Why You May Need Different ISBNs

Cover illustration by Wesley Lowe. Cover design by Good Oak Press, LLC

Some first-time authors find ISBN numbers confusing. It’s actually quite simple. An ISBN number is an identification number for a book. It’s sort of like a Social Security number, but for a book, not a person.

Why you need an ISBN number

If you plan on selling your book, (and who isn’t?) the book seller will need the ISBN number. It’s also included in the barcodes. Every item we buy has a barcode number. I’m even seeing little barcode stickers on fresh produce. The days of cashiers punching prices into a cash register by hand are long gone.  An ISBN number is also required if you plan on selling your books online.

How to get an ISBN number

I purchase my ISBN numbers in bulk from Bowker. They sell them individually, or in lots of ten to one thousand. I prefer to buy mine in lots of ten. It comes to just under thirty dollars per number. The bigger the lot, the less per number. If you were to buy one thousand, each would cost a dollar and fifty cents. However, as prolific of an author as I am, I don’t think I could write a thousand books in my lifetime. Therefore, I will stick with buying lots of ten. There are also ways to get an ISBN number for free, which I will explain later.

To whom is the ISBN number registered?

ISBN numbers are registered to the publisher, not the author. I registered a trade name with the State of Arizona when I first started writing books. (As I was living in Arizona at the time.) Registering a trade name is optional. However, if you plan on publishing more than one book, I highly recommend  using a trade name. It makes you look more professional.

Bowker has included many other services since I first started working with them. Those authors who wish to start up own publishing company can do so through their partnership with Martin Publishing Services. (Please be aware that I not related to Melinda Martin, nor am I affiliated in any way with Martin Publishing Services.)

But I only plan on writing one book

Not to worry. There are book distribution platforms which offer ISBN numbers. When I left Ingram, I needed new ISBN numbers for my print books. Even through I had purchased them from Bowker, Ingram was the original distributor. This created a distribution issue for Draft2Digital, so they offered me free ISBN numbers for their print editions. The book covers for the Ingram and Draft2Digital editions are identical, and they have the same content. The only difference is the ISBN number.

Why you may need more than one ISBN number

Most authors will publish an eBook edition and a print edition of their book. Some may also offer an audiobook. However, each edition of your book will need its own ISBN number. While each version may have the same content, each edition is a different product. Therefore it is unique. The same rule applies if you were to offer a second edition of an older title. Because the second edition will include different content, it will need a new ISBN number.

Buyer Beware

There are, unfortunately, a lot of bad actors out there taking advantage of newbie authors. One common scam is to offer free or highly discounted ISBN numbers. The numbers are either fake, or they may have been assigned to a book which is no longer in print. Only buy an ISBN number from a trusted source, such as Bowker. As mentioned before, some distributors, such as Draft2Digital may offer free ISBN numbers. However, there may be limitations to the distribution channels.

Make sure your happy with your title before you assign an ISBN number

Once you assign an ISBN number to a book title, the title cannot be changed. I typically assign my print edition ISBN number to my manuscript while I am writing. However, I have not yet done so with the current book I’m working on. When writing fiction, you’ll find that characters can have minds of their own. This means they will sometimes take a story in an entirely different direction than originally planned, as is the case here.  So, for now, I’m considering the title as a working title only. Once the manuscript is complete, I’ll ask my editor if she thinks the title fits the story. If so, great. If not, then I haven’t blown $29.50 on an ISBN number which I may never be able to use.

Gayle Martin

 

From the Writter’s Desk is written, edited, and maintained by a real human being. It does not include content generated by AI (Artificial Intelligence) software of any kind.

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Another Self Publishing Advantage

Throughout this blog I’ve discussed many of the advantages of indie publishing over traditional publishing. Now here’s another item to add to the list. Owning the rights to your work.

First things first however. Before going any further, I need to state that I’m not an attorney. Nor is anything in this blog ever to be considered legal advice. This discussion concerns works of fiction, written of the author’s own volition. In this context it is common knowledge that the author owns the rights to whatever fictional stories he or she wishes to create.

