. You could print copies to give away to family and friends, and also make your book available to buy through most UK online book retailers.
CONS
POD books have a high unit print cost, thus the cover price on POD books tends to be much higher than is usual for a particular type of book, and this reduces the likely sales. There are a lot of limitations on format and finish on POD books. Because bookshops work on a ‘sale or return’ model, POD books are rarely sold in bookshops as they are unlikely to pay to print a copy unless it has already been sold.

Short run digital printing with marketing

PROS

Printing 100 or more copies of a book at the same time gives you a lower unit print cost and a better quality book. There is a far wider choice of book size and finish available, in either paperback or hardback. You can sell your book through high street bookshops as well as online retailers, usually at a realistic cover price. You can reprint 100+ copies at any time, or switch to print on demand to keep a title in print. The book can be actively marketed to and sold by bookshops, so your book is likely to sell more widely.
CONS
This requires a greater initial investment than print on demand. You may be left with unsold copies of your book. Printing 300 + 100 + 100 copies of your book in three different ‘print runs’ is more costly than if you had printed 500 copies in one go at the start.

OUR RECOMMENDATION…
Unless you are a well known person, we wouldn’t recommend printing in large numbers initially. If cost is an issue then opt for Print on Demand. If you want a better quality product and for your book to be marketed and available through bookshops then opt for short run digital printing.

Matador offers print on demand and short run digital printing.
We have a dedicated trade marketing and PR department.

I have published previously and want to reissue my book. Click to reveal...

Often we are asked to republish a book that has either gone out of print or that has been published elsewhere but did not sell very well. We are happy to republish a title as long as you as author hold the publication rights.

Republishing a title will usually involve issuing the book under a new ISBN number. It usually also involves marketing a title to the retailers, and media/public relations work to raise the book’s profile to readers.

Often we are asked to republish a book that has not sold well; this may be for many reasons, but usually we find it is because of a lack of expertise in positioning a book in the market and in marketing it to retailers and readers.

Books can be republished using either print on demand, short run digital printing or long run litho printing. We are happy to advise on the printing and marketing options available.

Matador offers print on demand, short run digital printing and longer run litho printing. We have a dedicated trade marketing and PR department

When you have considered the options available, please contact us for no-obligation advice and a quotation for your book. Our quotation usually shows the relative costs of all the self-publishing options that we offer so that you can decide what is best for your book.