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Like it or loathe it, publishing in a commercial context means that you are in business, and that carries important ramifications. Depending on how you intend to operate, the issues that attend may be no more consequential than your legal obligation to declare to the relevant tax authorities the revenue from your book(s). However, you do need to make decisions over certain points, such as how you will sell and distribute your book(s), and the trading model under which you will operate. There are other concerns too, such as the question of ISBNs, and the tantalising possibility of publicising your writing and publishing activities on your own web site – even to the point of selling your works directly from such a site.

This chapter covers all of these questions, but do note that many of the points below regarding legal obligations and corporate status vary (perhaps greatly) in their details from country to country. That is, this chapter can give only the broad-brush picture of the statutory and business issues that apply when publishing e-books, and cannot give exhaustive coverage of legal and financial particulars. It follows that you must perform your own due diligence by consulting comprehensive references before making any major decisions in this respect.

Selling & Distributing

Essentially, there are two ways that you can make money from your book: you can sell it yourself through a payment and delivery mechanism of some form, and/or you can get retailers like Amazon to sell it for you, where they provide the payment and delivery system, but also take a cut of the revenue.

The former, if you are serious about things, entails setting up your own web site, and selling the book directly from there, and the sections towards the end of this chapter give some details. Note that this means you will be able to deliver your book(s) directly to only customers' computers and laptops, and not directly to their dedicated e-reading devices, but this is no great obstacle, given especially that many people read e-books on general-purpose devices like tablets, smart-phones and laptops.

Conversely, the latter, where retailers sell your book(s) for you, comprises two approaches. You can supply the book directly to the retailer(s) in question, and/or you can get a distributor to sell it for you through one or more retailers. In this case, the retailers take their cut, as usual, but the distributor will want payment too. They collect this either by taking a cut of the sales revenues, or by charging some form of periodic fee.

Selling through retailers directly requires that you create an account, upload the book, and monitor your sales figures thereon, all on a per-retailer basis. However, there are more than a few e-book retailers, and so this could entail significant work on your part, especially if you publish more than a few books. All of this may amount to too much trouble.

There may also be per-country issues with which you must engage. For example, if you are not based in the USA, but you sell through Barnes and Noble, you will have to acquire an American tax code, which you must supply to the retailer, because the USA tax authority deems a proportion of the revenues generated by sales to customers in the States to be payable to them (in effect, an import tariff). An alternative therefore is simply to forget about the Apples, Googles and Waterstones etc. of this world, and go only with Amazon which, after all, enjoys massive market domination.

This decision, which only you can make, pivots on the amount of administrative work you are prepared to take on, balanced against the amount of money you may lose by eschewing a given non-Amazon retailer. However, do remember here that, unlike Amazon, the other retailers do not charge a per-megabyte fee for delivery to the customer, although they do stipulate other requirements (considered below) that are absent from the Amazon equation.

However, if you do wish to target as much of the e-book market as possible, but want the simplest set-up, then you can go with a distributor. Distributors create the relevant accounts with the retailers to which they distribute books, and manage all the messy details for you. You need only provide a given book file, a promotional version of the book's cover art, and your promotional blurb. You receive thereafter a single, periodic payment rather than separate payments from the many retailers, and will have access to consolidated sales statistics – a single set of sales figures that are an aggregate of the mass of figures the individual retailers make available. This saves you the trouble of checking separate retailer accounts yourself.

If you do choose to sell though a distributor, your decision depends in part upon the charging structure in question, and there are two options. With the commission model, a given distributor charges a percentage of the revenue from the retailers to which they distribute, where they may demand a relatively high proportion. Commission rates of around 30% are common, and if you sell to Amazon through a distributor, you must still contend with the 70%/35% trade-off discussed at length elsewhere in this guide.

