Guide to Self-Publishing
—Author Tasks

Step 2. Author Tasks
(Complete Before the Design Phase!)

While your book is being copyedited, there is still plenty to do to keep you busy. Here are some of the things you may need to create or acquire:

Author Task #1. Book Description/Blurb

Now is a good time to begin writing your book description. This is also called a back cover blurb and refers to the text that should go on the back of your book. It may also go on the website where your work will be sold (including an Amazon.com book description). Writing this can be challenging! The book blurb is critical—while the cover may be what initially draws readers, the next thing they are going to do is read your book blurb. Here is where you make the sale. Is it interesting? Does it sound like a good read? If the work is non-fiction, does it sound like what they’ve been looking for on that particular subject?

Because this is such a critical element, if you don’t feel confident in your ability to write an effective blurb, you might consider hiring someone to do so. At the least, you might also ask your editor to look it over for you. Once they have read the book, they’ll have a good idea of whether your blurb effectively conveys your message or summarizes the plot/theme well enough to intrigue readers.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

    • Most blurbs are two to three paragraphs long. Under no circumstances should you describe your entire story. You want to entice the reader without giving too much away. You can start by perusing your manuscript for interesting phrases, key points, or buzz words. Pull these out and save them. These can be a good place to begin.
    • It’s okay to start out by writing a lot and then paring down to the two or three necessary paragraphs.
    • Keep the language simple.
    • Leave the reader wanting more. Sometimes, this can be done by posing a question.
    • Keep in mind your audience. What would your readers want to know? Look at other books in your genre and read their blurbs. Consider what drew you to their books and convinced you to buy.
Author Task #2. Write an About the Author/Bio

Here’s a chance to say great things about yourself! What you should focus on in the About the Author will vary depending on whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction. In Fiction works, the About the Author section tends to be short, maybe even only a few lines long. This may briefly note the author’s interests, their general location, whether they have a family, and other works they may have written, as well as relevant awards. You may wish to limit the specifics in order to protect your privacy. For non-fiction, it may be more important to point out your qualifications in the field in which you are writing, along with your experience in your chosen subject matter. Here are a few tips:

    • Write in the third person
    • Mention other publications/awards/qualifications
    • List your education, if relevant
Author Task #3. Author Photo (optional)

If you decide that you’d like to have your photo on the book, then now is a good time to dig up a picture. Better yet, have one taken professionally. This may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it can add to the professional appearance of your book. A professional photographer can control the backdrop and lighting—and their job is to make you look good. Make sure the photo you decide to use is at least 300DPI. If you hire a professional, ask them to supply you with a high resolution digital copy.

Author Task #4. Publishing Imprint/Logo (optional)

If you plan to publish under your own imprint (basically, a company you’re creating to be listed as the publisher of your book), then now is a good time to prepare what’s needed. Consider creating a logo, which may be placed on the copyright page, spine, and/or back cover of your book. Keep in mind that self-publishing can also be a business. You may want to set up a special business account to handle transactions, such as a DBA account (Doing Business As), and register a Fictitious Business Name Statement (if you plan to accept payment under the name of your business, your bank will need this). Keep track of what you spend during the publishing process. This will get you ready to start calculating expenses that can be written off!

Author Task #5. Choose Your Publisher/Printer

This part of the process is practically worthy of a guide of its own. But if you haven’t chosen a publisher already, and you are planning to self-publish, now is the time to explore your options. There are suddenly hundreds (if not more) of self-publishing companies and websites springing up all over the Internet. That doesn’t mean they are reputable; however, there are several companies that have been around long enough for us to consider them noteworthy, and we’ll list them here:

IngramSpark – www.ingramspark.com
Lightning Source (POD printer) – www.lightningsource.com
CreateSpace – www.createspace.com
(which is being merged into Kindle Direct Publishing – https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US)
Outskirts Press – www.outskirtspress.com
Lulu.com – www.lulu.com
iUniverse – www.iuniverse.com
Xlibris – www.xlibris.com
AuthorHouse – www.authorhouse.com

Note: The last three companies are all owned by one parent company (AuthorSolutions)—many of their packages appear to be the same or similar.

