How Much Does it Cost to Publish a Book self-publishingschool

How Much Does it Cost to Publish a Book?

How Much Does It Cost to Publish A Book?

To learn more about the cost of publishing a book and how to get connected with some of the best (and most affordable) designers, editors, and formatters, join Chandler on this FREE webinar!

“Remember to think of the cost of self-publishing as an investment, not a cost. [A book is] an asset that earns you money long-term.” – Joanna Penn

It’s been an epic journey, from coming up with your idea to fleshing out the first draft of your book, and now, it’s time to launch your book out to the world for everyone to enjoy.

However, you may be wondering, “How much does it cost to publish a book?” Self-publishing has broken down a lot of barriers for writers and dramatically lowered the costs of publishing a book, but there are still costs involved.

Since the explosion of digital books on Amazon and various other platforms like KoboiBooks, and Smashwords, first time authors and professional authors alike can write, publish and promote their books for less than $1,000. On the other hand, you can spend as much as $20,000 on self-publishing and book marketing costs if you have that kind of budget.

Let’s break down the costs of the self-publishing process. We’ll share some secrets to bring those costs down if you’re budget-conscious.

The Rise of Self-Publishing

If you’re an author dreaming of making your books available to millions of readers, you can make it happen. You only have to invest your time, some money and a little bit of sanity.

The sky’s really the limit. Self-publishing on Amazon has made it possible for us to all fly with our books. Are you ready to make yours fly?

There are many factors that can affect the cost of publishing your book. What it really boils down to is this: How much are you willing to spend, and how well do you want your book to sell?

The reason I ask these questions is because if you go cheap on everything, you could end up putting out a low-quality book that gets panned by bad reviews, and then it won’t sell.

On Amazon, quality sells. And yes, quality costs money. But there are ways you can creatively cut costs and still put out a quality book. Let’s take a look.

Crunching the Numbers: How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Book?

To start, let’s look at a sample budget. Now, these aren’t the high-end numbers for self-publishing. You can spend as much money as you want — this is a list of budget-conscious pricing for getting your book done within a reasonable budget.

image2

I’ll go into each of these in more detail, with links you can check out for yourself and find what works within your budget. Take some time to shop around see where to get the best value for the best price.

image1

To learn more about the cost of publishing a book and how to get connected with some of the best (and most affordable) designers, editors and formatters, join Chandler on this FREE webinar!

How Much Does a Book Cover Designer Cost?

Even though we’ve been told “you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover,” the reality is, we do it anyway. The design of your book can often determine whether or not people will actually pay for it and read it. Your cover will make or break your book right off the bat.

If there’s any one cost you don’t want to go cheap on, this would be it. While it’s true you can outsource to someone on Fiverr and get a decent cover for less than $20, it pays to do your research and find a better designer who is going to deliver a cover that sells your book.

Check out this video Chandler Bolt recorded on how to use Fiverr.com to outsource your book cover design.

I would recommend setting aside a budget of at least $100. This isn’t to say that spending tons of money will get you an awesome cover, but going cheap may hurt your sales in the long run.

How Much Does a Book Editor Cost?

A high-quality book should always be edited by a real editor. Whether you hire a line editor or copy editor, you should get a professional to look over your work. Don’t try to cut corners here. Even if you’re a professional editor yourself with 30 years of experience, you need to outsource it to a professional editor.

Trust me: A book that contains typos will get bad reviews and sales will drop flat. Love your book by spending the cash on editing. You can find quality editors at Upwork, or you can find the editors we recommend in our Preferred Outsourcer Rolodex if you’re a member of the Self-Publishing School community.

You can get a very short book, around 15,000 words, line edited for about $150-$250. Ghostwriting, developmental or structural editing will run you much more than that depending on the length of your book and the depth of edits you require — prices run around $2,000 for 100,000 words.

How Much Does Book Formatting Cost?

When it’s time to format your book, if you’re publishing on Amazon, you might want to get it formatted both for print and for Kindle. You can outsource the formatting of both your e-book and print book for around $60-$200. Fiverr has some good formatters at reasonable prices.

I’d also recommend asking fellow authors if they have any great recommendations for book formatters. Once you find a book formatter you really like, hang on to their contact information for future reference.

How Much Does it Cost to Promote Your Book?

When it comes to spending cash on promotional sites, you could empty your bank easily. Set a budget for yourself and go with the best of the best within that budget.

Budgets vary but I’ll spend $29 on the low end for Buck Books and go as high as $1,000 if you add on a bundle of promo sites to launch your book.

Again, this is a major money suck if you’re not careful; you can throw thousands into it and get mediocre results.

For the best results on several paid launches, I have used:

Bookzio ($19-29)

Robin Reads ($35)

Buck Books ($32)

BKnights ($5-40)

Awesome Gang ($10)

Bargain Booksy [$25 for nonfiction]

BookSends [$40]

When it comes to paid promotions, do your research on the top sites that can generate a good return. Check out this detailed list of promo sites — some are free!

How Much Does it Cost to Record an Audio Book?

Creating an audiobook can run you anywhere from $300 to $3,000 depending on the length of your book and who you hire to do it.

If you have a novel with multiple characters and want different people to read different roles, it can run towards the high end of the budget, especially if you’re using high-end talent.

If you have a good voice or acting experience and you want to give it a shot, you can purchase the basic equipment and record the audiobook version yourself. Check out this blog post for setting up your recording studio and doing it yourself.

Additional Author Tools and Expenses

Here are some of the basic tools for professional authors. This will add a price tag to your book, but many of these are just a one-time payment. Other tools will bill you monthly.

Book Publishing Courses

If you’re new to the game of self-publishing, take a course like Self-Publishing School or join our Mastermind community for everything you need to get started.

You could also look into taking multiple courses on Udemy. But again, you can spend a fortune on various courses. I would recommend sticking with one course until you complete it and branching out to learn other skills after you get your first big win.

An Author Website

Building an author platform is a great consideration if you’re looking to expand your business, write blogs and promote your work. You can build an entire website or just a landing page with a call-to-action to get users to opt in. It’s also important to capture leads to build your mailing list. A lead capture form on your website helps you find quality leads and determine your primary audience.

Here are some things you’ll need to look into in order to get started with building a website:

Hosting

You can sign up for hosting with servers such as Bluehost or Hostgator. The cost would be around $150 per year, which is very reasonable for website hosting. You will get a discount when you sign up for the first year, but pay full price when you renew.

Domain Name

You can purchase a domain name to secure your brand and start driving traffic to your site. Check out Name.com. A domain name will cost around $10-$15 a year.

Email Subscription Services

If you want to collect email addresses, you’ll need to sign up for an email subscription service to manage your emails. There are several choices:

  • MailChimp: This is free up to the first 2000 subscribers. If you opt in to use their autoresponder service or other upgrades, you’ll have to pay around $10 a month depending on the number of subscribers.
  • AWeber: This platform costs $19 per month for up to 500 subscribers.
  • ConvertKit.com: ConvertKit has tons of value. Price is based on subscribers but starts at $29 a month for your first 1,000 subscribers. This is now one of the most robust sites for building an email list.

Publish Under Your Own Company

I’ve talked about this elsewhere, but there are perks to publishing your print book under your own company, instead of publishing with a CreateSpace ISBN or another print on-demand service.

The ISBN (the 13-digit number above the barcode at the back of your book) lets bookstores and libraries know everything about your book, including the publisher.

