Delivering to Mainland Europe after Brexit: IOSS

← Return to contents

Delivering to mainland Europe after Brexit has been a well-documented ‘nightmare‘ for indie presses, with many publishers no longer able to post items to the continent.

This article discusses what has happened, and highlights possible solutions.

What was the scenario before Brexit?
Previously, as the UK was part of the EU bloc, publishers were able to post books out, and the recipient country’s customs would pass it along, without levying any charges, since the UK ‘zero-rates’ (doesn’t add VAT to) book sales.

And what about now?
In simple terms, after Brexit, without this protection, VAT is due on books, charged at the rate in the destination country, which varies by member state. Publishers are now faced with the option of calculating the VAT due and paying it, thus making packages Delivered Duties Paid (DDP), or to send the book as usual, Delivered Duties Unpaid. If using the latter option, in theory the recipient hears from their country’s customs with a bill for the VAT and an additional admin charge; in practice many publishers report the majority of parcels being returned, marked ‘unclaimed’.

For most, however, setting up, calculating, reporting VAT in every single member state of the EU is just not possible – the administration burden would be huge. As a result of changing legislation the EU set up the Import One Stop Shop (IOSS); now companies can declare and file VAT returns for all EU member states in one place.

The catch is you need to be an EU citizen to sign up to the scheme.

Practical options
If presses have an EU citizen as a director they may well be able to opt for a DIY model – if you do this we would be interested to hear how you get on.

It has been well documented that Estonia offers a digital citizenship, which allows UK citizens to sign up and become an honorary EU citizen, and therefore eligible for the IOSS scheme. This is the basis of many IOSS solutions, and could no doubt allow for a DIY model.

For the majority, however, a third-party solution is needed.

Royal Mail
At the time of writing the Royal Mail are rolling out a Postal Delivered Duties Paid service, which helps customers to work out the VAT due on each item and to declare, pay and export.

Other options
There are now many options available that claim to take the hassle out of these VAT filings, most of which charge a monthly fee, from pocket change to thousands. For this guide we have covered one option with a subscription model like this; largely subscription options are not suitable for indie presses, who cannot justify (or wish to pay) hundreds a year to enable sales that might not cover the cost, but the below is inexpensive.

EAS Project (easproject.com)
One such solution is EAS Project, which was highlighted in 2023 by the IPG. Here is Renard Press‘ experience:

(Full disclosure: we have no affiliation with EAS, but have lived experience with them and rate their offering.)

We granted EAS access to our website, where they set up their plugin, all the tax rates from around the world, etc. They registered us as digital residents in Estonia, granting us eligibility for the EU’s IOSS (see above).

This means if someone visits our website from, say, Denmark, the plugin knows it’s a 25% VAT rate on books there, so adds this to the cost of the book that the customer sees. At the end of the month they pull all the data together and send me an email saying ‘£XXX of VAT this month – here’s an invoice’. We pay them (in euros), they declare it on our behalf and send us an email to confirm the VAT bill has been paid. It’s been very simple for us, they did all the set-up and are always at the end of an email.

In terms of pricing, I think our subscription option is now deprecated, but we opted for pay-as-you-go, and in general they charge us a few euros a month, just added to the invoice. (The new system seems to start at €9.90 a month, for 10 VAT calculations – see more via the PDF below – which probably works out around the same for presses posting ~5–10 parcels to the EU per month.)

When you’re registered they send you your IOSS number, with instructions on how to add it to your Royal Mail digital account. This means that when you process orders this VAT declaration is fed through to Royal Mail and on your shipping labels you’ll have the magical IOSS logo, which sends the parcel skipping through customs. (I’m told it’s possible to add manual dummy orders – for review copies, for instance – and the answer was yes, and they will show you how to do it, but haven’t used this yet.)

The whole of the above – from initial meeting to sending our first IOSS-stamped parcel – took about a week, but I think they can be more reactive if necessary.

In terms of results, while it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on, I would say that around 20% of our parcels were being returned before we signed up with EAS, and now it’s rare to have an issue – I would say EU returns now are only as common as they were pre-Brexit, and are likely down to address issues rather than customs. I haven’t seen any customs rejections since.

Indie Presses who would like to discuss collaboration with EAS can book a meeting here, or email the COO Teemu.


Last updated: 14th February 2024
Author(s): Will Dady, Renard Press


Sensitivity Reading and Editing

← Return to contents

There is a lot of contradictory information swirling around the subject of sensitivity reading and culturally sensitive editing, and the terminology has become embroiled in the culture wars. While many mainstream publishers have relied on such readings of their titles for many years, the role has only come under such close scrutiny in more recent years, and increasingly become portrayed as ‘fiction’s new moral gatekeepers’ (Spectator). For a summary of the debate to date, the Bookseller have you covered.