We have had dealings with all of the companies listed here, so we’d be happy to advise you further and help you narrow down your choices. Each company has its strong points—and weaknesses. The key items to consider when making your decision should include

    • cost
    • quality of finished product
    • services offered
    • control/publishing rights/contract terms
    • customer service, and
    • distribution options

Some of these companies offer full publishing packages that include book design, copyediting, and distribution. While it can seem convenient to get everything you need in one place, you don’t always get the best quality or price this way. Many of the ones that offer full-fledged services inflate prices and use templates and may farm your work out to companies that are outside of the United States. In addition, you may not be able to speak with the person actually working on your book. There’s a good chance that being willing to have your book edited or designed somewhere else and then printed/published with a POD publisher will save you money (possibly time) and yield a better product. It may also keep your blood pressure down! (We get a lot of feedback from authors on the companies above. They are generally very relieved to talk with us and finally get answers to their questions!)

If you’d like to investigate a publisher or printer with whom you’re interested in working, try Preditors & Editors. They offer a valuable resource for authors looking to find out whether their choice is the best choice.

You might ask yourself if we have a top recommendation. We do. If you’re willing to be a little bit more hands on in order to get a great result and excellent distribution options, it is almost always IngramSpark (www.ingramspark.com) or Lightning Source (www.lightningsource.com).

Author Task #6. Choose a Trim Size

The trim size is the final print size of your book. Most of the companies listed above offer the same range of sizes, but you will need to make a decision before your book goes into the design phase.

Here are the most common trim sizes:

    • 6×9 – good size for trade paperbacks and non-fiction
    • 5.5×8.5 – good size for fiction novels
    • 5×8 – good size for shorter fiction novels
    • 8.5×11 – may be good for workbooks or educational material (Choose this size with caution! It’s the size of a regular sheet of paper . . . not generally good for curling up with.)

There are a number of other sizes offered, which would also be good for children’s books, cookbooks, comic books, and photo-dominant books, including square sizes. If you’re not sure what size you’d like, grab some books off the shelf and measure them.

Keep in mind that if your book has a high word count, you might want to go with a larger trim size to keep the printing costs (page count) down. If your book has a smaller word count, you may want a smaller trim size to increase the page count.

Now is also a good time to determine whether you plan to print in

    • Color or black and white (color is not cost effective. Printers charge you per page, not per color image)
    • Hardcover (case laminate), hardcover (cloth), hardcover jacket, paperback (perfect bound), or spiral bound

Once you’ve determined the above, you’re ready to move on the next important task . . . . Copyright Registration and ISBN/LCCN acquisition.

Author Task #7. Copyright Registration

“Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.

“Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device” (from www.copyright.gov).

You do not HAVE to register your work. According to the copyright office, “In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work.”

**We highly recommend registering your work if you plan to publish.**

To register, you must submit a completed application form, a filing fee ($35-$50), and a non-returnable copy of the work to be registered. You can file online (www.copyright.gov) or via postal mail. It is cheaper to file online.

You can register under a pseudonym. Your registration will be public record.

Processing takes 6 – 22 months (online registration is closer to 6 months). This is when you will receive your certificate.

Tip: You do NOT need to wait for the certificate to publish your book! The effective date of registration is the day the Copyright office receives a complete submission in acceptable form.

FAQ: When do I submit for copyright?

You can submit once your manuscript is complete, before copyediting begins, if you’d like. However, if you feel that the copyediting process will result in a very different work from the one submitted, you may want to wait until after it’s done before submitting. The Copyright Office would consider it a derivative work only if substantive changes have been made, including the addition of new chapters of material.

It is not necessary to wait for your certificate before submitting for book design. The copyright notice can be added to your copyright page any time after your submission for copyright registration.

Author Task #8. Acquiring Your ISBN, PCN, and LCCN

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is a 13-digit (or 10-digit) number that uniquely identifies published books. This allows for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, and wholesale distributors. (It also makes it easier for bookstores to order your book.)

FAQ: Should I get an ISBN?

Absolutely!! If you plan to sell your book, you will want to get an ISBN.

FAQ: How do I get an ISBN?