If you use a free, generic ISBN assigned to you by CreateSpace or IngramSpark, you’ll limit your chances of a bookstore carrying your own book. Free ISBNs eliminate your ebook from being stocked on Overdrive, for example, which circulated more than 105 million eBooks in 2014 to public libraries all over the world.

Getting your own ISBN and setting yourself up as your own publisher will cost $295 for 10 ISBN codes, but it will help you access all distribution channels.

This isn’t necessary if you’re just starting out — it’s more important to publish your book and get it out there. However, if you are serious about building a self-publishing empire and making a full-time living from your writing, you’ll want to eventually invest in getting your own ISBN codes and setting up your own publishing company.

How to Increase Book Sales

We all want to make cash with our writing. It may not be the only reason we write, but self-publishing your own book is still an investment. And like any investment, it’s nice to get a return rather than taking a loss.

Here is a list of strategies you can implement to increase your book sales and get more eyeballs on your work.

  1. Run a contest through Goodreads.
  2. Reach out to podcasters and influencers in your niche and set up an interview. This has proven to be a big game-changer for authors like Hal Elrod and Tim Ferriss.
  3. Run promos every 3 months. After your book has been at regular price for a while, wait three months and then drop it to 99 cents again. Set up some paid ads every other day for one week. Try using the KDP countdown strategy.
  4. Blog about the topics in your book. Set up a blog and get more traffic and interest in your work by writing about what you love. Traffic that lands on your page can be directed to your Amazon Author Page and that means more book sales!
  5. Write another book. Building a catalog of books is a great formula for generating higher monthly income.
  6. Apply for a spot on Bookbub. Bookbub is the big gorilla when it comes to book promoting. It’s expensive ($300 and up), but it’s a solid investment and you will make your money back on the promo costs. You can check out Bookbub here and sign up for an author account to get started.

4 Ways to Save Money on Your Book Costs

Self-publishing can be expensive if you let it. Here are a few tips to help you save on your book costs, both now and in the future.

Tip #1: Save Money on Book Formatting (if you dare!)

Write your ebook with Scrivener. Not only is Scrivener the number one author tool for writing and organizing your manuscript but, if used effectively, it can save you money on formatting costs. If you’d like to learn more about how it works, check out this Scrivener webinar hosted by Joseph Michael with Chandler Bolt.

Joel Friedlander’s The Book Designer also offers a bundle of Book Design Templates for both fiction and nonfiction. These templates cost money but will save you money in the long run from outsourcing. I have personally been using these to do the formatting for my books. It can be time-consuming at first but once you get the hang of it, you’ll save money on formatting costs.

Tip #2: Build a List of Email Subscribers

Although this topic deserves its own blog (or book), I’ll mention it here because if you build up an email list now, it can save you thousands of dollars in promotional costs down the road.

When you launch your next book, you’ll have hundreds or thousands of fans waiting for your next release. Not only that, but these are the fans who will leave reviews if they join your launch team and purchase your book the first week it comes out.

This drives your rankings up, and this drives sales even further. Sound good?

You can start to build your email list by including a link to a lead magnet in your ebook. A lead magnet is an offer of a free, valuable piece of content that readers will get if they go to your website and subscribe to your email list.

Tip #3: Barter When You Can

If you’re just starting out with self-publishing and you’re on a tight budget, look to barter services when you can. By coming to a deal where you exchange your services or something you have that is of value to people, you can save yourself lots of money.

As a writer, maybe you have some copywriting skills. See if you can share some of that in exchange for design work from a cover designer. But it doesn’t have to be just raw skills that you barter — Dana Sitar got a cartoonist friend of hers to do the illustrations for her book in exchange for $50 and 10 percent of direct sales of the book. It’s a decision she doesn’t regret, as the illustrations get her raving reviews.

If you’re on a budget, you don’t need to fully cut back on the quality of your book. See if there are possibilities to cut a deal and get the service you require to set your book apart.

Tip #4: Write a Great Book!

This might seem like an obvious tip, but paying attention to the quality of your book throughout the writing process is going to save you money. The better your book, the less you’ll have to spend on editing.

You will also gain a solid reputation as someone who writes really well. This means loyal fans will spread the word about your book and your blog, your email list grows and any future books you release will practically promote themselves. Well, almost.

Time to Start

We are in a great era of self-publishing. Anyone can turn their dream into a reality with just a few months of hard work, a bit of cash and a great book idea.

We’ve broken down the different costs in self-publishing your book so that you have a rough idea of what to budget. Writers have gone on to publish bestsellers with as little an investment as $1,000, while others have required up to $20,000. It all depends what you prioritize and if you can save costs in a manner that doesn’t decrease the quality of your book.

While money matters, remember the reasons you want to self-publish your book: to get your message out there, build authority, and add something new to the world. Spend what you can to make your book as high quality as possible. If your audience likes it, you’ll be sure to hit your goals.

Like what you read and want to learn more? We’re holding a FREE online workshop where Chandler is revealing the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish six bestselling books in a row…and use them to build a seven-figure business in less than two years. Click here to save your spot now!

Publishing a Book

Publishing a Book: Traditional vs. Self-Publishing

You’ve finally made the decision. After years of saying “I should,” you’ve made the bold decision to finally sit down and write your book.

It’s a tough, yet brave decision. Sitting down to get your message out in the world will be one of the most challenging yet rewarding things you do. But now that you’ve made this decision, you may be wondering: 

Should I approach a publisher and go down the traditional route? Or should I self-publish and become an indie author?

Before the age of the internet, the only way a writer could get their book in front of millions was to send a book proposal and a query letter to a traditional publisher or agent. The writer hoped that day’s gatekeeper had drank their morning coffee, woken up on the right side of the bed and actually given your letter and proposal more than a 10-second glance.

Unfortunately, the likelihood of that happening was slim to none.

This resulted in brilliant people like yourself being denied the opportunity to share their experiences, stories and knowledge with the world.

The Publishing Industry Is Shifting

Thankfully, this is no longer the case.

With the development of online marketplaces like Amazon, the publishing process has changed. You can distribute your book to everyone, regardless of what some traditional publishing house thinks about your idea.

You have a book inside of you and the world needs to read it!

Why Self-Publish?

The publishing world has changed, and it’s time for you to reap the benefits. Here are seven reasons why self-publishing is the best route to take—and why you’ll think twice before dealing with a publishing company again.

1. You Don’t Have to Wait for Permission.

With self-published books, you do not have to wait for anyone to give you the green light.

  • You decide when and how to publish a book.
  • You decide whose hands your book gets into.
  • You decide how successful you are.

In other words, you don’t have to convince any gatekeepers to allow your book to reach the global market.

“But, don’t traditional publishers have a good idea for what will sell or not? I mean, if they reject my book, they’re probably right that no one would want to buy it.”

Wrong.

Have you ever heard of Tim Ferriss’s book “The 4-Hour Workweek”? It has been a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller for over four years. It sold nearly 1.5 million copies and has been translated into 35 different languages.

Oh, and get this: It was rejected by the first 26 publishers it was presented to.

Maybe you’ve also heard of a certain children’s book, the one about a young boy with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead who discovers he is a wizard. The ”Harry Potter” franchise is a patent bestseller, with the last four books in the series being the fastest-selling books in history. 

