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Category: Just for Writers

What does your book look like to booksellers?

Posted in Distribution, Just for Writers, and Publishing

Print on Demand (POD) (versus short-run print jobs) is the typical method used initially by indie authors, and the two big providers are Createspace (owned by Amazon) and Ingram, either via Ingram LSI (Lightning Source) or IngramSpark.

The merits of Createspace vs Ingram is a common discussion topic among indie authors who produce paperback editions. This post is an update of this analysis and focuses on what your books look like to booksellers placing orders with Ingram.

The recommended practice these days is to use both vendors for print, if you can: Createspace (without their expanded distribution option) for Amazon, for inexpensive orders for inventory, for an online store, and for direct shipping; and Ingram for everything else. (The recent news about availability of print from Amazon KDP seems to signal that access to Createspace directly might change.)

Some authors create a separate Library edition, just to use that part of Createspace's expanded distribution with a Createspace ISBN.

If you don't want to go to the bother (and the expense) of getting your own ISBN (a whole separate discussion) Createspace will supply you with an ISBN owned by Createspace for you to use, for free. (If you have an ISBN, you can use your own.)

Since the common progression for indies seems to be to start with Createspace only, and Createspace has an expanded distribution option and a free ISBN that gets your books into Ingram (“Booksellers and Online Retailers”), the question often comes up: why bother going to Ingram directly?

Why go to Ingram directly, in addition to Createspace?

The manufactured products are slightly different (quality issues with a small and debatable preference given to Ingram), and unlike Createspace, the Ingram edition costs money: a title setup fee (circa $49), an annual market fee (to stay listed in Ingram's database) ($12), and a revision fee for any change in cover or content ($40 each). The fee details vary a bit between Ingram LSI (mostly for traditional publishers) and IngramSpark (mostly for indies) and coupons/discounts are not infrequently available.

And you need your own ISBN, a not-inconsiderable expense in the US.

But there are other concerns.

Bookseller-specific issues

1) Discounts

A bookstore with good credit and broad needs may use Ingram as its main supplier. Other bookstores use smaller, more targeted suppliers who get their list of offerings from Ingram (and charge a fee).

Ingram allows you to set the same standard discount that traditional publishers use: 55%. Createspace's maximum is 40%.

Here's what that means. Ingram takes 15% of that discount for its services. It subtracts that from the books you list directly with Ingram, but it also subtracts that from the books it lists that were given to it by Createspce via expanded distribution.

So at 55% (Ingram's standard), minus Ingram's 15%, there remains 40%. Some of that may go to an intermediate distributor. Whatever's left over is the bookseller's potential profit, which he may discount to push sales.

At 40% (Createspace's max), once you subtract Ingram's fee of 15%, all that's left is 25% for the intermediate distributor(s) and bookseller to share. That is unattractive to many booksellers. Some won't even order books to fulfill customer requests at that small a profit to themselves.

2) Free ISBN / Publisher name

Createspace offers its own ISBN, if you don't have or want to use one of your own.

The general rule is: whoever owns the ISBN is the Publisher, from the perspective of forms and databases. Some recent forms have separated the two things, so that the owner of the ISBN and the “Publisher of record” and the provider of the data feed on a form can be different things, but that is far from general.

For a while, the Createspace data downstream showed Publisher = Createspace, even if you used your own ISBN. Now that only happens if you use a Createspace ISBN. And even so, what shows on a form depends on what the form uses for data sources: if it shows ISBN and looks up the ISBN, then it would get the ISBN owner. If it simply assumes the supplier of the data feed (Createspace) is the owner, then it shows Createspace as the publisher. That's how audiobooks often show up as Publisher = AudiobookFeedProvider even when the ISBN belongs to the Publisher.

How booksellers see a traditionally published book when they order from Ingram

Read More What does your book look like to booksellers?

The world of deep metadata for your books: LCCN, PCIP, MARC, ISNI, ISTC, OCLC, and more-4

Posted in Just for Writers, and Publishing


Index of topics

 


ISNI – International Standard Name Identifier

This is one of the international standards for disambiguating identical names for different individuals. You can contact one of the regional standards bodies and request an ISNI (free). It's intended for all sorts of creatives — writers, musicians, artists, etc. — as well as anyone else in the public eye who needs to be uniquely identifiable, including scientists, living and dead. Einstein has an ISNI number.