Given this, and if you are in possession of a literary gem that does extremely well, gross revenues could climb to the dizzying heights of hundreds of thousands in a given currency. In this case, Amazon will take its delivery fee (assuming you choose the 70% option), and will then deduct its 30%, after which the distributor will also take, say, 30% of what is left. Moreover, if you sell into an EU country, the relevant tax authority is also due its VAT percentage on the sale price (see below), and a given sale may also be subject to your local VAT/GST regimen.

That means you will lose at least 60% of your gross revenues in the sales and distribution chain; from gross revenues of, say, £500,000 in a given year, you will receive only £200,000 of that at best, on top of which you will still have to pay personal income tax on the revenue you receive. Meanwhile, the distributor dines out on sizable revenues for which it has done very little work.

Note here that, in the event of such a scenario, you might think that you could stop using a distributor for that book, and switch to distributing it yourself in order to keep a higher proportion of the revenue. Assuming that any contractual arrangement with the distributor in question allowed this, you would nevertheless lose your product pages on the relevant retailers' web sites, and thus would lose all the glowing reviews and in-bound links from other sites. Yet your book's runaway success would have been due in part to those links and reviews.

An alternative is to find a distributor that charges not a commission, but a flat fee. This can be the same amount each year, or can comprise an initial registration cost, followed by a lower, annual payment. The clear advantage of the no-commission model is that the literary gem considered above will deliver essentially all of the gross revenue from the retailers, on which only tax would be due. (Note here that you can reduce the amount of tax you have to pay by operating through a company of your own – see below).

However, if a given distributor's annual fee is, say, £100 per annum, and you sell only one title through that company, it is clear that you need to make that much in sales before you start turning a profit. In this case, a book that sells very poorly indeed may leave you out of pocket – a situation that favours the commission-based model. Clearly, there is risk here, and you will have to make the best decision you can over which path to follow.


A second issue that small, independent publishers must address is the question of ISBNs or International Standard Book Numbers. An ISBN is simply a product code that identifies a given book uniquely, and it comprises three elements:

A numeric or alphabetic checksum digit or character follows these elements, which permits validation of the other elements. Note that ISBNs are issued according to the country in which the publisher is located, and that the language in which the book is written has no bearing on matters.

Note here that the term ‘book’ as used above does not mean solely the content of a given work, irrespective of its publication medium. That is, in print publishing, the hardback and paperback editions of a book are distinct products, and so require their own ISBN. The same goes for new editions of a book, where an existing work undergoes revision and/or extension. That is, the second, third, fourth etc. editions of a given book all require their own unique ISBNs (although reprints of a given edition do not).

This rule applies to electronic books equally in that, were you to publish in print a book that was available previously in only electronic form, you would have to assign that print edition an ISBN of its own. The same follows for publishing a book as a Mobi/KF8 and EPUB (or some other format like PDF or Apple's iBooks). Even though the content in the EPUB is identical to that in the Mobi/KF8, it still counts as a unique product, and so must carry an ISBN of its own. Note here that some people believe there is such a thing as an ‘eISBN’ that applies only to e-books. This is simply untrue, there is the ISBN system alone, which applies to all published literary works, be they electronic- or print-based.

ISBNs are issued in each country by a government sanctioned (but not necessarily government funded) organisation, but the nature and issuance policies of the respective agencies vary. For example, ISBNs are issued in the UK by Nielsen Book Services, and in the USA by R R Bowker, both of which are privately held companies, but in many other countries the issuing agency is, say, the national library for the country in question. Moreover, some agencies require that you pay a fee for ISBNs, while others give them away freely. Furthermore, some agencies will issue just a single ISBN, which is convenient if you intend to publish just one e-book in one file format, while others like Nielsen in the UK sell ISBNs currently as blocks with a minimum size of ten for £120 (currently) plus VAT.

When acquiring ISBNs directly from the agency for the country from which you operate, you must supply a publisher name, which the issuing agency will register as the publisher to which those ISBNs have been allocated. The publisher name can be the name under which you are trading, whether you are a sole trader (see below) or operating through a company. Beware, however, of companies that offer to give you an ISBN as part of, say, a distribution package, as it is likely that that ISBN will be assigned to the name of the company through which you acquired it, not the name under which you are trading/publishing. This may not be what you desire.

