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Saturday 31 May 2014

Getting it out there....

The numbers game, playing the numbers game, statistics, data analysis, all numbers to be juggled in the process of getting the book out there, and in the middle of it all a fixed number, as immutable as if carved in stone. Our book's identity in a 13 digit code.

A humble stock control number, the SBN, developed for WH Smith Limited and others in the mid-1960s by Gordon Foster, Emeritus Professor of Statistics at Trinity College, Dublin. The system was adopted by the International Standard for Organisation (ISO) in 1970 as a 10 digit number (the original 9 digit number was used  in the UK until 1974 and could be converted to 10 by adding '0'), the 10 digit iSBN was replaced on the 1st January 2007 by the 13 digit sequence to make it compatible with the European Article Number (EAN).

Unique to each edition or variation of a publication; paperback, hardback and ebook all possess a separate individual code, later editions may share an ISBN.

The ISBN is the key to distribution, it allows an edition to be located, ordered and shipped, ISBNs are issued through specific agencies; in the UK ISBNs are provided by Neilsen Book and Bowker carries the same responsibility for the US.

Books sold through Kindle and Amazon display an ASIN, (Amazon Standard Identification Number) having an ISBN is not a requirement;  where a book has an ISBN the 13 digits will be the same,the ISBN becomes the ASIN, other companies may supply an ISBN as part of the agreement. Smashwords offers this to all authors who distribte through the company, and it is a prerequisite for inclusion on some of the channels that Smashwords distributes to. Generally, for any book to be fed into the distribution system then an ISBN is a must.

A note about the ISBN at Smashwords; Smashwords is a ebook distributor, not a publisher, however because the ISBN is obtained  through them and they have purchased it from Bowker, Smashwords is listed as the publisher with Bowker in the US. A technical point which is explained in their agreement with you. Smashwords recognise you, the author of the work as the publisher.

What are the options for digital formatting and distribution?

The ebook can be formatted and uploaded to individual ebook suppliers following their own instructions and requirements, or an aggregator can be used.

Amazon, with the Kindle can reach wherever Amazon goes and the book ordered from the Kindle bookstore, there are occasions when a book ordered through Kindle cannot be downloaded because of territorial restrictions. Certain books may be available in the US and Canada, but not the UK and Ireland, depending on where the Kindle was registered.

Instructions on to get the book on Amazon can be found at Kindle Direct publishing and the instructions to help you are in How to publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing and the software for device compatible Kindle can be downloaded, so you can check out the end result.

Smashwords works through its own site and by feeding books selected for the premium catalogue to a list of ebook retailers; Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Overdive, Flipkart, Oyster and Scribd are on the list. Smashwords has its own criteria explained in the Smashwords Style guide. Both available as free downloads.

Fomatting KDP and Smashwords takes a couple of hours, and you must follow the instructions, don't be tempted to skip forward or miss anything out and the end result will be a file ready to upload; Kindle requires a filtered HTML and Smashwords asks for a cleaned up MS word Doc.file (Not a Docx.).

Once uploaded Smashwords feed the doc file into their Meatgrinder and formatted files for most common e-readers come out the other end and the book can be ready to purchase on the site within half an hour of upload. Kindle takes longer, but you can expect the book to be on Amazon within twenty fours hours.

So the book is out there, jostling for position with its own ISBN, waiting for the reader, hungry for entertainment...and the downloads begin...

Thursday 29 May 2014

Hachette Job...?

A lot of time and effort has been spent over the last week or so discussing the current discussions between Amazon and Hachette with a number of viewpoints being aired, David Gaughran explores the situation on his blog here  from the point of view of the publishing house; Hachette is one of the biggest publishers in the market and Amazon. Mark Coker at Smashwords here considers the impact the outcome may have on independent authors. A main point is the use of the agency model where the publisher sets the price of the book, the model used by Smashwords in agreement with its distribution channels giving the choice of price to the author/publisher.

Sunday 25 May 2014

Definitely a must read, if you love writing...

Anne's Blog  posted in the last few minutes: read it as a reader, and a writer
making the case for doing it yourself, with passion.

Saturday 24 May 2014

How Much..?

Cost and Value; inextricably linked but often separated by a huge gulf. add up the figures and the cost stares you in the face, but the value of a thing?

Cynthia Polutanovich explores her decision to self-publish on her blog in an eloquent expression of the value of her work, and the personal investment in the process of writing a novel. Read it for yourself, I found her words striking and evocative.

