Three Ways a Book Publishing Plan That Seems So Right . . . Can Go So Wrong

Mike Ellerkamp thought he had done everything right.

The life coach was fully prepared to publish his first book, The Simple Little Rule: The Golden Rule Rediscovered. Mike was ready to reintroduce the world to the power of God’s ancient wisdom to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” He partnered with a big self-publishing company and a big marketing company for big results.

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But when the book was released, what he got was . . . big crickets.

Unfortunately, Mike’s outcome isn’t unique. Many self-published writers invest a lot of time and money into a quality message — with little to show but disappointment and disillusionment.

After that experience, Mike took a hard look at his assumptions about the book publishing industry. He regrouped. Now, as he prepares to publish his second book, the author candidly shares his three biggest lessons learned in hopes of helping others.

#1 A bigger company doesn’t necessarily mean a better process.

“My first mistake was assuming that giving a lot of money to a big publishing company was the safest route,” Mike explained. “As a new author, you don’t know who to trust. I bought into the sales pitch that a big company would know how to get this done.”

While not all big companies are problematic, Mike experienced several delays. “These large publishers are dealing with thousands of authors and agents,” he said.

Another issue was the growing cost. “I was assigned an ‘account coordinator’ who would ensure a ‘better experience,’” he said. “He did help during a couple of points in the process. But I now realize that he was mostly a sales person first. The company wasn’t unethical. It’s just that the mission of a larger publisher is to sell publishing services—lots of publishing services!”

#2 Bigger activity doesn’t necessarily mean bigger results.

Mike said his second mistake was his marketing plan. “My account coordinator suggested a bigger marketing campaign through ‘bigger and better’ contacts. He cast the bait, and I took it. Hook, line and sinker!”

The 3-month campaign involved a lot of activity. Reports showed that thousands had received his press release, and thousands more were reached through social media. It all looked dazzling. That is, until the sales report rolled in.

“I was excited to land a radio program. But other than that, there were no real results,” said Mike. “I spent a lot of money to speed the process, but it didn’t really enhance the process at all.”

Publicist Sandy Lawrence, the founder of Perceptive PR, said successful book marketing is less about money and more about time. “Most people don’t buy the first time they see. And so, because most first-time authors aren’t known, they first have to become known. Then they can begin to sell books. Naturally this process takes time and perseverance.”

#3 The experts aren’t necessarily smarter than your gut.

It’s critical to find a publisher you can trust. But even when you do, continue to pay attention to your instincts.

“I had done a massive amount of research before I began this new journey,” said Mike. “But I dropped all of that wisdom and listened to the folks at the publishing house instead. In hindsight, I think my money could have been spent in better ways.”

With this experience under his belt, Mike is applying his lessons learned to his forthcoming second book in The Simple Little Rule series. “I’m returning to my own research and following my own avenues to radio shows, newspapers and magazines,” he said, undeterred in his commitment. “I’ll continue to develop the brand the way I originally would have.”

And this time, Mike has a different plan for his resources. “I’m keeping the funding much closer to home and among people I know and trust.” He smiled, adding, “I know better now.”

AuthorMike Ellerkamp is a life coach, inspirational speaker, and Houston chapter leader of the Nonfiction Authors Association. He is the author of The Simple Little Rule: The Golden Rule Rediscovered, in which he brings to life a profound tenet through five principles and shares his own spiritual, philosophical and historical journey along the way. Contact Mike for a book event or speaking engagement, or connect with him on his website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

 

 

EllaElla Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a business communications and book publishing team that brings clarity, quality, and integrity to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Facebook, or the website for more information.

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Should authors purchase their own ISBNs for their books?

A Quick Author Guide to ISBNs

Hands down, ISBNs is the most confusing element for self-publishing authors. And the single most common question is this: “Should I purchase my own ISBN? Or should I use the one provided by a publishing services company?”

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of owning your own ISBN. This way, you can make the best decision for you and your book.

But first, here are a few basics.

What is an ISBN?

ISBN is short for “international standard book number.” It’s a 13-digit number that you can find on the back cover of a book, above a bar code. That bar code is a simply a translation of your ISBN into a format that is compatible with scanners in bookstores.

ISBN barcode for books

What is the purpose of an ISBN?

It uniquely identifies every book that is published worldwide. An ISBN holds important information such as your title, publisher, and geographic location. This number helps simplify the distribution of your book to publishers, booksellers, libraries, internet retailers and other supply chain participants around the world.

One thing the ISBN does not do is establish copyright. You as the author are the rightful owner of your intellectual property under copyright laws. An ISBN does not change this.

Do I need an ISBN?

You need an ISBN if you want to sell your book in bookstores, to libraries, or through online retailers like Amazon.com. Otherwise, you do not need an ISBN.

Where do I purchase an ISBN?

The only official source of ISBNs in the United States is Bowker Agency.
Who should purchase the ISBN?