These points aside, do remember that, while Amazon assigns its own unique, proprietary product code to a given book (an ‘ASIN’), irrespective of whether it has an ISBN; other retailers such as Apple require that the e-books you submit for sale possess an ISBN. Given Amazon's dominance of the e-book market, and to reprise the ‘tolerable complexity’ question that the section above raises, you may choose to avoid the overheads that selling through the other retailers entail, where you opt for selling through Amazon alone.

Clearly, this will absolve you of having to acquire an ISBN for your book, but it does not mean that an ISBN is of no value. Books without ISBNs are certain to be self-published affairs rather than the products of a corporate publishing operation. You may decide therefore to give your book(s) an ISBN in order to give things the smack of respectability and thus improve your chances in the marketplace.

A final point in this section: as noted below, e-books sold to European Union countries are subject to VAT. In the case of Italy, sales of books without an ISBN are liable for VAT at 22%, whereas sales of those those with an ISBN are liable at only 4%.

Business Models

There are two principal reasons why you wish to publish books yourself. There is the potential for the pride and satisfaction of making a literary success; of contributing to the sum of human culture; and, of course, there is the potential to make money.

There are two ways that you can receive revenue from the sales of your book(s): you can operate as what is known in the UK as a ‘sole trader’, or you can operate through some form of corporate entity that you create in order to make money from publishing. The next few sections consider the factors pertaining to these two trading models, and explore their respective pros and cons.

Sole Trader Status

It may be known by a different name in other countries, but in the UK, operating as a sole trader means that you are the business. That is, the money that retailers pay to you the publisher is your money from the moment they pay it. This means that the amount of tax for which you are liable personally is the sum of the e-book revenues you receive, and any other revenues that you earn personally in a given year.

The following points give the favourability of this set-up:


A Simple Set-Up. You need keep only a record of the amount of money that you receive from sales of your book(s), so that you can provide a complete and accurate account of matters to the taxman.


Privacy. Your income and tax affairs remain private, meaning that only the state is entitled to know how much money you make from selling your book(s).


Minimal Formal infrastructure. Little initial set-up and ‘maintenance’ is required, and so there are no additional start-up costs, although it is a good idea to maintain a bank account that is separate from your personal account(s), into which retailers can pay the revenues from your book sales. This simplifies things as, even though the law does not separate your publishing activities from other areas of your life, it does give a ‘conceptual’ separation. This makes your book-keeping easier, as it is then simple to compare the financial picture given in your accounts with the transaction record for the bank account in question.

Conversely, the disincentives to operating as a sole trader are as follows:


Non-Separation of Liability. All of your business debts are your debts. Say, for example, that you purchase some very expensive advertising in order to promote a book that you have published, and the book fails to sell a single copy. You still owe the advertisers directly for the advertising, and so, in the event that you did not pay, they could take you, personally, to court in order to secure payment.


Lesser Financial Latitude. There is little scope for tax avoidance. To clarify: tax evasion is illegal (in that you do not pay all the tax that you owe), while tax avoidance is legal, and means structuring your financial affairs in such a way that you minimise the amount of tax that you must pay.

With these points in hand, say, for example, that you have a job, to which your publishing activities form a sideline. In this case, your gross income in a given year equates to your salary from your employment plus any revenues you receive from sales of your book. The state will levy the tax for which you are liable in that year on that gross income, and so, if your book sells particularly well, those earnings in a given year may push you into a higher tax band.

However, if the book has sold well but not that well, you could end up receiving a lower net income for that year than if your book had sold relatively poorly. This is because, when you start paying tax at a higher percentage, you need to earn a certain amount more to reach the same net income that you receive when you are at the top of the tax band below. In short, your gross income could be significantly greater than it was prior to publication of your book, but, infuriatingly, your net income could be smaller.

