Effective January 2014, the Blog-Zine is cosed to new posts and is going dark. The blog and its archives will stay "up," though, so please feel free to peruse the archives and discover all of the great books, authors, articles, and other features that have joined me here over the years. Thanks to all who helped make my Blog-Zine adventure a raging success! Read on!

31 July, 2008

Passing: Part III - Investigation & Confirmation

When I clap my hands, you'll wake up...

Self-publishing your book gets a little more interesting at this stage in the game, because right around here is where the idea really starts to gel in your mind's eye and a sense of accomplishment begins to take root. The intangible seems like it will one day soon be tangible. A little investigation is called for, though, so let's see what's what.

You don't want to be blindsided by the sneaky thing called 'what the hell?', so start gathering information on book printers who print the type of book you're publishing. Ask for referrals from other self-published authors or publishing professionals you might know, and take full advantage of the Internet. Personally, I did a search on 'book printers' or something or other like that, and pages and pages of leads came up. I even ran across an alphabetized list of printers from all over the U.S. that was put together by a very well known self-publishing expert. I hurried up and hit 'print', thank you very much. You'll spend a fair amount of time online or on the telephone, requesting printing quotes. But let's back-track a little bit.

Decide what you want - paperback, hardcover, spiral bound, what? Color throughout, color here & there, or simple black & white? What trim size do you want? 5.5x8.5, 6x9, 8x10, what? What kind of paper - 50lb., 55lb., 60lb., what? What about the cover? How many copies were you thinking of printing? Be ready to answer questions like these when you request quotes, even though nothing is set in stone right now. You'll probably give an estimated page count, since you haven't yet gotten to the typesetting stage. The idea here is to get a general idea of what you can expect to shell out for printing. So factor in room for error, because your page count will be a little off, you might change your mind about the type of paper you want, etc. Also, get started investigating cover design options.

(An Aside: Most printing company sales representatives are in the sales profession for a reason. Making sales is the name of the game, either for commissions or bonuses, so DO NOT let yourself be talked into buying more books than you need. You know what your goals and plans are, they don't.)

(Another Aside: Have you set a retail price for your book? As you gather printing quotes and start to have a general idea of what it will cost, per book, to print, calculate and decide on a sale price. Check out the competition. You don't want to be overpriced, compared to similar books, and you don't want to end up paying $3.50 to print a book and only make $1.00 sales profit, when it's all said and done.)

You can also begin visualizing your book cover, because this is one of the first questions a book cover designer will ask you - after the business end of the transaction has been dealt with, of course. Share your ideas for the kind of cover you think you want, so he or she will have a starting point. When Keith Saunders, owner of Marion Designs, was preparing to design the cover for Running from Mercy, he asked that I provide him with character descriptions and a book synopsis. Then, a couple of days later, he called me and said, "I found Pam!" (the main character). He stayed as true as possible to the character description and, as a result, I can honestly say, "When you look at the cover, you're looking at Pam."

I ran across Keith's company information on the back cover of a book I had recently finished reading and visited his website. I also searched 'book cover designers' or something or other like that on the Internet and browsed around, comparing prices, etc. You don't have to make a firm decision about who's going to print your book or design your cover at this point, but you do want to be narrowing down the list. Good printing companies and cover designers might have work lined up out the door and down the street, so don't wait until the last minute to hire them.

Okay, so we've hit on book printers and cover designers a little bit. Let's keep it moving, right on to the business of confirmation, shall we?

Following are some steps you should take when you know you mean business. So far you haven't committed yourself to anything that you can't get out of, if you want to. But in a minute or two, you're going to start announcing to the world that your book is on its way. So say to yourself, "Alright self, it's time to either sh#*t or get off the pot." Afterward, if you're still sitting there, red in the face from straining, do this:

Go to www.isbn.org to purchase an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for your book. This number uniquely identifies a book's publisher, title, author, edition, etc., and it makes your book part of a worldwide identification system. If you plan to stick around for a while and publish more books in the future, then you might also want to purchase a SAN (Standard Address Number) for your publishing company, while you're acquiring an ISBN number(s). SAN numbers individually identify the addresses of every firm in the publishing industry and are also important in the process of handling accounts payable and receivable. In other words, they help keep everything straight - who did what, when, where & how. SANs should be printed on most, if not all, of your company's transactional paperwork (stationary, invoices, etc.).

