Well hello there! These are all the self-publishing resources I mentioned in Let’s Get Digital, and a bunch of extra ones too (affiliate links throughout):
If you have stumbled across this page without downloading your own copy of Let’s Get Digital, I recommend you do that. It is free after all!
Putting all those words in the right order is harder than it looks! Here are all the writing books I spoke about in Let’s Get Digital:
- On Writing – Stephen King
- Bird by Bird – Anne Lamont
- Elements of Style – Strunk & White
- Take Off Your Pants – Libbie Hawker
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Reni Browne & Dave King
- How To Write – Harry Bingham
- Barry Trotter and the Stenographer’s Bone seems to be out of print, alas.
And then a couple of novels I mentioned:
Finally, my favorite productivity tool is a nifty little site called 4TheWords which rewires your brain and makes writing the most compulsive thing ever.
It costs a $3-$4 a month, depending, and maybe it’s for the birds, I don’t know, because it’s a strange little game where you battle all sorts of fantastical creatures, loosely constructed around a story of sorts. And you slay these creatures with your words.
4TheWords is basically built on the same gameplay loops and dopamine hits as mobile games and social networks, and turns writing into an absolute bloody compulsion. I’ve been writing like crazy since I started using this.
I should warn you: people either adore it… or despise it. Try it before you pay anything to see which camp you’re in. You can get a free trial by signing up here – enter code NVVCW83915 and we both get some extra free time if you decide to stick around.
Don’t be intimidated by the idea of hiring an editor. It’s just like hiring any other professional, whether that’s a builder, plumber, dentist, or lawyer. It’s often best to ask a trusted friend for a referral, but you can find one on the open market too as long as you do your research and take precautions. There’s even a comparison site worth perusing these days.
If you have suspicions about any service provider (or publisher, or agent) then Writer Beware is always a great place to check as it is the leading industry watchdog (and it has a handy search box).
Also keep in mind that you can open pretty much any published book, look at the title page, and see who the editor was (as well as the cover designer) and contact them directly. I always recommend getting a sample edit – which is good for both sides as it will test whether you work well together.
Here are some general editor recommendations also:
- May Peterson
- Clio Editing Services
- Dorothy Zemach
- Sasha Knight
- Sharon Muha (proofing)
- Lillie’s Literary Services (proofing/series bibles)
- Jericho Writers (UK)
- MSWordsmith (UK)
Just on the last one, Reedsy is a little different to the rest – a site with a number of aspects of interest to authors but immediately relevant here is Reedsy Marketplace – a highly curated and vetted marketplace of publishing professionals, including editors. You can search by genre, request quotes, get sample edits, and compare prices. It might cost a little more than the open market, but it’s the only such comparison site I recommend because Reedsy put so much effort into the vetting of providers.
Definitely take your time with this step. Don’t settle for something you are unhappy with, and remember to brief your designer thoroughly based on the cover research process I outlined in Let’s Get Digital.
In fact, while surveying your genre in the manner I recommend, you should already have spotted some lovely covers, and you can open any book and look at the title page and see who the designer was. Which means you should already have some candidates, but let me augment your shortlist with some specific recommendations.
- Deranged Doctor Design (custom covers)
- BZN Studio (custom covers & pre-mades)
- 187Designz (custom covers)
- Alchemy (custom covers)
- Reedsy (custom covers)
- GoOnWrite (huge number of pre-mades)
Again, in case you skipped the section on editing above, Reedsy is a little different to the other recommendations – a highly curated marketplace where you can search for all sorts of cover designers, browse portfolios, request quotes, and compare prices. You might spend a little more than the open market, but all the providers here are closely vetted and the quality is generally top-notch.
Don’t forget to ask your designer about bundling promo graphics with your cover! It’s the easiest time for them to do it, and you should get a great deal. Things that come in handy are graphics for Facebook Ads/posts, Facebook Cover Photos (the header image on top of your page), email headers, and general website graphics. They should know what to do.
Cover Design Specs
Here are those specs again. Don’t worry if they make zero sense to you, just give them to your designer.
