Is every one here? I see a few empty seats. Oh, Anderson and Theresa will be late? That's fine. They can sit in the back.
Let's get started, class. This is Publishing Questions 101 where I will help you understand some of the ins and outs of being a published author today. It's expected that you are working on a book or thinking about starting a book of your own soon.
Let me first say this about writing a book. It's a big commitment. It takes time. It can be both extremely fulfilling and at the same time deeply disappointing. I am talking primarily about business books. Is everyone here a small business owner? I see a majority of hands. Of the rest of you, who is writing or wants to write a novel? Excellent. Is anyone working on a book of poetry? I see. One of you. Poetry is tough. But, still worthwhile. Everything in life is poetry.
First order of business - there are no stupid questions. Yes, you've heard that in every class you've ever attended and maybe in some life settings. Asking questions is the key to education. Learning found in a book is all well and good, but it only supplements what your own experiences and the experiences of others can teach you. And, hence, why I say more women should write books.
Today, I will answer a few common questions about publishing to help you determine your next steps in writing your book. Take notes! Questions are accepted below.
- Where are the best places to publish my book?
This is a two-fold question. You could be asking 'where' as in which part of the country publishes the most books successfully. And you could, as I expect, be asking which publishing houses are best to target.
The answer is, it depends. We promote self-publishing through Amazon or another online brand that understands the online book space. Sometimes a writer will get interest from one of the bigger publishing houses after self-publishing and showing success online. Many well-established writers have self-published, so don't count it out.
- What do I mean by self-publishing? Doesn't that mean buying thousands of books to keep in your garage?
Not at all. When you become your own publisher, you develop your own imprint and take control of your product. Your book is a product. No matter what kind of book it is, it is a product. You must be the owner of that product. When publishing with a big publishing house, you will have to negotiate rights carefully - for instance, overseas rights to sell in the UK and elsewhere; serial rights if your book turns in to a series; ebooks if you want to create mini-books from your larger book. There are a myriad of rights to be aware of - rights that you maintain when you self-publish.
In my early days as a print-on-demand publisher, we maintained the imprint, but did not take any rights away from the author. Our work was to help create that stellar product, and then get it into a printer/distributor who would print and mail out when the book was ordered.
So, you may have to purchase, at the author's cost, generally 50% off the retail cost, a hundred books, as the first print run. But after that, books are printed on demand, when people purchase them. Truthfully, the distributor (think Amazon) keeps half a dozen or more in print to have ready when the book is purchased.
- What is an ISBN number?
When you say ISBN number you are being redundant. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number.
An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number. ISBNs were 10 digits in length up to the end of December 2006, but since 1 January 2007 they now always consist of 13 digits. ISBNs are calculated using a specific mathematical formula and include a check digit to validate the number.
What is an ISBN used for?
An ISBN is essentially a product identifier used by publishers, booksellers, libraries, internet retailers and other supply chain participants for ordering, listing, sales records and stock control purposes. The ISBN identifies the registrant as well as the specific title, edition and format.
What does an ISBN identify?
ISBNs are assigned to text-based monographic publications (i.e. one-off publications rather than journals, newspapers, or other types of serials).
Any book made publicly available, whether for sale or on a gratis basis, can be identified by ISBN.
- Is my book copyrighted the moment I put pen to paper?
Short answer is yes, you are guaranteed copyright the moment you begin writing, as long as you are not plagiarizing someone else's work. I will assume you are not.
"Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device." Visit copyright.gov to learn more.
It does help to register your copyright. We did that for all of our authors, but you can easily do your own when you self-publish.
- How do I get people to read (buy) my book?
Easy answer is - you ask. And, you ask before the book is done. You ask select people to be readers and help you stay focused on your message. Then, you talk about it online, via social media, and in all of your networking books. You promote it the same way movie studios promote movies - in fact, creating a book trailer is a great way to get noticed.
- Where do people get those great testimonials on the back cover of their book?
