. . . If you have a computer and can check out Editing 101 at Chris the Story Reading Ape’s blog. Susan Uttendorfsky of Adirondack Editing provides a host of FREE lessons on everything from “Removing Filter Words” (a must-read) to when to use “which” or “that.” I’ve found Susan’s posts to be accurate, clear, and friendly. Check them out!
Of course, the first question is, do you need your own ISBN?
The long and short of it is—YES, YOU DO.
Here’s a site that provides a quick and dirty explanation of why indie authors should own their own ISBNs instead of letting Amazon or Book Baby or any of the other packagers give you one for “free.” As the site will make clear, there are hidden costs to this perk.
So if you’re convinced, as I was, how do you get an ISBN?
It’s really not hard at all.
In the United States, ISBNs are sold through a company called Bowker. At http://www.bowker.com, you’ll find a link for “Authors.” On this page, you’ll be invited to click on various links promising help with your project, but for now, you’re interested in the link called “ISBN United States.”‘
Next, you’ll click on a link to “Get Started: Order ISBN.”
On the next page, you’ll be able to scout the various plans and set up your “MyIdentifiers” account.
At present, Bowker sells a single ISBN for $125, ten for $295 (they were on sale for $250 the day I wrote this), or 100 for $595. What should you do?
This is another personal choice. Experts online vary in their recommendations, but all seem to agree that most authors will need more than one ISBN. For example, if you buy just one at $125, use it for your ebook in the Kindle Store, then choose to create a POD edition needing its own ISBN, you’ve already spent $250—because each edition of your book requires its own ISBN. Most indie authors publish more than one book. Many publish more than ten books! How many books you expect to write will probably dictate the choice you make.
Note that the page offering you the ISBN options also offers you a chance to purchase a bar code. This code will eventually go on the cover of your POD book, providing the ISBN and the price you set for your book.
You can delay the bar-code purchase until you are actually ready to produce your cover. When you buy your ISBN(s) and create your Bowker MyIdentifiers account, you will find a link allowing you to purchase the appropriate bar code for that ISBN.
When you buy a bar code, your MyIdentifiers screen at Bowker will allow you to set the price that will appear on the bar code.
I chose to set this price to zero. Why? Because if you later want to change the price for any reason, you must produce a new cover with a new bar code. Uploading this new cover will cost you $25.
However, if your bar code reads “zero,” you can price the book any way you want, and other sellers can attach their bar codes over yours or charge whatever they want.
You will still set a retail price at Ingram for individual purchasers. Bookstores who might order your books to sell on their shelves get their discounts based on this price. At Ingram, you can edit both the price and discount over time if you like.
Bowker seems set up to accommodate even the most uneducated users. Like all technology, it requires you to follow a set of steps, but in the long run, negotiating these steps will give you the control you want over your work!
Some good warnings to take to heart!
I have a couple of things to add. Unless the market has changed drastically, having a good agent and getting an advance is unlikely to guarantee your book visibility or even entry into mainstream bookstores. I was paid $5000 by St. Martin’s in 1983; even though King of the Roses got superb reviews (check them out in the Amazon preview), the book never made it into any of the many stores, local or national, that existed at the time (before Amazon). I was told St. Martin’s would have had to commit to a massive advertising budget before any of the stores would find spine-out space for my book, let alone any kind of display or prominent position. (This despite the fact that my mother wrote many angry letters to bookstores demanding that they put my book on a stand in the doorway!) St. Martin’s did minimal advertising, but did make sure reviewers got copies and paid attention to them, which is a big deal, and something that will be hard for us to do for ourselves.
It’s my understanding (possibly erroneous?) that publishers’ budgets are even tighter today than they were in 1983. So true traditional publishing by one of the major houses doesn’t mean authors don’t still have work to do to get their books out there. But articles like this help us avoid pitfalls that will make our efforts go for naught!
Like many of my posts, this stems from something I saw in an online writer’s group. Essentially, someone who has been traditionally published from a small press was putting down people who self-publish. Personally, I have my own problems with self-publishing that I discuss in my “Why I’ll Never Self-Publish” post, but that is besides the point. At this point, I’d like to formally begin my rant against small presses.
In my opinion, traditional publishing is best done through an agent and then with a professionally recognized publisher. Small presses, unless they are recongized by writing organizations like Codex or SFWA, often give little more than what someone can do through self-publishing but will suck away 40-60% of the author’s share of royalties and then use self-publishing tools (like Createspace) to produce the book. Small Presses get away with this by telling authors lies in order to get them to sign…
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Here are the current posts in my InDesign Beginner’s Cheat Sheet that will help you format your own print-on-demand interior for IngramSpark. Soon to come: ISBNs and creating your PDF.
REALLY SCARY! The death knell for CreateSpace?
All the more reason to format your own book and publish through IngramSpark first. Here is a complete list of current posts in my InDesign Beginner’s Cheat Sheet designed to help you create your own Print-on-Demand book interior.
This lively post by Aliette de Bodard at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog not only defends semicolons but also encourages us to learn to use them well. My take: I’m an enemy of rigid rules, period. That said, there are some conventions writers really need to know, such as how to punctuate dialogue so it’s clear when it begins and ends. Readers get used to some of these conventions, and get jerked out of the story when their expectations are not met.
So whether to break a rule can really be a judgment call. Definitely: you best serve your prose if you know the rule, and the consequences of breaking it.
And by the way, I’ve been reading an awful lot of wonderful books that are unself-consciously replete with adverbs. I think I’m going to go back to some of my stripped-down paragraphs and slip those adverbs back in. Judiciously, of course. And in the dark of night.