Amazon suggests going with a 1.6:1 ratio on your cover, but many authors prefer going with a 3:2 ratio – you have quite a bit of latitude on that. The minimum image size allowed is 625 x 1,000 pixels and the maximum is 10,000 x 10,000 pixels. Amazon itself recommends shooting for something in the region of 1,600 x 2,560 pixels, but many authors go for 2,000 x 3,000 to be safe (and because that’s the minimum for tools like Vellum).
Files should be less than 50MB (they will usually be a lot less anyway), and Amazon recommends not compressing your files and keeping a minimum resolution of 300 PPI. The colors should be saved as RGB rather than CMYK or sRGB and the image should be saved without color separation. Amazon also warns that if your cover is white that you should add a narrow 3-4 pixel border to define its boundaries. Let me quickly double down on that advice: lots of authors ignore it, and their covers just get lost in the background. You want to stand out, not blend in.
The cover requirements for the other retailers are broadly similar, and if you aim for something in the region of 2,000 x 3,000 pixels you will be fine. Kobo has a smaller maximum file size–capping it at 5MB–so just aim for that and you should be good for all retailers and distributors.
Remember, you have three approaches you can take here, all with their own pros and cons: hiring a pro, using a specialized tool, or DIY.
Hiring a Pro
Definitely the easiest option in terms of input from you, but don’t forget you still need to lay out your manuscript with my recommended approach to front and end matter before approaching your formatter. Also don’t forget the downside of this approach: you won’t be able to fix any errors or fiddle with your end matter without going back to your formatter.
(Note: I do my own formatting but have used the first two providers below for side-projects and highly recommend them, and the other two are trusted professionals in the field who have been doing this for 10+ years.)
Using a Tool
A happy middle ground between outsourcing and DIY, tools are an increasingly popular choice – perhaps the most popular approach today.
- Vellum ($199/$249) – the best tool out their for formatting your books and now also does print books, amazingly. It does produce pretty ebooks, and the only real downside, if I’m going to be picky, is that they are a little same-y. You can always spot a Vellum book a mile away. But, hey, not such a bad thing if that “look” screams high production values. Mac-only. It’s not cheap but this is a lifetime license and will save you a lot over time if you write several books – especially if you spring for the more expensive package which covers print books too, as those can be more expensive to get formatted.
- Scrivener ($49) – more of a writing tool with a passable facility for exporting ebook-ready files. There are better options, but just noting it in case you already use Scrivener. Keep in mind that this process can generate some errors in your ebook file and is not strictly recommended – just flagging its existence.
- Draft2Digital (free) – less swish than Vellum but does the job and a solid option with no cost.
- Reedsy (free) – as above, but with more bells and whistles – it’s a full on book editor, in fact, with good formatting features.
Really not for the faint-hearted. Let me stress that. But if you are feeling brave, or time-rich, or masochistic, or fancy the idea of tooling around in HTML and learning how to code beautiful ebooks, then follow my guide on how to format your own ebook – the right way. (Maybe bring rum.)
I strongly recommend signing up to my mailing list and bagging a free copy of Following: A Marketing Guide to Author Platform which will walk your through every step of setting up your own reader-capturing platform. If you want to read a little more about Following first, you can do that here.
And if you are overwhelmed by everything else you have to take care of right now, and this is too much for you, that’s okay. Grab the book now while it’s free, and work through it when you can.
At the very least though, the bare minimum you absolutely should have in place – or you will seriously regret it later in – is a way for readers to sign up to your mailing list. Even if you don’t know what to say to them yet, set it up now, have the link in the back of your book, and collect the names until you do. Don’t waste this opportunity!
MailerLite is what I use, and my recommendation for most authors. It’s free until you reach 1,000 subscribers, and MailerLite doesn’t hobble the free plan like many providers (I recommend avoiding the company I started with – Mailchimp – as they have restricted the features on that free plan so much that it will actually stop you from growing.)