Corporate Status

The only way to avoid the absurdity on which the previous section ends is to acquire corporate status for your publishing operation, and to avail yourself thence of a good accountant, who will be able to advise you on how and when your company should remunerate you. In contrast to operating as a sole trader, corporate status in publishing means that you sell your books through a limited company (a ‘Limited Liability Company’ in the USA). This is the simplest form of corporate entity that is possible in the UK, and the key concept to assimilate is that (in the UK at least) the law regards a company as a person.

That is, people are born, and they live and die; they can possess assets; can buy and sell things; can pay other people and companies to do things for them, and are liable for tax on the money they make. In exact equivalence, companies are born, they live and die; they can possess assets; can buy and sell things; can pay other companies and people to do things for them, and they are liable too for tax on the money they make.

This means that the revenues generated by sales of any books that you publish through a company of your own belong to the company, not you. You benefit personally from those revenues only when you pay yourself from the company as one of its employees, and/or if you award yourself share dividends. This principle of separation of concerns is the origin of the term ‘limited liability’ – liability for tax and legal issues pertaining to your book sales are limited to the company, and do not perforce impinge on your personal affairs.

This formal separation of your personal and business affairs has a number of pros and cons. To consider the cons first:


Some Initial Set-Up. You must form the company at the outset, and while it is possible to do this from scratch, it is far easier to buy a ready-formed company ‘off the shelf’, where some other agency has already done all the work, but this does mean spending a little money.


Registered Address. British companies must have a UK postal address – not necessarily your personal location, but PO Box numbers are not acceptable. You must also appoint a company director, who need not be yourself, but who is liable in law for due and proper maintenance of the company's affairs. Note that you can appoint multiple directors if need be, and a company secretary, but the latter is no longer necessary in the UK for smaller limited companies.


Greater Statutory Responsibilities. The director(s) is/are required to keep complete and accurate accounts, which he/she/they must submit in a particular format to the state annually. Failure in this respect can result in prosecution of the director(s) concerned. In a similar vein, it is (rightly) illegal in the UK to trade insolvent, where the company has insufficient cash to pay its bills when they are due, nor can you ‘game’ the system, such as borrowing money from the company when you are a director.

In addition to submitting the company's annual accounts (and considering again only the situation in the UK), the director(s) must also submit every year what is known as an ‘annual return’. This is a snapshot of the company's share holdings, along with director and secretary details.


Publicly Available Data. The company's financial affairs are part of the public record – anybody can look up a British company on the Companies House web site and see how much money it made in a given year.


Accountancy Costs. The law (in the UK) does not require British companies to contract the services of an accountant to prepare their annual accounts, but doing so is an overwhelmingly good idea, even for the smallest operation, and so this will present the company with a small, annual cost in that respect.

These points may seem somewhat daunting, but that is a false impression, as shown by a consideration of the pros:


Companies are Cheap. Currently, buying a ready-made limited company in the UK costs around only £100 (plus VAT), and you can acquire such a company online at short notice, and in just minutes as long as you have a credit/debit card.


Simple Responsibilities. The duties you take on as a director are not as onerous as they might sound. Submitting an annual return takes just minutes online, especially when there have been no changes during the year (which is the norm). Keeping proper accounts for the small, independent publisher is also a simple matter of maintaining some simple spreadsheets that record the money that comes in during the year, the money that goes out, and details of your pay and expenses. Typically, for a small publishing business, keeping these up to date also takes just minutes each month, and you can usually defer doing the books en-masse until the end of the financial year. Moreover, as long as you have a set of proper accounts, your accountant can deal with the financial technicalities for you.


Accountants are Very Useful. An accountant can handle your personal tax affairs as well as corporate taxation, and this allows you to lose sleep over considerably more interesting things than tax. Your accountant can also be a source of very valuable advice, and can be very useful when you want to bounce an idea off someone.