However, last I checked, SANs aren't required, and you don't have to purchase a SAN when you purchase ISBNs, though you do get a discount for purchasing them both at the same time. You can always go back later and get a SAN, if you decide down the road that you need one. Read more about them at www.isbn.org.

On to a bit of good news...

Back when I bought the ISBN number for Running from Mercy, folks were required to purchase a minimum of 10 numbers. Of course, having these many numbers is great if you plan to publish your book in different formats. Each edition of your book has to have its own ISBN number, even if it is the same book, in terms of content. So if you publish your book in paperback, hardcover, as an audio book and as an ebook, you should be four (4) ISBN numbers in the hole. They're also necessary if you plan to publish more than one book separately, as each publication originating from your "house" should have its own unique number.

Alternately, if you're certain you'll only be publishing one book and in one format, then (hooray!), you can now purchase single ISBN numbers. You know better than I do what you need, so I'll leave you to it. Right after I tell you that there are several companies from which you can purchase a barcode for your book, but you can also purchase a barcode at the same time that you purchase your ISBN number(s) and/or SAN number, that is. How's that for one-stop shopping?

Do I really need to get into why barcodes are important? I mean, do I really have to point out that retailers cannot scan your book into their systems or conduct a sale without a barcode? Do I really need to add that just about the only reason you might not need a barcode for your book is if you plan on exclusively selling it out of your kitchen window? I don't need to point out that your book will not be taken seriously without a barcode and could possibly (probably will) be declined for any form of distribution, do I? Bet money on it. Get a bardcode. Period.

Now...What the heck are Preassigned Control Numbers (PCNs) and why do you care?

A Library of Congress catalog card number is a unique identification number that the Library of Congress assigns to the catalog record created for each book in its cataloged collections. Librarians use it to locate a specific Library of Congress catalog record in the national databases and to order catalog cards from the Library of Congress or from commercial suppliers. The Library of Congress assigns this number while the book is being cataloged. However, a card number can be assigned before the book is published through the Preassigned Card Number Program.

The preceding description comes to us by way of 'cut & paste' from the Libary of Congress's Cataloging in Publication web page, which is exactly where you'll need to go to sign-up for your very necessary and not to be overlooked PCN. Visit http://pcn.loc.gov or visit www.loc.gov and follow the links for publishers. Here, you can read about the PCN process, eligibility requirements and open a new account by completing the online application. In most cases you'll receive your PCN by email in a week or less.

(An Aside: You know I'm summarizing here, right? For my part, I HATE it when, in staff meetings, folks go on ad nauseum about this or that and then hand me a comprehensive handout that restates everything they've just wasted my time saying. I'm always like, "Um, I can read." So I'll save you the agony of my regurgitation of the information you'll find for yourself on the sites I mention. You love me, don't you?)

Okay, so now you've assigned an ISBN to your book, come to a conclusion about the format, price and size of your book, and obtained your PCN. Good, because this information will come in handy as you complete the Advanced Book Information (ABI) form at www.bowkerlink.com. On the site, you'll register your business entity's pertinent information (who, what, when, where & how), have online access for a limited period of time to your ISBN logbook (the list of numbers you purchased), and add your title (book) information. I suggest printing your logbook and saving a copy of it to your desktop and a CD or disk or something, in case you opt not to pay the fee for it to be maintained on the site after the time period concludes (one year, I think).

Adding your title information is relatively simple and extremely important, because your title information will be included in Books In Print, Global Books In Print and other directories. BIP and GBIP are industry reference books, so don't play around with this. In them, you're essentially officially putting the industry on notice that your book is on its way.

You should complete the ABI form at least SIX MONTHS PRIOR TO PUBLICATION OF YOUR BOOK. You want to strive to have and add the above mentioned information the first time around, but it's not the end of the world if you don't. You can always log on and update your listing as necessary. Just be mindful that these directories have publication dates, as well. You want your book information in them when they go to print.

Oh and, um, have you decided on a cover designer yet? No? Check out Part IV of The Passing Series. This ain't over...

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