The Problem with Traditional Publishing

The business model for traditional publishing is for the publisher to pay the author an advance against their royalties. In exchange, the author signs some or all of their rights to their work to the publisher. It all sounds wonderful. At least on paper. But when talking with traditionally published authors, I often hear the same story. “My name is on the book, but it’s not what I wrote.” Unfortunately, this is what happens when the author signs away their rights to the publisher. The publisher can revise or rewrite the story in ways that the author never imagined or intended.

Some authors may not care. As long as they’re getting their royalty checks, they’re okay with it. However, those of us who pour our hearts and souls into our work may find it problematic.

The Advantage of Nontraditional Publishing

Like many fiction authors, I put a lot of thought into what I write. For example, I may name my lead character Erica after a favorite aunt. She has  long blonde hair and brown eyes like my best friend in fifth grade. The story is set in Idaho because my family vacationed there when I was a kid. In other words, everything I write is there for a reason. I also have my own unique writing  voice. It’s like a signature and it distinguishes me from other authors. So the last thing I want is a nameless, faceless editor to come along and change Erica’s name to Sarah, and morph her into a brunette living in Boston. Nor do I want anyone taking away my voice. This is why I do nontraditional publishing.

Partnership Publishing and Self Publishing

There are two avenues for nontraditional publishing. Self publishing and partnership publishing.

Like a traditional publisher, a partnership publisher prints and distributes the book. Many, if not most, offer additional services, such as editing, proofreading, typesetting, and cover design, just like a traditional publisher. But unlike a traditional publisher, they do not buy the rights to the author’s work. All rights remain with the author. This means they do not make any changes to the content or story without the author’s okay.

There are a number of good partnership publishers out there. Unfortunately, there are others that are not. Therefore, it is up to you, the author, to do your research and find the right company. Fortunately there are resources, such as Writer Beware and Trust Pilot, which can help you weed out the bad guys

The other option is self publishing. In this model the author is in charge every aspect of writing, producing, and distributing the book. I tried self-publishing when I first started writing. We’ll just say it was a humbling experience. I then worked with a partnership publisher. Later on, when I understood how the business worked, I created my own publishing company, Good Oak Press, LLC. Having been a graphic designer before I became a writer, it was the right choice for me, but it’s not right for everyone. If it’s not for you, don’t worry. Partnership publishing gives you plenty of options without signing away the rights to your work.

When to Consult with an Attorney

Those with specific questions about copyrights should consult with an attorney who specializes in copyright law. I also highly recommend consulting with an attorney before signing any publishing contract, regardless of whether it’s with a traditional publisher or a partnership publisher. Licensing agreements can be complicated, and there may be loopholes in there which the author does not expect. You need to fully understand your specific legal rights before going forward.

Gayle Martin

What Publishing Services Don’t Do

© Can Stock Photo / alexskopje

Once upon a time, I offered publishing services to other authors. It was an interesting experience, and I met some very nice people. I also learned about the misconceptions authors sometimes have about the services publishers provide.

What publishers do

Publishing services, sometimes called partnership publishing, print and distribute your book. Some may offer other services, such as typesetting and cover design, while others may not. I was a graphic designer before I became an author, so I offered typesetting and cover design. The only services I didn’t offer were illustrating and editing.

For the most part, my authors were pleased with my work. I would send them the proofs. Once the author approved them, I would publish their book. Then came the problems. Now that they had their printed copy in hand, they found typos and misspellings. And why hadn’t I caught those errors and fixed them before I published their book?

Because it wasn’t my job.

What publishers don’t do

When it comes to independent publishing, or self publishing,  it is oftentimes the author, and not the publisher, who is responsible for editing and proofreading their manuscripts. This is why you need to carefully review the contract before you sign it.

As I mentioned in my earlier blog post, It Takes a Team to Write a Book, there is a lot involved in writing and publishing a book. Editors and proofreaders are also needed. They are the people who catch your errors before the book goes to the publisher.

As human beings, it’s difficult for us to see our own mistakes. This is why we need a fresh pair of eyes to go over our manuscripts. I use both an editor and a proofreader before publishing my work. The editor does most of the heavy lifting. He or she looks for spelling errors, grammatical errors, continuity errors, and to insure the author is using the proper syntax. The proofreader comes in later to catch any errors the editor may have missed. Even so, we’re all human, and there will always be those few mistakes we all missed. The goal is to catch as many as we can.

