Sweetest Sinz

I’m honor bound to share this with you.
I’m not sure when Tabetha (Jones) Simpson moved to Whitney, Texas, but I’m pretty sure it happened after the last time I blogged about her. So this is relatively new.
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We all remember Sweete Sinz, right?
Well, now there’s this. Sweetest Sinz.
And, no. She can’t run screaming that I’m stalking her or posting per personal information online, comprimising her safety in any way. She put her location online herself. It’s on her LinkedIn page, above.
It’s also on her Facebook page.
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So, yeah. Wow.
Beware, folks. It looks like she might still, unbelievably, be at it.

I couldn’t find anything about Sweetest Sinz anywhere online, but keep one eye open for it. Just in case. And, if you’re an author with an actual pulse, keep your wits about you. This is one to avoid at all costs.

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Jabber that Wocky

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Jabberwocky literary agency has three agents that are currently accepting submissions. So if you’ve got a book that’s ready to go, consider sending them a query.  It’s a great chance to seek representation for yourself and your work.

Here’s who’s catching, and what they’re looking for.

Joshua Bilmes, President. Joshua is open to unsolicited queries. Please see his blog for more information. Also, feel free to be personal!

Eddie Schneider, Vice President. Eddie is open to queries.

Lisa Rodgers, Agent and eBook Manager. Lisa is open to queries.

Click on each agent’s name to see what they’re looking for and how to approach them.

Good luck!

 

Money, meet mouth

This last week, an author and dear friend stopped talking to me because I kept telling her that she should self-publish her book rather than going through a vanity press. She said that she knew what she was getting into, thought it was worth the price, and I should respect her decisions. And she’s right. I should.

But I’ve been battling for authors’ rights for so long that my protective instincts wouldn’t let it go. I didn’t want to see my friend get screwed the way so many others have before her. I still insisted that they weren’t doing anything for her that she couldn’t do for herself and kept urging her to reconsider.

So she stopped talking to me.

I don’t blame her a bit. I understand completely where she’s coming from. While I am absolutely correct that her publisher isn’t getting the job done for her, and that she would have been much better doing it herself, it’s not my decision to make. It’s hers.

For whatever reason, some authors choose to go through a vanity press. Maybe the presentation is so slick that they don’t realize that it’s not a REAL publisher. Maybe they don’t think a real publisher will take them. Maybe they’re so overwhelmed by the publishing process that they need somebody to handle it for them. Or maybe they’re so eager to see their book in print that it’s worth it to pay.

When I published Subjugation, there didn’t exist the same ease of self-publication that there is now. Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I wasn’t aware of the options available to self-publish as they existed at the time. Plus I was overwhelmed with it all, the way so many others are. And, yes. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I was eager to see my book in print. So I went with a vanity press.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot about how self-publishing can work for authors. I’ve screamed at the top of my lungs how authors shouldn’t give their money away to vanity or scam publishers, how they should do it themselves, maintain intellectual and creative control of their work and keep all of their royalties.

And that makes me a hypocrite.

Here I am, preaching to others about self-publishing, while my book was, and remains, published through a vanity press. I never canceled my contract with that vanity press. To this very day, my book is available through them.

Well, it’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is.

It’s been ten years since I published Subjugation through a vanity press. So, I’m doing what I scream at other people to do. I’m taking Subjugation down and re-releasing it as an anniversary edition, with added content and the original ending. I just got off the phone with my (vanity) publisher and asked them to send me my files. They tried to give me some static about ownership of the cover image, but I reminded them that according to the contract I signed and paid for, I own the cover art. They reluctantly agreed to send me a low-resolution copy of the cover. I stood my ground and said that that wouldn’t do, and eventually got them to send me the high-resolution artwork for my cover. I may or may not use it for the Anniversary edition, but the point is that I own it. Whether I use it or not, it’s mine.

I’ll admit that I’m a little intimidated. Like the first time I approached the task of publishing it, the process is a little overwhelming. I have to make sure that it’s written the way it should be, that the cover looks perfect, and I have publish it. In the interrim, I’ve published a couple of my screenplays, but that’s not the same as (re)publishing my first novel. It’s scary!

But…

From telling others how to do it for so long, I know that it’s just a series of steps. It’s a laundry list to check off as I go through and do them one by one. And I’m going to do exactly that. By Halloween, the tenth anniversary of Subjugation will be published. By me. I’ll post again when it’s out.

For now, I’d like to apologize to all of the people I’ve beat over the head about self-publishing a novel when I hadn’t even done it myself. I promise to be a kinder, gentler advocate for self-publishing. And I will have gone through the process, so I won’t be talking about something I haven’t done myself.

I hope this squares us up a bit.

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Self Publish from the UK

I’ve spouted off at length about how to self-publish for a long time now, advising you authors to take total control of your work by doing it on your own. In all that time, I guess I’ve assumed that most of the authors I’ve reached are American, because I’m American, and this blog is published on a largely American based platform.

But today I’d like to address the option to self-publish for authors in the UK.

Let me spell it out for you: It’s exactly the same.

You authors in the UK have exactly the same self-publishing tools at your disposal as we do in the USA.

For physical books, Amazon’s Createspace remains an independent self-publishing platform that you can use to self-publish your work for free. Yes. Free.

Let me walk you through it step by step. This is a long one, folks. But it’s worth the trip if it means that you discover that you not only have publishing options, but that you can do it all on your own. So, cozy back and walk with me for a while. The scenery isn’t bad, and I appreciate the company.

First, you need to make sure your book is save to the proper format. Here, all I mean is that it needs to be a Word document (.doc, .docx) .PDF or .rtf.

As for interior formatting, the formatting of all of the content of your book, there are some guidelines to be aware of so that your book doesn’t get printed with a bunch of oopsies in it. For all publishing platforms, not just Amazon’s Createspace.