Greater Financial Latitude. The tax that is due on revenues that the company receives is entirely separate from the tax for which you are liable in respect of the pay you draw from the company. This gives scope for tax avoidance, thus allowing you to benefit maximally from the money you earn.

On balance, operating as a sole trader is by far the best option for the lone, independent publisher who is just starting out, publishing just one book on a speculative ‘push it out there and see if it floats’ basis – the way in which many of us start a business venture.

However, you may plan on a point where you have published a great many books, perhaps those written by others, as well as your own works. Moreover, the situation outlined at the end of the previous section may arise, where you have an existing income, and then find you have a successful book on your hands too, which may mandate the avoidance of unnecessary taxation. These cases give good reason for considering corporate status for your publishing operation, but again, you should consult comprehensive references, and even get professional advice, before you make any big decisions.


In the UK, VAT (also known in other countries as GST or ‘Goods and Sales Tax’) has never been levied on print books, as that has always been seen as a ‘tax on learning’. VAT is a regressive tax, as it does not take into account the buyer's ability to pay, which means that it makes things more expensive in relative terms for poor people than it does for the rich. Traditionally, therefore, print books have been subject to zero or reduced rates of VAT in the UK and some other countries.

Bizarrely, however, the European Union deems electronic books to be a ‘service’, thus rendering them subject to VAT like any other service, although quite how a piece of static content can be viewed as a service defies reason (‘static’ meaning that it does not change, this applying equally to e-books that contain audio/video). Moreover, this stance contradicts the fact that e-books can possess ISBNs, where the ‘B’ stands for ‘Book’ not ‘Service’ – a simple point that escaped the European Commission.

Then there is the question of the rate at which VAT is levied. Up until the 1st January 2015, whatever VAT was due on an e-book sale from a European Union state was due at the rate that prevailed in the country of supply. That is, when a person in any country in the world bought a book from Amazon, VAT was due on that sale at just 3% because that company is registered in Luxembourg (and so the proceeds from that tax went to the tax authority in Luxembourg). This gave Amazon, and, in turn, publishers who sold through that retailer, a significant competitive edge in the e-book market.

In an attempt to curtail large-scale tax avoidance on the part of huge companies like Amazon, the EU authorities reasoned that replacing the ‘retailer's place of supply’ rule with a ‘purchaser's place of residence’ rule would ‘level the playing field’. This thinking became law at the beginning of 2015, and it means that the gross revenue on any e-book sale to an EU purchaser is subject to VAT at the rate of VAT in the purchaser's country of residence (as pointed​out in Chapter One), where that VAT is payable to the tax authority in that country.

This applies to any retailer based in any country in the world, not just those in the EU. If you are a publisher in the US, and you sell e-books to customers in Hungary, then the Hungarian exchequer must receive a proportion of the gross revenue from those sales at the Hungarian VAT rate of 27%. That holds whether you sell an e-book through Amazon or sell it directly from your own web site.

Furthermore, there is currently no threshold on VAT liability in respect of e-book sales to EU countries. In the UK, for example again, a business need not register for (and thus pay) VAT to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) unless its gross sales in a given year equal or surpass £82,000 (as things stand currently). This simplifies accounting and other matters considerably for small businesses, and it gives start-up businesses a fighting chance to grow in their initial years of trading. The new EU legislation however, throws that sage policy to the wind, as the law applies to all publishers currently, of any size in any country (although there is the prospect of a threshold coming into play at some point).

Practically, this means that publishers who sell solely though retailers and distributors need consider only their list pricing on a per-EU-country basis (as also pointed​out in Chapter One), as the retailer/distributor is liable for the VAT in this case, not the publisher. That is, the variation in VAT rates across the EU means that you need to set a different list price for each country if you wish to earn the same amount for sales to different countries (although variation in exchange rates has a bearing here too).