Yet it was rejected by 12 publishers in a row, and was only picked up because the eight-year-old daughter of an editor demanded to read the rest of the book. Even then, after the editor agreed to publish, they advised J.K. Rowling to get a day job as she had little chance of making money in children’s books. Little did they realize the publishing success they had stumbled onto.

Now, just imagine all the other authors out there who stopped after the first 10 or 20 doors slammed in their faces, believing the lie that they didn’t have a profitable idea.

You cannot allow other people to determine your success.

Self-publishing gives you the avenue to do that. You and your readers decide the worth of your words, rather than one person at a publishing firm who may not realize the potential publishing success in their hands. 

2. You Can Publish Your Work Quickly

If you were to take your book to a traditional publisher, it would take years to publish.

For example, it may take up to six months for you to even hear back about the book proposal. And assuming they accept your proposal, it will take at least another year before the book is actually published.

With self-publishing, you can produce your content as quickly as you want. And in the Amazon Kindle store, you can publish a new book whenever you want. That way, you can share your work as quickly as you create it!

3. Bring Home the Bacon

Traditionally-published authors are typically paid an amount of money up front. However, once the sales come rolling in, they only get a small cut of the earnings. 

Why? Because they have to pay the publishing house, the editor, the marketers, the designers, etc.

But when you self-publish, you take in most of the earnings (save for the money you actually choose to spend on marketing, book production and publishing). On Amazon, for example, self-published authors receive 70% of the royalties for an eBook priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Now that isn’t bad!

4. You Form Invaluable Connections

Self-publishers around the world have gathered online and in person to provide a community that supports one another in publishing their work.

These connections become priceless as you meet other up-and-coming influencers like yourself.

“Wait—so where would I meet these people?”

Because self-publishing requires that you find your own editor, cover designer, formatter and launch team members, you end up connecting with people throughout your whole writing experience.

Self-published authors also gather on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Reddit.

The camaraderie allows people to expand far beyond what they could have done on their own, or what they would have been limited to with a traditional publisher.

Want My Best Done-For-You Plans to Finish Your Book Faster?

I’m opening up my vault of step-by-step action plans and private community of authors to help you get unstuck, stay on track and finish your book faster.
Click here to learn more now!

5. You Control Your Objective

So much of a book is influenced by the motive that fuels it.

  • Is your motive to make money?
  • It is to launch a new career?
  • Is it to share your story?
  • Is it to become a public speaker?
  • Or, is it simply something to cross off your bucket list?

Remember, writing a book is hard work. And nothing is worse than seeing your hard work be transformed into something you didn’t want. When you self-publish, you are able to preserve the dignity and genius of your objective. No one is pressuring you to sell more books, or to taint your message so that it will reach wider audiences.

You are not pigeonholed or made to become someone you’re not comfortable with.

You write as you, and for you. And that is liberating. That is self-publishing freedom!

6. You Control Your Creative Concept

There are horror stories about authors whose ideas and voice became unrecognizable after they went down the traditional route. 

When you work with a traditional publisher, you don’t just sell them your manuscript, you sell them your idea.

Your book may become something you are not comfortable with. Or, your dreams for a sequel or a revision may be completely squandered if it does not comply with the motives of the traditional publisher.

But as an independent author, you retain total creative control. 

You are free to be expressive with your work. You are free to be vulnerable and controversial. You are free to be you.

When you self-publish, you also control who you write for. If you sell via the Amazon Kindle store, you can choose, and then tweak, your categories and keywords. You determine your marketing efforts.

With 45 percent of e-book sales going to indie authors, audiences are showing that they respect and want to purchase the ideas of everyone—not just those endorsed by traditional publishers.

7. You Control Your Future

Most people looking to write a book want to earn more money, gain more freedom or have a platform to share their ideas.

When you self-publish and have complete ownership over your ideas, you also have complete ownership over your future.

There is no traditional publishing firm to stop you from selling a supplementary online course that includes material from your book, starting a speaking career, re-releasing your book with a hardcover or audiobook, or even releasing an updated version of your book.

You determine the trajectory of your book, your ideas, and your publishing career when you self-publish.

Even Big Names Self-Publish

Though there are some benefits to traditional publishing, even some well-established and successful authors admit that the joys of being an indie author outweigh a traditional publishing deal.

So much, in fact, that big name entrepreneurs who have large followings and could easily get a traditional publishing deal are opting to go the self-publishing route.

These people include Pat Flynn, Jeff Goins, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, Johnny B. Truant and James Altucher.

Self-Publishing Will Change Your Life

It may be that, like quite a few writers, you’ve dreamed about working with a big-name publishing house all your life, and nothing will satisfy you until you get that experience. There is nothing wrong with that. If you’ve identified this need early on, then maybe it’s best for you to go down the traditional publishing route. 

But let’s say you win the book lottery and get published. There is still no guarantee that your publisher’s efforts will get your work in bookstores or into the hands of the editors of your favorite literary magazines and newspapers. There’s also no guarantee in sales volume. 

However, self-publishing gives you an alternative path. It gives you an assured chance of getting your book out there. You have a better chance of seeing success in your sales and making an impact if your message resonates with enough people. Not to mention, you get to stay true to the vision of your book.

Self-publishing allows you the freedom, money, community and control to shape your life into one that you adore.

So, start writing your own bestseller today.

Like what you read and want to learn more? We’re holding a FREE online workshop where Chandler is revealing the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish six bestselling books in a row…and use them to build a seven-figure business in less than two years. Click here to save your spot now!

Amazon Book Description HTML: Making Words Look Better self-publishingschool

Amazon Book Description HTML: Making Words Look Better

Have you ever seen an Amazon book description that looked absolutely stellar? Nice big words, perfect layout, well structured? What am I saying? Of course you have!

Well, there’s a secret to how those self-publishers are making it look that way. They’re using Amazon’s approved HTML in their product description. That’s right, they’re coding it to look that way and you can, too.

By adding a little code in the editor when writing your book description, your sentences can now be bold, underlined, or even bigger in size.

Having an eye-catching book description is critical to marketing your book. After all, why would your potential buyers read your tantalizing book description and click “buy” if it’s ugly to look at?

By adding some code here and there, we can craft your book description to catch the attention of your audience and improve conversion rates.

As you can see, there is a clear difference between a well-structured book description using basic HTML and a book description that just uses plain text.

image8

It isn’t as simple as writing it in a Word document then copying and pasting it into Amazon.ope. That well-formatted beauty requires a little HTML-love in the text editor.

I’m going to show you exactly how you can tap into this, even if you know nothing about HTML or CSS. I’ll even introduce you to a free book description tool that will help you build beautiful, eye-catching summaries so that your book will stand out and get even more customers.

Amazon Book Description Tips

Lucky for us, we can use special snippets of code in our Amazon listings to access their font styles. All you need to do is type the right things around the sentences in your product description to make the words stand out and look great. 

However, there’s a limit to what we can do. Even though we can use HTML, it isn’t like eBay where you can make flashy banners, pretty tables and style your product description with your web design kung-fu. There are restrictions on what we can and can’t do.

Let’s look at Amazon’s allowed HTML tags

HTML Tag

Description

<b>

Formats enclosed text as bold.

<br>

Creates a line break.

<em>

Emphasizes the enclosed text; generally formatted as italic.

<font>

Determines the appearance of the enclosed text.