For example, If you want to stop a page before you get to the bottom (like at the end of a chapter) and you want to start at the top of the next page, do not hit ‘enter’ until you get to the top of the next page. Why? Because you’re probably typing in a document that isn’t the same size as the page of your book is going to be. If you hit ‘enter’ a bunch of times, you’re not going to end up at the top of the next (different size) page of your printed book. You’re likely to end up halfway down the next page, or on the page after that with a blank one in between.

And please don’t get cute by saying “Fine. I’ll just make my word page 6×9 (the average self-published paperback size), or whatever size you think your book will be printed. This is fine just to get an idea of how your book might look in general. I do it myself to make sure I won’t just have one sentence on a page. But that’s just a general idea of how it might look. There are too many variables in the printing process that will still make it a bad idea to try to make it okay to hit ‘enter’ a bunch of times to advance to the next page. It’s just not. Don’t do it. The printed page of a book that the words appear on is only part of it. There’s bleed and binding to think of. Bleed is the part of the page that the printer will recognize, and binding is the physical process of putting the pages together and putting a cover on the book. These processes take up paper, which could affect how your words appear on the page.

These are variables you don’t need to worry about. Just write the book using formatting their process recognizes and knows how to print. Let them do all the heavy thinking and hard work. All you need to do is concentrate on the book.

If you want to start at the top of the next page, always, always, hit control+enter in Word. This will insert a page break and take you to the top of the next page. Easy as that.

Also, don’t hit the tab button to indent each paragraph. Self-publishing services don’t like that much more than hitting the ‘enter’ button. If you’ve already written your book hitting the ‘tab’ button to indent your paragraphs, you need to go through and take them out. Yes. All of them. I know it’s a pain, but this is your book. You want it to look right on the page. It’s worth the time and trouble. Don’t get lazy now.

If you’ve indented your paragraphs with the tab button, please go fix them. I’ll be right here with the kettle on. When you get back, we can take a look at how to format all of your paragraphs in one Swell Foop, as my mother used to say.

It’s easy to tell Word how to format your paragraphs for you. First, select all of your text. You can do this by hitting contro+A. This will select everything.
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Yes. I know. There are typos. That’s what spell-check is for, both in books and on blogs.

Next, click the little arrow in the corner of the paragraph section on the Home screen.
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That brings up this dialog box:
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To tell the document to indent every paragraph in the book (since it’s all selected), click the little triangle by Special.
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That will drop down a menu that looks like this:
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Select the ‘first line’ option.

That should bring up the .05 option right next to it.
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That means that the first line of every paragraph will be indented by .05″. If the number that appears there is different, set it to .05″. That’s the standard. Don’t fool around and try to get creative. Just stick with .05″. When that’s set, hit OK.

All of your selected paragraphs (which should be all of them), with and without typos, are now indented.
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Don’t worry about the page size. I know I brought it up earlier, but only as a reason not to hit ‘enter’ a bunch of times. Just save your document as it is, and when you’re ready, upload it. Createspace knows how to read it and resize the text to fit the page of the book. You don’t have to figure that out.

HERE are the guidelines required by Createspace. Follow them and you should be fine. Just keep these few tips in mind.

When your book is ready to roll, log into (or create) your Createspace account.
You’ll probably see a page that looks like this:
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That’s your account page, where you can see a few basics and navigate to wherever you need to go in your account. This one’s mine. As you can see, I haven’t gotten rich from selling books, but I’m happy to see a few American sales, and even one from your side of the pond. I’ll take it.

To get started, add a new title.
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That will bring you here:
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This is where you’ll type in the name of your project. This will be the title of your book, so that’s what you put here. Just the MAIN title of your book. If there’s a subtitle, or if this is a book in a series, you’ll be able to add additional information on the next screen. For the purposes of this post, I’m creating a (nonexistent) title called Publishing via Createspace in the UK. Just to walk through the process.

There are audio cd and DVD publishing services available through Createspace, but we’re talking about publishing a book. So select Paperback.
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You’re probably going to want to publish your book as an E-book also, but don’t worry about that right now. All you’re doing right now is telling Createspace that you want to publish a book. Selecting to offer it as an E-book will come later, when you choose your distribution channels. For now, just click Paperback.

There are two options for the setup process: Guided and Expert. This post is for new authors, so we’re going to want to choose to get started using the Guided option.

That brings you here:
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This is where you can put all the additional information you want the world to know about your book.
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All of this information will appear in your book’s listing, so don’t put anything you don’t want the world to see.
**Note that it isn’t required to fill every box. The ones that are required are marked.
And remember, you can always come back and change anything from this point on. The title and ISBN stay the same, but any of this information can be changed, as long as you do it before the book gets published.

Once you get this information typed in, go to the bottom of the page and click ‘Save and continue’ to keep going.
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That brings you here:
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This is where your book gets an ISBN. The ISBN is a unique number that booksellers and distributors around the world use to identify your book.  There are several options, including buying an ISBN for $99 or bringing your own, which you already bought elsewhere. But we’re talking about publishing for free, so select that option.

Next, you’ll see this:
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It’s a confirmation that Createspace can assign an ISBN for your book, and a reminder that once an ISBN is assigned to your book, it can’t be changed.

Every version of a book must be assigned an ISBN number, so this ISBN that’s being assigned to your paperback will not be the same ISBN tha appears on your ebook. But you don’t need to worry about that now. That will be handled later, when you choose your distribution channels.

Once you agree to accept your Createspace ISBN, you’ll see this:
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This is your book’s ISBN number. Well, not YOUR ISBN number. THIS is the one that got assigned to my example title. Yours will be different and unique to your title.