However, the new VAT regime complicates things greatly for small publishers who wish to sell e-books to EU countries through their own web sites (see the next section). You may be a one-man-band, writing, producing and publishing from home – the situation for the majority of people reading this guide – where you wish to cut out the middleman and thus make more money. If so, and you sell just a single e-book in a year directly to, say, a customer in Denmark then EU legislation requires that you pay the Danish tax authority the VAT on that sale, irrespective of where you are based. This requires that you either register for VAT with the Danish authority (and the tax authorities for every other EU member state in which you make sales), or that you avail yourself of whatever service your own tax authority provides (if any) to handle the bulk of the administrative cost for you.

Just such a system exists in the UK, which is called ‘MOSS’ (or ‘Mini One-Stop Shop’). It allows e-book retailers to declare to HMRC their sales to each EU country, whereafter HMRC distributes the tax-take accordingly to each country concerned. However, this means that you must be registered for VAT with HMRC, and must do all the usual VAT accounting etc. irrespective of your total gross revenues in a year (which includes any non-e-book sales you make too). The complexity this engenders is too great for many small publishers, and so, while the place of residence rule may have levelled the playing field in respect of giant retailers like Amazon, it has given it a decidely steep incline for small concerns, an outcome that the European Commission, in its less than infinite wisdom, failed to consider.

VAT on books of any kind is a tax on learning, and is therefore a tax on the growth of culture, and yet the change to the VAT legislation in the EU in 2015 simply causes that tax to pinch all the more. This is ironic, given that the very raison d'être of the EU is, in part, to advance education, and to preserve and foster the growth of culture.

Web Site

Your trading model and VAT considerations aside, one excellent way to publicise and support your works is through your own web site. You can provide author-background material, errata and supporting documentation, such as technical specifications and things that change too rapidly to document in a book. You can also provide links to sites that may be of interest to your site's visitors, along with additional free material. Moreover, as pointed out above, there is the possibility of selling the book through the site too, using, for example, PayPal as the payment mechanism, although the VAT considerations that the EU now imposes take the shine off this idea.

You will be unable in this case to deliver a book automatically to dedicated e-reading devices in the way that Amazon does to Kindle customers. Instead, you will have to email the book file to the customer, or your site could present, upon payment, a page from which the customer can download the book file. In the case of customers who use a dedicated e-reading device, this will require them to copy the e-book file to that device manually, but that is hardly an arcane matter. Alternatively, if they read their e-books on tablet computers, laptops and desktop machines, they need only copy the file they receive to the location of their e-reading application's ‘library’ – again, a trivial operation.

The distribution hurdle is therefore not nearly as high as one might think. However, creating a site through which you can sell a book directly does require the skills of an experienced programmer, and the cost of contracting such a person to undertake the development work does place this option beyond reach for most. So, unless you happen to be a programmer with web-development skills, or you know a friend who can and will do the work for you (under suitably concessionary terms), this option will remain out of reach.

Nevertheless, if you are comfortable with the material that the chapters on HTML and CSS present, all the other benefits of your own web site that the start of this section enumerates are within your grasp. This is because processing a body of content to produce an e-book file generates, in substance as well as effect, a small web site (as Chapter One, Strategy,​notes). Given this, it is entirely possible for lone, independent publishers to set up their own web sites, where the only financial cost is the annual domain-name registration fee, and the fee for web hosting services. The remainder of this chapter explores these issues.

Domain Names

The Internet is an amalgam of various physical, communication infrastructures that are implemented by means of a disparate variety of technologies. This means that it is a software not hardware network that, for its users, manifests as a large space of unique, ‘logical’ addresses between which information may be sent. A web site is simply an information receipt and delivery service that is located on a given address within the Internet, and which accepts and responds to requests using a signalling system called Hypertext Transfer Protocol. This is the origin of the ‘HTTP’ that you see when people quote web addresses, and which appears in the address (or ‘location’) bar in a web browser. (Hence the ‘S’ in ‘HTTPS’ stands for ‘Secure’ because, unlike HTTP, HTTPS connections are encrypted.)

