If you’ve written a business book there are many ways to publish it; looking for a traditional publisher, working with an independent or going it alone.

In order to decide on the best publishing route, you first need to understand what you want to achieve. For example, if you want to sell copies at the back of the room, it can be expensive to buy them from a traditional publisher. On the other hand if it’s vital that your book appears in airport bookshops then self-publishing is not going to work. It all comes down to creating the perfect publishing plan to meet your specific objectives.

In this article, I will look at the three main publishing options and explains how to choose between them:

Traditional publishing

If your book is accepted the publisher will publish, market and sell it. You sign a contract handing over rights to the content in the book and accepting their royalties agreement. The publisher usually provides an editor and does all the production work – design, copy editing, typesetting, proofreading, printing, ebook creation, etc. The publisher is also responsible for distribution to Amazon and bookstores. They may also offer the rights for foreign language editions.

Financing is undertaken mostly by the publisher. Returns to the author are relatively low – around 8-10% of net sales. For example, with an RRP of £10 you will get around 35-50p for each book sold. You can usually buy copies at a discount, which you can sell to create a small revenue.


You take on the role of publisher. You register with the ISBN Agency and create the book yourself, supplying for yourself all the services that a publisher would. You’ll probably sell mostly through independent channels (not book stores) such as your website, social media, direct sales etc.

Financing is done by the author. All profits are returned to the author.

Author-funded, independent publishing

This is a hybrid approach. You usually retain full rights to the book. The publishing company does all the work to create a professional-looking product. They should also distribute your book and make it available to bookstores and Amazon. Some companies may have the ability to negotiate rights sales.

Financing is done by the author who receives the bulk of the profits. Expect around 25-30% of the cover price.

Choosing a traditional publisher

Make sure you understand the lists that publishers have and identify where your book may be a good fit. The Writers and Artists Yearbook lists all the publishers and agents in the UK and Ireland. Once you’ve identified a suitable publisher, go to their website and download their author guidelines - and stick to them like glue.

Ask yourself why they should want to publish your book? They need to make money out of it. So remember, publishers are looking for:

  • A good, original idea.
  • The right sort of person, i.e. do you have a broad network and good PR representation? Are you a proficient speaker?
  • Do books like yours sell well?
Finally, make sure a professional looks over the contract for you.

Choosing to self-publish

By self-publishing you can do whatever you want – providing you don’t steal other people’s work. You also retain ownership and rights.

However, writing, publishing and marketing a book constitutes a lot of hard work. Without guidance your book may flop! Perhaps you lack market knowledge and production skills. You’ll need to be a good project manager, finding and coordinating the right professionals to support you. Designer, editor, proofreader, typesetter and printer are all crucial for a professional outcome.

There’s a huge amount to learn so think carefully; you could be spending that time working on your business.

Choosing an independent publishing services company

If you like the idea of the independence of self-publishing but don’t have the time or project management skills, then it’s worth looking at working with a company which specialises in helping people publish independently.

Ask around for recommendations, and when talking to providers, make sure they offer good distribution. The last thing you want is to find that your book isn’t available to the trade because it’s been produced using print on demand or the company doesn’t have adequate connections with the trade.

By understanding the three different options, and how they fit into the strategy for your book, you can make an informed choice about the best publishing route for your manuscript.

By Sue Richardson, founder of SRA Books