Notice that as you continue through each step, you’re being taken along the menu on the left:
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You’ll go through each step until you’re finished.

Click Next, or Continue. Either will work just fine.

That brings you here:
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This is where you choose options for the interior of your book. The default options are Black and white on White paper. That’s fine. The full-color option would be great for a picture book, children’s book or comic book, but we’re not doing all of that. We’re just talking about words. For a text-only book, you can leave it at that.

This is also where you will upload the interior of your book. That’s the written document. That’s your book, as you’ve written it.

Notice that, again, here are the types of documents that are accepted:
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.doc, .docx, .PDF or .rtf.
You do not need to get all fancy about creating the .PDF interior of your book, so don’t worry about that. You can upload your word document or .rtf file and it will work just fine. The Createspace system knows how do do all of that for you.

IF your book is finished, edited, formatted, polished and ready to go, this is where you’ll upload it. Choose the Browse button to find your file.
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Select your document…
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and hit Open.

To begin your upload, hit the Save button.
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Createspace will upload your file and begin to process it.
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Your upload has been received! Yay! Exciting!

No. Your book is NOT published yet. Uploading your book’s interior is a very important step, but there are more steps to take.  The next one is to review your interior.

As Createspace processes your upload, your file is also checked for issues.
As you can see, the process found several issues with my file. There are some suggestions offered for me, such as checking for typos (which we both know are there), grammar and formatting.  I could do that by going back into my own document locally, and I’ll have to do that in order to correct my document, save, and upload it again.

**Note: Documents cannot be edited in Createspace. Once your file is uploaded, it’s in there. To replace a file that’s got errors in it, you’ll need to upload a corrected version. No sweat. It’s the same steps as before. Just upload the new one when it’s ready and it will replace the faulty one that’s already there.

Instead of trying to go through my document on my own to see what’s wrong with it, I’m going to open the online reviewer and see what it tells me.
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It’s important to note that even if no problems or corrections were detected during upload, you should ALWAYS review your book. Painstakingly. Once it’s published, it’s out there and there’s no taking it back. So even if the only message that you get is that your file is uploaded, always review your content.

As the online reviewer loads, you’ll see this message:
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Heed these words. Check your work. Make sure it’s perfect. Check it, then check it again. I can’t stress that enough.

Once you click to get started, you’ll see what your book looks like.
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There it is. The title page of my new book.

But there’s more.
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On the right, there are descriptions of some of the issues Createspace found wrong with my document.

The first says that this .PDF was submitted in a different size. To be clear, I uploaded a Word document. You saw the one I picked. It clearly said “Microsoft Word D…” That’s a Microsoft Word Document. Created in Word and saved as a .docx.

If you see that, don’t be confused. ALL files are converted by the publishing platform into a .PDF file. That’s why you don’t have to worry about it. This is telling me that something’s wonky with the size of my book and that I should look at each page. That’s the take-away, here. Don’t sweat the file type. No matter what type of document file you uploaded, it was converted into a .PDF.

And, don’t worry about “How can I make changes to my book if it’s a .PDF now?” You don’t have to make changes to a .PDF. You can make any changes you need in your document and upload it again. That, too, will be converted to a .PDF by the system and examined. Then you can review it again to see how it looks. You can repeat this step as many times as it takes to get it right before you publish.

The tips on the right also say that I’ve got low resolution images that may appear blurry. That’s okay. They’re the pictures from this very blog post that I copied and pasted into that document, just to create one to take through the steps for you. I don’t intend to really publish it. So it doesn’t matter how blurry they are.

Following that first tip’s advice, I’m going to look through all the pages. I do that by clicking the little arrow to go though each.
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So far, so good. Nothing jumps out.
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Aha. Here’s where the problems start.
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Click on the little alert notices on the page.
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That will bring up a description of what the problem is and suggest options for how to fix it. Please don’t ignore these warnings. They exist to make sure your book comes out the best it can be. They’re not being picky or accusatory. They want you to get good reviews and awesome sales. That’s how they make their money, remember. The only time they get paid is when you get paid, which is the way any publisher works. So it’s in their own best interests to help you out as much as they can. So don’t be irritated at having to make changes. And don’t be disheartened. Nobody gets it right the first time. Nobody. Stephen King and Dean Koontz have editors that make changes to their stuff all the time. That’s simply how it works. The only difference is that you’re making changes and uploading them yourself.  It’s all part of creating a professional product.

At any point during the review process, you can hit the Save and Continue button to save your project as it sits.
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You can come back to it at any time.

When you’ve gotten your interior the way you want it, click to save and continue so that you can go on to complete the rest of the steps to publishing your book.

Next up is the cover. You’ve got two choices for that: matte or glossy. I would stick with the matte finish. Glossy might seem nifty and shiny, but if your book makes it onto the shelf, you don’t want glare getting in the way of a potential reader seeing your cover.

After you’ve selected your cover’s finish, you’ve got several options for how to create the cover itself. You can upload a print-ready .PDF or you can use Createspace’s cover creator. If you’re handy with a picture program like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, creating a cover is easy business. You can download a template to fit your images into. Just tell it that your interior is black and white, choose the trim (book) size (6×9 is the most common) and tell it how many pages there are in your book.
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It needs to know how many pages there are so that it can make the spine of your book cover the right width. The front, spine and back covers aren’t separate images, you see. It all comes in one image that wraps around your book. You’ll see.

Click to build your template.
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You’ll see a link to download a zip filed containing a .png image of your template (which I’ve never needed) and a .PDF template.
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It’s the right size and shape for your paperback based on all the information you gave it.
Unzip the file and open the .PDF template with your picture editing program.
The information you need to create your book cover is there. Where to leave a blank spot for your ISBN and bar code on the back cover and the printable area where you can put your picture and your text. You put your picture or cover all the way to the edge, but you keep the important stuff inside the white space. Anything in the pink could get cut off.

