General Notes On Short Run Book Printing / Publishing  

(Please note: this is NOT formal legal advice. These are our opinions and suggestions based on 20 years’ experience of independent book publishing. For legal advice, you should consult a legal professional)  

As a general rule, in a free society, anybody - ie any individual, collective, group or company - can write and publish anything they want to as a printed document so long as it is not defamatory, obscene, inciteful or otherwise in contravention of any other laws

They ideally need to be the copyright holder for the material that they wish to publish by being one of:

a) The original author, 
b) A family member or literary estate executor, if the author is deceased, or 
c) the holder of a publishing or licensing agreement with one of the above. 

There are some exceptions – and these vary from country to country – but, for the most part, all written works become Public Domain once 70 years have elapsed since the death of the author – and they are then out of copyright.

Anybody can then publish a facsimile edition of the original or a new updated version of that work although they shouldn’t pass it off as their own and should acknowledge the original author and the work’s previous publishing history. 

If you want to use photos to illustrate the book, the same copyright applies as for written works, you need to have taken them yourself or have permission from the photographer. However, any photo taken or published in the UK before 1st June 1957 – with a few exceptions  – is out of copyright as they used to be subject to a 50 year time period.  (read more about copyright of photos HERE)

So, if you have your own book finished and ready to print/publish - what do you need to do next? 

Well, there are a number of ways to proceed and the two easiest /cheapest – as of July 2022 - in my experience as follows:

1) Book Printers.

You could get a quantity of the finished book produced by our usual regular book printer, Printdomain in Rotherham.  

With them, you can have a choice of different paper qualities and finishes and I would suggest using 115gsm silk stock for a small black and white book that is mainly text.

They can print small batches of, say, 20 at a time and copies work out at a cost of about  £5 each. Obviously if you order a larger print run, they come out at less per copy but the initial outlay is higher.

You can try out various options on their website to see the affect on cost of using different paper weights, cover finishes and amounts of colour pages.

Printdomain is the only book printer that I have come across that charges only for the number of colour pages that you actually have in the book.  Most others cost it as a fully colour book - even if there are a number of b/w only pages as well – and this puts up the costs considerably.

The negative side of using Printdomain is that getting a one-off proof copy from them costs £25

2) Amazon / Kindle Direct Publishing (Print On Demand) 

This is the cheapest method of getting single draft copies printed for checking through.  

There are certain advantages in proceeding with Amazon / KDP – these are:
a) You don’t need print ready PDFs – you can upload your book text as a basic Word document, and use their cover creator to design the cover 
b) The copies tend to work out cheaper per copy – say, about £3 or 4 each – depending on page count, book format and chosen paper quality  
c) you can order as few or as many copies as you like and they all work out at the same cost per unit so the initial outlay can be greatly reduced 
d) If you want to send copies to friends and family abroad, you can order them to be sent via, etc, where they are printed up and mailed out by local printers in that territory, and that reduces postage costs and avoids problems with EU customs charges.
e) As it is Print On Demand, you can just order what you need for now and don’t have to have 100s of spare copies laying around at home.
f) You can also update or add to the content of the book at a later date if needs arise and the new version will be immediately available to order/ sell / send out, whereas an earlier printed batch would, obviously still have the previous text.

The Commercial Bit

If you want to sell copies of any book – or if you want anybody else to be able to sell copies, say in bookshops, museums, gift shops, libraries or online - it needs to have an ISBN number and a barcode.    
If you go down the KDP route, they can provide you with one of their “free” ones - otherwise you need to register as a publisher and get your own block of ISBN numbers from the UK ISBN agency. 

For a UK agency ISBN number to be valid, the publication needs to be registered with the ISBN agency. You also have to provide 6 copies to the British Library and National Legal Deposit Libraries.

If you get the copies produced via Printdomain, you basically receive a box of finished books and it is entirely up to you what you do with them after that. 

If you go down the Amazon / KDP route, the book becomes available to the general public anywhere in the world to purchase online.

For each copy sold, the publisher would receive a small royalty per sale.  Depending on the selling price this usually works out between 90p and 1.40 per book and I have to say that, as they are very much “niche publications”, very few of our books actually ever get purchased via Amazon… 

Needless to say, there is a lot more to it but the above covers the main points that you need to consider.  

Or, if you need a bit of guidance through all this, you might like to try Book Printing UK  

They offer a wide variety of options - including a full editing and publishing service as well as the actual printing – and, while there is obviously a cost involved, they will help you with the process as much as you need. 

If you visit their website you can get quotes online for different book formats, print quantities, number of pages etc  and you can have a play and see what package suits your requirements  and budgets the best.