They ask for them. They tap into their networks and ask specific experts to review the book and offer a testimonial. Not everyone you ask will say yes, but many will. Remember, your book will bring you credibility and present you as the expert, so every person noted on the back cover and inside pages automatically brings recognition and respect to you and your book and your business. People don't have to 'know' the person offering the testimonial. Showing who they are and other information about them, a book or a website, is enough.
- How do I price my book? I want it to be $29, though it's worth more than that - but I can live with $29.
Pricing your book is done with a formula, of sorts. The first and most important thing to look at is what other books like yours are selling for. Yes, the page count and the content inside also influence the price of a book. It's best to price the book to sell, not to support your ego. Maybe $29 is the right price, but maybe $19 is a better one.
- When do publishers pay out royalties?
This is a question that disturbs me. It makes me wonder if you're writing the book to get rich and famous. Writing a book to get rich and famous is a bad start to your writing career. Rich and famous mostly never happens. The authors you know who are rich and famous with their books generally got there over time, or through a successful business venture. They didn't write their books for the fame or the riches.
That said, royalties are paid according to the contract you have with your publisher. That may be twice a year, or quarterly. If you self-publish, you are then in charge of your royalties, although they can only be paid out on books that have sold - so not more than monthly. Kindle Direct, which is what I use, pays monthly.
- Do I really need an editor?
Of course not. You're a smart, talented writer. Why would you need an editor? For that matter, why do defendants need lawyers? Surely, after all the episodes of Law and Order, we all know how to conduct ourselves in court!
I am working hard to keep a straight face. Yes, this is my, did someone really ask me if they need an editor, face. Because the answer is YES!!! With a lot of exclamation points. And no, it's not your cousin, or your best friend's sister. Unless they are actually editors. You must have your book professionally edited! Put this task - finding an editor - at the top of your to-do list.
- But, what if the editor stifles my voice? I've heard editors change books so much they aren't really the author's words or message anymore.
A professional editor will not stifle your voice! Yes, he or she will question some of your prose, or your narrative, or your facts. You must be prepared to defend them. A professional editor finishes the book, the way you finish a floor. It comes out better at the end, having been edited.
- How do I get on the Amazon best-seller list?
I am not there to discuss marketing so I will refer you to someone such as Penny Sansevieri, or Sandra Beckwith. However, I will say your ability to be a best seller, on Amazon or anywhere else, depends on you. You will be required to put in the time and effort needed to make that happen.
- How do I get an agent?
This goes along with the question, do I need an agent? First, no you don't need an agent. Is an agent helpful? Sometimes. It depends on the agent. I would caution not to pay for an agent. Anyone you contact who asks for money, especially money just to read your manuscript, should be passed over at once! Agents come in good and bad and you are better off, for your first book, if you are doing the traditional publishing route, to do the work of presenting your book to a publisher, yourself. Writer's Digest has is a marvelous resource for guiding you along the path of presenting a book proposal. They also have a list of agents you can look at, among many other educational content.
We've come to the end of our time today, class. In a future class I will discuss design: interior page layout and cover design. So many people get it wrong, I feel compelled to help you get it right. Perhaps I will invite a guest.
I'm sure you have other questions you would like to ask. You may do so below and I will answer as quickly as possible.
Becoming a published author is a great thrill. How do I know? I worked hard on my first book, Dickless Marketing: Smart Marketing to Women Online and once I held the finished book in my hand, the true, overwhelming pleasure of knowing I was the author of that book cannot fully be described in words. I was full of joy and not a little pride. That book launched a new career in blogging with my Lipsticking blog, and a career as a print-on-demand publisher, at a time print-on-demand was still rather mysterious to people.
I was very happy as a developmental coach, during my time with Windsor Media Enterprises, LLC - which helped launch the pet blogger influencer community I co-founded in 2009. The path to where I am today can be reached by following the steps I took to write and publish my book, in 2005.
Being introduced as "the author of" is such a thrill, I sincerely hope more women take the step to make that happen. Not to be rich and famous. Not to garner attention and adoration. But to feel fulfilled and finished, yourself. Because your book might help some other women achieve the success she is seeking.
Yvonne DiVita, Co-Author of The How to Write a Book Book - worldwide launch coming soon!