For those who are interested in the role such reading and editing might have in the independent-publishing sphere, we spoke to Holly Edgar, the founder of Write Up, an editorial agency that works ‘with authors, publishers and employers who want to create a more inclusive future by creating content that inspires everyone and excludes no one’.

If getting your language right, your descriptions accurate and making sure people can see people who look like them in the media they consume makes people happy, comfortable and respected, why wouldn’t you do it?

Why is sensitivity reading/culturally sensitive editing important?

Holly: This is a biggie, but for me, it comes down to kindness. Bear with me, because I know that sounds twee, but if getting your language right, your descriptions accurate and making sure people can see people who look like them in the media they consume makes people happy, comfortable and respected, why wouldn’t you do it?

A longer answer is that it helps avoid inaccurately portraying marginalised people or cultures. Sensitivity readers are specialist editors who pinpoint elements that may lack authenticity and find scenarios or storylines that, for various reasons, might seem improbable within the context of their community or own experience. Because of their lived experience, they have a greater capacity to identify inaccuracies and stereotypes about their community and are in better positions to suggest changes. In-house teams at UK publishers are currently not very diverse, so the potential for spotting bloopers that way is still fairly limited.

The idea is to make the author and publisher sensitive to their work’s possible issues and implications and let them make an informed choice about any changes to be made. While some cultural errors, like an Australian character saying they’re ‘going to the ball game’ won’t cause harm, the repercussions of stereotypical or inaccurate portrayals of marginalised communities can be profound. Accuracy in representation is about avoiding harm and fostering a more respectful and inclusive narrative.

Seeing people like us on TV or in books matters a lot. It’s how we make up our minds about different groups before even meeting them or how we think others will see us. If the media consistently paints a group badly, or even just in one particular way, we eventually believe that’s true. It affects how we expect people from that group to act, and if we’re part of that group, we might even feel like we should act a certain way. Not all media representation is negative, but there are a lot of harmful stereotypes out there (equating ‘fatness’ with ‘laziness’ is one) that influence how society sees you.

Also, not everyone even gets to see themselves on the screen or in books, which makes you feel like you shouldn’t exist, like you’re not OK just being yourself, and that’s a lonely place to be. You start believing you’re not important and that maybe people won’t like you if they see the real you. But when you see bits of your story in everyday life, it’s affirming. It makes you feel less alone and more normal. Finding movies or books about subjects that matter to you, or a character you can relate to, helps you start accepting yourself and reminds you that you exist in, and are a valid part of, the world.

For educational materials, where I started in publishing, content needs to be especially relevant to the audience. If your textbook is for the Caribbean, show a Trinidadian teacher in a Trinidadian classroom, not a random Black person, in a stock photo probably taken in the US. Take the time to notice that Trinidad also has ethnically Indian and Chinese populations, so the kids in the class should be racially mixed. Give examples of scientists, mathematicians or authors from the region. It’s about doing the work as well as meeting syllabus requirements.

What are the different options available for publishers with varying budgets?

Holly: We can do anything from commissioning authors, reading the entire production stage (e.g. draft, final manuscript, layouts, colour artwork) to picking out specific parts of the text or images that you want a closer look at. Our usual package covers one production stage (usually the draft manuscript), and the reader would annotate the Word file in-line and send a detailed report summarising their feedback (and, importantly, giving context so you and your author can make an informed decision). We advise publishers to build this into their costs ahead of time, rather than leaving it to the last minute or trying to take a chunk out of other bits of the budget.

Can you suggest any resources for presses starting to think more about inclusivity?
Holly: We offer training and workshops from the ABCs of inclusion to really in-depth stuff (last year, one of our consultants did a talk about the anthropomorphisation of characters in children’s books and their racial connotations). But it can also be as simple as ‘What’s intersectionality?’, ‘What do I do with a sensitivity reader’s feedback?’ or ‘How do I know if I need one?’.

Any top tips for publishers who want to improve the sensitivity of their offering but aren’t yet able to stretch to a full read?

Holly: I’d say get in touch with someone at the commissioning stage who can read your outline or synopsis and pinpoint any potential pitfalls. Then, you could always get someone to read specific parts (e.g., we recently read one chapter of a book that focused heavily on an Islamic character).


Last updated: 29th November 2023
Author(s): Will Dady, Renard Press, with Holly Edgar from Write Up


Look Inside and Discover

← Return to contents

Most readers will be familiar with the concept of ‘look insides’ from Amazon’s listings, where customers are given the chance to open a book digitally and see a short selection of a book’s content – and according to almost all sources that report on such things, this is a vital piece of a book’s metadata, and can account for increased engagement, discoverability and sales.

