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Indie Book Publishing – Q & A
Message sent by Michael: “Hi Jim, I was wondering if I could chat with you over the phone sometime in the next few days. I have some questions about publishing. I’m working on getting an ISBN, copyright, etc., but I’m not sure how to go about it.”
My reply: “CONGRATS on your big progress! I didn’t think you’d get back to writing your books until your baby grandchildren were graduated from college.”
A friend, let’s call him Michael, contacted me with some questions he had about publishing his soon-to-be book. His book designer suggested he contact me.
I was surprised to hear from him. Three years earlier, he had invited me to a bookstore to pick my brain about finding an agent to represent him as he searched for a publisher for his book manuscript. Now, I’ve just learned, he’s decided to self-publish and be an indie (independent) author.
On our phone call, Michael is ready to start asking me questions, but first, I want to catch up. He hasn’t been idle. Besides visiting grandchildren, he’s been busy cleaning up book number one for publication in a planned three-book, sci-fi series.
Since he has plans for publishing and selling more than one book, I know he’ll want to purchase a block of International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN). Nearly every book published today has a specific ISBN assigned to the literary work so it can be efficiently marketed over the country, even the world. The number is printed on the copyright page and the back cover.
Michael is a bit surprised to learn that his first book will require at least two ISBNs since he wants a printed book and an e-book to be available for purchase. He decides to buy a group of ten consecutive numbers at a discounted price from R. R. Bowker LLC (myidentifiers.com) for $295 rather than a single ISBN for $125.
An author can have their book printed without an ISBN, but it won’t be available to purchase in most bookstores or from online companies. If an author only wants a very limited number of copies for family members, and doesn’t expect or desire sales, then there’s no need to purchase an ISBN, but potential national sales mean following industry standards.
I tell Michael, “I used three different ISBNs for my recently published novella, Deputy Jennings Meets the Amish, because it’s sold as a print (perfect bound) book, e-book, and audiobook. Hardback books, large print books, and revised editions each need their own ISBN. The numbers can never be reused.
The first three numbers in this 13-digit ISBN is called the prefix. It designates that it’s a book. The next grouping/identifier is the country, geographic region, or language area of the publisher. In this example, the “0” designates the book was published in the USA. The third group of numbers is the publisher identifier. The fourth grouping is the title identifier. The last single digit is used to check the validity of the complete number.
“Purchasing a barcode (which is not the same thing as an ISBN) is another expense.” A barcode is an electronic image that carries identifying information about the book, including its unique ISBN and price.”
“What about the Library of Congress number?” asks Michael.
“It’s not required, but it’s free. There’s an application form that can be completed online. (loc.gov/publish/prepubbook/)
Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) for Deputy Jennings Meets the Amish: 2022905348.
“Once the book is published, the library expects you to send a copy of the book to them, but there’s no fee, and no guarantee the book will be selected and catalogued for its collections. Can you imagine being a librarian trying to find one book out of 38 million, if it didn’t have an assigned number?”
Books published by big presses that are more likely to have their books in public library collections, often go an extra step. They participate in the Cataloging in Publication Program (CIP) offered by the Library of Congress. It includes specific data on the copyright page, including a library catalogue number.
Indie publishers may not be eligible to have the Library of Congress issue a library number, but publishers can still include book information, including its genre and subcategories.
This information for Deputy Jennings Meets the Amish is printed on the copyright page.: FICTION / Literary. FICTION 1. Amish 2. Police 3. Culture.
“How do I get a copyright?” continues Michael.
“I’m not an attorney, but I haven’t paid to have my books copyrighted. As the author, I’m the legal owner of my books. I created them. When I wrote them, they became my intellectual property. Once a manuscript is written, printed, or posted online, the document becomes evidence of literary ownership.
“Each book I’ve published is listed on the copyright page. It includes the year of publication, and my name. (Copyright © 2022 by Jim Potter.)
“Formally registering your book is not required because the law already protects the written word, even if you don’t use the copyright symbol. Of course, if you want to have an extra layer of protection, there are businesses who will take your money.”
Since Michael is going to be an indie publisher, I wonder if he’s decided on the name of his publishing company. “Have you named your company yet?”
“What?” he asks.
“When you assign an ISBN to your book, you’ll need the name of the publisher. It you’re self-publishing, you’ll want a unique name. I chose Sandhenge Publications because Alex and I live in the sandhills. We named our place Sandhenge after we planted trees in a circle on a sandy rise.”
“No, I haven’t thought about a name,” replies Michael.
“Once you decide on a name you like, be sure and google it. If you want amazon.com, it’s already being used.
“I’ve heard of it,” answers Michael.
“Do you have any blurbs or endorsements yet for the back cover,” I inquire.
“No, do I need one?” asks Michael.
“It’s your book, you can decide, but if someone is reading the back cover of your book, then a blurb can help influence the potential customer. Blurbs should enhance the synopsis. I want readers who are intrigued by my story. However, I don’t just want a sale, I want satisfied customers. If they expect romance or fantasy and the book’s a murder mystery, then they’ll be disappointed.
“Next time we talk, I’ll tell you about getting blurbs.”
“Thanks, Jim. Maybe on my second book I’ll seek an endorsement, but it seems too late to try and get one now.”
“Yes,” I agree. “You can’t expect an established author, especially someone you don’t even know, to drop everything to read your 90,000 word sci-fi book and write you a blurb just because you’re in a hurry to get your book published.”
Michael was learning from his publishing experience. He concluded, “next time, I’ll start earlier.”
To be continued
Happy writing and reading,
My books are available for purchase at my website, jimpotterauthor.com; bookstores everywhere, including at Bookends and at Crow & Co., both in Hutchinson, Kansas; restaurants, including Carolyn’s Essenhaus and the Dutch Kitchen; Glenn’s Bulk Food; Hutchinson Art Center; and online at amazon.com. If you prefer an e-book, you can purchase one almost immediately at Amazon.com. If you’re too busy to read a book, even a novella, in the near future an audiobook will be available.