A bonus for those feeling overwhelmed: you can set up a landing page on MailerLite until you are ready to build your proper website. And, yes, this cool feature is available as part of the free MailerLite plan too!
Oh and this is How To Make A Pretty Facebook Page.
All these recommended retailers and distributors don’t charge any fees to sell or distribute your work, but do take a percentage of your royalties.
- Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is the big dog. Always go direct to Amazon – no matter what you decide to do about the other retailers.
- Apple Books For Authors now allows PC users to publish direct for the first time. Read my blog post on that news.
- Barnes & Noble Press is the new name for Nook Press.
- Kobo Writing Life.
- Google Play Books Partner Center is open to new publishers again after a long time closed.
And then for anyone who can’t, or doesn’t want to, go direct to any of the above stores, you can use a distributor.
- Draft2Digital is my recommended distributor if you want to reach many of the above stores with one account/upload to simplify your life, and also reaches a number of smaller stores and libraries. But always go direct to Amazon, if that needs repeating!
- Smashwords is what I first used as a distributor. I prefer Draft2Digital these days, but Smashwords is a reputable option.
Finally, if you are trying to calculate what padding you need to add to your retail prices on Google Play, go here.
Guide To Publishing on Amazon KDP
You can watch the video guide to the KDP interface right here.
Remember, don’t be scared of the word “metadata” – it just means little pieces of info attached to your book. It is important; it’s these scraps of data which tell Amazon what kind of book it is. If you skipped over that section of Let’s Get Digital, make sure you go back and read it.
Here, I’ll focus on providing additional information on Keywords and Categories, as they are the two most important bits of metadata. Below you’ll find the exact process for adding up to ten categories to your book. This method is brand new, totally legitimate, approved by Amazon, and also has the handy side-effect of freeing up all your keywords to maximize your Search footprint. Which is doubly important for non-fiction authors.
Your number one resource here is yourself: start running searches on Amazon for possible keywords and take note of what Amazon suggests when you start typing. Go through the process outlined in Let’s Get Digital – which will either take you a bit of time if you are doing it manually, or can happen quite quickly if you use a tool I like called Publisher Rocket. That costs $97, but can be especially useful for non-fiction authors or anyone tempted into trying Amazon Ads.
Publisher Rocket is quite the time-saver, and, for me personally, just getting insight into how readers actually search on Amazon – which was far different than I thought, and world’s apart from how they search on something like Google, for example – was worth the price along.
But $97 is not nothing, so if you are unsure, I suggest looking at the Publisher Rocket tutorial videos to see if this it would work for you.
This process is super boring, but extremely important and you only have to do it once. You can only pick two categories on upload, so pick the two most important, and then use this process below to get a total of ten categories on your book. You can do this via Author Central or KDP, and I’ve outlined the steps for each. Oh and if you need to check what categories you are in (either before or after this process), you can do that here.
via Author Central
- Identify the full category path for each of your preferred sub-categories. By this I mean actually write out Kindle eBooks > Mysteries, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Political for each of your target categories, rather than just Political Thrillers – you will need this in a moment.
- If you have an Amazon Author Central account, and you should, then go to Amazon Author Central Help here (or look for it in the top right of the nav bar in Author Central). If you don’t have an Amazon Author Central account, then scroll down below to see the process for adding categories via KDP Support.
- Select “My Books” from the dropdown, then “Update Information About A Book,” then “Browse Categories,” and, finally, “I want to update my book’s browse categories.”
- Note: ignore the help pages which Author Central links to at this point, they are out of date, and incorrectly say that Amazon only allows 2 categories. They now allow up to 10.
- Underneath that, select Email or Phone – whichever is your preference. I personally prefer email as I can update categories on all my books at once, and it’s easier than reading out the category path on the phone, but I’ve also done it by phone and that works well – it’s faster, in fact.
- If you select Phone, have your list of chosen categories ready – with the full category path or they won’t add them for you. If you select Email, paste those full category paths into the box, along with the ASIN number of the respective book you are talking about.