Of course, if I happened to catch an error, I would fix it and let the author know.  However, typesetters simply don’t have time to read the text. They’re only concerned about how the text appears on the page, so please, don’t count on these people to look for typos and other mistakes. They’re not proofreaders.

Unfortunately, I soon discovered that it simply wasn’t profitable for me to publish books for other authors, so I no longer offer this service. However, it was still a good learning experience, so I have no regrets.

Gayle Martin

Selling a Book is Business 101

© Can Stock Photo/ araraadt

Many newbie authors simply don’t understand how basic retailing works. I sometimes see posts on author’s forums from people who are most upset because Amazon is selling their books below THEIR price.

Let’s Take a Short Course in Business 101

You write a book. You then want to sell your book. (And who doesn’t?) There are different way to accomplish this, depending on the book format. These days most authors sell an ebook and a print edition. I’m now going to explain the differences in how they are distributed.

eBook Editions

For ebook editions distribution is pretty simple. You upload your file to the bookseller, such as Amazon KDP. You determine your retail price. Amazon will ask you what percentage of that price do you want them to pay you as a royalty. You make you selection, submit your file, and viola! You ebook is now available for purchase, at your price.

So, how are you able to do this? Well, simply put, ebooks are intangible. They’re an electronic file. Amazon didn’t have to purchase tangible, printed copies of your book for resale.

Print Editions

Print editions are different. They are a tangible product. It costs money to have them printed and distributed to booksellers. So, how does this work?

Most small press and independent authors use Print on Demand, or POD for short. Here’s how POD works. Once your book is typeset and your cover is designed, you upload the files to the distributor, which, in the United States, can be Ingram Spark, Barnes & Noble press, Amazon KDP, or Draft2Digital. You include your retail price, along with a discount, typically 55%. The discounted price is your wholesale price. Your retail price is, essentially, the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, or the MSRP.

So what’s a wholesale price?

Your wholesale price is what resellers, or retailers, you know, book stores, pay for your book. They will then stock your book in their store.

So why aren’t they selling your book for your price?

The retail price is what the consumer, in this case, the person who wants to read your book, pays to purchase it from the bookseller.

The bookseller has overhead expenses, such as rent, utilities, and so forth. Therefore, he or she has to factor in their overhead and sell the book at a price so that they can make a profit. This price may be the same as your MSRP, or it may be less. If they can sell it for less, the consumer is more likely to buy. If they are having a sale, they may drop the price even lower. Either way, the final retail price is determined by the bookseller, not the author. The author’s price, which is printed on the book cover, is the suggested price only. There is no written agreement between the author and the bookseller to sell the book for the author’s retail price.

Your other option–print and distribute it yourself

If you’re not happy with the way books are printed and distributed you can print and distribute your book yourself. Some authors choose to do this, and depending on their readers, and how they distribute their books, they may do well. However, there are some disadvantages to doing it yourself. First, you’ll have to find a book printer and pay for a print run, which is typically 500 or 1000 books. That’s a lot of books, so you’ll need a place to store them.

Once you have your print books in hand, you can sell them directly from your own website at your MSRP. Again, some authors do this, quite successfully, but it does take a lot of work. Once a book is sold you’re responsible for the shipping, so plan on spending time waiting in line at the Post Office. You can also sell the book yourself on Amazon as a third party seller. However, you’re still responsible for fulfilling the order, which means you’re still the one who has to go to the Post Office.

So there you have it. If you want total control of the MSRP, and you don’t want anyone selling your book for anything less, then you’ll have assume the responsibility for the printing and distribution, and well as fulfilling the orders. Again, some authors, such as motivational speakers, do this successfully, as they typically sell their books at their speaking gigs. However, most readers prefer to buy printed books from trusted booksellers, such as Amazon.

Gayle Martin

 

Lessons Learned from Self-Publishing

I’ve recently moved to a new state, and while I was unpacking, I found a copy of my very first book. It was a historic cookbook titled Anna’s Kitchen. I’ve learned a lot writing and publishing since then, and I’ve done my best to share what I’ve learned with the rest of you.

