New Authors often email me with questions about how to publish their book.
Here are my answers to a few questions that were sent today.
How do I get an ISBN number (how to get one, how much it costs, how long it takes)?
The answer to this is also the basic answer to all the other questions below! If you’re a first time author I suggest publishing through KDP Amazon. It’s easy to set up your account, connect it to your bank, upload your product and your cover design, and so on. Well, it might not feel easy the first or second time, but let’s say it’s streamlined and you just have to follow the steps in order. They may feel confusing or complicated and you may feel stuck at some point in the process, but at least you can trust that the steps are all listed in the right order, so if you troubleshoot one step at a time you’ll get there. If you’re stuck in part of that process, email me and ask me to write a second blog about whatever the problem is.
As far as the ISBN goes, for authors who create an author’s account with Amazon, one of the coolest benefits is they’ll give you their own ISBN. It doesn’t allow you to publish on other platforms, it’s really only for Amazon use. But if you’re writing a book to share with family and friends primarily, and you just want to upload to a place where you can sell and print copies all in one place, you can use this platform and get an ISBN immediately, and better yet, it’s free. There will be a box that you check when you go through the process. It says something like “give me a free ISBN” Check it. Keep moving. There are reasons why serious authors might want their own ISBN. You’re probably not at that point yet, (I have 12 books out and I’m not at that point) so my advice is don’t worry about it. You can always un-publish your book from Amazon and redo it later with a different ISBN if you really need to.
Yes, it’s possible to buy your own ISBN, or even a block of 10 of them, but that’s a lot more hassle, it costs money and might take more time, too. It’s a good solution for publishers. If you’re only likely to make one book, stick with Amazon and save yourself the headache.
* barcode (similar questions to previous line)?
Once you have an Amazon ISBN you need to leave space on your cover design for the barcode. There’s a template you can download which will give you exact specs for the cover dimensions and image resolution. It will show your graphic designer exactly where the bar code will be printed (and how big it will be) once you upload your cover file. When Amazon prints it, it will be automated. It’s always in the lower right corner of the back of your book.
While I’m on the topic of the cover design, I’ll add that if your book is under a certain amount of pages, they will not include a spine in the graphic design — don’t try to put writing down the spine. The template will tell you what that cutoff is. I always wait until my book is formatted for printing to tell my cover designer the last thing she needs to know: width of spine according to how many pages are in the book. So you may be ready to upload your Word-doc paperback MS before you have a completed cover design. That’s okay. Save what you’ve uploaded and return later. You’ll want to select a normal format for your book, 6×9 or 5×7. I suspect that if you have a wonky size the third-party printers might take a bit longer to fulfill orders. Also it will just fit people’s bookshelves better if it’s standard.
* pricing* ?
Amazon will guide you with this during the setup process as well. You will be able to set your price on ebook and paperback and even hardcover now. You will be able to buy your own copies of the book at wholesale price and they will tell you what that wholesale price will be once your manuscript is uploaded, as the page count is the key factor in the printing price. I don’t mind sharing that my cost of books ranges from around $2.50 per copy for my shortest one up to about $5.50 for my longest book. I usually shoot for a retail price of about 3x of the wholesale cost for paperbacks, because when I sell through a local bookstore they take a cut too and that way I still net around 30% of the retail price.
How much should you sell a book for? Ah. I think people will often pay $15 or $20 or even more for an autographed paperback if they know the author or are meeting them at a special event. You may want to price the e-book at $0.99 if you just want readers, $2.99 if you want the best deal (70%) or $9.99 even if it’s a short book just because it’s unique. I can’t really guide you on this much more than that.
How do I officially copyright the book to [my name]?
Again, you can go to the copyright office for this, but you really can just put (c) with the year and your name. There’s a concept called Poor man’s copyright, and I think some authors still do this: print the MS, mail it to yourself, don’t open it. Just file it. This way there’s a government issued date on the file (the postmark date from the Post Office is a dated, official government document) and if there’s a question in court you can have the judge open the file and see that you had the material before anyone else did, with the government’s proof on it. I don’t know if this holds up in court but it seems like it ought to. Yes, you can send the MS to the copyright office if you’re really concerned.
* “All rights reserved” paragraph* I’m no lawyer so I’m hesitant to say what you need. What I would do is grab a book in a similar niche published by a major publisher, and copy what they did. I do this for my interior layout too. If you’re really worried someone will steal your work, don’t worry. That’s a lot more rare than you think. Are you getting the picture, I might be kind of sloppy about these things? Yeah. Maybe I am.
name/location/website of printer*?
I’m not sure if this question is where to put the name in the manuscript, or if the question is asking if I know a good printer. Answer: Publishing through Amazon it’s all taken care of. You don’t need to find a printer at all. Amazon puts some of that information in the back of the book themselves, it will say “Printed in the United States.” When you set up a title on Amazon, they will have it printed by a third-party. It is print on demand. This means you can get 1 copy or 10,000 for the same price per copy. The difference is in shipping! If you buy 1 copy the shipping may be $3 to $6 but if you buy 10,000 it will be pennies per copy. Rule of thumb: I used to buy 200, now I buy 20 at a time. Start with a smaller amount. If you sell it out quickly, that does NOT mean you should buy more the next time, because as a first-time author selling your first 50 copies to your friends and family is great, but the next 50 are going to be harder to sell. So if you sell 50 in a week, don’t go and buy 500. You’ll most likely have them in your basement gathering dust within a year, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
date of publication (month and year or only year?)… Yeah, only year is necessary. Put the month if it is significant to you.
and anything else you normally do on the copyright page — or elsewhere in the book in the realm of “boilerplate”?
Again, I don’t think I’m the best person to answer this. If you want boilerplate find something from one of the biggest publishers that’s in a similar vein to your work; if it’s fantasy find a fantasy book and see how they do it. Or maybe check out there for other peoples’ more thorough blogs on that specific topic.
Maybe this blog isn’t that helpful. I haven’t googled all the links, like where is the copyright office. I did put in the KDP link, so start by setting up your own account and many things will become clear; you can always come back to this blog and say– what did Adam say about this next step? My main point is, most of it isn’t that hard, you just look things up and wrangle your way through and do it one step at a time.
What about Audio books?
Aha. I added that question. Maybe you don’t realize that more than 30% of books are now consumed in audio format. If you want to connect with readers who prefer audio and you don’t want to mess with figuring out how to record it… Lucky for you, I am now offering my services to read audio books. I have the equipment: a small studio, a great microphone, and the proper software to edit the audio files. I will help you upload it to your own Author’s Republic account, which is kind of like the Amazon of audio books. Author’s Republic lists your audiobook on 50 platforms and collects the cash from each of those platforms and dumps them all into your pot. They keep 30%.
Good luck publishing your first book!