You can see at the bottom links to VIAF and the LC (Library of Congress LCCN-N) authority records mentioned in the MARC and LCCN sections above.

They are not the place to send all your ISBNs to — links to a list of books on your site will do the trick.
 


ISTC – International Standard Text Code

This is one of the international standards for aggregating all manifestations of a text under a single identifier. For example, I have 4 formats for my book To Carry the Horn — trade paperback, epub, mobi, and streaming audio. That's one text, 4 manifestations. For some sorts of sales analysis, it's useful to be able to lump those things together. That's what the ISTC is used for. You can contact the standards body and request an ISTC for each of your titles (free).

In the MARC section above, you saw that Worldcat had its own version of the same concept.
 


OCLC – Online Computer Library Center

OCLC is an organization whose member libraries cooperatively build and maintain the Worldcat database of library records.

Much of what they carry is described in the MARC section above. Zero in on a typical record and expand all the sections to see the sort of data that they focus on.

Not only do they maintain the bibliographic data about the works in their system and the libraries that hold them but they also maintain or cross-reference to a variety of authority files.

Worldcat even maintains its own summaries by person, using the Library of Congress LCCN-N identifier from the LCCN section above. Handy for seeing a summary of libraries (without the details, alas).


Hope this has been useful for setting a context for some of the alphabet soup you may have encountered.


Index of topics


The world of deep metadata for your books: LCCN, PCIP, MARC, ISNI, ISTC, OCLC, and more-3

Posted in Just for Writers, and Publishing


Index of topics

 


MARC – MAchine-Readable Cataloguing

This is a standard for a digital version of the information carried in a CIP or PCIP block — and more.

It's probably easier to just show you what the MARC record looks like for the book mentioned above than to attempt to explain the details.

Primary Entity

<http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/814529418> # To carry the horn : the hounds of Annwn : 1
a schema:Book, schema:CreativeWork ;
library:oclcnum “814529418” ;
library:placeOfPublication <http://id.loc.gov/vocabulary/countries/vau> ;
library:placeOfPublication <http://experiment.worldcat.org/entity/work/data/1413542221#Place/hume_va> ; # Hume, Va.
schema:about <http://id.worldcat.org/fast/933467> ; # Fox hunting
schema:about <http://dewey.info/class/813.6/e23/> ;
schema:about <http://experiment.worldcat.org/entity/work/data/1413542221#Topic/fox_hunting> ; # Fox hunting
schema:bookEdition “1st ed.” ;
schema:bookFormat bgn:PrintBook ;
schema:creator <http://viaf.org/viaf/56058221> ; # Karen Myers
schema:datePublished “2012” ;
schema:exampleOfWork <http://worldcat.org/entity/work/id/1413542221> ;
schema:genreFiction“@en ;
schema:genreFantasy fiction“@en ;
schema:inLanguage “en” ;
schema:isPartOf <http://experiment.worldcat.org/entity/work/data/1413542221#Series/hounds_of_annwn> ; # Hounds of Annwn ;
schema:nameTo carry the horn : the hounds of Annwn : 1“@en ;
schema:productID “814529418” ;
schema:publication <http://www.worldcat.org/title/-/oclc/814529418#PublicationEvent/hume_va_perkunas_press_2012> ;
schema:publisher <http://experiment.worldcat.org/entity/work/data/1413542221#Agent/perkunas_press> ; # Perkunas Press
schema:workExample <http://worldcat.org/isbn/9780963538406> ;
wdrs:describedby <http://www.worldcat.org/title/-/oclc/814529418> ;
.

Who uses MARC records? Libraries do. Anyone can use a MARC record (I suspect that Ingram does for its Ipage product above, for example), but it's primarily for libraries.

When a library receives a book, it typically looks on a repository like Worldcat (see OCLC below) to see if some other library has already created a MARC record for that book (in that format — the MARC record is specific to print, ebook, audiobook, etc.) If it finds such a record, it may duplicate it or modify it for its own intra-library catalogue.

If the MARC record isn't there already, the library can create one and populate the repository with it so that other libraries later on can benefit.

In theory, every trained librarian can create a MARC record. In practice… I recently donated books to 3 branches of my local library system only to discover that all 3 branches created separate and contradictory records, with errors and typos, until my 9 donated books ended up with 19 records (and two different versions of the author) in their internal regional library system. That was bad enough, but then those poor records began to make their way into the Worldcat repository. Only those same libraries can correct the records (and they're working on it now that I've explained the ramifications).