As a result, it’s important for small presses to take advantage of ‘look inside’ possibilities – and there are many. Here are a few companies to think about:


Amazon’s Search Inside the Book Program

In order to upload to Amazon’s Search Inside the Book Program you’ll need a Seller Central PDF Upload (UK) account. Amazon supply some information here, and in the first instance you should contact them to ask for access.

Once you’re set up you’ll be able to upload your PDFs (again, they provide information, but you’ll likely find it easiest to make one PDF of the full book’s insides, with a front and back cover appended within the PDF, named by its ISBN, e.g. 9781913724009.pdf). Once you upload it they’ll process it – check back in a few days and you should see it on their website.

If you produce ebooks as well as print editions, when you upload a Kindle edition Amazon will likely link it to the print edition and offer the ebook as a ‘look inside’ option for both formats.


Google Book Previews

Another free service, Google’s all-in-one upload solution enables you to add full PDFs to your account, which will allow selections to be previewed on Google.

Like Amazon, they want the full inside PDF, and you’ll need to fill in lots of metadata too. (Please note, if you’re a classics publisher they might refuse to take your titles which are in the public domain, as they limit this to their favoured – here’s looking at you, Penguin – publishers.)

More information about the service can be found here.


Exact Editions’ Reading Rooms

Launched in 2022, Exact Editions have created a platform for publishers (with both free and paid memberships) which offer look-inside possibilities, billed as ‘A book marketing platform publishers can use to connect books with consumer and trade customers to drive sales’.

With the free version, publishers can upload their full PDFs and create ‘digital book previews’, which contain a selection of pages from the front and rear of the book, with a link out to the publisher’s website (or desired retailer) when the sample is finished. (Find an example of one of our titles here.) While the majority of presses use these links on their websites, social media and newsletters, each link comes with a QR code, which of course you could print and distribute on posters, flyers, etc.

Uploads are quick and simple, and although the free version means you need to upload titles one by one, it doesn’t take very long to do.

Exact Editions say the pro version also allows publishers to: share extract(s) of the book digitally with customisable preview pages; distribute time-limited full access links to books for digital review, inspection, and rights copies; curate time-limited virtual book collections, including either previews or full access to the books included; access the bulk-upload tool.

For many publishers who want to supply inspection copies digitally, this is a viable – and less expensive than many alternatives – option for sending time-limited access to digital titles without blindly sending out PDFs.

It should also be noted that the free version of Reading Rooms comes with a visually accessible graph of statistics, which, if slightly basic, is likely all the information (and more) that you’ll require – what has been read, etc, how many times – while pro users have the possibility of adding Google Analytics search properties for their titles for more in-depth stats.

We spoke to Ellie Burnage at Exact Editions when writing this piece, and she said:

Exact Editions’ Reading Rooms for Books allows publishers to freely upload an unlimited number of PDFs, selecting the number of pages available for preview at the front and back and a web page (shop link) to re-direct readers to. These book preview links are completely ad-free (as are the QR codes) and can be distributed in any digital context such as websites, social media, blogs, newsletters and more.

Visit the Reading Rooms for Books sign-up page here and enter your company name, your email address and password.

Please contact readingrooms@exacteditions.com with any questions.

It’s also worth noting that Exact Editions run campaigns several times a year, and offer publishers the opportunity to submit titles to their collection, meaning you can submit (normally two) titles to be part of their Pride Month or Black History Month collections, offering free promotion opportunities.

At the time of writing publishers can opt for either a free or pro service; the paid service starts at $249 p/a.

Resources provided by Exact Editions

Reading Room For Books Explained

Reading Rooms for Books




Another small company with big ideas is Jellybooks, which launched its Discovery platform to great acclaim in 2021, with a collaboration with Blackwell’s.

Publishers setting up an account with Jellybooks can upload their ePub (ebook) editions to create ‘look insides’ for their titles – which are then available for bookshops to use on their websites. Here’s an example, using one of Fly on the Wall’s titles. Like Exact Editions, each link comes with a QR code, which of course you could print and distribute on posters, flyers, etc.

We spoke to Andrew Rhomberg at Jellybooks for this article, and he said:

The Jellybooks Discovery platform offers publishers the opportunity to improve book discovery. The platform provides high-street bookshops and independent retailers with online book excerpts and audiobook snippets from participating publishers either as web modals or links. The platform can also be used for social media marketing, author care, publicity and publisher’s email newsletters to improve the customer journey from discovery to purchase.

