Tag Archives: self publishing

Publishing in 2013

If you’re an author, or writer (horses for courses, titles are vitals) and you put your work out there for the public to buy then you need to accept the reality that you’re not writing for YOU any more.  It may be a hobby for you, and a hobby it may stay, but even the most vehement hobbyist secretly wishes to be discovered.  Look at EL James.  She wrote arguably the worst book ever written and has become immensely successful off the back of it.  Well done love, you give us all hope.

And that brings us to the reality of publishing – traditional publishing:

“Publishers are in the business of selling books, not publishing books.

The dirty business of publishing is simply the means to the bookselling ends. The publishing industry has always been built around a model of scarcity and exclusivity. Publishers want to acquire and publish only those titles they think have the greatest commercial potential. They reject all the rest as riff raff, and then they carefully meter out their chosen books in seasonal catalogs.”

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-coker/2013-book-publishing-indu_b_2352895.html

The publishers saw the buzz around Fiddy Shaves and that was enough.  They saw the Golden Goose and worked out it was ready to lay.  And boy did it lay!

So for those of you who are considering prostrating yourselves at the feet of the traditional publishing gods, I suggest you read the whole of Mark Coker’s 21 Publishing Predictions for 2013.  It’s informative and validates many of my preconceptions about publishing which I’ve previously written about (but obviously – what the hell do I know?).

2013 looks to be the real coming of age of ebooks, but it will also be a difficult time with many more established and new authors producing works, as well as out of print books getting a new lease of life via digital publication.  How the traditional publishers attempt to maintain their stranglehold on the business, or evolve to embrace it remains to be seen.

Whatever happens, 2013 will definitely be interesting times.  A year that I look forward to with the launch of my first book ‘Lament for the Living‘.

What about you?  How do you see the writing/publishing scene in 2013?

Visit me on Facebook: David Nicol – Author
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Indie Authors – Beware the Rip-Offs

Most indie authors are aware of the pitfalls of self publishing, especially those that offer “packages” to authors in return for exorbitant fees with little return.  There are many companies that are to be avoided, and shall remain nameless for two reasons: 1 – I live in the UK and mentioning names could be considered libellous, and 2 – it reduces their overall exposure if you just don’t mention them.

There are also more insidious and I’d say deceitful practices out there that indie authors and self publishers should be aware of.

Firstly you should realise that if you are an indie author, or self publisher then you are a business, and as such your decision making should be business led.  If you need help with a certain aspect of your work; cover design, proofreading/editing, marketing then you should be contracting that work out to a professional.  What you shouldn’t be doing is operating on vanity.  Many of the shysters out there operate on your vanity, your ego.  Business and ego are bad bed fellows.

I wrote this post after clicking on a link in my twitter feed about “being discovered in 2013”.  I clicked the link because I’d like to be discovered in 2013.  Maybe this was my way in…. I found myself on a professional looking website that extolled the virtues of their work in being a bastion for the indie reader.  Enter now, the blurb said to get your work in to the pool to be a “discovery of 2013”.  Each entry would be read by one of their panel of judges and by the look of it be given a 4 or 5 star review…. (hmmmm).  Okay, thought I.  Let’s see what they’re after.

It was all very straightforward, enter the title of your book, genre (but if you wanted to add extra genres it was an extra $50 (double hmmmm)).  Then just scroll down a bit and it asks about payment details.  Just so we’re clear, I hadn’t filled any of the form in, I was still in the looking phase.  When I saw ‘payment details’ I was intrigued.  Payment?  To enter a competition to be discovered?  Then I saw it.  Each entry was $150.  Sooo the site wanted to be paid $150 for each discovery it made… triple hmmmm.

Strip away the “awards” on this one and you’re paying at least $150 for someone to review your book.  No siree Bob!  To me, the moment you pay for an award you devalue your product and your integrity.  How can anyone take your work seriously if you’ve paid for a 5 star review of it?

What appeared to be a legitimate discovery opportunity became potentially sullying experience.  If only I could charge that site for the time I spent working out the catch.

