Luigi Pagano on Self-Publishing

Every now and then I get a query about self-publishing: how to go about it, who to approach, what to look out for. So I asked Luigi Pagano, a fantastic ABCtales poet who has published half a dozen collections with different presses over the past ten years, if he might share some of his experiences with the ABC community. And he happily obliged:

I’m Luigi – some of you may know me already – but for those who don’t I’ve been an ABCtales member for ten years and have self-published five poetry collections in that time. Today I’m going to tell you a little about my self-publishing experiences.

My first poetry collection was entirely home-produced. Despite what you might think, this is a feasible solution, but it would not be my choice now. It is economical but it is also very time consuming. I made 100 copies and sold the lot, keeping the price to a minimum and absorbing postage cost when I had to deliver.

When I started out I had some knowledge of how to format pages for a book, but though I was already in possession of a desktop PC and a printer I still had to buy paper, printer ink, a long stapler and staples. To make the book I formatted my document in landscape with a central column to space out two pages, and then printed on A4. Once printed and numbered these sheets were folded in two to form an A5 booklet. Then I added a cover and stapled the sheets together. A simple but effective binding.

I found out that if you plan to sell your book in bookstores, to libraries, or through online retailers like, you need an ISBN (you don’t if you wish to sell the book yourself). I had an ISBN number so I used it - but as a consequence I had to provide legal deposit copies to the British Library (and five other libraries upon request).

For my next collection I decided to try something different, and farmed out the project to a Print-on-demand company. There are plenty advertised on the net, and after getting a series of quotes I finally decided on They offered me the best quote, and were happy for me to send them a PDF copy of the book as I wished it to be printed, although in most cases you’d be given strict submission guidelines to follow. They were easy to work with and I was happy with the finished product – they require payment in advance for first-time customers.

Most print-on-demand companies will send you one (and only one) free proof copy. If you require further ones, say after editing, they’ll charge you. This happened to me once when I made the mistake of omitting a blank page - as a result the rest of the pages were not in the right sequence. To give you an example: inside the cover I had a title page, then a copyright page followed by a page that could have been used for dedications or left blank, two pages with the index of 80 poems, another blank page and the first poem which was printed on the right hand-side. Without that blank page at the beginning my entire layout was upset. So my advice for using print-on-demand companies is to be very careful that you have everything perfectly in place before you send it off.

My third venture was to publish eight books in digital format. This was a very easy process – all I had to do was provide word-processed manuscripts to an online conversion service. I used, who converted them free of charge, listed them on their site with prices set by me, and circulated the information to various retailers such as Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and many others.

With Smashwords Authors control the pricing, sampling and marketing of their books, and receive 85% of the net sales proceeds for sales on and 60% though their distribution network. That might sound like a good deal but no payment is received until the amount accrued is $10 - and when payment is made it’s subject to 30% U.S. tax, Smashwords being an American company, regardless of where actual sales take place (I believe this applies to Amazon too). It isn’t worth trying to get an exemption for the small sums involved. In 2013 my gross income was $12.44, less $3.73 tax leaving me with a net $8.71. Converted to pounds sterling, that become less than £6. Wow! This was for poetry; maybe prose fares better.

My latest printed anthology was through They provided easy to follow instructions and the final product could be viewed online for several edits. They give the choice of “free ISBNs” but these are specific to Lulu - so I don’t see the point. They offer distribution packages, too, but I suspect they would not generate sufficient sales to justify the added cost. But Lulu should be considered as a printer, as the finished product is very good. The only drawback is the shipping cost - which is in my opinion, and many others’, disproportionate.

To sum up - I’ve had a wide range of experience, and I still haven’t found the perfect solution yet. But I hope these might provide a place to start for those who are thinking about self-publishing for the first time, themselves.


I always read these blogs Luigi. The problem doesn't seem to be getting published. The problem seems to be getting seen.


Not so easy being noticed when it comes to amateurs poets, celticman.


Interesting.How does a newbie obtain an ISBN?  

My early writings for the Edinburgh Women's Liberation Newsletter are accessible at The Women's Library, formerly the Fawcett Library at 25 Castle Street, Spitalfields, London E1 7NT. I recall with fondness my decision in print to deliberately become a single mum.However, even though I love my daughters dearly, I would advise readers not to act in hastesmiley    elsie

Hi Elsie. In the UK there is an agency called Nielsen that acts on behalf of Bowkers, the providers of IBNS. I believe that now you have to buy 10 at the time and are quite expensive. There are procedures and regulations on how to use them. I published some books through a writers' group to which I belong. They had purchased a block of IBNS and I was able to use one of them by nominating the group as publishers. They are not essential if you market your book yourself but if you want exposure to the public via a bookshop, say, they can be useful. 


smileyHi Luigi, I hope your well.

Thank you so much for taking the time to tell us your experiences and share your trade secrets lol.