Discovery samples are distributed from publication date onwards and are tailored by Jellybooks to the requirements of each bookshop, retailer, publisher and partner with customised purchase paths (buy buttons at end of sample) unique to each.

You can grab your sample links either manually, through our publisher portal, or programmatically through our API, which is dead easy to integrate.

We also have a lot of retailer integrations: we are used by dozens of smaller indie bookshops such as Rossister Books, Coles Books, Book-ish, Truman Books and many more – and of course Blackwell’s too – and Dubray is the latest to have gone live (they call it ‘peek inside’). Coming soon are Easons, Stanford’s Travel, Toppings & Company, Guardian Bookshop, Times Bookshop and more. Blackwell’s also uses samples in their weekly email newsletter. A list of participating retailers can be found here.

Jellybooks aims to take as much hassle out of the process as possible and ensure wide distribution to bookshops and retailers. Past promotions have included an interactive magazine with the Booker Prize, and an Easter promotion with Blackwell’s. The latter also uses sample in its weekly newsletter to readers.

The service is used by over 100 indie publishers, including Bluemoose Books, Dead Ink, Fitzcarraldo Editions, Istros Books and Fly on the Wall Press, as well as larger publishers such as Bloodaxe Books, Granta Books, Luath, Birlinn, Bristol University Press, DK, Pan Macmillan and Penguin Random House.

It is worth noting that some publishers have access to this service via their ebook aggregator (Andrew said they can receive feeds from Faber Factory, Ingram Coresource, Codemantra, Bookwire, Consonance, Inpress and Turnaround Publishing, ensuring a fully automated submission and update experience).

Jellybooks also have a National Literacy Trust project in the works, which might be of interest to children’s book publishers, and they say they also run promotions using books on the system – e.g. producing postcards and bookmarks with QR codes on and distributing them at Gardners’ trade show.

Publishers wanting to find out about the upload process can do so here. At the time of writing the service starts at £100 p/a + VAT, and a free trial is available for Indie Press Network members.

Resources provided by Jellybooks

Jellybooks Discovery for Publishers





Last updated: 15th November 2023
Author(s): Will Dady, Renard Press



← Return to contents

Considered by many the foundation stone of a book’s bibliographic data, an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a book’s unique identifying number.

While it is not a legal requirement for a book to have an ISBN (and some digital retailers – here’s looking at you, Amazon – don’t require one), you will likely find that you need an ISBN. It’s used:

  • by distributors, for setting up books, then for receiving and processing orders;
  • by retailers, for ordering – and this is particularly important when there’s more than one edition of the same title;
  • by libraries for acquiring titles;
  • by Nielsen, the UK ISBN agency, for tracking sales data

And so on.

So if your publishing house is solely B2C (that is, you sell only direct to customers, probably online or via print-on-demand operations) you could potentially live without an ISBN – but if you want to see your books in bookshops and you’re dealing in stock, you’ll need some ISBNs.

So what is an ISBN?

Interestingly, an ISBN isn’t just a number – it contains key bits of information that can identify a publisher as well as a title.

Until 2007 ISBNs were just ten digits long, and are often referred to as ISBN-10s or ISBNXs; now they are 13 digits long.

They are composed of five parts:

  1. the prefix for books (978/979);
  2. the registration group or country (1);
  3. the registration identifier (also known as the publisher’s prefix);
  4. the title number;
  5. the ‘check digit’, which is produced by an equation that a computer can use to check if there’s an error in the other digits.

For example, take the ISBN 9781913724009: this tells you that it’s a book, published in the UK by the publisher with the prefix ‘913724’, it’s book ’00’ (so their first ISBN), and has a check digit of ‘9’.

Different ways of writing ISBNs

So the above ISBN can be written as 9781913724009 or as 978-1-913724-00-9, breaking down all of the elements one by one, if the publisher has an ISBN book of 100.

But sometimes publishers buy ISBN books of 1000 – if this was the case then they might write the above as 978-1-91372-400-9, because this ISBN would be their 400th title, and their prefix would be ‘91372’ rather than ‘913724’.

But don’t worry – when you buy your ISBNs (from Nielsen, in the UK), they will tell you all you need to know about how to express your ISBNs.

So where do I get my ISBNs? How much are they?

In each country there is an ISBN agency who dishes out ISBNs. In the UK it’s Nielsen.

Publishers buy ISBNs in batches, and there are significant price differences; they can be bought as a one-off, single ISBN, or in groups of 10, 100 or 1,000.