Another sharp practise to look out for are online directories.  There are sites out there that position themselves as independent author, or writer, networks.  Their blurb is that their goal to help indie authors and self publishers to gain visibility.  Then they want you pay a fee to be added to THEIR database.  Not a central entity, their website database.  Who are the majority visitors to those sites?  Other indie authors.  Readers, or your target audience, visit the store of their e-reader (where you’ll be listed as an author, along with your bibliography), not those sites.  So save your money and put it in to your writing, or use it to fund some marketing – it’ll be money much wiser spent.

Use online communities such as GoodReads to grow your exposure and interact with real readers.  And I can’t stress this one more:  Use Social Media properly.  facebook, twitter, whatever are for communicating, not a one way pipe for your marketing.  Build up a proper network of readers and other authors who complement your brand.  Stay away from the slush pile.  It smells.

What are your thoughts on the subject?  Tell me your experiences, good or bad of online author services.

Visit me on Facebook: David Nicol – Author
Follow me on twitter: @davidxnicol
What about on Amazon: David Nicol Author Page
And ofcourse, GoodReads.com: David Nicol on GoodReads

The Great ISBN Swindle

David NicolNevermind the shysters, here’s the monopolies.  Ooh check out all those pseudo-punk references there.  But that’s what it’s like being an independent author.  To self publish is to be counter to the establishment, just like punk did in the 1970’s.  Indie authors get similarly bad press to the punks of yesteryear not only from the big publishing houses, but also from some established authors.  They miss the point that, just like punk, there’s a market for it.  People are getting fed up with being told to what to buy, and independent authors produce works that readers want to read.  If they didn’t then there wouldn’t be any indie authors.

Not only do we have to watch out for dubious companies (and individuals) offering services that don’t necessarily live up to the marketing hype, but on top of that self publishers have to navigate the murky waters of business.  For those wanting project the most professional identity to readers, agents, publishers and distributors an ISBN is pretty essential.

What’s an ISBN?

An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a unique number in a database.  Without it a book essentially doesn’t exist.  It’s not indexed and therefore not searchable on the standard database for libraries and book stores.  That’s not to say that getting an ISBN is difficult.  It’s not.  Anyone can get one.

So what’s the big deal?  I hear you cry.  Well my lovelies, the big deal is the big cost, or the little cost if you follow this train of thought to its conclusion.  ISBN’s can be expensive.  They are operated in some countries by a single company for profit.  For example, in Australia an ISBN costs $AUS 95 for a new publisher ($AUS 40 after that), or $AUS 2,750 per 1000.

In the US, Bowker are responsible for ISBN distribution, and they charge $US 125 per ISBN.  However, hop over the border to Canada and ISBNs are free in order to promote Canadian culture.

So where’s the swindle?

In the countries where you have to pay for an ISBN, in single numbers and even for less than ten, they are quite expensive.  Don’t forget that it’s just a number, an entry on a database, not a gold ingot.  ISBNs are like domain names back in the 1990’s.  They were expensive because they were only available from a small number of outlets.  ICANN charged a registration fee, but the registrars charged customers well over the odds in addition to those fees.  That’s the ISBN business model in many countries right now.

For example, in the US, one ISBN is $125.  1000 ISBNs are $1250.  That’s $1 each if you buy in bulk.  Surely it’s more labour intensive to administer 1000 of anything, than it is to administer a single iteration?  So why would an individual cost be so high?  To put people off maybe?

For those in countries where ISBNs are expensive, or only available in blocks (such as the UK where you have to purchase 10 ISBNs at a time) the alternative is to pay for an ISBN via a third party company.  If you do that then your book shows up as being published by the company you purchased the ISBN from.  That’s not much of an issue, and there’s nothing preventing you from purchasing an ISBN directly in the future to replace the phantom publisher.

If you do decide to buy an ISBN via a third party then make sure that part of the agreement is that they DO NOT have any commercial rights over your book, or that you have to record them as publisher for a certain amount of time.

Do I need an ISBN?

If you only intend to publish online then an ISBN may be superfluous to your requirements and an unnecessary expenditure.  Even if you do print your book you don’t need an ISBN on there.  However, if you want it to be available through any traditional avenue, including your local library, you’ll need that all important number.