The individual or company that will be listed as the publisher of the book should apply for the ISBN. The publisher can be you as the author, a publishing services company, or a traditional publisher.

(If you’re still uncertain which kind of publishing option is best for you, check out our previous blog post called, “Choose Your Own Adventure in Book Publishing.” In it, we explain your three basic paths to publishing. You’ll see that a traditional publisher will expect you to use its ISBNs. So this question is really only for self-publishing authors.)

So now that you understand the basics, let’s get back to your question . . .

Should I purchase my own ISBN? Or should I use the one provided by a publishing services company?

Well, it depends. There are pros and cons to either option. The right answer for you depends on your publishing goals. Here are some of the factors you want to consider before you make a decision.

 

Cost

If you purchase your own ISBN, you’ll discover that the cost is surprisingly high. One ISBN through Bowker Agency is $125. And you need a different ISBN for each format of your book. That means you’ll need three ISBNs if you plan to publish your book as a paperback, hardcover, and e-book. Also, you’ll probably want guidance in knowing where and how to purchase your own ISBNs, which may also increase the cost of your publishing plan.

One bit of good news here is that you can purchase ISBNs in blocks that are discounted. For example, a block of 10 ISBNs costs $295. You can save a lot of money if you purchase a block.

In contrast, if you use an ISBN provided by a publisher, the cost is likely less expensive because your publisher purchases ISBNs from Bowker Agency in large blocks. The savings can be passed to you.

Paperwork

If you purchase your own ISBN, you’ll need to complete two extra steps in the publishing process. First, you’ll establish yourself as a publisher and set up your publishing account. Second, you’ll need to establish an account with Bowker Agency and set up your ISBNs.

If you rely on a publishing services company for your ISBN, these tasks are handled for you.

Time

If you establish yourself as a publisher, Amazon says it may take up to 6 weeks to be recognized by retailers. That means it could take another 6 weeks before your book is available online. The way to get around this is to be sure to establish your accounts early in the process. This way, you’ll avoid any delays with the release of your book.

If you use the ISBN of a publishing services company, there is no delay in releasing your book because that company is already recognized by retailers as a publisher.
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One potential downside to using your own ISBN is that it clearly identifies you as the publisher. This means that readers will know that you are a self-published author. For some authors, this is not desirable because they’re concerned that their work will not be taken as seriously.

The benefit of using an ISBN from a publishing services company is that it presents a more professional image. It communicates that you’re not a “one-man band” – you have the backing of a company, and your work was refined through a professional process. Readers will not be able to tell if you are a self-published author or a traditionally published author. Ultimately, it adds credibility.

Royalties

If you purchase your own ISBN, one benefit is that you retain 100% of royalties from online sales. Plus, you also do not have to wait for royalties. The money is deposited directly into your bank account. And you can check royalty reports any time you want.

In contrast, if you use the ISBN of a publishing services company, you may be expected to share some of the royalties. Be sure you ask about this policy so that you feel comfortable with the percentage of royalties that you may be sharing. You will also likely have to wait. Royalty reports and payments are usually sent annually or semiannually.

Independence

If you purchase your own ISBN, you have the freedom to make any changes when it comes to the future of your book. For example, you may decide to change to a new publisher or to stop publishing your book entirely. You can make these changes without having to wait on your publishing services company to make them happen.

If you use the ISBN of a publishing services company, you will need to follow its procedures to make changes to your account. Be sure you read your contract and feel comfortable with the company policies. Even then, your book may be impacted in the worst-case scenario that the company goes out of business. You may want to ask if there are any precautions in place to protect you and your book in this scenario.

Support

You need to consider how much support you want with your book after it is published.

If you purchase your own ISBNs, then you manage your own publishing account. This means that you place your own book orders, read your own royalty reports, and receive your money directly. You decide if and when your book is distributed. In other words, once your book is published, there is no publishing services company between you and your book. You’ll retain control of every aspect of your book moving forward.

If you rely on a publishing services company, these administrative tasks are handled for you. You’ll call the company when you want to place a book order, and they will handle invoicing, ordering, tracking the order, issuing royalty reports, and mailing royalty payments. They’ll also be there to make updates to your account or to answer any questions long after your book is published. Some authors prefer this hassle-free experience and want to make sure someone is around to help them.

The Ultimate Factor

All of these factors will help you make the right decision. Ultimately, the choice to purchase your own ISBN or to use one provided by a publishing services company depends on what brings you greater peace of mind.

Do you value the security of knowing that no one and nothing can come between you and your book, even if it means more cost and hassle? Then publishing your own ISBNs is the way to go.

Or do you value the security of knowing you’ll have a seamless publishing process and professional image as well as help in the years after your book is published, even if it means relying on a company? Then choose a publishing services company that you can trust.

Whatever you decide, you’ll make an informed decision and enjoy a more peaceful process.

EllaElla Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a business communications and book publishing team that brings clarity, quality, and integrity to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies.  Connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook, or check out the website for more information.