At the time of writing Nielsen’s prices are:

  • Single ISBN: £91
  • 10 ISBNs: £174 (£17.40 each)
  • 100 ISBNs: £379 (£3.79 each)
  • 1,000 ISBNs: £979 (98p each)

Once bought, ISBNs do not expire; so publishers normally buy more than they need and slowly work through the list, given that a single ISBN can cost nearly 100x as much than a single ISBN in a bigger book.

I’ve bought my ISBNs – what now?

Once bought, you can allocate your ISBNs whenever you want. It’s a good idea to keep strict records of your ISBN book – either in, say, Excel or on paper – since chaos will ensue if you accidentally assign the wrong ISBN to a book. (Exaggeration? No! Bookshops will receive a different book to the one they’re expecting!)

Once you’ve assigned your ISBNs you will need to tell the world about it – and, when published, do your legal deposit so you don’t get letters from the British Library asking for books. There are many ways of doing this, and we will get into more detail elsewhere, but Nielsen will get you started with their free service Title Editor, which allows you to enter bibliographic information, which is then fed out automatically to retailers (retailers all get their information from different places, but Waterstones.com and Amazon.co.uk both receive an update from Nielsen, so information will start to appear on those sites around 24 hours+ on from entering the information).



Last updated: 1st October 2023
Author(s): Will Dady, Renard Press



← Return to contents

We cover other important aspects of royalties (e.g. advances) in our Contracts article.

While some publishers choose to pay a fixed fee (a one-off payment – more common in buying rights to include a piece of work within a publication), the majority of trade publishers pay royalties, sometimes with a lump sum, or ‘advance against royalties’ up front.

Royalty rates vary drastically from publisher to publisher (author to author) and between areas of the industry, but it’s fair to say that they’re generally between 5% and 10%. The most common trade model is 10% on hardback sales and 7.5% on paperback sales, and this is traditionally paid on the RRP of a book, although in some cases they are paid on net receipts.

It’s important to make this clear in the contract, as it makes a big difference. For instance:

On sales of This Great Book by J. Smith, which retails at £10

Paid 7.5% of the RRP, J. Smith would receive 75p per sale.

Paid 7.5% of net receipts, and presuming sales were made at an average discount of 50%, with sales and distribution charges of 30%, J. Smith would receive 26p per sale.

After this, terms can get a bit trickier – perhaps an agent wants to see an escalator (e.g. 7.5% up to 10,000 copies, and then 10%), and if you’re selling copies in export or at high discounts you might need to adjust the royalty rate so you’re not losing money.

Royalty periods

When you’ve decided on all of the above, you’ll need to work out when you pay royalties. Since it’s a time-consuming and fiddly job, most publishers only run royalty reports once or twice a year, and it’s common practice to pay swiftly afterwards.


Last updated: 16th September 2023
Author(s): Will Dady, Renard Press


Legal Deposit

← Return to contents

A publisher is required by law to send a copy of every book (print and, since 2013, digital) they publish in the UK to the British Library.

How many copies do I have to send?

The British Library only requires one copy, although there are, of course, other copyright libraries in the UK, and they also aim to hold as near a complete record as possible. The other copyright libraries are:

  • National Library of Scotland
  • National Library of Wales
  • Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
  • Cambridge University Library
  • Trinity College Dublin Library

Most publishers choose to supply the British Library with one copy, and to supply the other five copies via the ALDL (Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries), who then send on the books to these other libraries.

Do I have to deposit future editions of the same title?

Guidance is usually that a publisher need not supply copies of reprints unless they’re substantially different and have a new ISBN. Once you have a relationship in place you will be able to ask your liaison officer if you have specific questions.


Last updated: 30th September 2023
Author(s): Will Dady, Renard Press



← Return to contents

The very foundation of publishing is the concept of intellectual copyright – that is, if you make something, it’s yours to replicate and distribute, and no one else can come along and, say, photocopy it.

As a publisher, if either republishing a ‘classic’ work, or when publishing a new work that quotes from other sources, you will of course have to think about the copyright implications. Even if, as most do, your author contract indemnifies the publisher against copyright claims that the author has plagiarised, the buck really stops with the publisher, so it’s best to think of such issues up front.

And of course, while it might be obvious that quoting from a famous book might be covered by copyright laws, all too often authors are surprised to learn they can’t quote song lyrics, or include pictures, so it’s an important part of the editor’s job to spot possible copyright issues where permissions might need clearing.

Here are a few things to look out for:
• Lyrics – whether five words or fifty, whether it’s the Pussycat Dolls or Stormzy. (NB just because a song is old doesn’t mean it’s in the public domain – the usual rules, as outlined below, apply)
• Lines from a film or TV show
• Quotes from any other books
• Quotes from a blog or social media comment

This list is not exhaustive, but is a good starting point.

