Tag Archive: self publishing questions

The Horned Lizard of Self Publishing, who is proud of her new tat, strongly recommends you read the Terms Of Service when you are self publishing a book.

The Horned Lizard of Self Publishing, who is proud of her new tat, strongly recommends you read the Terms Of Service when you are self publishing a book.

Any discussion regarding how to self publish a book has to encompass the world of ebooks. And King of the World of ebooks is the Amazon Kindle.

Kindle has it’s own format, so as I turn my books into ebooks, I have to include Kindle in my plan.

As with all of the business aspects of self publishing a book, there’s a Terms of Service agreement somewhere in the mix – and a button called “I Agree” to press.

I read these terms of service every time… perhaps accounting for some of my red wine consumption by the end of the day. I was planning to discuss the more interesting bits of one of these agreements until I saw the clause expressly preventing me from making any public disclosures of any bits of the agreement.
Well, that’s a bummer!

Because many of the questions I had regarding how my eBook would work with Amazon’s Kindle Program are answered in there. So instead of publicly disclosing things regarding the agreement, I will ask questions and make free association comments, like poetry, that are random. And I’ll offer a common sense piece of self publishing advice: read the contracts carefully as you use any service to self publish a book.

Apropros of Nothing, I Say:

  • Why are the eBooks I buy through the Amazon Kindle Program, especially the nonfiction how to eBooks, not packed chockfull of advertisements and promotions?  I really appreciate the fact that they are not, but I’m somewhat surprised that they are ad-free.
  • Who controls all that marketing and promotional stuff that happens on the Amazon site? Am I going to have to manage that? Because I can barely manage finding my car keys every day, and all that stuff looks complicated.
  • The Kindle Lending Program is a super great deal for me as a customer, because I have enrolled in Amazon Prime. Mostly to watch all the videos and TV, like with NetFlix, but also to get the free two day shipping and access to the once a month lending library. But whassup with that Lending Library where it concerns MY eBook?
  • If I could have three wishes from a genie, I would immediately wish for unlimited wishes… and then I would wish for access to the customer data and raw sales data for my book sales on Amazon.
  • I wonder if it takes a couple of months for sales data to post to an Amazon Kindle Account?
  • If it turns out that someone does not have the copyright to something they sell as an eBook, there are all kinds of dire things that can happen. Just sayin’.

Having read lots of terms of service agreements, I might say – if I were saying anything – which I am not… that one of them I recently read was pretty clearly written, and worth reading. And I appreciate that, because some of them, like anything related to Bank of America, for instance, are truly awful.

Happy Reading!




corinne tippett and the westchester press

Writers dream of big book deals with traditional publishers, or big sales income from self published books. The big blue skies of Amazon.com pervade both dreams.

In the chaotic clouds of The New Publishing Landscape, one (of many) possible pathways to making money as a self published author is starting to emerge.

By learning how to self publish a book, an author can produce work that will not only be out there in readerland, possibly earning money from the start, but could also lead directly to a big traditional book deal.

Here is how:

  • A writer writes a Really Good Book (note… the book has to be really good…)
  • The writer self publishes the book as an e-book on Amazon.com (note… it has to be on Amazon.com…)
  • The writer markets the e-book and it begins to sell, then sells some more (note… the odds on the book selling – even with marketing – are slightly better than winning the lottery, and slightly worse than being nibbled by a shark near a beach in Florida)
  • The e-book rises in rank on the Amazon.com bestseller list (note… the rank rise is directly related to the previous bullet…)
  • Traditional publishers, who are watching the Amazon.com lists, decide to take a chance on the already proven sales of the writer and her e-book (no note required)
  • Amazon.com, seeing that traditional publishers are beginning to poach the self published shoals of profitably-selling books, jumps in and offers the writer a traditional-style book deal directly (note… meaning that Amazon.com is not only a place where an writer can self publish a book, but it is also a traditional-style publishing house itself.)

This pathway to traditional publishing has already happened for some now-big-name writers, and is happening more and more. In a related, but reversed, scenario, some traditionally-published authors are beginning to self publish their work, relying on their existing fan-base.

It does, however, all come down to sales.
Write a really good book, self publish it as an e-book, market it well, and…. voila!  (maybe…)

My first self published book was only a print book, and will soon be available as an e-book. Let’s see how it goes!


Self Publishing Butterflies Buy Their Own ISBNs

The butterfly (representing a free ISBN from a self publishing company) is not the focus of the effort… it is the leaf supporting the butterfly (which represents your own self publishing company). Own your own ISBN, so it doesn’t matter where your butter flies.

The ISBN, the International Standard Book Number, is of particular concern to a publisher… and is generally confusing for an author.

But it is THE definition of a Do It Your Self publisher.

Owning the ISBN is the difference between being a self publisher who is a publisher and being an author who has engaged self publishing services. My self publishing advice is that you should own your ISBN and get a business license for your self publishing company. It’s worth the effort, which isn’t a huge effort, and worth the cost, which is a large-ish up front cost for the pack of 10 numbers, but comes out to about $30 per book.