When you’re done, flatten the image, save the .PDF and upload it for your cover.

Just like your interior, your cover will be analyzed by Createspace to make sure it’s okay, and you can go back into your online reviewer to see how it looks.

If you’re just not handy with imaging software or you’ve got a cover somebody made for you, that’s cool, too. Upload that and carry on.

Or, if you’ve got a picture you like, you can use the online cover creator.
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Click to launch that and you’ll see a bunch of designs that you can choose from, from the simple to the ornate. And don’t worry if you don’t see the exact one you want for your book. They’re customizable. So find the style you want for your book.

Double click on it.

You’ll be taken to this handy-dandy cover-creating wizard.
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It gives you everything you need to create the cover you want with this design, from places to put your text to the tools to replace those images with different ones, if you want. Say I don’t want purple flowers for my publishing book. I want a picture of a keyboard instead. I go find one on the web that’s not copyrighted (there are lots of free stock sites. Don’t steal any old image). Save that picture to my computer, and click on the left where it says “Front cover image.”

Clicking the “Front cover image” button gives you some choices.
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You can either pick from one of their many photos or upload your own. I have my keyboard image I want to use, so I choose the upload button.

Tah-Dah!
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It’s that easy.

If you notice, it’s already used my book title and put my name in place for me. I don’t have to bother with that. It’s already done. I can move on to my back cover.

Click the Back Cover Text button…
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And type your back cover text – your book’s teaser/synopsis – in the dialog area on the left. It will appear on your cover on the right.

I type my blurb on the left, hit the Apply button…
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Et, voila!
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There’s my blurb, as it will appear on the book. If I were to publish it. Which I’m not. But if I were, that’s how it would look.

If I don’t like the purple, I can change that, too.
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With the click of a button, it’s blue.
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There’s even a spot where you can upload an author photo.
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I’m not going to force my mug on you, so I’ll choose something infinitely cuter to look at.
Brutus, the Wonder Cat.
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That’s better.
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When you’ve got everything the way you like it on your cover, submit it.
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If you ever decide that you want to change anything about your cover, you can always come back and change it.
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There. You’ve uploaded your interior, and your cover is just the way you like it. Now you can complete setup.
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The very last step in completing your book’s setup is to submit your files for review.
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You’ll see this:
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While you wait for Createspace to check your files thoroughly, you can go decide upon your distribution channels. Click continue to go straight to that section.

By default, the first two distribution channels are usually selected for you.
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Amazon and Amazon Europe. That means you, dear UK authors. When it’s published, your book will be readily available to your friends and family.

Since I’m not actually publishing this book, I’m deselecting all the distribution channels. That means that nobody anywhere will be able to buy it.

Scroll down a little bit and you’ll see more options for distribution under Amazon’s expanded Distribution. And, yes. It’s free, too.
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The last option on the distribution list will say that your book isn’t eligible.
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Don’t worry. It is eligible. All you have to do is go get that BISAC code.
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Next, you select a category for your book.
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Be sure to choose a category that best fits your book’s content.
I’m choosing reference >Writing skills.
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Next, you enter whatever pertinent information you think is important to your book.
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Including the option to choose your book’s country of publication.
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In your case, you might choose the UK. You’re not just limited to having America listed as the origin of your book. If you want your book to say that it’s published in the UK because that’s where you’re from, you certainly have that option.
Me, I’m putting United States.

As with every step, be sure to save and continue.
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It’s better to be anal about saving more times than you need than it is to find out that you didn’t save some crucial changes and have to start over again. Save, save, save.

Now that you’ve completed the BISAC section, you can go back into your distribution channels and see that all of the options are now available for you to select.
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And don’t forget to SAVE once you’ve selected them all.

As you go through the steps, little green arrows on the left will show you the steps you’ve completed successfully. By now, you should have quite a few of them.
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Where you see those little red notifications, those are steps that either haven’t been done yet, or haven’t been successfully completed. You can go back through to see what those are and take care of them. But the little alert I’m pointing to is going to stay negative for the rest of our little chat. That’s where you chose the distribution channels for your book just now, so you should have a check mark. Mine’s going to stay like this because I’ve deselected all of the distribution channels. This book isn’t actually being published. I’m just going through the steps with you. So pay no mind to that in upcoming pictures.

Now you get to figure out how much to charge for your book. That can be confusing. What’s too much, but what isn’t enough? Createspace helps you with that, too.
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See that? They tell you the least amount you can ask for. They can’t go any lower than that because that’s what it costs them to make each book somebody buys. So pick a figure above that and plug it into the blank box. The minimum for this little tidbit is $5.38, so I’ll price it at $7 even. Then hit calculate.

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That will tell you what your royalties will be. That means how much you’ll earn for each book that sells.

It will also tell you what your book will cost in Europe, and how much you’ll earn in royalties from those markets, too.
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Looks like I’d make from $.65 cents to €2.60 Euros. That’s not bad at all. I wouldn’t go any higher than that. Even if $.65 cents seems low for expanded distribution, there are a couple of things to remember. No author on the planet earns more than a few bucks a book. Including Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Those guys just sell a LOT of books. Plus, they get advances and movie deals, things like that. But when it comes to the books themselves, those two are in the same sales bracket as you.  The trick is to market the shit out of your book and make as many sales as you can. There are a lot of options for that, too. But I’ll save that topic for another day.

Plus, if you price your books too high, nobody’s going to buy them. You want to be competitive. I’ve been lucky that a few people have bought my first book, Subjugation, even though my vanity publisher charges way too much for it.