That little barcode sitting on the back of your book makes all the difference between being a wannabe and bona fide author in the eyes of many people, so it’s something to consider, if not right now, but definitely in the future.

What do you think of the subject of ISBNs?  Do you have an ISBN that you sourced yourself?
Leave a comment below.

Visit me on Facebook: David Nicol – Author
Follow me on twitter: @davidxnicol
What about on Amazon: David Nicol Author Page
And ofcourse, GoodReads.com: David Nicol on GoodReads

Protect Your Copyright

David NicolIn this post I advise the indie, or self published author to protect their copyright not from nasty pirates, but from exploitation.

When faced with a contract the old adage of ‘act in haste, repent at leisure’ is never truer.  You’ve created a book you’re proud of and you get interest from a publisher.  Life is sweet.

But before you sign that bit of paper which means so much to you, check to make sure that it delivers on your expectations.  What exactly are you getting out of the contract?  The biggest thing you need to watch for is that you do not sign away your rights for an indeterminate amount of time.

A friend showed me a contract that he had been sent by a small publisher and one clause in it stated that the publisher would retain sole publishing and distribution rights for the duration of the copyright.

I asked my friend if he knew how long the duration of copyright lasts.  He didn’t know.  So I told him, and if you don’t know either then it’s something that you should be aware of.  Copyright remains for seventy (70) years after the death of the copyright holder.  So although the contract wasn’t specifically requesting the copyright, it was effectively demanding control of the work for the entirety of its existence.

We’re constantly warned about the evils of copyright infringement, how illegal copies of work harms authors, artists and other creatives.  But as copyright holders we’re never warned about the risks of copyright abuse where control is removed from us with little or no recompense.  Regaining control of your work can be a lengthy and costly process.

What to look for:

  • If you are asked to sign over sole rights, make sure there is a expiration date of the agreement.  Not just when all copies are sold, or the book goes out of print.  Make sure there is a set date, or explicit amount of time from the date of agreement.
  • Never give up your copyright unless you are properly compensated.  If you give up your copyright you’re relinquishing the rights to produce future works including any of the characters you’ve signed away.
  • Do you get an advance?  If not, are the terms of the contract worth receiving a couple of copies of the book that you could Print on Demand for a couple of quid?
  • Negotiate different terms for digital and print rights.  Digital copies are effectively risk free for a publisher.

When protecting YOUR rights don’t be surprised if a publisher comes back with a “take it or leave it” attitude.  They are a business, and their business is to make money.  It takes a lot of strength to say no and to hold out for a better offer, but I’d urge each every one of you to carefully consider any deal you get yourself in to.

Remember – although a publisher may be taking a risk on you, their business model depends on their ability to exploit your work.  That shouldn’t end up as single sided deal.  If anyone should be exploiting your work then that person should be you.  You put the hours in.  You came up with the idea and you created the work.  Don’t be quick to give all that away to become a ‘published author’.

Catch me on twitter: @davidxnicol
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Available now:

The Deluge of Elias by David NicolLong after a cataclysm that destroyed humanity had been forgotten, the descendants of the original survivors live in a protected Dome governed by a set of rules known as ‘The Orders’.

The rigid enforcement of The Orders now threatens the people they were designed to protect. Elias has a solution, except it puts him on a course of action that is at odds with the rules that he has been charged to rigorously uphold. On top of every thing else, the solution came to him in the form of a dream; in a time and place where no one dreams.

Can he save the last vestiges of humanity, or even himself?

The Deluge of Elias from Amazon US

The Deluge of Elias from Amazon UK

Hannibal House by David Nicol‘Sometimes you don’t choose the house, the house chooses you’.

The supernatural story of a house that attracts lost souls. Set in South West Wales, Hannibal House tells the story of Troy who leaves Seattle in search of his roots.

Unsure of what he’s really looking for, Troy comes across Hannibal House. Immediately infatuated with the building he sets out to possess it, or is the house aiming to possess him…

Hannibal House from Amazon US

Hannibal House from Amazon UK