Category Archives: Publishing

How Do You Get an ISBN For Your Book?

How to get an ISBN for your bookISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It’s a globally accepted standard for identifying books. Your book needs an ISBN if it is to be viable: most retailers require it, and it helps people find your book.

Probably the only reason not to have an ISBN is if you aren’t going to sell your book and don’t care if people read it. But if that’s the case, why write or publish it in the first place?

If you go with a traditional publisher, they will provide it. Easy peasy.

If You Self-Publish, You Must Get Your ISBN

Though you may be able to buy it from the various organizations that help writers self-publish, all ISBNs originate from Bowker. I suggest going directly to them.

Don’t be shocked, but a single ISBN costs $125, while a block of ten currently runs $275. Each version of your book needs its own ISBN, so you could quickly burn through five: hardcover, paperback, EPUB, MOBI, and PDF. Each version of your book needs its own ISBN. Click To Tweet

Some companies that support self-publishing buy ISBNs in bulk and then provide them to clients at a discounted rate. However, before you go that route, carefully investigate the details to make sure you are aware of any limitations. This isn’t to imply there are dangers with this option but simply a warning to check before buying.

There is more to learn about this topic, but this will get you started.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Balancing the Pure Artist with the Entrepreneur: Why Book Publishing Requires Both

The pure artist and the pure businessperson cannot survive apart from each otherLast week I shared that the three parts of publishing a book were writing it, producing it, and marketing it. Each of these aspects has a creative element and a business element. Balance the pure artist and the pure entrepreneur in a respectable tension.

The pure artist says, “Let me create without interference. I don’t care about commercial viability. Just let me be me.” The pure artist will likely starve or need to get a day job.

The pure entrepreneur says, “I will only do things that will make money, the more the better. I’ll follow trends and jump on any bandwagon moving in the right direction.” The pure entrepreneur may put food on the table, but he will sacrifice his soul in the process, and her writing will have no heart.

The pure entrepreneur doesn’t like the pure artist. But…

The pure artist and the pure entrepreneur cannot survive apart from each other

They must embrace the skills of each if there’s any hope for success —however they choose to measure it.

  • Writing the book is where the artist flourishes, yet the entrepreneur cannot be excluded from this phase. The art of organizing words must be guided by a knowledge of what is able to be reproduced and of potential interest to the buying public.
  • Producing the book has a creative element, but the entrepreneur should direct it. Yet the entrepreneur must not remove the artist at the risk of producing a bland, boring book.
  • Marketing the book requires mostly the entrepreneur, though the artist needs to add his or her flare, embracing activities that produce energy and avoiding those that are draining. Yes, the author must market, but the entrepreneur needs to guide activities to what the artist can reasonably handle. If marketing kills the artist, there will be no more art. Publishing a book requires we be an artist and an entrepreneur, embracing both and ignoring neither. Click To Tweet

Publishing a book requires we be an artist and an entrepreneur, embracing both and ignoring neither. May your artist side hear your entrepreneur’s voice, and may your entrepreneur side listen to your artist’s heart. That’s how to publish a book.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

The Three Parts of Book Publishing

Book PublishingThis blog focuses writing and book publishing. There are three aspects of publishing a book. They are:

1. Write the Book

First we need content, not just good content, but really great content. We write the best we possibly can, and then we seek help from others to make it better: critique groups, beta readers, and editors. While it’s critical to ask for input about our book, it’s also critical to not implement every suggestion made. It is our book, and we need to discern which advice to take and which to skip.

2. Produce the Book

Producing the book is simply putting it a form for distribution, such as an e-book (which formats?) or print book (hardcover or soft?). Other considerations are cover design, which is critical, interior design, back cover copy, and other supporting elements, such as an ISBN number.

3. Market the Book

The final step is promoting the book. Whether we self-publish or traditional publish, it is largely up to us to market our book. While others may put forth some effort to help. The success or failure of our book sales hinges on our ability to market it. Click To Tweet

The success or failure of our book sales hinges on our ability to market it. Having a platform from which to promote our book is essential and something most writers lack—while all writers wish for a larger platform.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Lessons From a Published Author: It’s Never a Sure Thing

A published author has no guarantee of selling their next bookA couple years ago I blogged about a young adult (YA) book from a published author that I really, really, really liked—and the author honored me by leaving a comment to my post. Since then we’ve shared a few online interactions, with her offering careful communication and me trying hard not to come across as a creepy fan who is cyber-stalking her.

Ever since reading her first book, I’ve clamored for her next YA one.

Since then she published three junior (mid-grade) titles—all were on my Christmas wish list—and a fourth book in the series had a release date. She also has a children’s picture book scheduled for publication.

Being a Published Author Carries No Guarantees

The long awaited YA follow-up was written and waiting.

Despite success with her junior titles, her publisher declined the new book, citing too low of sales on her first YA title. Her agent showed the book to other publishers, but none were willing to move forward with it.

To my dismay, the book I long to read was languishing on her computer hard drive. Understandably discouraged, she was considering self-publishing it as an e-book.