There will always be someone prepared to take your money. Vanity Publishing is a sweetly set trap for the unwary and reminds me of the child catcher in Ian Fleming's story "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," Sneaking around the town enticing the children into captivity with promises sweets and treats.

One of the accusations levelled at the Vanity Presses, and with some degree of truth is that they will publish anything regardless of the quality,and the bill can be substantial. You have to scratch the surface, check beyond the first link and weigh the pros and cons, and balance it against why you want to publish.

A frequently asked question on Silverwood books website;  I'm publishing my book to make a profit - is that a good idea?
Answer: Probably not... there is more to the answer that follows, but the opening remark sums up the attitude of many Vanity Publishers. They will take the money, rack up the bills and publish. The reputation as money mills churning out sub-standard products is justified. Personal experience of a purchase from AuthorHouse revealed the sections offered as a sample proof read and copy edited, and the rest of the story untouched. A serious disappointment, the story itself was good and the ideas explored were genuinely interesting but the final production values were so low the book was difficult to read.

Authors are becoming more aware of the pitfalls of Vanity publishing, but the Vanity Presses themselves are shifting their tack and re-branding themselves:Partnerships, Publishing Service Providers, Author Support Services; are a few examples.

The long and the short of it; a Press that expects the Author to stump up the money to  publish is a Vanity Press, even the small independent press working on the traditional model will take the risk; that is the role of the publisher, to take a risk with their investment in the author, publish and promote their work and the see a return on the investment. The cost to the publisher is financial, but also the value of their reputation plays a part.

Reputation can be worth money in the bank, and yet it is incredibly fragile. Taking the decision to self-publish, ignoring the tempting offers of the Vanities to do it all for a price, you put everything on the line. The cost will be your own, and the price will be set by how you value your work. If you care, it will be the best you can do yourself  or working alongside proofreaders and editors you are prepared to trust with your creation.

Doing it for yourself is a daunting decision and there are things that every writer struggles with, proof reading and editing, cover design, and formatting the book for print or ebook and with those aspects finding a good editor and a reliable proof-reader are important.

You've finished the text, the book exists  and the copyright is yours, the moment you create the work the copyright comes into existence, in the United kingdom useful information can be found at UK Copyright Service, where you can register your copyright, but as the site explains there is no legal requirement to register, the copyright is yours - a section known as the learning centre offers information on a variety of aspects to do with copyright and a common copyright questions section. The site contains a broad compass of references to copyright law in the UK and the various international treaties dealing with the subject, including when and where to use the © symbol. Copyright is a way of protecting your investment in the created work, and as mentioned earlier is there when the work is created. Registration is voluntary, but one of the strongest assets to identify the association between the writer and the work is through the ISBN number, but more of that later.

The question of profitability, the question answered with probably not earlier on, is a matter of balance, how many items will you have to sell before the books break even and move into profit. The initial outlay is significant here, and the more significant the outlay the harder it will be to reach break even, or move beyond it. Self-publishing is about finding the most economical way and minimising the expense thereby reducing the number of books to be sold to pass the break-even point. It is the most important aspect in any successful business, and the way forward is to regard writing as your business, and approach sales and distribution with that in mind. Research your options, look beyond the gloss and see what lies behind.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Smashwords to Distribute 250,000+ eBooks to txtr

Smashwords: Smashwords to Distribute 250,000+ eBooks to txtr: Smashwords today announced a distribution agreement with txtr, an ebook retailing and e-reading platform based in Berlin. txtr operates ebook store for Foyles iconic independent UK based bookstore and two European mobile networks

Smashwords and OverDrive to Bring 200,000+ Indie eBooks to 20,000+ public libraries.

Smashwords: Smashwords and OverDrive to Bring 200,000+ Indie E...: Imagine if your indie eBook was purchasable by thousands of public libraries around the globe.  Now imagine no more. Smashwords announced a deal with Overdrive, the world's largest library eBook platform.

Friday 16 May 2014

Come into my parlour..

Everything has a price, the bill will drop through the letterbox, and hope the total won't send the Bank Manager into a faint when the  balance drifts southward and the ink turns red. A situation  exacerbated by involvement with the Vanity Publishers. Adding up the figures had me wondering how it was done, then a little game began to emerge, whenever I land on a web page I scan the sidebars and skyscrapers, reading the links. then see where they go.  It became apparent very quickly that a lot of them would take the writer seeking publication to one or other of the Vanity Presses offering their services. The clicks rarely reached six, three or four was more likely. The adverts cropped up everywhere, they were almost unavoidable. What stopped me, a natural caution and not having that amount of money available.