Yes. I said my vanity publisher. Like so many new authors, I was eager to see my book in print, and I didn’t have the patience to figure out how to do it myself. Plus, that was in 2008, and there didn’t exist all of the same self-publishing options that there are now. Ten years is a long time in terms of technology.

So, sweet friends, when I talk about the fact that you don’t need a vanity press to publish your title, I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been down that road.

I’ve gone off on a vanity press and famous authors tangent, so let me remind you now. Once you’ve set the price of your book, scroll to the bottom of the page and SAVE.

On Createspace’s list of things to do, it says to publish it on Kindle.
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That’s Kindle Direct Publishing. And you need to know that you don’t have to choose this step in order to finish publishing your paperback. There are pros and cons to KDP, and you should look into them carefully before choosing it. Some authors feel that KDP limits their sales, while others think it improves them. But the long and short of it is that you don’t need KDP to publish your book.

In fact, that’s all you can do right now. The next step is for Createspace to tell you that they’re done reviewing your files. More likely than not, they’ll tell you that everything’s okay and you can click that publish button.

So, kick back and have a nice, cold drink. Or, if it’s chilly where you are, pour out some hot tea or cocoa. You’ve done a lot of work. You’ve earned the break.

I’ve used no fewer than 60 photos to walk you through the steps to publish your book on Amazon’s Createspace. That’s a lot of pictures, and a lot of steps. But I hope you’ve seen by now that they’re doable steps. Take ’em one at a time and before you know it, you’ll knock ’em out. And you’ll feel great doing it. Because of how far you’ve come not just as a writer, but as an author. In control of your own destiny. You can do it. You don’t need no steenking vanity press to do it for you. You’re in control of your work. And, more importantly, you’re in control of every single penny you earn from selling it.

Don’t sweat it if you don’t hit the bestseller’s list right out of the gate. And don’t be discouraged. If you thought to write it, then there’s somebody out there that will read it. Keep at it. Write away, and build up your loyal readership one book at a time.

Here are some questions about publishing through Amazon’s Createspace in the UK. I hope I can answer them for you.

Q: I’ve been told I need a minimum stock to publish through Amazon in the UK. Is that true?
A: No. You need a minimum stock (and a liberal return policy) to sell a self-published book on Amazon.com if it’s published somewhere besides Amazon’s Createspace.
BUT…
If you publish through Amazon’s Createspace, you do not need to have any minimum stock available. Amazon’s Createspace handles all the stock for you.

Q: What does it cost for UK authors to publish through Amazon’s Createspace?
A: Nothing. You can publish your book for free.

Q: What about an ISBN? Those things aren’t free.
A: Technically, you’re right. They aren’t free. But Amazon is such a large company that they can afford to buy a massive number of ISBNs that it costs them next-to-nothing, and they can afford to give you an ISBN for free as part of their publishing services.

Q: How do they make money if they give services away for free?
A: Amazon makes money on every transaction when they sell a book for you. That’s how they earn back their investment. Just like any publisher, they keep a percentage of what your book sells for.

Q: They keep my money? What makes them any different from a vanity press?
A: The difference is that a vanity press makes you pay up front. And then, they keep a percentage of everything your book earns.

Q: Well, if this other publisher can get my book into stores and on Amazon.com, isn’t it worth it to pay up front?
A: No. You can do all of those things for yourself, easy as you please.

Q: But it’s so confusing! I don’t know what I’m doing!
A: Yes. It is confusing. But it’s just a matter of following the instructions. Amazon’s Createspace has a super-easy publishing platform that literally spells out every step for you. All you have to do is go down the list and check off the steps.

Q: You don’t understand how it works over here. You’re American.
A: That’s true. I am American. But these services work the same no matter where you live. They’re global services that are available worldwide. It doesn’t matter that I’m American or that you’re in the UK. It works just the same. UK authors do it all the time.

Q: What about distribution? Createspace is an American company. How do my readers get copies without paying an arm and a leg?
A: They get copies the same way anybody else does. Through Amazon.com. I’ll talk a little more about US versus UK distribution in a minute.

Q: What about bookstores? Will Createspace put copies of my book in stores?
A: Amazon’s book distribution online and in stores is exactly the same for UK authors as it is for US authors. Your books are as available to stores, libraries and online customers the same as ours. You can read some answers about that HERE.

Q: But that says EXPANDED distribution. Is that free too?
A: Yes. Expanded distribution is free.

UK authors, ALL authors, please keep in mind that if some other publisher, be it mainstream or vanity, is telling you that you can’t publish safely, cheaply, easily or effectively through Amazon’s Createspace, it’s because THEY WANT YOUR MONEY. Especially if it’s a vanity press like Grosvenor House in the UK. It’s their job to make you think you need them so they can take your money. They don’t want you to think you can do it on your own. But that’s not true. You don’t need them. They need you.

Don’t just take my word for it.
HERE are just a few testimonials from UK authors that have used Amazon’s Createspace to publish their work.
HERE are some answers about ordering bulk copies of your own book through Amazon’s Createspace. It might take a little longer to arrive, but ordering through Createspace is cheaper than getting them through Amazon proper. And Createspace books are zero rated, so might be duty-free.

Lulu is a self-publishing option that UK authors might choose. One advantage is that Lulu books are printed in the UK, so shipping to UK customers will probably be cheaper. But that’s really going to end up being six of one, half-dozen of the other. Either books will be printed in the US and shipped globally, or they’ll be printed in the USA and shipped globally. Either way, there will be customers that have to pay slightly higher shipping.

Unless they order E-books.

Ebooks are a HUGE market, primarily because they’re cheaper, portable, and readily available on any device. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t have a cell phone? It’s insanely easy to just whip out your phone and read as you go. Handy for airports, waiting rooms, or just about anywhere you need to be. Even the Queue at the market.

Amazon’s Createspace books come in E-book format for Kindle. Done and done.