I published Anna’s Kitchen in 2005. I was such a smart-alec at the time that I thought I knew everything, but it turned out to be a very humbing experience. I did have one advantage though. I’d been freelance graphic designer for years. Therefore, I already knew how to typeset and how to design an interesting book cover. Unfortunately,  I didn’t know squat about editing, distribution, or marketing. So, here are the lessons I learned from self-publishing.

  1. A spell checker is not a substitute for an editor, or a proofreader.
  2.  You need to work with Ingram if you want your books distributed properly.
  3. Five-hundred books takes up a lot of space in your garage or storeroom.
The Luke and Jenny Series

The following year I met Linda Radke, owner of Five Star Publications, Inc. Linda published my second book, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral: Luke and Jenny. Visit Tombstone. It would be the first in my Luke and Jenny series of historical novels for young readers. Linda was more than my publisher. She was also a mentor. The final book of the series, Riding with the James Gang: a Luke and Jenny Adventure, was published in 2010. I was now ready to change genres and start writing novels for adult audiences. At the same time, however, Linda was changing her business model to specialize in publishing children’s books. (Her company is now called Story Monsters, Inc.) We talked it over, and she honestly thought I was ready to start up my own publishing company, which I did. It’s called, Good Oak Press, LLC.

With Anna’s Kitchen I learned, firsthand, how much work goes into publishing a book. Good Oak Press later published a new edition of Anna’s Kitchen titled Rosie’s Riveting Recipes, along with new, updated editions of the Luke and Jenny series. I’m also writing, and publishing, contemporary romance novels as Marina Martindale. Looking back, I can honestly say I’ve learned a lot, and I have no regrets.

Gayle Martin

UPDATE: Since writing this post I have ended my business relationship with Ingram. I’m now using a new distributor I wasn’t aware of at the time I wrote the original article. Draft2Digital distributes ebooks and print books, and unlike Ingram, they don’t charge a hefty fee to upload your files.  

Think You Don’t Need an Editor? Part 3

© Can Stock Photo / bradcalkins

In my first article, So You Think You Don’t Need an Editor, Part One, I described what a book editor does. In my second article, So You Think You Don’t Need an Editor, Part Two, I talked about who would be the most qualified to edit your book. In this final article of the series, I’m going to discuss what readers expect when they buy your book.

Readers really do notice

Never, ever assume your reader doesn’t care. He or she has paid good money for your book. Your reader is used to reading well written and edited books, and he or she expects your book to be well written and edited too.

It’s also a given that not everyone will like your book. The subject matter may not be of interest, or the reader may not agree with your point of view. As writers we should expect to have a small percentage of readers return our books and ask for refunds. It’s part of the business of writing and publishing books. However, the last thing any writer wants or needs is for a reader to reject the book because it was poorly written or edited. 

Don’t let the joke be at your expense

None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes, but because we can’t view our work objectively we oftentimes miss our gaffes. The list below came from one of my writing forums. It’s typical of the mistakes we all make. I’ve paraphrased it to protect the guilty. 

  • A character gets into a Handsome Cab. (As opposed to a hansom cab. Perhaps the cab driver was handsome.)
  • The lead character is locked in a dudgeon. (That must be where the threw the stupid prisoners. No doubt the others were locked in the dungeon.)
  • He wrapped his arms around her waste. (Yuk! I’m seeing a really nasty visual here. Hopefully the next time he’ll wrap his arms around her waist.)
  • During a sex scene a character is having an organism. (There’s an interesting twist to a love scene. After the tryst is over he or she will need to see a doctor?)
  • He would gather her up in his arts. (What? You mean he put her body parts into his sculptures? Like Vincent Price did in the movie Wax Museum? I’d much prefer he gather her in his arms.)

What do all these faux paus have in common? They were all allegedly found in self-published books. And while it may be funny to us, it’s certainly not as funny to the authors who wrote them. These are just a few of the mistakes a good editor will catch, and correct.

So you still think you don’t need an editor? Well, if you don’t mind being laughed at on a public forum then maybe you don’t. However, if you want to be taken seriously as an author, and if you want your book to be successful, you need find yourself a good editor.

Gayle Martin