We can't make the records — we're not authorized. We can't add data to Worldcat — only libraries and a few others can.

As for the CIP / PCIP block above, there are 3rd parties who make MARC records for publishers and place them on Worldcat, FiveRainbows being one. For a fee.

So, on the one hand libraries will do it for you for free (Overdrive, for example is good for this), but on the other hand you're stuck with whatever errors they create. If you want to control the process and create the MARC record proactively via a 3rd party who can also produce the PCIP block, then you have that option.

There's interesting information in the MARC record.

  • The official Worldcat (OCLC) number: 814529418.
  • The VIAF number for the author: 56058221. VIAF (Virtual International Authority File) is a way of uniquely identifying an author or other contributor. It is different from ISNI (see below), but you can see that my ISNI number is included as a cross-reference.
  • The Worldcat Entity id: 1413542221 which seeks to identify the common work with its multiple formats, similar to how the ITSC works (see below). It also includes a “creator” person id which is not the VIAF id, though if you scroll to the bottom of that link, you will find matching cross-reference links to the VIAF number and the ISNI, as well as to the Library of Congress name authority from the LCCN section above.
  • Lots of other useful tidbits.

To see more of the MARC record in context, go here, and scroll down, and click on Linked Data. You'll find it educational.

Part of what you see with all the cross-referencing is that there are lots of standards kicking around — some international, some parochial, and some experimental. Libraries have been handling bibliographic information for quite a long time.

I don't know how the cross-referencing is done in detail — for example, how did they look up my ISNI number which is not in the MARC record or the CIP block? I've read of automated cross-referencing programs and lots of backoffice attention to the exceptions those programs kick out, but there must be quite a bit of dirty data scattered among the automatable clean records.


Index of topics


The world of deep metadata for your books: LCCN, PCIP, MARC, ISNI, ISTC, OCLC, and more-2

Posted in Just for Writers, and Publishing


Index of topics

 


CIP / PCIP – Cataloguing-in-Publication / Publisher's Cataloguing-in-Publication

Remember the card catalogues in libraries (if you're old enough)? This is the same sort of information, done as a brief bibliographic block that goes at the bottom of the copyright page of your book. It takes the place of your LCCN statement (because it incorporates the LCCN on the last line) like this:

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Myers, Karen, 1953-
To carry the horn : the hounds of Annwn : 1 / Karen Myers. — 1st ed.
p. cm.
ISBN 978-0-9635384-0-6
1. Fox hunting–Fiction. 2. Fantasy fiction. I. Title.
PS3613.Y4726T6 2012
813′.6–dc23

2012040017

Even though LCCNs are only for print editions (see above), and the LCCN is included in the CIP block, the same CIP block applies to all formats of the work (Print, EPUB, MOBI, Audio). A PCIP block (see below) can be created for books without LCCNs, including books that have no print edition.

Let's look at some of these cryptic numbers.

The ISBN is the 13-digit version. It has a complex history of its own. A digression — the original ISBN (International Standard Book Number) was 10-digits long. As it began to run out of numbers to accommodate new books, it evolved into a version of the 13-digit EAN (European Article Number), an identifier related to the UPC (Universal Product Code) for any manufactured article in the world. The first 3 digits of the EAN indicate the country and, since books were already considered to be international, the prefixes “978” and “979” were dedicated to books, and consequently referred to, jokingly, as the country of “Bookland”.

The 10-digit ISBN is always called an “ISBN”, but the 13-digit version can be referred to as an “ISBN” or, in a nod to its derivation, as an “EAN”.

The “PS3613.Y4726T6 2012” is a Library of Congress Call Number (which, despite its initials, is not to be confused with the LCCN above). This book is in “American Literature / Prose fiction”.

The “813′.6–dc23” is a Dewey Decimal Classification. This book is in “American Literature in English”.

This information comes into use in unusual places. For example, the page that booksellers see when they look at Ingram Ipage to place an order shows this detail:

Notice that the LCCN in the above example ends in 40017, for a book published in October of 2012 — in other words, in that year there were probably about 60000-70000 books for which publishers requested an LCCN and then a CIP block from the Library of Congress.

