Mohammad Al-Ubaydli’s blog

How to become a publisher – part 4

Posted in Articles, My publications, Technology by Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli on August 30, 2003

In the final article in our series on how to publish your own book,1-3 Mohammad Al-Ubaydli outlines how to start your own publishing business.

There is a great feeling that comes from seeing your name in print, and many authors consider this to be the well deserved end of their toils. However, to borrow the words of Sir Winston Churchill: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Putting the word out

Printing costs money, but it is only a small part of a book’s price. Rather the main costs are for marketing and distribution.1 Marketing is not just about advertising, it is about the larger task of making sure the right person knows that your product is right for them.

Good reviews

The first step is getting good reviews. This is tricky, but do not be too shy to approach the highest authority in your book’s field. The worst they can do is say they are too busy, but most are surprisingly helpful. What you need is one good review from one good authority so that you can put it on the back of your cover. Be persistent.

Press releases

When your book is available for sale, and you have acquired good reviews, it is time for a press release. This is a concise detailed document that explains to a member of the press why their readers would be interested to know about your book, and how to contact you to get more information. A good place to learn more about writing press releases is the PRW website (

Handling the sales

I find this sequence of events to be extraordinary:

I have never been to Pennsylvania, and a Pennsylvanian customer had never heard of me. Yet he read about the book’s website, liked what he read, and clicked on a button. This transferred money from his US bank account to my UK bank account, and sent me an email to alert me that I needed to keep my part of the bargain. I then sent the book to him across 4500 km of sea, and he seems to have greatly enjoyed reading it. Thousands of people around the world are benefiting from these systems of international trade. It all begins with Paypal.


Paypal ( started out as a small American company that let anyone transfer money to anyone else in America. In Europe we have been used to this kind of service for many years, but for Americans it was incredible that they were not being charged for it. But Paypal went on to do much more. The company allowed these transfers through the internet and mobile phones. It then expanded to allow transfers between an increasing number of countries (albeit with charges). And it allowed anyone to accept transfers from a credit card.

It costs no money to get an account through Paypal’s website and only a little effort to integrate their buttons into your own website. Your website can then sell your good, and the buttons can accept payments.


Three things are worth noting. Firstly, writing “Printed papers” on the package qualifies you for reduced costs. This label is a great help for any publisher.

Secondly, for overseas postage you often have to document the package’s content and cost, in case the buyer has to pay customs tax. Make friends with your post office clerk and he or she will guide you through this process.

Finally, postage will take up a lot of your time. Initially, making trips to the post office will be a pleasure because it is confirmation that someone somewhere wants your book enough to pay for it. But soon the trips become tiring, and you will wish for someone else to take on this role. This is the time to consider selling your book to another publisher.

Selling to another publisher

If your book becomes a success, a traditional publisher will become interested in buying it from you and will take on many of the tasks that you found tedious such as marketing and order management. It also means you start from a position of power—the standard contract that publishers send you becomes a starting point for negotiations because you have already taken away the risk of publishing an unpopular book. Choose your publisher wisely—each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and you must make sure that these match your book’s needs. A quick way to start this is to look at books that you like best in your field, and to note which publishers were responsible for them.

Is it all worth it?

So, you have written, printed, published, marketed, and sold your book. Are you now rich? Rarely. If you do your job well you should be able to get some money for your efforts. If money is your motivation there are faster and easier ways to make it.

But there is something different about money that you earn through your enterprise and innovation.

Published in the 30th of August 2003 issue of the British Medical Journal