But what if you don’t have a Kindle? What if, for some reason, you don’t have Kindle on your phone? What then?

Easy. Smashwords.

Like Amazon’s Createspace and Lulu, Smashwords is a self-publishing platform that gives authors the opportunity to publish their work for free, but in E-format only. But Smashwords differs in that there are multiple E-versions available, including E-pub, .Mobi (kindle), .PDF, and an online reader. There’s virtually nowhere that you can’t read an E-book with such vast options available.  And it’s even easier to use than Createspace.

But we’ve gone far enough today. The sun’s sinking beyond the horizon, and the shadows are getting long. It’s time we call it quits for now.  We can take a look at Smashwords another day. Or you can go check ’em out on your own. If you can follow all of this for Createspace, Smashwords is a nice, thick slice of chocolate cake. With ice cream on the side. You shouldn’t need me for it, but I’m here if you do.

I’m going to wander back to the house, now. The cats like to cuddle in the evening, and I think I wand a cup of that cocoa.

I hope I see you again soon.

Proofreading by any other name

I have to be honest. I’ve never heard the term ‘ARC team’ before today.  When someone on Facebook mentioned wanting to build up her ARC team, I asked what that involves. I was told that readers can sign up to be on an author’s ‘ARC team’ to recieve early copies of a book on their E-reader to read in return for a review. You know, the kind of reviews cunsumers put on Amazon for books and merchandise they buy there.

Okay. Cool.

It only stands to reason that with so many new authors self-publishing their work, that there would be changes to the way the game is played. Especially in the digital age. From writing a book, to publishing and reading one, there doesn’t have ot be a single slip of paper involved. The same goes for reviews, I guess. Nothing wrong wtih that.

There are apps that let you sign up to become a member of an author’s ARC team, meaning you’ll get a copy of their book in return for a review, either on Amazon or on a blog. It’s pretty straightforward, and it’s a great way to read more books for cheap.

What made me uncomfortable was being told that it’s “The way it’s done.”

Yes and no. Mostly no.

Traditionally, an Advance Reading Copy is an early version of an author’s book that gets sent out for reviews up to 6 months (or more). Those reviews can appear in newspapers, magazines, in/on Kirkus, and online. These are given by qualified professionals.

Getting friends, family, or even strangers to read your book for free in advance is proofreading, plain and simple. Even if they leave reviews on social media, blogs or Amazon for you. Those kinds of reviews simply cannot impact upon your career the same way a write up from Publishers Weekly can.

It’s always great to hear that people enjoy your book. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. But we’re talking about serious business, here. So let’s be clear about the terms. Unless they’re someone who’s in a position to give you a professional review, they’re proofreading it for you. The fact that the word review is involved doesn’t matter. It’s a slippery slope that makes murky the waters of publishing in the modern era.

Getting together readers to preview your book in return for reviews is a good thing. But don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s the same thing as getting professional reviews. It’s not. Not even close.

It bothers me that the line between proofreading and getting real reviews is getting so blurred. It bothers me that new and emerging writers don’t know the difference.

By all means, get all the reviews you can on Amazon, Goodreads, or anywhere else. But don’t settle for that. Don’t let anybody make you think there’s any reason you can’t get ‘real’ reviews. You can, just like any other ‘real’ author.

It takes planning and legwork to get your work out there. You don’t just write a book and sit back on your laurels because your job is done, especially if you’re a self-published author.  You don’t have a publishing house doing all the work for you. You’ve got to get out there and do it yourself.

Do the homework. Find the “real” reviewers. How? Open any book on the bestsellers list. Or, if it’s a hard cover, turn it over. You’ll find reviews from papers like the NY Times, Chicago Sun Times, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, USA Today, et al.

Contact them and find out if they require a hard copy or if they’re cool with getting an E-copy. They don’t mind giving you information as long as you call with a brief question that asks exactly what you want to know. Keep it short and to the point. Find out what they review and what they want from you. Hard copy or ebook? Press kit? Just like publishers, reviewers have submission guidelines. Familiarize yourself with them.
For example, here’s how to submit a book for review to Penguin.

When you know who takes what, write up a press kit to go with your Advance Reading Copy. There are articles about how to write up a press kit. Here’s one with a free downloadable template. But it’s usually just some basic information about your book:
Book title
Author
Genre
Estimated publication date
Brief symopsis – seriously, brief. 2 or 3 lines.
ISBN
Publisher name and contact information – if that’s you, it’s fine. Don’t embellish or lie. If you’re using Amazon, say so.
Edition and language
Number of pages/words
Projected price
Number of illustrations, if any
Trim size – this is the size of your book.
Contact name and information for your publicist – if you’re self-pubbed, list yourself.

That’s a lot of information, but don’t be overwhelmed. It’s information you’re going to need and use as you poblish anyway.

Most importantly, DON’T be impatient. Don’t get so caught up with getting your book out there that you rush to publish. Do it the way the heavy hitters do it. Be patient, do the leg work, be professional about your publishing. That’s how to get professional results.

If you just want to slap a book on Amazon and call it a day, that’s cool. But if you want to take it to the next level, if you want to be a professional writer, put in the work.

One important thing to consider is this: The more proofreaders you have, the more people are reading your hard work for free. Think about that.

Do not edit U

Do not edit your own work.

It’s a mistake that many authors make. They think that they know their own works so well that they can edit their own work. They’ve lived with their work since the very first moment of its conception and have seen it through the creative process every moment since. Of course, they’d be the best person to do the edits, right?

No.

The fact that an author is so familiar with his or her own work actually makes them the least likely person to catch any errors that linger among the prose.

Errors are there. I promise. Not because you’re a bad writer, but because everybody makes them. Everybody. Every author you see on the shelves and Barnes & Noble makes them. I make them. That’s what editors are for. To catch them.

