Bespoke books – an exciting new business model

Three months ago I was approached by the London Women’s Clinic about producing a special edition of Making Friends with your Fertility. 

The original cover of the book.

The book, which I wrote with Tracey Sainsbury, is a guide to reproductive health, IVF and assisted conception, adoption and fostering, and Tracey had shared a copy with her manager, Dr Kamal Ahuja, Scientific and Managing Director of The London Women’s Clinic, where she works as a Senior Fertility Counsellor.

‘Industry professionals had already reviewed the book and their comments were wholly positive, so we felt sure patients would find it useful,’ explains Marketing Co-ordinator, Emma Hill.

‘We’d like give the book to our patients free of charge,’ Dr Ahuja told me.

The tailored cover, including a roundel.

I liked the idea. Dr Ahuja and I had met before, when I was researching my novel, The Two Week Wait, so I could immediately see that the book and the clinic were a good fit: providing patients with a practical primer that makes complex issues less confusing and overwhelming would reflect well on the clinic, helping to communicate their exceptional level of patient care.

Having worked for over 20 years as an advertising copywriter, creating promotional materials is familiar territory. We discussed ways to tailor the book, including a sticker, a wraparound and a bookmark, all saying with compliments from the London Women’s Clinic.


‘But it will be better value to change the cover artwork and print a roundel on the front,’ I said, recalling Picador had done similar with my novels. ‘Then we could change the back with a banner and a quote too.’

I also suggested that we could insert a Foreword from the doctor and include the details of the clinics at the end (they have seven branches nationwide). By leaving most of the interior as it was, we could keep costs down and speed the redesign process.  

Additional page, featuring Foreword from the clinic.

The London Women’s Clinic team were prepared to order a significant number of books, but wanted a generous discount on the RRP. Until then, like many independent authors, I’d been using on Print-On-Demand for all the books in the Making Friends series. Yet whilst both Create Space and Ingram Spark excel at what they do, it was clear neither could print a 200-page book at the price the London Women’s Clinic were after. A traditional print run was the solution.

Many print quotations and hours of writing, designing and proofreading later and the special edition is done. A fortnight ago Clays – one of the printers whose services were recommended by members of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) Facebook group, of which I am a member – delivered 5000 books to the London Women’s Clinic.

A box of specially tailored books, printed for the London Women's Clinic

At the end of the book are three pages focusing on the the clinics’ services and details of the branches.

In the end, doing such a sizeable print run through Clays proved so much more cost effective than POD that Creative Pumpkin Publishing could pay for proofs, print and delivery and my designer and myself for our work, and still give the London Women’s Clinic over 80% off the RRP. For both Creative Pumpkin Publishing and the London Women’s Clinic it’s a win/win – our book reaches a wider readership, and by purchasing a well-researched and relevant title ‘off the peg’  making a few simple additions, the London Women’s Clinic can give patients something of lasting value.

‘From a marketing perspective this was a brilliant idea – rather than raise brand awareness by giving away pens or key rings, the book is a really useful resource for our patients,’ says Emma Hill, Marketing Co-ordinator.

Tracey took some books with her to give away at Fertility Fest 2018.

‘Thank you messages came in straight after my first talk and have continued since,’ says Tracey. ‘That the book also helps to raise awareness of infertility is the icing on the  cake.’

Since then I’ve been in conversation with other potential clients, to see if any of the Making Friends titles could work for them.

The ‘Making Friends…’ series


The series covers anxiety, depression, divorce, end-of-life care and more, so there is potential to hook up with all sorts of charities, health organisations and businesses.

I’ve put together different packages that offer varying degrees of tailoring, from the simplest (a sticker on the existing POD book, best suited to smaller orders) to a fully bespoke edition (more economic when scaling up). I’ve already had interest – just this week I have had an order of Making Friends with the Menopause from the Menopause Clinic, London.

Bespoke books: an exciting new business model for independent publishers?

I think it is.

If you’d interested in discussing this further, please email sarah.rayner1@btopenworld.