The ISBN is a 13 digit number used to identify both the book and the publisher. Many self publishing service providers offer to assign one for free to your book project, and that will mean that their publishing company will come up under the listing for your book title until you re-publish with another number or another company. With all the marketing effort I put into my books, I prefer to own my own ISBN and therefore have the number follow my title no matter where or how I print it and offer it for sale.

The ISBN is not the same as the barcode. You can buy the barcode when you buy the ISBN, but you don’t have to. There are ways to make the barcode later, and if you don’t ever produce a short print run outside of the print-on-demand service, you won’t ever need it. When I publish through CreateSpace, I provide my own ISBN, and they use it to generate my barcode automatically.

ISBNs used to be 10 digit numbers, but then the earth’s population exploded with book-reading mammals and ISBNs needed to expand to 13 digits. There’s a converter for the 10 digit numbers to get them to conform to modern standards… you don’t just assign zeros to one end.

ISBNs are unique to a particular edition of a book. You can correct typos without using a new ISBN, but you can’t change content. An ebook, even if it is identical to the print book, will have a different ISBN.

By using my own ISBN number, I can do a print run outside of CreateSpace and keep the same ISBN number (and I also have to keep the same trim size and page count). If I accept the free number from CreateSpace… or any of the other companies that offer it, then I am not supposed to use that number as I produce the book in any other way. I retain all my options by using my own number.

The ISBNs are available online from only one company. While I can buy one, I prefer to buy the pack of 10 because I know I will use them, and they will be mine… all mine…. Bwahahahaha!



Self Publishing a Book is like planting a garden

Tulip farmers count cash costs and infrastructure costs… and so must self publishers.

Most authors who self publish a book intend to make money selling it. Or at least want to break even on their costs.

As with any business venture, it’s important to define making money… and to measure results.

The cash costs of self publishing are easier to track than the infrastructure and effort. And keeping cash costs to a minimum is one way to get closer to breaking even or making money, but spending the right amount on editing and cover design is important in the same way.

My list of cash costs includes:

  • $30 for the ISBN number (it’s about $300 for a pack of 10)
  • $35 for copyright registration, filed before I self publish or submit to traditional publishers
  • $10 for proof and shipping of a finished hard copy of the book (this doesn’t count for an ebook)
  • $15 for a domain name (per year) for a website for my book. (I can make the website on a free site, but the domain is a yearly fee)
  • $50 for my assumed business name (business license fee)

My list of infrastructure and effort costs includes:

  • the internet and computer I use to write and produce the book
  • the skills I’ve learned to do book design, website design, book marketing, and self publishing
  • the space, furniture, utilities, and supplies I’ve used while working on the project
  • the time… my time… so. much. time…

And I can’t assign a dollar value to the second list. So once my book earnings top my cash outlay, at what point do I declare that I’m making money with my self published book?  Especially since I complicated my bottom line by paying for a professional cover and making a third short print run. Because I do count the second list as having a cash value… particularly due to the skills I’ve learned, since I’ve used them to get jobs to support my self publishing aspirations.

I track the costs, and I consider the effort… and I define making money as first earning back my cash outlay, and then earning money toward the infrastructure costs. And I value all the additional things that self publishing a book has brought into my life.


Col. C. J. Tippett draft cover for his memoir about his aviation pioneering life

This is a mockup of a draft cover for Col. C. J. Tippett’s memoir, embedded in my new book about him. Handsome grandfather! Well, he wasn’t my grandfather at that time… and the book is in advanced draft, entering the submission to publishers cycle – before I go ahead and self publish. Which will it be?

I’m holding a complete advanced draft of my book about my grandfather, Col. C. J. Tippett, and his aviation pioneering adventures in my hand, and I’m asking myself:

Should I submit to publishers?  Or should I self publish?

And I am a self publisher, and one of my topics on this website is How To Self Publish A Book!

I’m not alone wondering. Many authors holding a finished, or near-finished, manuscript are wondering. And if they aren’t, then as they enter the traditional publishing submission cycle, they will be. Many authors, and publishers, and agents, believe that there is a mark of professionalism – a stamp of approval – a badge of belonging – a mantle of accomplishment…. to a traditional book deal and I agree. There is.  The only way for a self published author to earn a similar mark, stamp, badge, mantle is to sell enough books to either make a profit, attract a bigger publisher, or both.

But there is another very practical aspect that drives the question.

Self publishing is a lot of work, and financing a print run large enough to make a profitable deal with book distributors takes a lot of money. Traditional publishers take on that financial burden, but then the self publisher may be giving up more earning potential on each book sale. If there are enough book sales to make a profit.

And so the spinning dervish of the decision goes round and round and round.

Here is another perspective that I hope can help. The traditional book proposal process forces me to carefully review and prepare my book’s marketing potential. I have to do this anyway to successfully self publish my book.

I have to write a catching introduction, describe my book briefly yet thoroughly, summarize each chapter, choose sample chapters, write a pertinent personal bio that does not contain “I started writing at age 8″… (ruh roh, …) and package it all up with a marketing plan that includes a discussion of competitive titles.

So why not go through the book proposal process (doing it properly and carefully) and submit to agents and publishers that I really do think might be interested in my project?
I can’t think of any reason not to.