Note: this process will only update categories for you in the US market. For other important markets for you (like the UK), you can add those via this process also, but you will need to specifically indicate in the email to Author Central (or in the phone call) that you also want to add categories for other markets. And you will need the specific full category path for those markets too as the Kindle Store is broken down a little differently in each country.
via KDP Support
I personally find the customer service at Author Central far superior, but I’ll detail the process for doing this via KDP also, just in case. It’s pretty similar.
- Identify the full category path for each of your preferred sub-categories. By this I mean actually write out Kindle eBooks > Mysteries, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Political for each of your target categories, rather than just Political Thrillers – you will need this in a moment.
- Log in to your KDP account. Click the Help link in the top right, then the Contact Us button in the bottom left of that page (they don’t make it so easy to find). This is the direct link, if you can’t find it.
- Underneath “How Can We Help?” select the first option “Amazon product page” and then “Update Amazon Categories” right underneath.
- An email template will appear. Add in the ASIN for your book, and then the full category path for each category you want added.
- Ignore the section on removing categories.
- Repeat this for each desired international market (do the UK at minimum, but check the full category paths for those stores also – they are different).
- Click Send message, and Amazon should sort this out for you in a couple of days. Note: depending on where you are in the world and what time of day it is, you may have the option of doing this by phone – it doesn’t matter which way you do it. Phone tends to be faster, but don’t expect the changes to be instant. They might still take a day or two to process fully.
- Those categories tend to take effect reasonably quickly, but as with anything Amazon, glitches can delay things, as can any customer service response time etc. It’s a bit of a pain, but you only have to do it once, and the benefits just keep accruing.
Just remember the most important thing: always keep it relevant.
Here’s the promised video on how Sales Rank really works.
And here’s another on how the big dogs in Kindle Unlimited make their money (and how much if it they are really making).
I think there’s more than enough information in Let’s Get Digital to help you decide whether KDP Select and going exclusive with Amazon is right for you and your books. And it is a very individual decision – be wary of anyone touting a One Size Fits All approach. Go through the process outlined in the book and you should have a reasonably clear idea of what suits you best.
I just want to point you towards a post I wrote back in 2017, which is still totally relevant today, about the different marketing approaches needed to succeed whether you are wide or exclusive – as that’s a topic which I feel is very under-discussed in IndieLand. Maybe one style of marketing will resonate with you more than the other, if you are still on that fence…
I will totally update you here if there are any new pricing trends which need to be flagged. I get emailed about this a lot but my advice hasn’t changed in years: look to your genre, price accordingly. And ignore what traditional publishers are doing because they have completely different business goals – namely, overpricing ebooks to protect the print market. Self-publishers, on the other hand, have the radical and barbaric attitude of wanting to sell as many ebooks as possible. Maybe copy them.
Just don’t price too low or else you don’t leave yourself any room to run discounts. Which is the backbone of much marketing.
Finally, here’s Ed Robertson’s amazing post in pricing from 2012 which surveyed historical book prices and found that self-publishers’ pricing was completely in line with historical paperback prices, and that it was traditional publishers who were out of whack – a process which started with the consolidation of the industry in the 1990s and has continued since. He further argues – very convincingly – that rather than destroying the industry, the so-called “cheap” books from self-publishers might just save it.
Enroll in my free course – Starting from Zero – to get hands on advice on how to find your first readers. Doors are open now!
I also recommend this 2020 Guide to the Best Book Promo Sites. These are all my personal recommendations and it’s 100% up to date, containing the very best sites for freebies, discounts, series promos, genre specialists, and listbuilders.
Wondering which book of mine to read next? Try Strangers to Superfans. Aside from that solid piece of advice, if I do say so myself, I’ve got lots of handy information for you here on a grab-bag of topics that didn’t fit elsewhere: paperback editions, reviews, short stories and novellas, copyright, ISBNs, and tax matters for non-US writers like myself.
The focus in Let’s Get Digital is on producing ebooks, because that will be the overwhelming majority of your sales—even in markets where print is still dominant. Print is also messy, expensive, and pretty annoying to deal with, if I’m honest.