<h1> to <h6>

Formats enclosed text as a section heading: <h1> (largest) through <h6> (smallest).

<hr>

Creates a horizontal “rule” or line. Often used to divide sections of text.

<i>

Formats enclosed text as italic.

<li>

Identifies an item in an ordered (numbered) or unordered (bulleted) list.

<ol>

Creates a numbered list from enclosed items, each of which is identified by a <li> tag.

<p>

Defines a paragraph of text with the first line indented; creates a line break at the end of the enclosed text.

<pre>

Defines preformatted text.

<s>

Formats text as strikethrough. See also: <strike>

<strike>

Formats text as strikethrough. See also: <s>

<strong>

Formats enclosed text as bold. See also: <b>

<sub>

Formats enclosed text as subscript: reduces the font size and drops it below the baseline.

<sup>

Formats enclosed text as superscript: reduces the font size and places it above the baseline.

<u>

Formats enclosed text as underlined.

<ul>

Creates a bulleted list from enclosed items, each of which is identified by a <li> tag.

Don’t worry if you don’t know what all that means. I’ll show you.

To get your words to do the above, all you need to do is sandwich your sentence or words with the <fill in the code> above and end your sentence or word with </fill in the code>.

So, for instance, if you wanted to add a bit of code to the sentence, “My book is the best thing you’ve ever read,” you would type into the editor:

<fill in the code>My book is the best thing you’ve ever read.</fill in the code>

(Don’t write “fill in the code”—instead, use the cheat sheet above to see what letters will make the change you’re seeking.)

HTML Examples for Each Tag

Now that you know how to wrap a tag around a sentence and which HTML tag you can use, let’s go through each one, apply it and see how it will look on the U.S. Amazon market.

Header Font Size

To get the words to be larger, you’ll need to use the Header Tags which are <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, <h4>, <h5> and <h6>. The H1 tag is the largest; H6 is the smallest.

Let’s see what they look like when wrapped around a word:

image5

Bold

To make a sentence or word bold, all you need to do is wrap that word or sentence with <b></b>

Like this: Self-Publishing School is <b>amazing</b>.

image1

Italics

To italicize a word, you can use either <i> or <em>.

Like this: Self-Publishing School is <i>amazing</i>.

image2

Underline

Underline uses <u></u>.

Like this: Self-Publishing School is <u>amazing</u>.

image3

Horizontal Lines

If you want to separate some text with a horizontal line (also called a line break), all you have to do is add <hr> and it will look like this:

image4

Lists

There are two types of lists: ordered lists and unordered lists. Ordered lists are numbered 1, 2, 3, etc. Unordered lists use bullet points.

Unordered are denoted at the beginning using <ul> and their structure looks like this:

<ul><li>Unordered Item One</li>

<li>Unordered Item Two</li>

<li>Unordered Item Three</li>

</ul>

image6

Ordered Lists are denoted by the <ol> and their structure looks like this:

<ol>

<li>Ordered Item One</li>

<li>Ordered Item Two</li>

<li>Ordered Item Three</li>

</ol>

image7

HTML Tags You Can’t Use

So, what can’t you do in your book’s HTML description?

Well, you can’t do anything with images, like you can with normal HTML. You can’t insert images into your book description, nor set a background image. But who would want to do that? That’s what your book cover is for.

Anyone familiar with HTML will also know its cousin, CSS. You can’t use CSS with a Kindle description. So no fancy new fonts, font colors or CSS styles for any Kindle-specific summary you’re crafting.

Quick Word on Special Characters

Though it isn’t necessary, you can use trademark and copyright symbols in your book description by using the following code:

Special Character

Code

Copyright symbol ©

&copy;

Trademark symbol ™

&trade;

Registered trademark symbol ®

&reg;

Free Amazon Description Generator Tool

Hand-coding your own book description can be tedious. That’s why I designed a special free software that lets you see in real time what your description will look like. It’s called the Amazon Book Description Generator.

image10

Just type in or copy and paste your book description, and with a few clicks, you can make it look the way you want it.

Once you’ve gotten it the way you like, just click “Get My Code” button and it will automatically create the HTML code you need for Amazon.

Then take that code, go to the KDP bookshelf and update your book’s description.

Examples of Well-Formatted Book Descriptions

To get your creative juices flowing, here are some examples of other books that have used book description formatting on their product page and taken it to the next level:

Chandler Bolt’s Book Launch: It’s clean, and effectively uses the “bold” feature to highlight the most important words. That way, those who skim the description will immediately see the parts that Chandler wants them to see.

Patrick King’s Conversation Tactics: This is one of the most effective uses of underlining as well as bullet points to neatly organize information. Patrick rocked his final sentence, the call to action. It leaves a strong lasting impression—and how can you NOT see it?

Steve Scott’s Email Marketing Blueprint: Here’s another well-laid-out description that highlights the right spots and makes it easy on the eyes. My favorite part about his book description is the first paragraph, which shows up even before the customer clicks “read more.” Steve has made it so that his most eye-catching hook is featured right smack dab at the top of his sales page. Nice move.

Get Our Feedback on Your Description

Now that you know what is allowed by Amazon, how to code HTML for book descriptions and have a cool free tool that will do it for you, it’s time you get started on creating your book descriptions.

Remember, making a well-formatted book description will not only make your product listing more professional, it’ll be sure to hook your potential readers.

So get started now! Use the free tool in this article to bypass the hassle of using HTML code and make a gorgeous book description today.

Once you’ve created a savvy-looking book description, comment below with your book’s link, and I’ll check it out and respond.

how to copyright a book

How to Copyright a Book: FAQ, Resources, and Guidelines

Let’s take a look at a topic that scares the jeepers out of most authors: how to copyright a book — the right way.

A lot of us get caught up in a confusing haze of copyright laws, infringement, and wondering how to stay out of hot water with the law and angry lawyers (okay, maybe it’s not that dramatic).

With the explosion of self-publishing, authors must be aware of what they can and can’t do when it comes to quoting, borrowing and publishing works from other authors. This guide will give you the information and resources to protect yourself and your own work from being misused or stolen, and keep you from committing the same crimes against your fellow authors.

We’ll also look at the nine most frequently asked questions authors ask when it comes to copyright concerns, for both their own works and when borrowing from other sources.

It all begins with creating the copyright page in your book.

How to Copyright a Book: Your Copyright Page

The copyright page will appear in your book right after the title page and just before the table of contents. The copyright page needs to include some essential information in order to copyright your book.

The main components of your copyright page are:

  • The copyright notice. This has the little © symbol or you can use the word “copyright.” So it would look like this: ©2018 Jane Doe
  • The year of publication of the book
  • The name of the owner of the works, which is usually the author or publishing house name
  • Ordering information
  • Reservation of rights
  • Copyright notice
  • Book editions
  • ISBN Number
  • Your website (You need a site where they can learn more about you, your other books, and other opportunities.)
  • Credits to the book (cover designer, editor)
  • Disclaimer

Why Write a Disclaimer?

If you are writing a book on health and fitness, success as an entrepreneur, providing financial advice—anything that readers could fail at—an extended disclaimer is something you should consider. how to copyright a book

If you give advice on earning a million dollars this year, and the reader ends up losing money, you could be blamed for their misfortune because of a promise you made. Consider putting an extended disclaimer in your book that comes after the copyright jargon to protect your opinions, advice and information.