And now, if you’ve identified any quotations, you need to work out whether they’re in copyright…

Copyright guidelines

(Please bear in mind that this is blanket advice, not legal guidelines. If you have any specific concerns or you aren’t sure, err on the side of caution and seek an expert’s advice. Members of organisations like the Publishers Association and the IPG have free access to a business-support hotline, which can be helpful in such situations.)

First, work out where you want to distribute your book. If you want to sell it internationally you’ll have to bear in mind international copyright rules. In this short guide we will focus on UK law, which is applicable to much of Europe, as well as ‘commonwealth territories’ (in publishing this covers Australia and Canada and others), and we will touch on US copyright law.


Copyright in the UK is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, which says that all intellectual copyright is automatically applied (i.e. you don’t have to do anything for copyright to apply) to all creative works, and is covered for 70 years from the end of the year the creator (we’ll assume author) died.

So what does that look like? Let’s take a couple of authors – how about the outrageous (and sadly neglected) author Tom Sharpe (1928–2013), and the wonderful Virginia Woolf (1882–1941).

Tom Sharpe’s books will therefore be in copyright from 2013, when he died, for a further 70 years, so 2083 – and until the end of that year: so his books will enter the public domain in the UK on the 1st of January 2084. A while to go.

Woolf, however, dying in 1941 (+70 =) entered the public domain on the 1st of January 2012.


There are slight complications – if a book was published posthumously, it is in copyright for 70 years from the date of first publication.

So back to Virginia: several of her works are still in copyright – for example, the pieces included in the 1976 collection of her work, Moments of Being. These will be in copyright until (1976+70) the 1st of January 2047.

If you’re quoting a translation, even if the ‘underlying copyright’ (i.e. the author) is in the public domain, you’ll have to check the translator’s dates, since they are covered by the same legal protections.


Things are a bit different in the States, and – dare we say – even more complicated, due to a hefty about-turn in the twentieth century. Generally speaking, works are protected by copyright for 70 years after the author’s death or 95 years after publication.

Because US estates were given the option of renewing copyright, but not everyone took this up, it’s not always easy to ascertain which books are still in copyright in the US.

What to do about copyright


If you want to go down this route, bear in mind that it’s going to cost. You might be pleasantly surprised and find out that it’s not always a huge amount of money – and indeed sometimes music bands will bemusedly say ‘Right on, go for it, how original!’

If it’s an author you’re hoping to quote, you’ll likely need to go through their publisher. A good place to start is looking that up online. Go to Waterstones (there are other good sites available!) and look up the book. You’ll see the publisher listed – you’ll then need to look up that publisher and find their rights or permissions contact. They will probably walk you through it (or, if they’re a bigger publisher, might well have an automated system – Faber, for example, have a tool that spits out an instant quote), but they will want to know a few details – who you’re quoting, how many words you want to use, the context (epigraph? in an essay? Using character names for your chapter titles?), and a bit of info about your book (paperback or hardback, RRP, print run and – all important – territory, i.e. where you want to sell your books – UK only or international?).

When you’ve given them all the information they need you’ll have a £ figure for permissions clearance, and then you can make an informed decision on whether to include or no.


If you haven’t got time to go through the permissions process (bear in mind, while some estates and publishers can expedite the process, on the whole it can take a while – many publishers ask for six months, and some take longer), or if you can’t shoulder the permissions costs, you’ll need to remove the quoted text.


Perhaps one of the most over-quoted phrases on the Internet, ‘Fair dealing’ is indeed a get-out-of-jail-free card – but it’s not something you decide. Even if you think ‘but I only quote ten words – I’m sure it’s fine’, the usual advice is to clear permissions and hope for this outcome. You can always negotiate!

Why? Because the fair-dealing clause doesn’t quantify or qualify. It doesn’t say ‘quotes under ten words are exempt’. And there’s a big difference between quoting the opening lines of a book, say, than a passing comment embedded in the book.


There are plenty of online sources if you want to go hunting for more information, and many books on the subject. Just a few include:

Last updated: 30th September 2023
Author(s): Will Dady, Renard Press



← Return to contents

Distribution is really one of the most vital aspects of your business – it’s the method by which your books get to market. Whilst it doesn’t have the same glamorous reputation as Marketing and Publicity, it’s important to get it right from the outset to make sure your readers can actually buy your books.

Do I need a distributor? Can’t I do it myself?

There is no hard-and-fast rule that says you can’t do your own distribution, but if you’re thinking of doing your own distribution, think hard about all that entails.

In general, it’s the very small, often new publishers and the very large publishers who are able to run their own distribution. If you’re just starting out, you have one or two titles and you only want to sell to bookshops you already have a relationship with, you could absolutely distribute yourself.