Think about it. You’ve read and re-read your work dozens of times, maybe hundreds. And the mistakes are still there. You didn’t see them the first time you went through it, and you didn’t see them any time you’ve read through it after that.

You need fresh eyes to catch mistakes that your brain has trained itself to ignore. It’s not a sign of weakness or bad writing. It’s just the way the brain works. As good as you might be, you are human, with a human brain and all of the pitfalls that come with it.

For example, I first wrote a screenplay called Sudan many years ago. Maybe as many as fifteen. Maybe more. Lately, I’ve been going through my older work and publishing some things that have been gathering dust for far too long. History Fair was written in 2003 but sat around doing nothing until I published it earlier this year. Now it’s available at B&N.com, as a paperback, Kindle, Nook and Smashwords. I think I’ve sold 2. But it’s done and finished, and I can put a check on the “done” list.

Same thing with the Sudan screenplay. I’ve lived with it for a long time, and I want to chalk it up as done. I want to tie up that loose end. So, I took it out of mothballs this week, dusted it off, and am determined to publish it as soon as possible. I’ve spent most of this week reading it, revising it, formatting it, and making it publish-ready.

I’ve heard other authors talking about having beta readers go over their work. I generally haven’t taken much stock in that because I figured it was basically giving away their work for free.

I am corrected.

I asked a couple of people I know to beta read Sudan for me before I ship it out. And I’m glad I did. It tought me a valuable lesson.

Despite spending so much time with Sudan this week, there were scores of mistakes that I missed. The formatting was off in some parts and there were far more grammatical errors than I’d care to admit. There were even a dozen instances where the main character’s name wasn’t capitalized. The more mistakes they made, the more embarrassed I became. I was ready to publish Sudan as it was. Had I done that, I would have shown the world a script with lots of errors in it.

As embarrassing as it is to admit that there were so many mistakes in a book that I thought was finished, I decided to use it to illustrate to you that even the best of us make mistakes. And we miss them. It’s not just you. It’s not just me. We all do it.

So, please. Do not attempt to edit your own work. Hire a proper editor. I know that there are so many out there, and it’s hard to know who’s affordable, and who’s going to be worth the money.

If there’s an editor you’re thinking of hiring, don’t just look at his or her website. Don’t just look at testimonials from their past clients. Glowing testemonials are good, but they’re not enough. You need to see for yourself what their work looks like.

Go down their client list and google books they’ve edited. Look for those books on Amazon and use the “Look inside” feature. You’ll be able to read a good chunk of the book. And, as you read, look for errors. Look for content and formatting. Look for typos. Look for anything you want your editor to catch.

Are there errors? Are there typos? Does the book flow easily? Is it properly formatted? Seriously. Read it over with a fine-toothed comb.  Don’t be kind. Don’t be generous and let little errors slide. Because if there are errors in that book, there will be errors in yours.

And don’t just look at one book. Go down the list. Read samples on all of them. Look for errors. Do your homework. There’s a lot more to an editor than what their website and testimonials say. There’s more to an editor than price. There’s even more to an editor than whether or not you like them. An editor can be the nicest person on the planet, but that doesn’t mean that he or she is qualified to edit your book.

If you find errors in books that an editor worked on, skip that person. It’s worth the time and effort to find someone who will do a good job for you.

If, like me, you decide to have someone beta read your work, listen to what they say. If you ask someone for an opinion, take it seriously when they give it to you.

Thanks to my beta, my wonderful, beautiful and talented daughter Thea, Sudan will not be published today. There are errors to correct and some updating to be done. There are elements of everyday life that we take for granted today that didn’t even exist a decade ago. To ignore them would be a disservice to the work. I can’t be in such a hurry to publish that I overlook the responsibility of fixing it.

Same thing with you. Don’t be so eager to publish that you rush the process. Don’t be so intimidated by finding an editor that you skip it. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can edit your own work. You owe it to yourself, your work and your reputation to put out the best possible effort you can manage.

Take the time. Make the effort. Do it right.

ISBN

Like a lot of aspiring authors out there, I started off thinking that when you’re finished writing your book, you’re done. Woo Hoo! Let those royalties roll on in!

Problem is, it doesn’t work that way.

Authors that are lucky enough to have proper representation with an agency don’t have to worry about the production of their books. Their agents pitch the book to a publisher, likely one of the Big 5 or one of their subsidiaries, and that’s who puts together the bricks and mortar. Copyright, editing, cover art, ISBN assignment and the physical production of the books are all taken care of by the publisher. If you’re one of those, rock on!

But if you’re a self-publishing, indie author like me, you have to figure all that stuff out yourself. You find your own editor and hope you’ve got one that’s worth the money you’re paying for their services. You have to find your own printer. And you need to know about the ISBN. Like so many things in the publishing world, the ISBN can be a confusing, intimidating part of the publishing process.

I’ll do my best to help you figure it all out.

First of all, what is an ISBN?

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. *

Simply put, an ISBN is a number that’s assigned to your book that identifies it to every agency on the planet that deals with books. Publishers, book distributers, libraries, and stores that sell books, both online and off. An ISBN is like a fingerprint. There’s only one like it in the world, and it belongs to your book.

It also bears pointing out that each version of your book needs its own ISBN.
Hardback
Paperback
Ebook
There’s even some argument that each different version of an ebook needs its own ISBN number whether it’s for Nook, Kindle, a .PDF, HTML (or other digital) version of your book that’s available for sale.

That’s important. You cannot obtain one ISBN number and use it for everything. It doesn’t work that way. Each physical or digital version needs its own, individual ISBN.

So, where do you get an ISBN?