I take it further, and continue to submit my books even after I have self published – starting my letters with “My book has sold over 1500 copies at XXX locations. I have received YYY positive reviews, and XX emails and letters from readers who enjoyed the book…”  and no, I haven’t yet attracted a publisher or agent, but I have sold over 1500 copies of my book, Just A Couple Of Chickens, so far – and going strong.

I think, one day soon, traditional publishing and self publishing will both be processes authors use. I’m starting now, despite the gap that does currently exist between the two publishing camps. My advanced draft of my grandfather’s biography, which was working titled “CJT, A Biography” and is now working titled “When No-One Else Would Fly, The Life of Col. Cloyce Joseph Tippett, USAFR, Ret.” is now in the submission process (I’ve compiled a list of publishers who accept direct proposals from authors as well as genre-specific agents) and may be self published in 2013 (or 2012) depending on the results of both my submissions and my advance marketing work.

Stay tuned to find out how it goes!  You can also sign up here to get an email when the book is ready for purchase.

Actually, the funnest part of the whole process is researching the “competitive” titles that are similar to my aviation history biography of Col. C. J. Tippett. I don’t think of them as competition, I think of them as reading material!


Sometime after writers stopped using quills as ink pens, our copyright laws came into being. The law assigns copyright when a work is created – you don’t have to register. But it’s a good idea, especially since today’s quill is a computer and the paper is online.

Copyright on a creative work exists as soon as the work is put to paper. The author doesn’t have to formally register the work with the US Copyright office, but it’s a good idea to do it before self publishing a book, or submitting for traditional publication.

An author does have to register the copyright before claiming a case of copyright infringement, and having registered the work long before there is any question of infringement can help your case.

I see it as a professional approach to my creative work, a finishing touch.

The creative work does not have to be published before registration, and in fact, due to recent changes by the US Copyright Office, if the work is unpublished, it can be uploaded electronically for the registration process – which is a change from having to mail a hard copy. (Mailing a hard copy is part of the Library of Congress Control Number process, which happens after the work is published – including self published…)

I recently went through the copyright process with the finished draft of my grandfather’s aviation history biography, and I have some tips.

  • Prepare an electronic copy of the manuscript that is smaller than 11.3 MB, because that is the single file upload limit and a full length manuscript is almost certainly bigger than that. Make a compressed PDF or split the document into several files… the upload process does allow one project in multiple files (up to six). So getting that ready in advance will help.
  • Choose a time when you can do the whole process in one session, so that you don’t risk stopping part way. It will take about an hour, depending on the copyright office’s online response time.
  • It will cost $35, (as of 2012) payable online at the time of registration, so having a credit or debit card ready is a good idea.
  • At www.copyright.gov, you first establish a profile and choose a user name and password. You’ll use this same profile for every work you register for copyright.
  • The first step isn’t very obvious, despite the care given to try and make the process more streamlined. It’s called Register A New Claim… and from there, you go step by step.

You will have to click a confirmation button at the very end of the process, and it isn’t complete until you do, so don’t leave the process until you’ve clicked that button. It’s not a very obvious button… the Staples Easy Button is a better design, but you’ll find it.

It’s not required to register – copyright is yours once you create a work – but it’s a good idea to do it when you’ve finished your book, before you self publish, or before you submit your book for publication. Add a copy of your work to our Library of Congress!


Do It Yourself Self Publishing

The Four Wise Budgies of Self Publishing suggest you consider Do It Your Self Publishing.

As I continue to write about How To Self Publish A Book, I’ve realized that I need to add some more definitions to the term “self publishing.”

Most of the sites that come up under a search for self publishing advice are companies that can help an author self publish a book, for a price.

Many of them are good companies, and many authors are getting books out and ready to sell with their help…

but I’m doing something else as a self publisher… I’m doing it myself. So I’ve decided that we need a new term…

DIY Self Publishing, Do It Your Self Publishing.

This is a subculture of self publishing and invites anyone who has the skills to do it, or has no other choice (because they simply don’t have the money…)

Participation in this honorable new society will still cost some money in the form of a business license and buying ISBN numbers, and it means that we, as authors, will not be writing while we are engaged in the many hours of self publishing work. It also means that we, as working professionals, will not be doing whatever paid work we do while we are self publishing…. and that has to be weighed against the advantages of doing it ourselves. Even if you can do it yourself, it might make better economic sense to hire it out depending on your circumstances.

So that said, these posts are all about Do It Your Self Publishing. And in doing so, many of the actions are things you can do for free…. and that’s why it may be worth your time, because if your costs in producing the book are as low as possible, then you’ll have a better chance to make a profit when the book is out and selling. Assuming it does sell because you did spend what money you did have, wisely… like, on editing.

Evaluate your project by these four questions:

  • Is this a book well suited for Do It Your Self Publishing?
  • Do you have the time to produce it?
  • Should you consider submitting it to traditional publishers before you go ahead with self publishing?
  • Or do you have the money to buy help producing it… and reasonable plans for earning back that money in sales…?

And if it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself…. I’ve got some blogs you might enjoy..!


Copyright 2012 Corinne Tippett & The Westchester Press
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