Joel Friedlander tells us about the formatting mistakes that make your book look like you made it in your garage. You CAN Format Your POD Book: The Beginner’s Cheat Sheet for Formatting with Adobe Indesign™ shows you how to fix these mistakes. Check it out!
Tag Archives: Self-publishing
What would you add to this thoughtful post from Alison Williams Writing? Have your experiences with small publishers been good or bad? Are indie writers better off self-publishing? What do you think?
I recently wrote a bit of a rant about the quality control of some small presses whose books I had read. You can read it here.
If you are thinking of signing with a small publisher, then do bear a few things in mind.
- Do your homework – start off by Googling the publisher. You might find threads on writing sites that go into a great deal of detail about your chosen publisher. Read them – they can be incredibly enlightening.
- Ask questions – if your publisher is honest and genuinely wants the best for you, they should accept that you have a right to want to know about them. After all, you are placing your book and all the blood, sweat and tears that went into writing it in their hands.
- Who are they?
- How long have they been publishing?
- What exactly is their background and experience?…
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. . . 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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The “7 Rookie Mistakes” from Phoebe Quinn over at A Writer’s Path ring true. For example, I agree we tend to recycle clichéd characters from other things we’ve read or TV we’ve seen. It’s because we do this that literature in all its forms has such a profound effect on our values. We think “heroes” MUST behave like the hero in a popular book or that people who behave like the villain we just saw on Netflix are also villainous. It’s tough in writing to catch yourself scribbling in these “types.”
What do you think of Quinn’s fixes? I’m still a pantser, and I do pay the price—but I want to be surprised by my own writing, and outlines take that surprise away.
Thanks, Chris, for another important article. Here is my comment on this article at The Book Shepherd:
I’m amazed that so many people will pay these sums to be published when CreateSpace will do it for free. All you need is a Word file and a cover. Sorry, my CreateSpace book looks just fine. I suppose there are genius cover designers out there who could have done a better cover than DigitalDonna.com did for me, but I’d be surprised to discover them at a reasonable cost.
I went with Ingram first; again, nothing wrong with the 22 books I purchased at cost ($168). At Ingram, you will pay $49 for publication, and you must, indeed should, buy your own ISBN, since if you choose CreateSpace first, they will own the ISBN. Three hundred dollars for 10 ISBNs you can use for your entire series is a lot less than the numbers being discussed in these comments.
I formatted my own interior, which cost me $20 a month for my subscription to Adobe InDesign. On my blog [this blog!], I’m doing a series on how I conquered InDesign.
Believe me, it’s not that hard.
I hope writers will use the funds they are paying for these services to find good professional editors and cover designers. And I second Judith’s point that being traditionally published does NOT mean that you will get stellar marketing. In the end, you will do that for yourself. Why not do it all?
(And I second a comment that recommended Smashwords. Not only will Mark Coker walk you through the ebook-creation process, he will publish your ebook absolutely free!)
What about you? Do you have any tales to tell about your publishing adventures? Help us all “beware.”
Article extract from Judith Briles on The Book Shepherd site:
Oh, what a tangled web they weave … publishing predators are breeding with the surge of authors now by-passing traditional publishing. Over half of books published today are by the self and indie publishers. Traditional publishers are taking notice and are now gearing up to offer their own “self-publishing” opportunities. Some, like Simon & Schuster, Hay House and Penguin, have had a “vanity press” relationship for years in place via Author Solutions (ASI). Expect to see all of this push into a higher gear–after all … there is money in wannabe author’s pockets.
It’s a never-ending story … the emails, phone calls, postings within the Author U Group on LinkedIn and my personal group on Facebook: Publishing with The Book Shepherd (join it) … and I’ve worked with several private clients and fielded numerous phone calls/emails from authors who have…
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