I think her publisher was making a huge mistake. In a few years the fans of her junior series will move on to YA books. Though she currently had one title waiting for them, two (or more) would be better.

Low sales on just one book can hurt our chances of another one being published. Click To Tweet

Aside from my distress over not being able to read this book, I see two lessons in this.

1. Low Sales Hurt

First, low sales on just one book can hurt our chances of another one being published. That’s a sobering thought. Today’s publishing world is increasingly risk adverse, and it doesn’t take much for them to say “no.”

2. Be a Hybrid Author

Second, I think every author—even a published author—should pursue a dual track of traditional publishing and indie-publishing, that is, to be a hybrid author. If one option doesn’t work, perhaps the other will. If both options bear fruit, all the better.

I encouraged my writer friend to self-publish her YA book. I was hoping she would.

[Update: Robin Mellom did indeed self-publish her YA book. It’s Perfect Timing.]

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Long-Lasting Books: How Long Will Your Writing Last?

Write long-lasting books

Will Your Writing be Around in One Hundred Years?

Four years ago, my mom found an old book in her basement. My great grandfather’s name was written on the inside cover, along with his address in Chicago. The book was published in 1914. Yes, that’s right, 1914—over one hundred years ago. That’s a long-lasting book.

We need to make the words we write today count, words that will last, words that will inspire future generations. Click To Tweet

My mom had never seen the book before. We don’t know why my father kept it, or the motivation of his mother before him. Yet we have the writing of J Hudson Taylor (a missionary to China, if you’re interested) passed down as a family heirloom. The book, by the way, is Union and Communion. Amazingly, it’s available today from Amazon as a Kindle download or used paperback. The copy I hold is a third edition hardcover (the only option back then).

Write Long-Lasting Books

This begs a thought-provoking question: How long will our writing last? Will the book we write today be around in one hundred years? Will we writing long-lasting books?

I think every writer hopes their work will outlive them. I know I do.  That’s why we need to make the words we write today count, words that will last, words that will inspire future generations.

Then maybe, in one hundred years, people will still be talking about, selling, and reading our books, out long-lasting books.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Why Our Books Need Beta Readers

beta readersThe more people who provide feedback on our books the better. Of course, to be of benefit, this needs to happen before publication, when there is time to make changes. Although review by various types of editors (each pass focusing on different elements) is essential, basic feedback is first needed to work out the kinks, spot embarrassing errors, and correct deficiencies before handing it over to professionals. The more work we do before editors do theirs, the more they can do to improve it.Beta readers can give us critical feedback to make our book better before we move to the next step Click To Tweet

Once we do all we can ourselves, beta readers can give us critical feedback to make our book better before we move to the next step.

Beta readers can catch:

  • Typos: We all make them, but we don’t always catch them.
  • Spelling errors: Of course we always spell check our work; however, what about when we use the wrong word but spell it correctly?
  • Repetition: We write over time and can easily repeat an idea. When we move sections around, sometimes they end up in the book twice.
  • Logic blunders: Another set of eyes can take a fresh look at our logic.
  • Continuity oversights: To make sense, things need to occur in a certain sequence; sometimes we’re too close to notice when our words are out of order.
  • Bad writing habits: Every writer has a least one bad habit or less-than-ideal tendency, but it usually takes someone else to point them out.

While one beta reader won’t spot all these items, they will help us hone our work. Then we can tap a second person for another pass.

Beta readers help us become better writers and produce better work.

Next week: What to look for in a beta reader.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Should Your Book Have a Prologue?

Should you use prologues?

I’ve heard many credible sources advise not to include prologues in our books. Yet, writers continue to write them, and publishers continue to publish them. Does that mean we can safely disregard this advice? I think not.

If we want readers to read all of our words, we shouldn’t bother with a prologue. Click To Tweet

Here’s why: I understand most readers skip prologues. That’s telling. Even more, I’ve read e-books that opened to chapter one, bypassing the prologue. So, if we want readers to read all of our words, we shouldn’t bother with a prologue.

Questions to Ask About Prologues

If your book, or work-in-progress, has a prologue, consider the following:

  • Can the prologue actually be relabeled as chapter one? (I did this for one of my books, and it flowed better.)
  • If the prologue contains back-story, can you reveal it later?
  • If the prologue establishes setting, especially world-building in science fiction, can those elements be moved to chapter one?
  • Is the prologue really chapter one of a possible prequel?
  • Can you delete the prologue without harming the rest of the book?
  • Is the prologue actually necessary?

If answering these questions helps you remove your prologue, then great. If not, then proceed, but know that some readers will skip it and some publishers may object, insisting you remove it anyway.

Prologue with care.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Should You Form a Book Publishing Co-op to Produce Your Next Book?

Book Publishing Co-op

Last week we acknowledged no one has all the skills required to self-publish a book. The only solution is to pay a team of people to handle the critical tasks of book publishing. This includes cover design, editing, interior layout, photography, and so on.

Or is there another way?