For most, though, it will be a necessity – many indie presses run on far fewer staff than is really comfortable, and there just isn’t the time to be boxing up books, invoicing, processing returns, chasing non-payment, etc. – or the room to house so many books!

Most will find that outsourcing your distribution to a specialist book distributor will free up much of your time, and will provide you with an invaluable relationship for getting books to customers on time. With dedicated resources, their warehouse will likely have better conditions than your cellar or shed for storing books; they will have the flexibility to meet rises or droops in demand; and in an ever-changing marketplace, particularly with post-Brexit legislation changing the way distribution over borders operates, their specialist knowledge will be important.

Which distribution company should I use?

If you’ve made the decision to use a distributor, do a little homework about who looks best for you. Go with a specialist distributor (even if a craft-glue or dairy distributor offers to take you on, it’s a very different industry, so won’t do you much good), and have a look at their publishing clients. There aren’t loads of companies around, so it shouldn’t take you too long. We’ve added a short list below (which aren’t necessarily recommendations), but if you’re a member of the IPG you might find that they have a more extensive list.

Distributors will likely have requirements for application – they might want you to have a list of two or three titles, say, or some of the bigger distributors might want you to have hundreds.

Think about what you want from your distributor – do you want a basic service, or are you looking for a company that also does sales representation? Also does print on demand? UK and Ireland only or also Europe? Worldwide?

It’s also important to note that not all distributors want to hold physical stock – if you only want to do print on demand, this might make your choice easier, but if you want to print and hold copies you’ll want to check this first.

Word of mouth is one of the most important aspects of distribution – check out their client lists and see if you recognise anyone. Is there a publisher in the Network who might be able to speak to their experience with that distributor?

Bear in mind that, while it might feel like ‘the bigger the better’ in terms of market resilience or reach, a distributor isn’t your sales rep, and a small indie distributor probably also has a good bookshop client base – and it’s worth thinking about whether it’s important to you to be able to swing by and collect your books in person too.

On the other hand, if you just want everything to be as slick as possible, maybe you’re after a more automated system where there’s perhaps less room for human error?

And of course, we live in an era where we cannot ignore the environmental implications of business. Look into what your shortlist of distributors are doing – look past the greenwashing. Are they using renewable energy? Using ‘responsible deliveries’?

What terms should I expect to see in a distribution contract?

What might initially come as a surprise is you shouldn’t expect to be paid immediately. Distributors stagger payments slightly – usually by three months or so – meaning that sales made in January will likely be paid to you at the beginning of May.

They should, irrespective of this, inform you of sales every month (and/or via an online portal so you can check live or near-live sales data).

You will be paid for your sales, minus distribution charge (plus VAT), minus your sales representation fee (if you have it, and also plus VAT).

Usually your distributor charges for their service irrespective of returns, so if a bookshop returns a few copies six months down the line they won’t refund the deductions for their service.

In terms of the distribution charge itself, this will be slightly different if you’re talking about print on demand as well (which you should consider as printing plus distribution charges), but in general a distributor will charge somewhere between 10% and 20% of sales. (Bear in mind that distributors’ bills have gone up hugely with staffing, heating, lighting costs, and many have passed on increases recently rather than going bust.)

You might find you’re able to barter, and bring the cost down a bit, but so long as you’ve got quotes from several distributors (as you would when getting quotes for any services, be it printing a book or getting a tap replaced), you’ll get an idea of what the average is.

Ask about other services – are there any additional fees? Storage charges over a certain volume? Handling fees for returns? Carriage charges for gratis orders?

Overseas distribution and alternatives

When you’re slightly more established you might start looking for a distributor in different markets. It’s worth noting that different territories have different expectations of books – you might think, for instance, it makes sense to make a distribution agreement for North America, but you should remember that American and British readers are used to different formats of books, and we have different spelling and punctuation conventions, so it’s worth thinking about this hard before putting too much time or resources into it.

Most UK distributors will limit their contract to the home market – UK and Ireland – although some will also factor in Europe. Most will allow you to process orders through them internationally if you want, so it’s worth thinking about whether you need another distributor.

There are also environmental factors to consider in shipping books around the planet, so make sure this is a big part of your planning.

Finally, there are other options – worldwide print-on-demand wholesalers, for example, who give international retailers access to your back catalogue. It’s worth noting that some leading companies offer discounts via membership organisations – at the time of writing, for example, the IPG and Ingram offer a discount on set-up and access to the digital wholesale ‘global connect’ market.


