Today I want to talk with all of you who might like to write a book, would like to write a book, are writing your first book, or just finished you first book.
Authors and writers who have met me know I believe all of us are co-workers. I strongly believe we should help each other. I have been helped by and have helped other writers, and I will continue to help other writers.
Today I want to give you a warning about some of the people and companies you are likely to come into contact with.
The good old days are gone. At one time you could sign a contract with a publisher. You would provide the best manuscript you could write and would do the requested rewrites. The publisher would handle the editing, cover design, marketing & advertising, and set up book signing tours. The costs for those things were covered by the publisher. The author was paid royalties based on book sales and was usually given an advance check against anticipated book sales. Those days are gone.
The good news is authors generally get larger royalties. The bad news is you are responsible for marketing, advertising, and setting up book tours. If you intend to be an independent author you will be responsible for all of it, editing, book cover, marketing & advertising, book signings everything.
My advice to you is to hire a professional to handle your editing and cover design at a minimum.
Now comes the advice.
You will come across people and companies that call themselves publishers. They are not publishers.
This is what a publisher does. A publisher gets the rights to publish (print) a book and sell those copies of the book. They make a profit when readers buy those books to read. There is no guarantee that the publisher will make a profit. The publisher has many expenses they must pay from sales of the book including the book’s author. In other words a publisher makes their money from book readers not book authors.
Today the author is responsible for more and more of those expenses, and that’s just the way it is.
When you talk with a publisher and they are talking about how much it will cost you to get your book into stores that publisher is NOT a publisher. They do not make the majority of their profit from readers, they make their money (most of it) from writers. But that does not necessarily mean you should run away.
You are going to pay for editing, cover design, marketing, and advertising. If the “publisher” is offering services you will need anyway you might want to do business with them. Take the price costs they give you and price compare. Get samples of their work so you may judge the quality. If you like their quality and you believe their price is reasonable they very well may be a good match for you. Just remember YOU don’t make money unless your book sells.
There is one kind of publisher you should ALWAYS run from. And they have a gimmick which will make you think they are a legitimate publisher.
The conversation starts off like any publisher. They want to publish your book, they want to sign you to a contract. Great! The contract will give them specific rights to your book. (See below about copyrights) So far so good. They also offer you a way out of the contract if you decide at a future date you want out. You can buy your way out. Now they begin to tell you about the different publishing packages you have to choose from, CAUTION FLAG. Then you find out what YOU have to pay for these packages, RED FLAG!
If you have to pay all the costs to get your book to retailers and you have to sign a contract giving your copyrights to this same publisher, I would NOT do business with that publisher.
That publisher is making the majority of their profits from writers not readers, AND they have the rights to your book.
So you have now spent thousands of dollars to get your book published. You may have even had some book sales when your book came out. But now the sales have dropped off or completely stopped. You decide you want to do something different with your book, but you can’t because you do not own the rights to your book any more. Ah but you can buy those rights back for only hundreds or thousands of dollars.
I chose to be an independent author. I like being in control of every aspect of my book. I use a POD company (publish on demand) to get my books into print and into stores. The POD company I use has none of my copyrights nor have we signed a contract. They make money when they sell a copy of my book. If I want print copies of my book I pay wholesale not retail prices. In other words I don’t pay what the stores charge customers, I pay what the stores pay for my book. And since I retain all my copyrights I can take my book to another POD any time I want.
For e-books I distribute my books through Amazon KDP and Smashwords. Again I keep all my copyrights and can take my book any time I want.
What about ISBN numbers you ask? I have never paid for one. Each of the companies I deal with ask if I have an ISBN number of my own I would like to use. The POD company and Smashwords offer me a free ISBN through them. I always go with that. Those two send my books out to many different retailers (like Apple and Barnes & Noble) I need an ISBN for them. When I go through Amazon KDP their only customer is Amazon, so I do not need an ISBN they have their own number they use.
Some people will tell you by using the free ISBN you are marking yourself as an independent writer. The owner of the ISBN is encoded in the number. But the retailer KNOWS they are getting books written by indie writers so who cares.
Also if you do leave the company that gave you the ISBN you cannot keep using that ISBN. They own the ISBN number but not your copyrights. YOU still own your copyrights even if you use an ISBN provided to you.
Now on to COPYRIGHT. First copyright law is a specialized legal field and your best bet is to talk with a copyright lawyer. In the mean time you can go to http://www.writersdigest.com and search the word copyright. They have several great articles on copyright that explain copyrights in an easy to understand manner.
The one thing I will tell you about copyrights is this. When you write a book you do not have just one copyright for that book. You have e-book, paperback, hardback, first run, anything someone can do with your book, it’s characters, & etc you can sell someone a copyright to do that – including movies, TV, and action figures. You can also put a time limit on how long they have those rights. Go to Writer’s Digest and then a lawyer.
Good luck and welcome aboard coworker!