Alas, the LoC only goes to the effort of creating the CIP block for about 50000 books per year. They have a semi-automated process, but it still requires human intervention, and they've taken steps to deal with the onslaught of volume since 2012.

Indies need not apply. That's right — if you're an imprint with only one author (specifically, that has published fewer than three books by an author other than yourself), the LoC assumes your books are not likely to be in sufficient demand that it is worthwhile to create a CIP block in advance of a request. They can always create a CIP block later, if enough libraries ask for one.

So while I received a CIP block for my first book, above, the LoC declined to do the same for my next book, two months later.

What can you do?

There are a handful of independent 3rd parties who create CIP blocks for publishers. The result is referred to as a PCIP (a Publisher's version of the CIP) to distinguish it from the sanctioned LoC CIP. Companies such as FiveRainbows, Donahue Group, Quality Books, and others will prepare a PCIP block for your books, for a fee. Some of them also create MARC records (see below).

There is more useful information from Joel Friedlander here, especially as the discussion is continued in the comments on his post. This comment from Lisa Shiel of FiveRainbows is especially helpful for sorting through some of the CIP and LCCN-related acronyms.


Index of topics


The world of deep metadata for your books: LCCN, PCIP, MARC, ISNI, ISTC, OCLC, and more

Posted in Just for Writers, and Publishing

This 4-part post covers a lot of the bibliographic data that holds the knowledge part of the book trade together, with a section for each of these.

I've written about ISBNs elsewhere. If you're a member of the #neverISBN or the #oneISBNtoRuleThemAll tribes, then this post is not for you — the ISBN holds it all together. It's a prerequisite for all of this. And remember, the ISBN identifies a single format of your work.

Many of these standards are international, but some of the national library stuff is, well, national. I'm describing the situation in the US, but other countries have similar setups.

The intent of this post is to provide basic orientation for indie authors. To find out more about these standards and the groups that maintain them, break out your search engines and go to work.

Will you sell any more books if you enable these standards for your books? Probably not. But there are other reasons to create and maintain high-quality bibliographic data for your books, not least of which is future-proofing your work and making it just that bit more appetizing for library acquisition.

Ready or not, let's dive right in.


Index of topics

 


LCCN – Library of Congress Control Number

The Library of Congress (LoC) is the “library of record” for the United States. Check out the link — it's had a long and fascinating history. The LoC created its own cataloguing system, the Library of Congress Classification, which gives every document an individual identifying number, the LCCN.

LCCNs refer only to print editions. You get one from the Library of Congress by asking for one. It can be a confusing process, mostly because of the nomenclature of the various programs. (Here is a useful guide.) Basically, you sign up for a program (the Pre-Assigned Control Number program, or PCN) that allows you to request an LCCN, which is in the form of YYYYnnnnnn, where “YYYY” is the current year, and “nnnnnn” is a numerical sequence that starts over each year.

Once granted, the LCCN goes on the copyright page of your book like this:

Library of Congress Control Number: 2012040017

Incidentally, the LoC makes LCCN records for other things. For example, it maintains various “authority” lists such as subjects and names, and other systems can refer to them (such as Worldcat (OCLC) below).


Index of topics


Narrating and producing your own audiobooks

Posted in Audiobook, Just for Writers, and Production

I'm in the process of setting up an ad hoc home studio for narrating and recording audiobooks, and I know I'm not the only one. So I thought I'd share some of my choices with you and explain why I made them.

Right now, I have only one audiobook out. I did the narration, and a local music studio did the professional sound engineering. At $100/finished hour (for a 14.5 hour book), I was reluctant to do more, but I've decided that was a paltry excuse and I should just find a better, more financially acceptable route. You can read about that decision here.

My voice is up to the task, so all I need is gear and a room to use. Alas, I don't have the luxury of even a dedicated closet, nor can I panel a room with sound baffles. So, like most of us, I have to use the best space I can and make it as suitable as possible for quality recordings.

Typical domestic audio studio room

And that can be tricky. Once you've found the room that is the most isolated from all the noisy activities of a household (furnace, television, affection-starved pets, oblivious spouses and children) you have to consider how you can make it work for recording.
Read More Narrating and producing your own audiobooks

Helpful tips for new writers: 2

Posted in Just for Writers, and Tips for New Writers

At the request of a colleague, I'm spending some time talking to some writers far, far away that she's working with, and I thought it would be useful to collect the presentation in a blog post for them, and for anyone else who might be interested. You can find all the posts in this series here.