Although it would take great effort, you might be able to put together a consortium of book writers. They can pool their collective talents to work as a team to produce each other’s books, with each author tapping his or her skillset for everyone else’s books. You could put together your own self-publishing co-op. If you have a book publishing skill to offer, maybe a book-publishing co-op is an option worth considering if you want to self-publish but have no money to do so. Click To Tweet

What a Book Publishing Co-op Might Look Like

Let’s say you’re an editing ace, but are lousy with a camera and don’t have a clue about graphic design or interior layout. Find an author who is also a professional photographer and another who does interior book layouts for a living. Then locate a fourth writer who does book covers for their day job. You edit their books and they contribute their individual expertise to yours. Of course a fifth author is helpful. This is someone who stays current with publishing options. They can serve as the logistical guru to keep abreast of production and distribution options. Then bring others into the group to handle other details, such as promotion, marketing, publicity, legal, and so forth.

Finding these people would be a challenge. But the Internet and social media makes it feasible, providing you have the time and patience to find the right people.

Though I’m not aware of anyone who’s formed a book publishing co-op, I’m sure there are already people doing this in concept. If you have a book publishing skill to offer, maybe a book publishing co-op is an option worth considering if you want to self-publish but have no money to do so.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Can You Self-Publish Your Book For Free?

self publishing costsIf we publish our book with a traditional publisher, there are no out-of-pocket expenses. The publisher even pays us an advance. Although it might not be much, at least we receive some money at the beginning of the publishing process. Not so with self publishing. Self publishing costs money,

Self Publishing Costs Money

This is not the case when we self-publish. When we act as our own publisher, there is no advance and there are expenses, which can add up quickly. We don’t earn any money until we can sell copies of our book. And that can take a while.

Is there a middle ground, a way to self-publish without incurring a bunch of upfront costs? The short answer is, “Yes!” However, the wise response is, “No!”

Self-publishing without spending any money would require a huge investment of time, and the results would not be good. Regardless of how talented we are and how diverse our skillset, one person cannot cover everything required to produce a quality book. The finished product would look like an amateur did it. And it’s hard to sell a book that fails to meet the expectations of today’s buyers.Self-publishing without spending any money would require a huge investment of time, and the results would not be good. Click To Tweet

Here are a few of the self publishing costs we’ll encounter when we self-publish:

Cover Costs

People do judge a book by its cover. A professional impression is critical because there is only a split second to catch someone’s attention. Don’t try this yourself.

Editing Costs

Few writers can edit their own work and do it well. And your friend who majored in English is seldom the answer—nor is your mom, high school writing teacher, or second cousin who reads a lot.

Interior Layout Costs

Have you ever opened a book and sensed something was wrong? You’re not sure what it is, but you know the book is different—and in an odd way. This is because of a poor interior design, and those books are hard to read.

Photography Costs

Taking a quality self-portrait is improbable, and selfies are out of the question for a book cover or publicity shot. Just because you own a fancy, high-resolution camera doesn’t make you a photographer.

ISDN Costs

For any book to sell, it requires an ISBN. If you plan to only peddle books from the trunk of your car, you can skip this expense. Otherwise you need to purchase an ISBN.

There are additional self publishing costs, but these are the more critical ones. Though you might be the exception who has the experience and ability to do one of these tasks with excellence, no one can master them all—especially if you want your book to sell.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Remove Self From Self-Publishing: Assemble a Team

Put together a self-publishing team to make your books shine.Self-publishing is a misnomer or at least successful self-publishing is. A better label might be team publishing. That is, when we self-publish, we must not do it all ourselves (though we can, we shouldn’t) but instead assemble a team, a self-publishing team.

Here are the players for our self-publishing team:

Author, the Self-Publishing Team Captain

The author (us) needs to write the best possible book: not a good one, not good enough, but the best. Then look for ways to make it better. We are the captain of our self-publishing team.

Beta Readers

Once the book is as good as it can be, tap others to preview it, but only ask those who will give honest feedback. People who won’t say what’s wrong, weak, or not working aren’t helpful and give a false sense of excellence.

Editor

Many people recommend three levels of editing or even four. I look for two and to avoid confusing industry labels, I use generic ones. First is macro-editing, which looks at the big picture: What should you add, delete, or move? Does the piece flow? How can it be improved? What writing idiosyncrasies do you need to correct? Then, after addressing all the comments from the macro-editor, a different person needs to do the micro-editing, which addresses the details of the writing: proofreading, typos, word selection, grammar, and punctuation. Select experienced professionals for both these editors positions. Don’t go cheap by asking a friend who majored in English or someone who likes to read.

Cover Designer

Hire a cover designer to make an eye-catching, powerful cover. Potential buyers judge books by their cover, often in less than a second. We have one chance to catch their attention, so don’t skimp on making the most of this opportunity..

Interior Designer

The layout of the book must follow standard expectations. No one notices when a book is laid out according to industry conventions, but everyone can tell something’s wrong when it’s not. Pay someone to do this right. Taking a team approach to self-publishing greatly increases the chances for success. Click To Tweet

Add these key players to build a successful self-publishing team. In addition we need help with marketing, promotion, and distribution. It’s also important to engage fans as part of the book launch.

Taking a team approach to self-publishing greatly increases the chances for success.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!