In other words, tell readers that they are reading your book and applying your advice at their own risk. The thing to be aware of that most authors don’t realize is that these don’t have to be boring. On the contrary, the more personality these have, the more likely they’ll be read. A disclaimer is meant to protect you, but it can’t hurt if your audience actually reads it.

Helen Sedwick did a great job collecting examples of authors who got creative with their disclaimers and made their work all the better for it. Let’s take a look at some:

Fiction Disclaimer

The typical disclaimer you’ll find in works of fiction?

The characters in this book are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

how to copyright a book legal termsHow could this be “livened” up? See how Thomas Wolf in A Man in Full, acknowledges that parts of his story are from real life:

This novel’s story and characters are fictitious. Certain long-standing institutions, agencies, and public offices are mentioned, but the characters involved are wholly imaginary.

Or Margaret Atwood in Cat’s Eye tries to dispel readers’ assumption that the book is the alter-ego of the writer:

This is a work of fiction. Although its form is that of an autobiography, it is not one. Space and time have been rearranged to suit the convenience of the book, and with the exception of public figures, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. The opinions expressed are those of the characters and should not be confused with the author’s.

If you’ve written about a prominent figure that people might be familiar with and don’t want confusion over whether you’re now writing history or still sticking with fiction, you can approach it similar to D. M. Thomas dealt with using Freud as a character in The White Hotel:

The role played by Freud in this narrative is entirely fictional. My imagined Freud does, however, abide by the generally known facts of the real Freud’s life, and I have sometimes quoted from his works and letters, passim. The letters . . . and all the passages relating to psychoanalysis . . . have no factual basis.

Nonfiction Disclaimer

The typical disclaimer you’ll find in works of fiction?

The advice and strategies found within may not be suitable for every situation. This work is sold with the understanding that neither the author nor the publisher are held responsible for the results accrued from the advice in this book.

However, Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks found a way to get her disclaimer to speak to the honesty of the text:

This is a work of nonfiction. No names have been changed, no characters invented, no events fabricated.

Memoir Disclaimer

The typical disclaimer you’ll find in works of fiction?

This book is memoir. It reflects the author’s present recollections of experiences over time. Some names and characteristics have been changed, some events have been compressed, and some dialogue has been recreated.

But in The Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolf, he buries his disclaimer in his acknowledgments. As he thanks those who read drafts of the book, he says:

I have been corrected on some points, mostly of chronology. Also my mother claims that a dog I describe as ugly was actually quite handsome. I’ve allowed some of these points to stand, because this is a book of memory, and memory has its own story to tell. But I have done my best to make it tell a truthful story.

For further examples of a book copyright page and disclaimers you can check out the Book Designer and Kindlepreneur.

How to Copyright a Book: Familiarize Yourself With Legal Terms

I know, I know…we would rather write books, rake in the cash, and sign autographs than worry about technical legal jargon.

But the more you know, the more time you can spend writing without wondering, “Is this legal?” Here are some legal terms to keep you informed on your rights as a self-publisher and protect your works:

Copyright infringement is the use of works protected by copyright law without permission, infringing certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works. The copyright holder is typically the work’s creator, or a publisher or other business to whom copyright has been assigned. Copyright holders routinely invoke legal and technological measures to prevent and penalize copyright infringement.how to copyright a book

Intellectual property (or “IP”) is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect, and primarily encompasses copyrights, patents, and trademarks. It also includes other types of rights, such as trade secrets, publicity rights, moral rights, and rights against unfair competition. Artistic works like music and literature, as well as some discoveries, inventions, words, phrases, symbols, and designs can all be protected as intellectual property.

Public Domain Work refers to works whose exclusive intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, have been expressly waived, or are inapplicable. For example, the works of Shakespeare and Beethoven, and most early silent films are in the public domain either by virtue of their having been created before copyright existed, or by their copyright term having expired. Some works are not covered by copyright, and are therefore in the public domain—among them the formulae of Newtonian physics, cooking recipes, and all computer software created prior to 1974. Other works are actively dedicated by their authors to the public domain; some examples include reference implementations of cryptographic algorithms, the image-processing software ImageJ, created by the National Institutes of Health, and the CIA’s World Factbook. The term public domain is not normally applied to situations where the creator of a work retains residual rights, in which case use of the work is referred to as “under license” or “with permission”.

Plagiarism is the “wrongful appropriation” and “stealing and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions” and the representation of them as one’s own original work.

The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prevents Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or to petition for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.

Fair use in its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an infringement.

Libelous writing can be personal libel or trade libel, which is also known as “product disparagement.” Product disparagement can include a product, service or entire company. Libelous statements, whether against persons or products, are published statements that are false and damaging. Slander is the same as libel in most states, but in spoken rather than written form. The terms “libel” and “slander” are often subsumed under the broader term “defamation.” It is a tort (a wrongful act) to harm another’s reputation by defaming them.

Before you publish your next book, take a few minutes to read over this “brief” report from the United States Copyright Office.

You can also check out this handy guideline for authors from Wiley on what needs permission vs. what you can use without asking.

When in doubt, consult with legal counsel or take the time to research the material you are either protecting or planning to borrow from another source. The time invested could save you an embarrassing or costly situation down the road. Knowing what you can and shouldn’t do is a critical part of the publishing business. When you write and publish your own works, you are now in business for yourself, and business owners protect their property. Like this post? Sign up below for a FREE video course and learn how to go from blank page to bestseller in 90 days!

How to Copyright a Book: The 9 Most Common Questions

Nowadays, with the massive expansion of self-publishing, it is more important than ever for authors, artists and creatives putting their work out there to ensure that it is fully protected. When we borrow work from other authors, living or dead, we have to consider:

  1. What can I actually use?
  2. When is permission needed?

Here is the golden rule when it comes to copyright laws: Never assume that anything is free!Everything out there, including on the internet, has been created by someone. Here are common questions authors have about protecting themselves, their works, and others they may have quoted in their books:

1. Do I have to register my book before it is copyrighted?

Your book is legally copyrighted as soon as it is written.

But, to scale up your legal rights and protect your material to the fullest extent, register your book with the Federal Copyright Office. On the chance someone does attempt to pirate your book or portions of it, registering with the US Copyright Office will give you greater leverage if it comes to action being taken.

2. How many words can I quote from another book or source?

Generally speaking there are no set rules on how much you can actually “borrow” from existing works. But, it’s best to exercise common sense here and keep it short, as a general rule under 300 words.

Paul Rapp, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property rights, says that “if the quote drives your narrative, if you are using an author’s quote in your argument, or if you are giving an opinion on an author’s quote, then it is considered fair use.”

What is fair use? A legal concept that allows the reproduction of copyrighted material for certain purposes without obtaining permission and without paying a fee or royalty. Purposes permitting the application of fair use generally include review, news reporting, teaching, or scholarly research. If you use something published by someone else with the sole purpose of monetary gain, this doesn’t constitute fair use.

3. Can I write about real people?

Especially in works of nonfiction, real people are often mentioned to express an opinion or as an example to clarify the writer’s fact or opinion. Generally you can use the names of real people as long as the material isn’t damaging to their reputation or libelous. Stick to the facts and write about what is true based on your research.

4. Can I borrow lyrics from songs?

Stephen King often used song lyrics for his books including Christine and The Stand. He obtained permission for these works. King says, “Lyrics quotes in this book [Christine] are assigned to the singer most commonly associated with them. This may offend the purist who feels that a song lyric belongs more to the writer than the singer.”