While I agree with you Celticman, it can be about been not seen or heard, but I find in life if one wants anything that one believes in, its hard to get but duable, whether it means walking a 10000 miles for charity, cancelling work appointments to be at a your childs school plays, doctors apps etc or selling yourself to some times,arrogant and snobbish publishers, agents,online companies, who Mostly only look at your work if you are known, or have an agent.

But for me its how to put it together, because when I get that right, I will make sure I am seen and heard, and would go door to door, county to county, country to country, if needed to, but I am not confident in my layouts,which is why Luigi I found this helpful, especially

'To make the book I formatted my document in landscape with a central column to space out two pages, and then printed on A4. Once printed and numbered these sheets were folded in two to form an A5 booklet. Then I added a cover and stapled the sheets together. A simple but effective binding.'

I do know this can be standard, but like Luigi said it as to be right or your charged or they wont except it, so once I am happy with layout and attempt a book of poems, then I will sell myself and book like there is no tomorrow laughBecause even if people do not choose to read or speak to you, when your looking them in the face, or keep persisting until they give in,they have no choice but to know you have arrived!! Determination to not let others put you down is a great strength to have, Even when others try to make you weak!!!!

So again really enjoyed this Luigi thank you and Lukesmiley


Take care

smiley Keep Smiling

Keep Writing xxx


You're a star!  What you have written is so helpful and I will be re-reading it when I try to do something with the book I have had printed.  It is not a published book as it was the first prize in a  short story comepetition.  The deal was that they would print the winner's novel but as i hadn't written one I asked if some short stories and poems would be okay..  They agreed and were not worried about how many words.  I have sold fifty copies and thought that was the end of it but I've just had someone ask me for ten more copies as the person wants them as Christmas presents.  I have said I will try but for it to be financially viable I need to get the order up to twenty so if anyone out there want's a good door stop just let me know.

But thank you Luigi for giving us the benefit of your experience.

My best regards to your wife and to you.


Oh, well done on your achievement, Moya.The best way for you to drum up support is to advertise your book on the ABC Forum stating the price (including postage and packing), how you want to be paid, how can people apply and wait for the avalanche of offers that will follow. Best of luck.

Luigi xxx


Moya, very well done on your prizewinning story. When you do the next print run save one smileyfor me, I shall buy it in York   Elsie

Okay Elsie,

Will do.  Look forward to seeing you again in York.



Hi Luigi

I've had a similar experience to yours - with having a book published where you had to buy 50 copies, and I didn't get one free for proofing either. I was so proud of the book, and sent copies to all the relatives (it was a family history sort of thing) only to find out that I had masses of mistakes in it. So I was advised to republish it through Lulu, having corrected the mistakes that look so much more obvious in a printed book than they do on the computer screen - and Lulu is very happy for anyone to buy one book at a time - or any number you choose. Their prices for posting have gone up a lot in the last few years, but I think their actual publishing costs are very good value. I've done a lot of things with them now over the years and have been very happy with the results. But I don't write my stuff to sell -  only basically for family and friends - so I'm not worried about promotion. For instance I wrote 40 page books for my grandchildren this last Christmas where the story line was that they were time traveling to where I came from to see what I was doing at Christmas time when I was their ages - and then I put in a similar bit about their grandfather. 

Lulu do have specials on occasionally where you get free postage, or a percentage off the cost of publication.


Jean Day

Hello Jean. I was very satisfied with the print quality of Lulu, my only beef being the shipping cost which escalates out of proportion as the number of copies increases. It is true that they have the occasional bulk discount but the selling price per copy would be more than what people are prepared to pay. My aim is to recoup my costs. Poetry is not a good source of income  and most of the time I am ot of pocket having given, like you, free copies to friends and relatives. I don't regret my venture though and would gladly repeat the experience.

Kind regards, Luigi


Hello Luigi, Lately I have been reviewing much of my work and enjoying my very slow pace so I don't miss a whisker. Your information is wonderful, and sadly it is so hard to promote our work, without appearing on TV with some special program. I too have a book through Lulu, and yes postage is very expensive, which produces few sales. What about self-publishing through Kindle with If anyone has done so please share your experiences---any cost whatsoever? Do we have to provide the cover? How does it rate with Mish-Mash and Lulu? Thanks folks.  

Richard L. Provencher

Hi Richard. I have not used Amazon for Kindle so I can't tell you how they compare with Mish-Mash and Lulu. There are many articles on the net that give you information on e-books publishing through Amazon. Here is a link to one such article: Hope you find it useful.

Kind regards, Luigi


Thank you so much Luigi, the info is so clear, even I should be able to attempt it. Will let you know how I do. Cheers from Richard

Richard L. Provencher

In the Observer, Meet the Author, Joseph Connelly says (and I think we all know this): If you're not reviewed in the nationals and on the front table at Waterstone's, you may as well set fire to your books.


I wonder what he would do with e-books. devil


e-books burn luigi, they just take longer.


