Hack 27 Become a Publisher

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Purchase your book's ISBN and become a publisher.

Whoever registers your book's ISBN is given credit for publishing your book. By purchasing your own ISBN, you also inherit the privileges of a publisher. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is a ten-digit number, and every published book has a unique ISBN. Your book must have one, such as the one in Figure 3-12, if you desire distributors and retailers to carry it. This ISBN must be printed on the book, so get one before going to press.

Figure 3-12. A book's ISBN in barcode

Think of a name for your publishing house, get out your credit card, and visit http://www.isbn.org to apply for an ISBN publisher prefix. This prefix will be used in all your ISBNs. At the same time, you must purchase a block of 10, 100, 1,000, or 10,000 ISBN numbers. As of this writing, 10 ISBNs cost $244.95, and 100 ISBNs cost $853.95. After completing the application, you should receive your numbers in about 10 days.

Publishing a book involves coordinating many resources. Assume that each step will require twice as much time as you would expect and you might have your book ready on time.

When your ISBN numbers arrive, you will also receive online account information. Use this online account to assign an ISBN to your book. Remember: you cannot reuse an ISBN. After assigning your book's ISBN, go to Books in Print at http://www.bowkerlink.com and list your book free of charge.

When you print your book, you must print the ISBN on the inside copyright page and the ISBN barcode on the outside cover. Visit http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/isbn/us/major.asp for details on exactly how to use an ISBN number. Using it incorrectly can cause fulfillment problems.

You can create your ISBN barcode free of charge using this Lightning Source web page: http://www.lightningsource.com/LSISecure/PubResources/CoverSpecsEntry.asp. After submitting your ISBN, you will receive a PDF template for your book's cover via email. This template is designed for use by Lightning's system, but you can use Illustrator, Acrobat, or Photoshop to copy the barcode graphic from the given PDF template and paste it onto your book's cover.

Now that you are a publisher, you can talk to distributors about carrying your book. Lightning Source is a wholesale distributor that also provides print-on-demand (POD) production and secure e-book fulfillment [Hack #29] . If you decide to print your own book, consider using Amazon's Advantage program [Hack #30] .

3.5.1 Or, Consider a For-Fee Publisher

If self-publishing your book sounds like too much trouble, consider using a service provider that will publish your book for a fee. View a list of providers at https://www.lightningsource.com/ResourcesLinks.htm#AuthorServicesLinks. They offer various programs and à la carte features.

One example is the iUniverse Select program (http://www.iuniverse.com). For $459, iUniverse takes your electronic document and creates two editions: the POD paperback edition and the PDF e-book edition. iUniverse registers ISBNs, creates cover graphics, and lists your book with Amazon and Barnes & Noble. iUniverse pays you a 20% royalty on the money it receives (as opposed to the retail price) minus book shipping and handling charges.

Given this royalty formula, it is impossible to know how much you might receive for each book sold. Let's make some guesses. If iUniverse gives your book a $25 suggested retail price, a sale through Amazon might pay iUniverse 50% ($12.50). Let's guess that shipping and handling costs $1.50, which leaves $11. From that, you receive 20%, or $2.20. As I say, this is just a guess. For a broader discussion of royalty voodoo, visit http://www.booksandtales.com/pod/rword.htm.

Every book has a publisher, and every publisher has a reputation. This reputation can help or hinder your book's sales. Before choosing a for-fee publisher, look at other books the company has published to make sure your work fits in.

Consult the newsgroups (http://groups.google.com) for opinions and testimonials on these various services. Perform an advanced search on Amazon to locate books by publisher, and check out their best-selling books.