True Internet addresses are expressed numerically, which makes them difficult to remember and communicate trivially, and so the network supports a special mechanism that associates the address of, say, a given web site with a human-readable name, ‘’ being an example. These symbolic addresses are known as ‘domain names’, and the set of name-address associations is implemented as a database that is replicated at numerous locations around the planet, and which is called the ‘DNS’ system (a point that is pertinent in the next section).

Anybody who has an Internet connection and a bank account can acquire a domain name, as long as nobody else ‘possesses‘ the name already, and you can acquire a domain of your own through web sites that cater for such things. The annual fee for retaining control over a given domain name varies, but it is very low, and that cost is negligible given that it gives you your very own portal on the Internet through which anybody can step as long as they have an Internet connection and a computer of some form.

If you wish to launch your own web site on your own domain name then you can look into this using the following search-terms suggestion:

domain name registration

Note that you can partition a site on a given domain by means of what are known as ‘sub-domains’. For example, if you have a domain name called then you can create, say,, or When a visitor enters one of those addresses, they visit, in effect, a separate web site that need have no connection, in terms of its content, to any site that is available on the main domain.

It follows that, instead of acquiring a distinct domain name of your own, you can acquire (either for free, or by paying a fee, and as long as it is not already taken) a sub-domain of your choice from a company that owns a primary domain. This is the basis on which sites such as Tumblr operate, where users maintain blogs to which they post photographic content. That is, is the primary domain, and the address of each blog is a sub-domain ( for example).

Hosting Services

If you have a domain name, then you have, in effect, no more than the permission to make a change to the DNS database such that it associates your domain name with an actual, numerical address on the Internet. That is, possessing a domain name does not give you a web site automatically, as erecting a site requires a ‘host’ for that domain name, which means, in essence, a computer (a ‘server’) that holds the files that comprise the site in question, and which responds to requests for that site's content from other machines in the network.

There are two ways of providing a host for your domain. First, you can do it yourself, and while this gives you complete control, it does require significant skills and experience, and suffers from a number of drawbacks. For example, you may be running your publishing operation from home, with a server situated physically in the same building. This gives you total control over all aspects of hosting a site, but were you to, say, go on holiday, and something went wrong while you were away (for example, the server developed a mechanical fault, or your house burnt down) then your site would remain unavailable on the Internet until you returned to address the situation.

The second, far better option for the smaller operator is to take advantage of a ‘hosting service’. Hosting service providers are companies that have a large number of their own machines, space on which they rent to their customers. While you have far less of the control that comes with doing it yourself, it resolves many problems at a stroke: you do not need to worry about physical-machine issues, as they fall within the hosting company's remit; nor do you need to understand and manage the abstruse software technicalities that present themselves when you are maintaining your own server.

There are many hosting providers in the world, some of them very large, and given that these companies are in fierce competition with each other, they provide their services at very competitive rates – often just a few pounds or dollars per month. Typically, they offer what is known as a ‘LAMP configuration’, which is an acronym that stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP.

To explain this: Linux is an operating system, like Windows or the Mac OS, and Apache is the software that runs on the server, and which handles the essential process of fielding requests from other machines on the network. MySQL is a popular database management system (DBMS), that allows web sites to maintain persistent information-stores, and PHP is a programming language (unlike HTML, which is a data description language).

To put some flesh on these bones: imagine that you offer some form of subscription-based service through your web site, such that subscribers receive regular updates on a subject that interests them and for which your site caters. When a new subscriber visits your site, the Apache part of the equation sends the information comprising your site to that person's browser; and when visitors sign-up for your service, it is the PHP part of the system that processes the subscription requests, and which stores the subscribers' details in a data store. The MySQL element maintains that store.