  • The IPG offers page – for discounts and recommendations

A selection of UK book distributors 

Last updated: 16th September 2023
Author(s): Will Dady, Renard Press



← Return to contents

Contracts (sometimes referred to more euphemistically as ‘Agreements’) are perhaps the most important part of publishing – not only is your company only as valuable as your filing system (these pieces of paper, after all, are the proof you hold the rights to publish works), but they are of vital importance in building your reputation. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of the world of contracts.

When should I write a contract?

You’ll probably find it’s a good idea to have a boilerplate contract in place from Day One, because you’ll want to be ready to be reactive and make offers as soon as you open submissions (if that’s the route you’re going down) or accept submissions from agents.

In terms of negotiations, once you’ve found a work you really want to see on your shelves, you’ll probably want to start by outlining terms (and if you’re working with an agent, they will probably steer the conversation by asking). When you’ve agreed on the essentials – advance, royalties, etc – you can get a draft contract in the works.

How can I write a contract?

Initially the contract itself might feel like an insurmountable object, but there is plenty of guidance around. Perhaps the best place to start is Clark’s Publishing Agreements, which is considered the Bible for Contracts.

Working in reverse, it’s also important to consider what terms are fair for your authors, and the Society of Authors has some guidance on this. See, for instance, their CREATOR fair contract terms.

While most agents will defer to you for your preferred contract, some bigger authors and agents might request that you use their boilerplate contract (or update clauses of yours to match theirs).

Things to include

As a baseline a contract should include the contracting parties’ names and addresses, and details of the work in question. The contract should make clear what advance is being offered, and contain details of royalty percentages and payment schedules for remittance to the author. They will include a warranty on the author’s behalf that the work is original and not plagiarised (and, increasingly, that it wasn’t written by AI) and a ‘grant of rights’, which details which rights are being licensed to the publisher, and the terms under which the deal is being made – which languages and territories, for instance. They should also cover the percentage split for any rights sales the publisher might make, and any terms and the protocol for the reversion of rights.

While most indie presses will have agonised over their contract boilerplate, once you have a working draft you might be able to convince one to give you some feedback. Likewise, the Society of Authors (and other membership organisations) gives authors a contract-reading service, and you’ll soon get used to receiving feedback and incorporating this into your model.

Of course, with rights it’s important to get it right right from the beginning – so if in doubt, it’s worth speaking to a specialist.


It’s important to think about your author: while you might feel like you’ve ‘discovered’ a book and are vital in helping it get to market – and while there is some truth in this – an author will likely have spent months, years, possibly decades working on their book, so it’s important to pay close attention to remuneration.

While some publishers choose to pay a fixed fee (a one-off payment – more common in buying rights to include a piece of work within a publication), the majority of trade publishers pay royalties, sometimes with a lump sum, or ‘advance against royalties’ up front.

Royalty rates vary drastically from publisher to publisher (author to author) and between areas of the industry, but it’s fair to say that they’re generally between 5% and 10%. The most common trade model is 10% on hardback sales and 7.5% on paperback sales, and this is traditionally paid on the RRP of a book, although in some cases they are paid on net receipts.

It’s important to make this clear in the contract, as it makes a big difference. For instance:

On sales of This Great Book by J. Smith, which retails at £10

Paid 7.5% of the RRP, J. Smith would receive 75p per sale.

Paid 7.5% of net receipts, and presuming sales were made at an average discount of 50%, with sales and distribution charges of 30%, J. Smith would receive 26p per sale.

After this, terms can get a bit trickier – perhaps an agent wants to see an escalator (e.g. 7.5% up to 10,000 copies, and then 10%), and if you’re selling copies in export or at high discounts you might need to adjust the royalty rate so you’re not losing money.

Royalty periods

When you’ve decided on all of the above, you’ll need to work out when you pay royalties. Since it’s a time-consuming and fiddly job, most publishers only run royalty reports once or twice a year, and it’s common practice to pay swiftly afterwards.

I can’t afford advances

If this is you, it’s important to bear in mind that the advance isn’t everything. If you can’t afford to pay advances, make sure your royalty model is more than fair – after all, an advance is only a share of the royalties up front, so if you can’t afford to pay thousands up front, focus on making it better for the author in the long run.

Some small presses also look to find other ways to demonstrate a commitment to their authors beyond an initial cheque – what can you do to make your press a better home for your authors? Perhaps it’s free copies, discounts on your list, free author websites, etc.


  • Clark’s Publishing Agreements (ed. Lynette Owen)*
  • Society of Authors – CREATOR


* For those who might find the RRP cost-prohibitive, bear in mind your library might have a copy. Some guild and society membership also offers a discount – so if you’re planning to join some societies, it might be worth checking this first.

Last updated: 16th September 2023
Author(s): Will Dady, Renard Press