Basically, song lyrics fall under strict copyright even if it is just a single line used. Try to get permission if you use a song. You can contact the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) or Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). Once you find the rights owner, you have to ask for permission through writing.

5. Do I need permission to borrow material from a book that is over 100-years-old?

Once the copyright on a book or material has expired, or the author has been dead for seventy years, the work enters into the public domain and you can use it without permission or licensing. BUT this does vary country to country. You can check the copyright office in the US here.

6. Are authors liable for content used in a book?

Yup.

Even with traditional publishing houses, the author is still responsible for the content written and used in the book.

In fact, traditionally published authors usually have to sign a waiver that removes the publisher from any liability pertaining to the material the author used if the writer included that material without proper permission. And you already know, as a self-published author, you’re on your own.

7. If I use an inspirational quote from another writer or famous person, do I need permission?

You don’t need permission to use quotes in a book provided that you credit the person who created it and/or spoke the quote.

For example: “Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream”Edgar Allan Poe

8. What is the best way to protect my work from being stolen?

Your work is copyrighted as soon as it is written.

But you can register your work with the US copyright office. If you have a blog where you also post content, you need to have a Terms & Privacy disclaimer on your page. This would preferably be at the top where it is easy to see, although many writers and bloggers include this at the bottom of every page.

You should also include your Copyright on your blog that protects your content from being “copied and pasted” into another site without permission or recognition.

9. A royalty free stock photo means that I can use it for free and don’t have to get permission, right?

Wrong.

Most stock photos are copyrighted, even if they appear in search engines and we can easily download or copy them. If you grab a photo off the net and think you can slap it on a book cover or use it for free in your book, think again. It’s recommended you purchase photos through sites such as Shutterstock or Depositphotos.how to copyright a book

Got another question we didn’t answer above? Post it in the comments below!

 

 

 

If you’re ready to write now that you have all your safety precautions in check, join Chandler Bolt in his newest workshop! He’s sharing his process for going from blank page to published author in 90 days, as well as the strategies you need to know to leverage your book to grow your authority, income, and business. Sign up here!

Book Formatting 5 Book Formatting Mistakes to Avoid self-publishingschool

How to Format a Book: Don’t Make These 7 Mistakes!

Self-publishing has changed everything. Before you were at the mercy of your publisher on how your book title was formatted and designed, today you have control over this process. In fact, you have the final say over everything in your finished manuscript.

However, with great power comes great responsibility. If you’re not careful, you may end up with a sloppy and messy manuscript that an editor will refuse to work on until you tidy it up. Or worse, your audience will slam your book with negative reviews because you published it riddled with errors. An unprofessional looking book will not only distract readers, it will harm your brand and label you as an amateur. Your completed self-published book should convey professionalism in all aspects.

The 7 Most Common Book Formatting Errors.

There are over a hundred things that can go wrong in your book, and if we wrote about all of them you’d be reading from sun-up till sun-down. However, not to worry, from our experience most authors make the same formatting mistakes. In this article, you’re going to learn what the most common book formatting errors and how to avoid them. By avoiding these mistakes, not only will you have a professional looking manuscript, you’ll make the process of designing your book to publish on Amazon’s Kindle or in print via CreateSpace a lot easier. If you have a completed manuscript with botched formatting on your hands, this article will teach you how to fix it using Microsoft Word.

(A quick note: it’s possible to do many of the fixes in Google Docs, however Word has a more comprehensive set of features, so it’s better to use that when formatting your complete manuscript.)

1. Just Say “No!” to Hard Indents.

A hard indent is when paragraph indentations are created by manual use of the keyboard’s Tab key. Many of us learned how to type using the Tab key to create an indent at the start of each paragraph, so this can be a tough habit to break. When it comes to book formatting, use of the Tab key is a no-no, because it results in an indent that’s far larger than you need.

When it comes to writing fiction, you want to have just a small indent at the start of each paragraph. If your book is non-fiction, generally speaking, you want to use block paragraphs rather than indents, unless your book is a memoir or historical fiction. (More on that in tip #2.)

If your book is fiction, you may be wondering how to create paragraphs without the Tab key. The fix is simple: In MS Word, set the Paragraph settings to automatically create indentations for the first line in each paragraph. This simple auto fix will make your book formatting process way easier.

In Word 2016, on both Mac & Windows, to get to Paragraph settings, click the Paragraph dialog box launcher on the Home or Layout tab.  

image5

Then on the Indents and Spacing tab, go to the box under Special and click on First line. You can change the size of the indent using the box to the right.

image3

If you’re wondering how big to make your indents, my advice is pull your favorite book off the shelf, open it up, and take a peek. How big are the paragraph indents? Experiment with making yours larger or smaller, printing out the page, and comparing them to the book in your hand.

But what if your 535-page tome has already been drafted, using the dreaded Tab key for each and every paragraph? No need to set fire to your laptop! Here’s what to do to clean it up:

  • Use Find and Replace (Ctrl+H or Control+H or here’s how to find it in Word 2016 on Mac and on Windows.)
  • Enter ^t in the Find (This will help you find every “Tab” in the document.)
  • Leave the Replace field blank.
  • Hit Replace All.

Going forward, set your Paragraph settings so that you don’t have to remove hard indents again. Presto! You now have a much prettier, easier-to-convert document through the magic of technology.

2. Choose Carefully: Indentation vs. Block Paragraphs.

Works of non-fiction today typically don’t use indentation, except for some notable exceptions we will discuss momentarily. Rather, a popular format for modern non-fiction books is the block paragraph.

What’s a block paragraph? A block paragraph doesn’t have indentation on the opening line, but instead uses a horizontal line of white space beneath each paragraph. This helps to delineate separation between paragraphs.

For instance, I used block paragraphs in my latest book Published., which looks like this:

image7

The reasoning behind whether you should use indentation vs. block paragraphs is this: in works where one thought should flow smoothly into the next, such as in a novel, paragraph indentations are used with no line spacing between paragraphs. In books where complicated information is being consumed, having a single line space between paragraphs aids the brain in processing one piece of information before moving on to the next.

Here is an example from a fiction novel of what it looks like to use indents instead of block paragraphs:

image8

An exception to the block paragraph for non-fiction / indents for fiction guideline: non-fiction narrativesuch as a memoir or historical fiction, should use the same indent style described above in tip #1.

In non-fiction works where some information should flow, and other sections require more brain power to comprehend, some authors decide to mix formatting types and use indentation where appropriate and block paragraphs where useful. But in general, to avoid confusing the reader and to make your book look uniform, clean, and as if you didn’t make a book formatting error, it’s best to choose one style or the other and stick with it throughout your book.

However, if you insist on getting crazy and mixing it up, knowing how and when to use block paragraphs versus when to indent results in a more professional manuscript.

3. Avoid Double Spaces After Periods.

Here’s the truth: Two spaces after a period is wrong. Period. (Ha!)

Just as with the good old-fashioned Tab key indent, two spaces after a period may have been the norm back when you were learning to type. This is because with typewriters, characters were all the same width, so the two-space rule allowed for greater readability. With modern computer fonts, the characters all fit closer together in proportional fashion, thereby eradicating the need for that one additional space.