The biggest,  which includes Author Solutions, see their authors as customers, and the lifetime value” of an author relationship to generate $5,000 for the company ( £2950)). Even in "partnership" with the smaller companies , the figures can climb into the thousands before the job is finished. Check the websites for yourself, and play around with the figures. Subsidiaries of AuthorSolutions, including AuthorHouse and Xlibris offer a range of virtually identical packages but not at the same; the basic package at xlibrispublishing.co.uk and authorhouse.co.uk  differ by £100 ($170). 

The question remained, faced with the price tag of the packages and the additional fees that creep on to the balance sheet what are the options available. Consider the basic package from one of the Author Solutions brand, and then look at possible alternatives with the constraints of a tight budget in mind. Use the imagination that created your book to launch it on to the world.

A friend who studied film and video recalls a tutor who explored the idea of the low budget, no budget movie; so how about we apply the idea to our publishing adventure.

First, the package;

Paperback availability
eBook availability, interior design
Custom full colour cover,
Electronic galley,
Paperback author copy,
Complimentary worldwide availability through Ingram distribution
Digital formatting and Distribution
Professional Marketing consultation
Books in print registration
Author Learning Centre 12 month subscription
UK Copyright
Image insertion (10)
Paperback package books (1)
Book stubs (10)
Google and Amazon search programme

The list above is available for £499 ($847), and no mention of copy editing (at XLibris a reasonable length novel of 86,000 / words is charged @ 1.1 pence per word  and chalks up a tab for £946/$1590) or proof reading? Add it to the basic package and it starts pushing the numbers up; unless you want to do it yourself.

So what if we do the whole job or as much as we can ourselves, outsource where we need help? Dismantle the list, work out what we need and price up an alternative.

Friday 9 May 2014

How Do You Do It?

The basic question for any task, anything that is new and unknown, the knowledge of how to do it is critical, sounds pretty obvious, and it is, but what if the way is confused and deliberately obscured?

This summer, August 18, will be my second anniversary as a published author. That was when Iceline held the front page at Smashwords, Control Escape followed it in the early hours of the following morning.

Finding my way to Smashwords and their distribution system was not straightforward, a chance discovery while searching for a book, and then came the dithering, frequent visits to the site until I took the plunge and signed up. Part of the decision to step into the world of Independent Publishing.

The constantly changing landscape of publishing over the past few years has left old definitions blurred and broken and traps baited with promises and sweet words, tantalising images await the eager and the unwary. 

Now and then I'll pass the time surfing, clicking links to see where they go and what is at the other end, and the results are sometimes intriguing. The link usually travel between sites involved in publishing and writing. 
Traditional publishing is often described as being in a state of chaos, unsettled and in retreat from the battalions of newly liberated authors and publisher advancing across the Internet.

In less than ten years publishing has transformed itself and unlikely alliances have been formed, the oddest bedfellows now snuggle up against the cold winds of change. 

Traditional publishers and Vanity Presses now work hand in hand. David Gaughran at Lets Get Digital catalogues the links and Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware chronicles  the misadventures of one of the biggest vanity publishers, AuthorSolutions. The tales told by disappointed authors are many and varied, and yet there must be a good number for whom the experience has been beneficial. It piqued my curiosity and I began clicking the links, playing a game similar to the six degrees of separation, what intrigued me was how in the face of the scare stories why anyone would choose that route to publication.

The links gave me a clue, seldom did the number reach six before the name of AuthorSolutions or one of its many subsidiaries or partners appeared, often tucked into the copyright notice at the foot of the page, and with an email contact link occupying much of the page above.

www.findyourpublisher.com/indie_book_publishing/ the AuthorSolutions website invites you to step into their parlour and asks the question "But I have to pay to get published." Further investigation revealed the price tag being asked of the hopeful author, inviting the customer to  throw significant wedges of money at their favourite project. The traditional mode of publishing where the agent sells the author to the publisher and the publisher takes the risk has shifted and the new alliances invite the author to take the risk, and when the sales indicate it is worth taking the chance then the self-published author is snapped up.

There is another way, where the independence is real, and the pleasure and challenge of publishing falls on the shoulders of the writer.

Lines and definitions are blurred, but underneath it all, the changes and the  shifting  landscape, independence is alive and kicking. Taking the whole thing on their shoulders are new author/publishers, often working on  a tight budget where the price tag of the vanity publishers steers them  along another track. to me, these are the true independents and exploring how to do it without breaking the bank is part of the challenge