I can't possibly touch on more than a handful of topics in a single session, so I'll just mention a few that I think are important:

* Stages of a Career
* All Writing is Practice
* Read in Your Genre (and Read the Best)

As question/answers are added during the talk, I'll update this.
 
 
 

Introduction

I'm Karen Myers, and I've been a writer of fantasy and science fiction books for four years. I came to this late, after an official career building computer software and services companies that lasted four decades.

Today I have eight novels in two series and several shorts stories and bundles for a total of twenty titles, and I'm halfway through the first book in a new series. I aim to produce about four novels/year —  that's what I did in 2016.

I'm an independent author — all my books are available worldwide, in ebook, paperback, and audiobook formats. I'll be bringing most of the audiobook editions out this year (only one is currently available).

As an independent author, I'm in charge of all aspects of publishing, from writing and editing, to layout and formatting, covers, audio recording and production, distribution, marketing, and all the finances of the business. Almost the only thing I don't do myself are the cover backgrounds and titles (though I do the Photoshop work that adds my author name, imprint, and blurb to the work from my cover artist and I make all the output formats). Independents work with various third parties for those parts of the publishing business that they can't or won't do themselves, and different authors have different needs for those services.

This is not the only time I've taken on serious work in the arts. I picked up a violin for the first time in my 30s, and a camera in my 50s, so I know what it's like to go from nothing to reasonably competent. I'm finding it's no different for writing fiction, now that I'm a few years into it. You can see some of my other interests here.

Just about all the best advice I've ever gotten came to me from people just a little further along on the same path, and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to do the same in my turn.

Stages of a career

I listen to the advice of others, especially those who have been writing for decades. I've only been writing fiction for four years, but I've read thousands of books in my genre and know what I'm aiming at in the stories themselves. From a skills perspective, I think of myself as an early middle-stage writer. I'm past my first million words, but not by much yet, and working on about 400,000 words/year at this point.

One of the hardest things for me when I started was trying to get a feel for what a typical career would be like for someone like me. That's one of the great unknowns — it's not like a business path, where the career goals are well-understood.

People come to writing for all sorts of reasons and with all sorts of goals. I can only talk about how it works for me, and what I've heard from others that resonates with me.

Beginners — Don't get discouraged!

We all start out as beginners. If you love classical music and pick up a violin for the first time, it's a deadly disappointment. Most people give up right away. It's a cliché that all artists think what they're producing is no good, and will never be any good.

Go see part one of this series for more on this topic. You have to understand that the beginning of any career in the arts is like this, and most people feel like unworthy imposters for much or all of their career. You have to learn to just keep on going anyway. If you just keep at it, and work on improving, you really will get better. It works for writing just like it does for everything else in life.

Got a few books done? — Believe that it will get easier to live with the anxiety.

Read More Helpful tips for new writers: 2

Why your book descriptions don’t look right

Posted in Formatting, and Just for Writers

We go to a lot of trouble to make our book descriptions as good as we can — not just their content, but the way they look. Many of us have learned basic HTML tagging in order to provide formatting for book descriptions as part of our work publishing a book.

As soon as you go beyond the world of Amazon-only, you begin to lose control of what distributors and retailers do to your pretty book descriptions. And it takes special effort to make the book description inside your book look good, too.

Doesn't always work, though. Not all methods are suitable for all situations, and there are limits to what you can control.

As in all such things, the devil's in the details.

(click on any image below to enlarge it)

HTML Markup to use for websites

What I think of as the original text usually appears on the book's product page on your own author and/or publisher websites.

You have complete control over what this looks like.

You can see a simple use of <strong> and </strong> to mark the bold section (same as using <b> and </b>). This was created in WordPress, and the paragraph behavior is instantiated by the underlying WordPress theme (in other words, I didn't need to place paragraph marks <p> and </p> around each paragraph.)

HTML Markup to use for ebook front-of-book blurbs

Ebooks are special packages of HTML files, in a compressed (zip) container. I make my ebooks using Sigil, and each chapter is an underlying file in the container. The opening page shows a book description.

You have complete control over what this looks like, within the limitations of HTML supported by ebooks.

Read More Why your book descriptions don't look right