Most major style guides—including the Chicago Manual of Style, which is used by traditional publishers—now formally recognize the more modern single-space rule. From an aesthetics angle, one space looks neater, which your readers’ eyes will appreciate.

Before you convert your manuscript, change all double spaces to single spaces. The result will be a better formatted, stylistically correct book. You’re going to use that super handy “Find and Replace” function again:

  • Enter two spaces in the Find (This will help you find every double space in the document.)
  • Enter a single space into the Replace field.
  • Hit Replace All.

Voila! Like magic.

4. Be Cautious with Hyphens.

Improper hyphenation is a common error that may be harder to stay on top of because the rules of hyphenation differ depending on the grammatical situation. Generally, keep these three rules in mind while you write to stay on top of your hyphens:

  • Two or more words that, together, function as an adjective are joined with a hyphen. For example, dark-pink skirt or two-way street.
  • Two words or more that form a number are joined with a hyphen. For example, twenty-one.
  • Compound words, which are two words that are joined together to make a single word, do not require a hyphen. For example, toothbrush or starfish.

When in doubt, look it up! For a more detailed treatment of the hyphen, here is an important source to consider: Elements of Style.

5. Know When to Use Quotes vs. an Apostrophe.

Few things scream “new writer” like punctuation errors. You want to make sure you’re using quotes and apostrophes correctly so you don’t lose credibility with your readers. Here are a few quick rules of thumb:

Use of Quotes

  • When you’re quoting someone, use quotes! This means either a person is speaking—like in fiction—or you are borrowing material verbatim from another source, like in non-fiction.
  • Use of quotes is rarely needed for common expressions.
  • Ironic terms can be set off in quotes.
  • Overuse of quotes can get annoying, so be judicious in their application.

Use of Apostrophes

  • Use an apostrophe for possessive form (except the word its.) For example: The cat’s toys are blue.
  • Use an apostrophe for contractions, such as it is. For example: The cat’s playing with its toys. It’s a happy cat.
  • Avoid using an apostrophe for plural forms. For example: Five cats ran past her.

Again, the rules can be complicated such as when to use an apostrophe when dealing with an acronym, so when in doubt, look it up.

6. Be Careful When Using the Enter Key.

There are many times in your book you’ll want to go to a new page, or to create a blank page. This is simple right? Hit enter a few times, and presto, you’ve got a new page.

Wrong.

Using paragraph breaks, or hitting enter, to create a new page can create many problems when it comes to getting your manuscript ready to publish. For instance, you or your book designer will need to change your page size or page setup according to the book size and style you’ve chosen. Using paragraph breaks will create extra space where none is needed and will change the page layouts of your book, making your book look ugly. If you’re wondering why after you change your paper size, your chapter headings are no longer at the top of the page, but halfway down, it was because of your liberal use of paragraph breaks.

Instead use the page break function. This instantly creates a new page, and it remains a new page even when you’ve changed the page size, page layout, or added more content above. On Microsoft Word this can be done by pressing Ctrl+Enter (Windows) or Cmd+Enter (Mac.) You can also find it in the ribbon in Word. Google Docs also has this feature.

In Word 2016 go to Insert > Page Break

image1

In Google Docs go to Insert > Break > Page Break

image4

7. Use the Styles Feature Instead of Formatting Yourself.

Stop formatting your chapter titles yourself. Many writers indicate a title or subtitle by simply changing the font size and changing the font from the default font (ah Times New Roman, how we miss you) and thinking their job is done. This makes navigating and formatting your book a pain.

What you want to do is use MS Word’s “Styles” feature. Google Docs also has this feature.

In Word 2016, you can find the Styles section under the Home tab on both Mac & Windows.

image6

In Google Docs the styles section can be found by clicking the box between the zoom level and the font type.

image2

When creating a new chapter, highlight the chapter heading, and then make it a header by applying the relevant style. If it’s the main heading make it “Heading 1”, if it’s a subtitle make it “Heading 2”, etc.

This has the added benefit of allowing you to easily automatically create a table of contents page, or to navigate through your 30,000-word manuscript with Word’s navigation pane.

Conclusion.

Without question you want your book to stand out because of its invaluable content, stunning tone of voice, and laser targeted towards your audience. However, don’t let your book’ formatting or grammatical errors get in the way of your book’s success.

If you’ve written your book, and are ready to get it published, follow the guide you just read to make sure your manuscript is devoid of errors. Then once you’re ready, check out our guide on getting published on Amazon. For tips on how to format your book for Kindle, it’s best to follow Amazon’s comprehensive guide on the matter. It will help you design your title page on a different first page, your copyright page, trimming to the correct paper size, and the million other things you need to do to get your book ready for print. Here’s a guide for formatting your book for CreateSpace, though the advice it gives is for Word 2007.  

Thirty years ago, it would have been impossible to publish a book yourself. Today you have all the tools you need to produce a flawless manuscript. Take the time to review your book—and hire an editor and a book designer—to make sure your book formatting is perfectly professional.

how to get isbn

How to Get an ISBN: Cracking the Code for Self-Publishers

In the early days of World War 2, the Japanese military sent messages back and forth. The Allies needed to crack their intricate numbering system to get an edge in the war and turn the tables. But how did they crack this complex system? MI6 recruited a young mathematician named Gordon Foster to work as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park, where he scanned millions of numbers looking for patterns in the code.

Decades later, when the book industry needed a standardized tracking programme in order to coordinate the increasing number of titles being published each year, Gordon Foster was approached by WH Smith, a British retailer, to write a report on how to create such a system.

This report led to the 9-digit standard book number which went live in the UK in 1967, and eventually led to the ISBN system used worldwide. Several years later this turned into a 10-digit numbering system when a policy was needed for new editions and variations. Then, in 2007, the ISBN switched to a 13-digit format and is now the standard used everywhere.

ISBN stands for “International Standard Book Number” and, before it was implemented in 1967, the method and system for cataloging, ordering, organizing, and locating a specific book was a chaotic mess.

Today, to get your book into a bookstore, a library, or almost any book distribution channel on the planet, you need an ISBN.

But how does this long string of numbers on the back of books work? How do you get it? If you’re a self-publisher, do you need an ISBN? Why would you need one?

These are all questions answered in this article. It’s a mammoth of a post and will get quite technical at certain points. If you just want to know if you should get an ISBN as a self-publisher, and where to get it, feel free to skip these sections.

With that disclaimer, let’s unweave the intricate web of ISBNs and how they work in the publishing industry.

Image uploaded from iOS 1

How To Read an ISBN: What do the Numbers Stand For?

As of 2007, the ISBN is a 13-digit number. This came about in part because of the large volume of eBooks now being published every year. Knowing how to break down and interpret these 13 digits aren’t of much use and interest to most book readers, but for publishers and distributors it’s a necessity. If you want to publish lots of books under your own publishing name then it’s something you may want to pay attention to. You can tell a lot about a book and its author by reading the ISBN number.

The 13 digit ISBN number helps:

  • Identify the specific title
  • Identify the author
  • Identify the type of book they are buying
  • Identify the physical properties of that particular book
  • Identify the geographical location of the publisher

Let’s break it down and look at what all these numbers mean.

ISBN Breakdown

Here is the ISBN for a particular book:

978-3-16-148410-0

You’ll notice this sequence is divided into 5 number combinations. But the first three digits “978” indicates that this string of numbers is for an ISBN. if we remove these digits we have:

3-16-148410-0

First is the initial digit, in this case: 3

The 3 is the language group identifier which here indicates German. For English speaking countries a 0 or 1 is used. Numbers for language identification generally range from 1-5.