Nevertheless, I strongly recommend that you do paperback editions. A huge chunk of print readers buy online anyway, and these days you can do print cheaply and easily. I use KDP Print from Amazon, which is free and highly recommended, and also provides you with free ISBNs. You have the option of participating in Expanded Distribution, which I also recommend because it gets you into additional stores such as Barnes & Noble and The Book Depository, as well as on smaller indie websites such as Powells, Harvard Book Store, and RJ Julia Booksellers and the like.
Expanded Distribution also allows distribution to libraries, and it is a real kick when one of your books turns up there. (Note: you can see which libraries stock your work on WorldCat.org.)
However, a lot of people prefer Ingram Spark because it has a much wider (and much more global) distribution network. It’s also not-Amazon, meaning regular bookstores are much more likely to stock your book. The downside of Ingram Spark is that you will make less on your Amazon sales, which are likely to be most of them, and there can be issues with keeping your book in stock all the time.
As such, the ultimate set-up used by many veterans is to use KDP Print just to reach Amazon, and Ingram Spark to reach the rest of the world.
There’s no polite way to say it: using Ingram Spark is a pain in the ass. You also need slightly different files from KDP Print, so using both will increase both your costs and production time. Perhaps when starting out, stick with KDP Print, and then when you are happy your book is in good shape, error free, and doesn’t need any further finessing, feel free to add Ingram Spark and get truly comprehensive with your print distribution.
Getting Into Print
You will need a properly formatting print-ready cover and interior file. Your designer can provide the former, usually for a small additional fee, and you will need a specialist formatter for the latter—even a hands-on person like myself must outsource this part (unless you have the fancy version of Vellum, of course). I used Paul Salvette at BBeBooks (also a recommended ebook formatter above) for my last paperbacks and he did a wonderful job.
It’s unlikely that print will be a major income stream for you – no matter what price you set – so I recommend pricing high and making a decent amount from each sale. I usually go with $14.99/€11.99/£9.99 for my paperbacks, which brings in $4 to $6 profit, depending on the length of the book. Non-fiction, especially reference books, will sell a bigger percentage of print than fiction.
While traditional publishers might still be coming to grips with ebooks (and, in some cases, the internet), they have print down to a fine art. Examine the books on your shelf. Copy them as much as possible/practical. Keep in mind that if you stray outside the three most common trim sizes—6 x 9, 5 x 8, and 5.5 x 8.5—you may restrict your distribution options. I always go with cream paper (I personally think white looks cheap), and matte covers (much prettier than glossy, in my opinion). And don’t make your internal font size too small just to save money; it looks terrible. I usually go with Garamond 12, but your print formatter will advise you there.
Is It Worth The Trouble?
You might be thinking it’s too much hassle, and maybe you’ve heard other self-publishers say their print sales were nonexistent. That’s fair enough, and it’s a good mindset to adopt. There are an infinite number of things you could be doing, so you need to learn what to prioritize, and to keep focused on your core job. But let me give you two reasons why doing a print edition is worth the effort even if you never sell a single copy.
First, nothing beats holding your newborn for the very first time. The feeling of opening a box of your own books is something truly special, and no author should miss out on that (and you can get author copies from KDP Print at cost, usually around $5 plus shipping). So much of what we do is intangible. We don’t meet our Facebook Likes. We don’t know the people on our mailing lists. We don’t even see most of the money we make before we spend it; amounts just move from one digital ledger to another! It’s nice to have a tangible reminder of what you have achieved, something you can point to and say, “I did that.”
Second, when your paperback goes live on Amazon – and their system links it to your ebook edition (you can email them to hurry that up) – the digital edition suddenly becomes way more attractive to browsers. Amazon puts a great big red slash through the paperback price and highlights the savings on the Kindle edition.
That makes paperback editions worth doing all on their own!
