How do I publish my book? Episode 1.

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!


Book Review: Fire in the Dawn

fire in the dawn cover

Justin Fike contacted me in the summer of 2009. It had been a little while since he’d graduated from Brown University and he was trying to decide whether or not to commit to being a writer. He had a book in process, but the vision was huge. It might end up being a trilogy, he thought, and it seemed like a lot of work. Could he really make it as a writer?

I did five coaching sessions with Justin (he’s given me permission to share that publicly) and he did decide to push on. Some time later, he asked me if I’d write a letter of recommendation for the Master’s in Creative Writing program at Oxford University. I felt a little under-qualified, but I did it. Justin got in, graduated… time went on… he still hadn’t finished that book.

Justin and I have been in touch ever since. In 2016, we met again at a conference in Thailand, and decided to write a series of action-adventure/comedy books called the Stetson Jeff Adventures. Our main character is a cross between any Chuck Norris character (he really only plays one guy, right?) and Forrest Gump, three books have been published and several more are drafted as I write this.

But that story he was working on in 2009 still wasn’t done, until this weekend Justin finally published Fire in the Dawn, the first book in his Twin Skies Trilogy.

I give you all this background just to say that sometimes people with huge ideas and lots of talent can take a LONG time to get that book out. This in itself commands my respect.

I have learned a lot from Justin about story beats: the aspect of writing that involves keeping the reader engaged, tools and techniques to make you want to turn the page. Justin is whiz-bang at this, and I have a feeling that by the time we’re done with 9 Stetson Jeff books and he finishes the rest of his Trilogy, he’s going to be at a level we’d have to call masterful. So here is my review:

Fire in the Dawn is set in a fantasy world similar to Medieval Japan. Justin taps into a deep knowledge and understanding of cultures to construct a world that feels real, with a political landscape that has treachery on every side. There are social and racial themes throughout that keeps you guessing about how his main character will be able to accomplish his goals, and intriguing alliances. Like any good fantasy story, there’s a bit of magic thrown in that refers to the power of qi but some deeper magic too.

All told, if you’re a reader of lots of fantasy lit, you’re going to love what Fike has done with the genre. He’s gotten away from the trolls, orcs, dragons and wizards, and done something exceptional, fresh, and exciting.  And if you’re not into the fantasy genre, that’s okay– Fire in the Dawn has a literary quality that’s appealing to a broader-than-fantasy-readers audience in a way that’s similar to how I experienced George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. Justin’s work isn’t as gory and doesn’t have the perverse sexual violence of Martin’s Game of Thrones, nor does it have the same immense complexity of a cast of characters of hundreds you have to track, so it’s definitely lighter reading in several ways. The comparison is being made strictly based on the fact that it’s literary. Fike’s world has plenty of depth and texture to explore, and a certain amount of intrigue. He keeps the action moving, so you never bog down with lengthy explanations of the world. The first few chapters you may find yourself wondering what is going on, and where you are, so it will be helpful to refer to the map!  I’m eager to read the second book in the trilogy.

Also, check out that sweet cover art. Top notch professional work!

Justin’s promoting Fire in the Dawn on Amazon for free at the moment, but the promotion ends today, so get it now!

Also, if you’d like to check out the work that Justin and I have done together, here’s the link to The Stetson Jeff Adventures, Volume 1, which includes “Beatdown in Bangkok”, “Mayhem in Marrakesh”, and “Pandemonium in Paradise” plus a bonus short story, “A Very Stetson Christmas”, available in paperback and as an e-book.

Stetson Jeff #3 is here!

Announcing the release of Pandemonium in Paradise, the Third in the Stetson Jeff series by Cha’am Cowboys Publishing (Justin Fike and Adam G. Fleming). Stetson Jeff goes to Amish country in pursuit of some banditos, and does his best not to buy the farm. Moon pies are his newest delight, and he has to learn how not to fight, to fight Amish-style. It’s available right here on Amazon! If you have not read Stetson Jeff #1 (Beatdown in Bangkok) it’s here. You’d probably also want to read Mayhem in Marrakesh (#2).



Tying up loose ends in the final draft stage of writing

Wednesday morning I got up at 5 AM fully intending to get all the final stuff I needed over to Iva (my editor) so we could print the galley proof and see what this book looks like in the flesh — that is, with ink n stuff on paper n stuff.

There’s always more than you thought. Monday I had sent her my final revisions (third, fourth or fifth draft? Lost track.) Wednesday I was looking over the .pdf and found that she’d missed all my revisions on one chapter. The rest looked great. By 7 AM I thought I was done. Later in the day I was working to find one or two more illustrations, adding a link to a friend’s blog, re-captioning a bunch of illustrations … the list went on. The better job I do on the details, the better the galley will look. The better the galley looks, the more likely we can publish it after seeing the galley, without revisions. (Yeah. Right.)

I have this love/hate relationship with the details. There comes a point when you take that book and send it to the editor and say “I want nothing more to do with this steaming pile of horse radish, you deal with it” and then they punt it back to you for revisions a few times, and finally right before the end, the very bitter end, the end with coffee dregs gagging you, you just want to say “give control back to me NOW because this has to be perfect” and they do, because it’s yours to screw up if you must. Like, I had this crazy idea that we’d break the rules and NOT underline the title of a certain book which is mentioned multiple times in one particular chapter. (I have my reasons, mainly that underlined stuff looks like a web link these days. I’m about done with underlining.)

In coaching, we say that leaders take responsibility for their lives. Well, that goes for writing too: writers take responsibility for their manuscripts. You have to give it up to the editor to some degree, and you have to also realize that no editor is ever going to care about your book the way you do, just like no renter ever takes care of the place the way an owner does. When the book is done, Iva will go off to another project while I try to sell the darn thing.

This is the time when people start asking you “are you excited” and your primary reply is “I’m exhausted” but of course there is exhilaration as well. Then there’s the whole “now I gotta market this thing” stuff that has you tied up in knots. Dealing with loose ends while you’re tied up in knots, and people think a writer’s job is easy. Ha.

But I have no complaints. Getting that book in your hands is one of the most satisfying things a person can do.  Flipped on the radio Tuesday and caught the tail end of an NPR article. They were saying that 20% of books are now read on e-readers. I know there are lots of gurus out there saying that you can make a living selling e-books, but that’s mostly for people writing genre fiction, the $0.99 garden variety, here-today-forgotten-tomorrow pulp fiction which has come roaring back from the 1920’s. I contend that if you’re going to be any sort of a speaker, coach, trainer, doing any conferences, basically if you’re going to be in front of people AT ALL, you better go ahead and invest in some paper copies. Sure, it’s overhead, but it’s also still how 80% of your readers will prefer to consume your work.

Plus, there’s that feeling you get when you hold your book in your hands like an infant, warm, cuddly, crying out “somebody read me!” That feeling that makes your toes tingle with glee. That feeling of “oh Lord may the world appreciate everything I love about this baby at least a tenth as much as I really hope they will” is similar to the feeling parents get when they hold that infant and say “the world is cruel, little one, but pay no attention to the critics.”

The critics, after all, are spending their time criticizing rather than writing their own book.

In a few days the final touches will be finished. We’ll cut the cord, tie the knot, and send this book out into the world to live in a straw or brick house like a little pig, or watch her go in her cute little jacket to visit grandma and hope that it doesn’t get eaten by the big bad wolf of international Internet indifference. Good luck, little book. And God bless you!

Oh, yeah. The publisher told me yesterday he’s thinking of translating it into Spanish already.

“Yeah, I wrote this book. I can’t read it, but I wrote it.” Hmm. I kind of like that.