Bowker is the official source for all ISBN numbers in the United States. Any ISBN you get ultimately comes from Bowker. But there are so many sites and services that claim to be able to provide you with an ISBN for a myriad of prices, including free, that it can make a person’s head swim. Differtent sites offer different prices, and tend to tag on other services that emerging authors might think they need, like new author services, barcodes, publisher services, a whole host of things they think they can get you to pay for because (they think) you don’t know any better.

Don’t get sidetracked into buying some other service thinking you need it in association with your ISBN, your book, or your journey in the publishing process. Right now, at this point, you’re looking for one thing and one thing only. The ISBN number. Focus on that.

When choosing where to get an ISBN for your book, there are several factors to consider.

First, there’s price. It’s possible to obtain an ISBN for your book for anywhere from $0 to at least $125.00 usd per number.

Secondly, it’s important to note what information is contained within the ISBN number. These aren’t random numbers you slap on your book so the scanner can identify it. There’s information coded into the ISBN that’s crucial to you as the author and publisher of your book.

Finally, there’s distribution. Where and how you get your ISBN will determine how and where you can sell your book using that number.

What I’m going to do is go from the cheapest options to the most expensive, and try to describe the advantages and disadvantages of each, including the information and distribution considerations for each.

First, there’s the free option. Createspace, Smashwords, and other online publishing services offer a free ISBN number for your book if you publish through them. ISBN numbers aren’t free to get from Bowker. Indivicually, those things can cost up to $125.00 usd. Yikes!

So how can these publishing services offer ISBN numbers for free? Because Bowker offers huge discounts for ISBN numbers bought in bulk. for $5000, usd, they sell 5000 ISBN numbers. Basically, a dollar for each. For that small amount per number, those publishing services can afford to give away an ISBN, because they’re going to be making money on each book you sell anyway.

Sounds like a win-win, right? Well, on the surface, yes. They get money off your book, and you get to publish your book for free. And, depending on the service you use, your book can appear on bookseller sites around the world.

Not so fast, though. There’s a down-side to publishing your book with a free ISBN through online publishing services. The ISBN number given to you by a publishing service like that can only be used by them. You don’t own the ISBN outright. You can’t take the ISBN number assigned to your book through Createspace (for example) and use it to publish your book on Lightning Source. You can’t take it anywhere else. That could be limiting if you plan to distribute your books to diverse markets that your publishing service doesn’t offer.

However, if you only plan to publish a few of your own books, free worldwide distribution through websites and e-channels is probably going to suffice just fine. You can probably skip the rest, and best of luck to you.

Createspace used to offer a $10 usd option that allowed you to name your own imprint as the publisher of your book, even though you were using their free service. But that option is gone. So you’re left with 2 choices: go free and have your free publisher listed as the publisher of record for your book, or pay for an ISBN.

There are any number of sites online that offer to sell you a real ISBN for prices as low as $12 to 20-something usd. Looks great on paper, but there’s something very important to consider about ISBN numbers: The information they contain.

Coded into the ISBN number is the publisher of record. If you buy a discounted ISBN from a discount site, THEY are listed as the publisher of record. Just like Createspace is the publisher of record if you use one of their free numbers. These sites promise that you get to keep %100 of your rights, and so forth, but make no mistake. They are forever encoded into your book as being the publisher of your book.

Don’t be blinded by the price. They aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

The only way to establish yourself as the publisher of record in the information contained within your ISBN is to buy it directly from Bowker.

I won’t lie. These things can get expensive. To buy one ISBN from Bowker, it costs $125 usd. Just one.
For a block of 10 ISBN numbers, Bowker charges $295.00 usd.
For 1000 ISBN numbers, Bowker charches $575.00 usd.
That’s a lot of money.

And none of that includes the barcodes.

Are barcodes important? In a word, yes.
The barcode is the physical representation of your book’s 13 number ISBN that can be read with a scanner by distributors and book stores. Distributers are the companies that send your books out to retail outlets (stores).

Most ISBN/EAN numbers are followed by a 5-digit price indicator, which is also physically represented as a barcode. Barnes & Noble, for example, won’t touch a book unless it has the 5-digit price indicator.
EAN5BarcodeThe 5 in the 5-digit code indicates that the book is being sold for American dollars. The other digits indicate the price itself. The book in that sample is being sold for $18.95 usd.

But don’t worry about buying a barcode when you’re shopping for your ISBN. Sites that sell barcodes want you to think that the only way to get the right, official barcode for your ISBN is to buy one from them.

That’s just not true. The web is full of free barcode generators, including the 5-digit price code. So don’t waste your money buying a barcode. Just concentrate on what you need right now: the ISBN.

The important thing to know about an ISBN obtained from Bowker is that once you buy it, it’s yours. Forever. And you can use it wherever you want. If you buy an ISBN from Bowker for your paperback, you can use it anywhere. You can use your own ISBN on any paperback copy of your book through any printing service in the world. Including Createspace. If you choose to use Createspace services to publish your book, you can take your own ISBN with you and list yourself as the publisher of record. You can use the same ISBN to create paperback print versions of your book on Ingram’s Lightningsource, Lulu or any other print service you can think of. It’s yours.

Just remember. That ISBN is good for your paperback. You can’t use it for your hardback book or any digital version of your book. Those need their own numbers. But the same thing applies to those, too. If you buy an ISBN for your hardback, you can use it with any printer you want. If you buy an ISBN for your .pdf, html, epub or other digital version of your book, that ISBN belongs to that version of that book forever.

Note: you might see sites offering an eISBN or e-ISBN to assign to a digital version of your book. Don’t be confused by that. No matter what you put in front of it, it’s still just an ISBN, obtained from the same source: Bowker.

Take some time and think about what you want to get from your publishing experience. Weigh the options and make the best choices for yourself and your book.

Good luck!