Short stories have had a huge impact on popular culture. Some of the greatest writers, such as Edgar Allan Poe, practiced the form exclusively. Others, including Anton Chekhov, Luis Borges, Flannery O’Connor, Stephen King, Franz Kafka, Octavia Butler, and Kurt Vonnegut, count some of their shorter pieces as their finest. One of the most famous short stories—often incorrectly attributed to Hemingway, a mistake I repeated in previous editions of Digital—is just six words long. “For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”
What else do you need?
Many famous movies have been adapted from short stories and novellas. Memento was originally a fine short story written by the director’s brother, Jonathan Nolan. Others include The Body Snatcher, Stand By Me, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Brokeback Mountain, Total Recall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Fly, Zorro, Minority Report, Million Dollar Baby, The Illusionist, and I, Robot. Quite an eclectic list.
I respect the form, greatly, but the simple fact is that short stories rarely make money. Professional rates for short stories are considered to be $0.05 a word or higher, which is pretty much as it has been since the 1950s. In traditional publishing, short story collections don’t sell nearly as well as novels, and agents and publishers aren’t going to be interested in them unless you already have a name, or your stories have been published in the very top publications (and even then it’s a struggle). And self-publishers find them hard to flog too, outside of very specific niches.
Novellas, however, are another matter.
Novellas are generally considered to be between 10,000 and 40,000 words and this form once produced a string of well-known classics: A Christmas Carol, Of Mice and Men, Billy Budd, Animal Farm, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, A Clockwork Orange, The Old Man and the Sea, and Heart of Darkness.
Before the digital revolution, publishing houses tended to avoid novellas. Although novellas are much shorter, which means editorial and print costs are reduced, the publisher still has fixed costs such as cover design and marketing, regardless of length. Customers expect to pay less for a book half the size of a standard title, meaning publishers’ margins shrink to the point where it’s only worthwhile publishing a novella if it will be a runaway hit.
Well, not anymore.
With digital publishing, length doesn’t matter as much. As there are no print costs, you can tell your story in the length it takes to tell the story. You don’t have to add unnecessary subplots to pad it out, and you don’t have to cut that scene you were so fond of just to trim it down. You can tell the story your way—the way it was meant to be told.
Novellas can be great promotional tools too. While some writers make the first book in a series free to entice as many new readers as possible, others are loathe to do so. A handy compromise is to write a free novella, either a prequel or a separate story featuring the main characters or a spin-off character, or simply something set in the same world.
Novellas can also be money-makers, at least in romance and erotica. HM Ward has sold millions of her self-published books, and most of her titles are novellas.
Reviews should be part of the marketing plan for every writer. But how do you get them? This video guide breaks it down.
Copyright & the Law
A quick disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or an accountant, so nothing here should be considered legal advice, financial advice, tax advice, or anything of that ilk. The information here is merely a starting point for you to conduct your own proper investigations into tax rules and copyright laws relating to your country, state or province, and personal situation.
The first thing you need to understand is the difference between “publishing rights” and “copyright.” If you sell a story to a magazine, or a book to a publisher, you are not usually assigning them the copyright. Rather, you are granting them some of the rights you have under copyright for the period defined in the contract, usually meaning they can publish and sell your work under certain conditions.
Open a trade-published novel and flick to the copyright page. The book is still copyrighted in the author’s name, usually in the following form: Copyright © [Year] [Author Name].
As for the rest of your notice, you can choose whatever wording you like. If you want, you can copy the notice from my books. I keep it simpler than most so if you want something more comprehensive just grab a book from your shelf. Also note that the notice I put at the front of a paperback is very different from the one in my ebook edition.
Copyright law varies from country to country. The specific information included below pertains to the , but here are the relevant links of the copyright authorities in several jurisdictions:
Your work is copyrighted as soon as it is tangible. In other words, once it makes its way out of your brain and onto the page (or even a computer screen), it is copyrighted. You might hear of writers posting a manuscript to themselves to ensure they are protected—this is known as “poor man’s copyright” and it’s a myth. It doesn’t afford you any additional protection under the law. Your work is copyrighted as soon as you commit it to paper or pixel.