The LAMP configuration is popular because it offers all the essential resources one needs to implement virtually any conceivable site, and do note here that a simple publishing operation need not use all of the elements in a LAMP-based hosting service. A simple web site that does not act as a front end to a database needs only a handful of static (i.e. unchanging) HTML files that comprise the pages in that site; moreover, setting up such a site is very easy.

To ease things further, a hosting provider will provide domain-name registration, and annual renewal of that domain name, along with the hosting service itself, all bundled together as a single package for which you pay an annual fee. Typically, they allow you to host an unlimited number of additional domain names on the same account, which are known as ‘add on’ domains (and which may have their own sub-domains). This allows you to provide many different web sites on the Internet, where each domain name may have an unlimited number of email addresses, and where the hosting package allows typically a finite but very large number of databases. They also offer a range of supplementary resources that assist in web site implementation, and which guard against problems such as malware (viruses, worms and so on).

You can acquire a hosting package through a hosting company's own web site, and if you are interested in pursuing this course, suggested search terms are simply:

web hosting services


If you set up a web site through the sub-domain route, such as Tumblr, the parent site will provide ways in which you can upload your content. If, however, you set up a site by means of a full-blown hosting package with your own domain name, you need a way to send the files that implement your site to the server that will provide that site to browsers across the network. A special signalling mechanism, known as File Transfer Protocol or ‘FTP’ exists for this purpose, and it requires that you install what is known as an ‘FTP client’ on your machine (which is far less scary than it sounds).

When you need to transfer files in order to set up a site initially, or to deploy a modified version of an existing site, you tell the FTP client to connect to your hosting provider's system. Once the connection is established, you see on screen a view of the site's files that exist on your machine, and a view of the files that are on the remote machine, held within the space on that machine that the provider has rented to you. You then select the files that you want to transfer from your machine, and tell the FTP client to send those to the server. Visitors to your site will see thereafter the content that you have uploaded.

This is a simple process, and stand-alone FTP client programs are available. Alternatively, you can install a plug-in for your browser (that is, a program that runs within the scope of a web browser, in the same way as the validators​discussed in Chapter Two, Resources). If you wish to pursue this option further, you should check the add-ons that are available for your browser, either through the browser's own menu system, or by means of the following search-terms suggestion:

[browser name] add-ons ftp client

…where you should replace [browser name] with the name of your browser.

Site Set-Up

Assuming that you have acquired a domain name, and a hosting package, setting up a simple web site is very straightforward, and understanding of the material in the sections above and in chapters Three, Four and Five, Structure, Style and Layout respectively, is all that you need,

That is, the home page on the site will comprise an HTML file that is structured in exactly the same way as​shown in Chapter Four, and which is re-presented (with a small modification to the stylesheet details) here:

<!DOCTYPE html>
      <meta charset = 'UTF-8'/>
      <title>Chapter One</title>

      <link rel  = 'stylesheet'
            href = 'Styles/MySiteStyle.css'
            type = 'text/css'/>



      Lorem ipsum ... est laborum.



If your site is a multi-page affair (like most sites), you create separate HTML files for each page, according to the same pattern, and you create links between pages, in just the same way that you create the table of contents for your book. Likewise, you style and lay out the site using exactly the same kind of CSS code that you can find in this guide, and you place that in a file that, in the <link> element above, is referred to as ‘MySiteStyle.css’, but which you can call what you like (as long as the name does not contain slashes and/or colons).

Once you have created the relevant files, you upload them using a suitable FTP program, as outlined above, at which point your site will be available on the web to anyone with an Internet connection. You need learn nothing more than the points and principles explored in this guide, and you do not need to learn programming. This underscores still further the rationale​presented in Chapter One, Strategy, which advocates learning just a little HTML (and CSS, if needed), and avoiding the execrable point-and-click, putatively-something-for-nothing approach to producing your book.

That is, by acquiring some very simple skills, you retain complete control over how your book appears to your readers, and you arm yourself with the power to make your presence felt on the Internet directly. In other words, you kill two valuable birds with one simple stone; and there is not an argument in the world that can refute that.