Luigi’s correct. I have four self-published e-books on Amazon. Publishing is the easy part, it takes about 10 minutes (maybe 30 minutes the first time because you’ve got to sort out all your bank details), but promoting the book is what takes all the time. I work 1-2 hours a night on Twitter, re-tweeting other writers and hoping they reciprocate. About 20-30% of them do. I’m also active in various author’s groups on Facebook. In fact, Luigi and I bumped into each other on one of them.

I’ve also got a couple of YouTube video trailers.

All of this takes time. Time you should be dedicating to writing, but the books won’t sell themselves.

I also started with Print-on-Demand. I stumbled across an outfit promised to publish my book for free. The only stipulation was that I had to agree to buy 10 copies of the book myself at a special author’s rate. Not only that, but as part of the deal they offered my very own selling page on their website.

The deal at the time was that this organisation simply keeps the difference between the author’s price and the selling price, which is how they make their money. The fact that they’ve since kept all of it, insisting that no copies of the book were ever sold, is beside the point.

At the time they appeared very professional. For an extra sum they agreed to handle the Legal Deposit, which involves placing the book in six different libraries. I believe the British Library is one, and I think there’s another one in Cambridge. I don’t know where the other four are. For another small sum, they arranged an ISBN number for the book.

I decided to go with them, but I now had to sell the books. The book was called ‘Cab Driver’ so I started off e-mailing mini-cab firms, managing about 20 an hour, but started to suspect I was only reaching the owners or the controllers, and I didn’t think I could reach the actual drivers themselves this way. Still it was free and I could e-mail cab firms all over the world.

The other option was small non-intrusive A5 posters which I could post to cab firms, but there was an expense involved there with no guarantee of them actually sticking them up on the wall. In most cases they probably wouldn’t, and I wasn’t inclined to waste stamp and envelope to find out.

The idea of visiting every cab firm in the country personally was out of the question, although I’m sure it would have yielded the best results.

All of this highlights something else to be considered before embarking on this route. What options do you have for marketing your book? I believe I had an ideal target market in cab drivers, but what’s yours?

Cab Driver, by the way, is currently being sold on Amazon for $360! This is nothing to do with me, no one will buy it of course, but there’s nothing Amazon is prepared to do about it. It is proof, however, that some of the books were sold, even if the POD company denies it.

A year ago, in my innocence, I kept clicking on the “I’d like to see read this book on Kindle” icon, little realising it was actually up to me.

I’d been writing regularly on Facebook and – although I shouldn’t say it – developing a small fan base. More than one person told me that whenever they saw an e-mail from me or a new Facebook thread they would go and get a cup of coffee before starting to read it, and they would then howl with laughter. I have an inappropriate sense of humour and this appeared to be appreciated by more and more readers, especially on Facebook. I was invited to guest blog a few times.

So I self-published. It’s as easy as falling out of a pub and straight into a kebab shop, but you need to first consider;

  1. Your target market
  2. How much time you’re willing to put in to promoting the book


Thanks so much folks for all the advice. Yes, writing is the fun. Marketing is the work. How do you set up a link from one place to another, ie so when I e-mail someone, I can say check out my book?

Cheers, from Richard

PS. Sad to say, but I made more money on three poems than three books with one small publisher for five years plus my one print book on placed there by a publisher for the last three years. The only money made was from the copy I bought. The total income from those four books is $20. Recently I began submitting poetry once more to paying markets (that also can take a lot of work), and from three poems received a total of $155. Cdn all within the last three months. But, I am going to try Kindle, thanks Luigi for the wonderful step by step plan you gave.


Richard L. Provencher

With reference to Karl's mention of legal deposits, the following information may be of interest:

Legal Deposit in the National Published Archive

What is legal deposit? Legal deposit is the act of depositing published material in designated libraries or archives. Publishers and distributors in the United Kingdom and in Ireland have a legal obligation to deposit published material in the six legal deposit libraries, which collectively maintain the national published archive of the British lsles.

These are:
The British Library,
The Bodleian Library, Oxford.
The University Library, Cambridge,
The National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh,
The Library of Trinity College, Dublin,
The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Where should Publications be sent? Publications destined for the British Library (with the exception of newspapers) should be sent to:

Legal Deposit Office,
The British Library,
Boston Spa, Wetherby,
West Yorkshire LS23 7BY

Tel: +44 (0)1937 546268 Monographs or 546267 Serials
Fax: +44(0)1937546176
E-Mail: Web:

The other five legal deposit libraries employ an agent to collect publications on their behalf. Publications and enquiries should be addressed to:

Copyright Libraries Agency,
100 Euston Street,
London NWI 2HQ

Tel: +44 (0)20 7388 5061
Fax: +44 (0)20 7383 3540
E-Mail: Web:

I understand that only the British Library's copy must be sent; the other libraries may request their copy.


I can't load my book unless I have Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3 to access Mobipocket Creator. Can't seem to get the update to my Explorer program. Advice? Thanks.

Richard L. Provencher