You will also hear people talk about “registering” copyright, which is optional but advisable. Registering your work will grant you additional rights and allow you to, among other things, sue for greater damages if someone plagiarizes your work. It costs $35 to register your copyright online in the US, but even if you don’t register your copyright, your work is still protected, and you can (and should) still post a copyright notice at the front of your manuscript. Also note that while anyone can register a copyright in America, as long as a book is on sale there, the additional protections from doing so are exclusive to US writers.
Another myth, especially among novice writers, is that they should register the copyright of their work before submitting it to an agent or editor. Let me be clear: a reputable agent or editor is not going to steal your story, and you shouldn’t be submitting to any other kind. Some also worry about their ideas being stolen. Writers will all tell you the same thing: ideas are ten-a-penny. The art, and the sweat, is in the execution.
To learn more about copyright law you can get yourself a copy of Stephen Fishman’s exhaustive (and expensive) The Copyright Handbook. That’s one for true copyright nerds though. Anyone else interested in exploring the topic via a much more reasonably priced book can pick Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook by Helen Sedwick – which also happens to cover a broader range of legal topics.
A quick primer: ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is a unique code that identifies, among other things, the publisher of the book. You will recognize it as a string of 13 numbers sometimes seen on the title page of a book near the copyright notice or, more obviously, printed, along with a corresponding bar code, on the back of print versions.
Let me be very clear: you don’t need to purchase any ISBNs. None of the major retailers require them. You may hear people saying you need to purchase them, but this information is either out of date (some retailers like Apple used to require ISBNs), or being put forward by parties with vested interests (like the agencies selling ISBNs). Even in the few instances where you do require an ISBN, like when publishing a print edition through KDP Print, they are provided for free (you will need them if you opt for Ingram Spark, however).
There are some self-publishers—usually those who put in all the hard yards prior to the rise of ebooks—who think you aren’t a real self-publisher unless you own your ISBN, or publish through your own imprint. I don’t agree with that, but if you want your own ISBNs, for whatever reason, here’s what you need to know.
Bowker is the only official source of ISBNs in the US and sells only to US writers (for links, and for other countries, please see Resources in Chapter 20). A single ISBN costs $125 (although some authorized resellers charge $99), a block of 10 is $295, and a block of 100 is $575. The system is clearly tilted toward larger publishers, especially those who can buy thousands of ISBNs at a time for as little as $1 each. As such, you might be tempted to share a larger block of ISBNs with a group of other writers, but don’t be. They are non-transferable, so the original purchaser will be officially registered as the publisher of your book.
If you are from a country (like Canada) that gives out free ISBNs, then by all means take them and use them, but it’s not necessary these days at all.
Should you opt to purchase ISBNs, be careful on some of these sites. While they are the official vendors of ISBNs, and considered “respectable” in the industry, they do have a history of flogging useless crap to writers. Go in, get your ISBNs, and get out… if you must go there at all. I personally prefer avoiding giving companies like that money if I can at all avoid it.
Here are the relevant agencies for certain countries:
Setting Up Your Own Publishing Company
Establishing your own company is by no means imperative; it’s a personal decision. If you decide to set up your own publishing company, there are a range of corporate structures you can use, and I can’t give blanket advice as to which is most appropriate.
It will depend on your own personal circumstances and you will need to talk to your accountant. Just be aware of all of the regulatory and filing requirements in your particular country/state, as well as all of the tax implications.
Of course, you don’t need to set up a company at all. You can just publish through your own name. It’s not something that will affect your sales in any way. But again, consult an accountant or tax professional about the relevant tax implications, which vary from country to country, and state to state, and will depend hugely on your personal situation.
Tax and International Writers
This area has improved dramatically. Before, international types had to contact the IRS and jump through all sorts of hoops or else 30% of their royalties would be withheld by ebook retailers and distributors. Now most of them have an online form to complete instead.
Follow the instructions provided, and have your local tax number handy. And make sure you do this before the end of the year, or that 30% may be remitted to the IRS.
Pop your questions on publishing like a pro in the box below. I’ll get a ping right away, and answer you once I’m finished dusting my extensive collection of Fabergé eggs.