Some publishers or printing houses will sell you an ISBN or include it as part of the package cost to print your book. The thing to be aware of is that, in some cases, if the publisher provides the ISBN, they may then be listed as the publisher of the book. If you have your own imprint, and want to maintain the rights to your ISBN, you will want to obtain it yourself. You can do so from various sources, but the best and most reliable is Bowker (www.bowker.com, or more directly, https://www.myidentifiers.com/index.php?ci_id=1479). Currently, the standard package starts at $125, but if you plan to publish more than one book, it makes sense to buy them in blocks of at least 10, which start at only $295. The ISBN assigned to your book will be supplied to your publisher. It will also be placed on your copyright page, so your designer will need it.

FAQ: What about a bar code?

A bar code is a graphical representation of your ISBN and price (although the price does not have to be listed in the bar code). It allows automated scanning. You can buy this as well from Bowker (the cost is around $25 each), but you might also want to check to see whether your cover designer will supply this for you at no charge. (For instance, the bar code is included as part of our cover design/layout package.)

FAQ: Should I include the book price in my barcode?

Lately, we’ve been recommending against placing prices in bar codes. Instead of a price in the EAN (the section of the bar code that displays price), the bar code will show 90000, which means that no price has been encoded. The reason we recommend this is because, when self-publishing, you will normally sell/market your work through a variety of distributors who might all require different pricing strategies. Having no price set means that you can maintain the same barcode throughout rather than going through the process of revising your barcode if you want to change the price of your book.

FAQ: Should I get a LCCN, and what is a PCN anyway?

LCCN stands for Library of Congress Control Number. You do not have to get one, but it can help if you want to make it easier to have your book available in libraries.

From the Library of Congress Website:

“A Library of Congress catalog control 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. Under certain circumstances, however, a control number can be assigned before the book is published through the Preassigned Control Number Program.”

As you might have guessed, PCN stands for Preassigned Control Number. Basically, the difference between the two is that the LCCN is assigned after a book has been published. A PCN would be assigned before a book is published and then morphs into a LCCN. To save confusion, you will want to register your book via the PCN program before you publish it.

Registration is a two-step process. You must first complete and submit an application. (Only U.S. Publishers are eligible.) Once this is approved, an account number and password will be sent via email. You then log on to the PCN system and complete a Preassigned Control Number Application Form for each title. Once this is reviewed, you will receive your Library of Congress Control Number. This process normally takes one to two weeks. There is no charge, but you must send a copy of the book to the Library of Congress once it is published. The address is listed on their site in the FAQs section.

You may apply via their website: http://pcn.loc.gov/

FAQ: How should these numbers appear in my book, and where do they go?

Normally, your book designer will take care of the proper placement and form, and may even supply general copyright pages/disclaimers for you, but in general, here is what you do with all of those numbers . . .

Your Copyright notice usually looks something like this:

Copyright © 2010 by John Doe

The ISBN goes on your copyright page and is also used to generate your barcode. On the copyright page, it should always appear with dashes! Here is an example of how a 13-digit ISBN would appear on a copyright page:

ISBN: 978-0-07-212575-7

It does matter where the dashes go. When you are assigned your ISBN, make certain you make note of the dash placement. ISBN converters will also place the dashes appropriately. If you aren’t sure, check with your designer.

If your book is going to list a 10-digit and 13-digit ISBN, then the proper form is as follows:

ISBN-10: 0-123456-47-9
ISBN-13: 978-0-123456-47-2

When placing the LCCN on the copyright page, it should appear as follows:

Library of Congress Control Number: 2007012345

(It must be spelled out.)

FAQ: Sometimes, I see books with numbers at the bottom of the copyright page that look like this:
First Printing: April 2004
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
What does this mean?

The numbers at the bottom depict whether it is a first print, second print, third, and so on. Since the numbers above go all the way down to “1,” this agrees with the statement listed above that it’s a first printing. If a book were on its fourth printing, the numbers would look like this:

10 9 8 7 6 5 4

Is it necessary to have these numbers? Not really. If you plan to reprint the book numerous times, perhaps.

Now that you’ve completed all of your author tasks, and your copyedit is complete, you are ready to move to Step 3. Usually, things begin to speed up quite a bit at this stage.

Questions?

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