Here is a list of the most common Group identifiers:

0 or 1 for English

2 for French

3 for German

4 for Japan

5 for Russian

7 for People’s Republic of China

It’s worth mentioning that the rarer the language, the longer the number identifier will be. For example, Indonesia is 602 whereas Turkey is 9944. You can reference the complete list at the International ISBN Agency.

Next is “16”. This is the “publisher code,” and it identifies the publisher on any book that has this number. This number can be as long as 9 digits.

“148410” — This six digit series represents the title of the book. The publisher assigns this to a specific book or edition of the book, such as a hardcover version or paperback. This could be a single digit or stretch to multiple digits.

“0” is the last digit and is known as the “check digit”. This number is mathematically calculated as a fixed digit. This is always a single digit. This number indicates that the rest of the ISBN numbers have been scanned and is calculated based on the other digits in the code.

The ISBN and Barcode

The ISBN is usually found above the barcode on the back of the book, so it’s reasonable to assume they’re the same thing, right?

Except, they’re not. The barcode isn’t the same as the ISBN.

This is an important distinction because:

  • When you purchase an ISBN you don’t automatically get a barcode
  • The barcode of your book can change, while your ISBN can remain the same.

We’ve already discussed what data the ISBN carries, however the barcode includes extra information such as the book’s fixed price and the currency it’s being sold in. Barcodes are a necessary element of your book as they allow for most retailers and distributors to scan your ISBN for retail and inventory reasons.

The standard barcode is known as the EAN (European Article Number) barcode, and your barcode must be in this format to sell your book in bookstores.

pasted image 0 2

(Breakdown of the typical EAN barcode on the back of a book by Publisher Services)

Reading a barcode: If you look at the picture of a standard barcode, you’ll notice two barcodes side by side. The barcode that appears on the left is the EAN generated from the ISBN number. The other number appearing on the right is a 5-digit add-on, called an EAN-5, that contains the price of the book. The first digit is a 5, and is a must for scanners to read. The 4-digits after the five indicates the price of the book.

For example, if the number reads 52995, this means the price of the book is set at $29.95. If the price of the book changes, a new barcode must be used, though the ISBN wouldn’t change. This would only be replaced by a new ISBN if the book is published as a new edition or as a new version.

To buy a barcode you must first purchase an ISBN. You can buy your barcodes at Bowker and they even offer a barcode-ISBN combo:

  • 1 barcode + 1 ISBN is $150.
  • 1 barcode + 10 ISBNs is $320.

The Difference between ASIN and ISBN

If you’ve used Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program you’ve probably come across an ASIN. ASIN numbers are used by Amazon to manage and identify the products they are selling on their site. It’s a 10-character alphanumeric unique identifier that’s assigned by Amazon.com and its partners. You can find this on your book page. In your browser, the Amazon ASIN will be after the product’s name and “dp”. The next place to find this is in your book or product details area of your book page.

However, an ASIN is not the same as an ISBN. You can only use it with Amazon. If you want to sell through other platforms or in brick and mortar stores, you’re going to need an ISBN.

Reasons Self-Publishers Need an ISBN

And now we come to the most pressing question on your mind: do you need an ISBN?

If you want to publish and sell your eBook on Amazon, then the quick answer is no, it isn’t necessary. Amazon will assign your eBook an ASIN number which will be used to identify and track your title.

However, that’s only with Amazon, and only with eBooks.

If you want your readers to get a hold of a print version of your book, then you’re going to need an ISBN. This might be important if you have a brick and mortar marketing strategy, or if you want your book to be accessible through libraries (more on this later), or if you’re looking to deal with wholesalers or other online retailers.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: if you want to sell your book by means other than as an ebook on Amazon, then you’ll need an ISBN.

Should You Get a Free or a Paid ISBN?

You might have noticed that self-published authors can get assigned a free ISBN by Createspace, the On-Demand publishing company owned by Amazon. You can also get an ISBN when dealing with a whole host of On-Demand or self publishing companies, like Draft2Digital, Smashwords or IngramSpark. If you can get a free or cheap ISBN with them, then what’s the use in paying for your own one?

Here’s the problem: most of the time, you can only use those free ISBNs with the channels those companies distribute through.

Let’s say you get a free ISBN with Draft2Digital, but then you notice that there are some retail channels you can access through Smashwords that you can’t with Draft2Digital. You can’t use the Draft2Digital ISBN with Smashwords. Smashwords will only let you use your own ISBN or an ISBN they assign to you. So what do you do?

You get a free ISBN with Smashwords.

And now you have two ISBNs for the same book. Same book title, same book format, but two ISBNs.

You then hear of some exclusive channels you can get through eBookPartnership. The only wrinkle? You need an ISBN and they won’t take your Smashwords’ or Draft2Digital’s ISBN. So you sign up for their free ISBN instead.

Now you have three ISBNs for the same book. This problem can repeat itself again and again as you discover more ways to distribute your book. Sometimes you’ll have to pay for the ISBN, sometimes you won’t. But it leads to you having several ISBNs, all from different publishers, for the same book.

Can you picture how unprofessional that looks to a bookstore? Wouldn’t it have been easier to start off by buying your own ISBN? Wouldn’t that make you look more professional?

On top of this, each of those free ISBNs identify the self publishing company as a publisher. It’s the equivalent of using your business email address as [email protected] or [email protected] instead of [email protected] (assuming you’re named Matt). Not only does this make you look unprofessional, but there are some stores that will refuse to stock your book on this basis. If you have a CreateSpace ISBN, there are a number of bookstores that will refuse to carry your book.

All of these issues can be sidestepped by simply purchasing your own ISBN through Bowker.

If You’re Publishing An eBook, Don’t Ignore Libraries

We briefly mentioned that if you want to stock your book in libraries you’ll need an ISBN. However, that might be the furthest thing from your mind. You might have decided to focus purely on eBook publishing and what part do libraries play in eBooks?

A big one.

Libraries are becoming more important to the distribution of eBooks. Overdrive are the largest supplier to schools and libraries in the world (serving more than 30,000), and they circulated more than 105 million eBooks in 2014, a 33% increase from their previous year. They also supply to retail stores globally, making $100 million in sales in 2013.

And guess what you need to be able to partner with Overdrive? Yup. An ISBN.

How do I get an ISBN?

Hopefully you’re convinced that if you want to look professional in the industry and be able to access all distribution channels, you need your own ISBN.

But how do you get one?

ISBNs are free in many countries, provided either by the government or a publicly administered branch. However, in the US and the UK, ISBNs are administered by Bowker and Nielsen respectively, and require you to pay.

If you’re located outside the USA you can find out your local ISBN Agency here. While ISBNs are assigned locally, you can use them internationally.

If you live in the USA, you have to get an ISBN through myidentifiers.com, run by Bowker, the only company that is authorized to administer the ISBN program in the United States. You can purchase ISBNs as a single unit or in bulk of 10, 100 or 1000.

How to Register Your Book and ISBN

As soon as you purchase your ISBN through Bowker, or the International equivalent in your local area, and you publish your book, you should register here at Bowkerlink. This is an automated tool that will add your book to Bowker’s Books In Print and Global Books In Print. I recommend you download the free PDF “ISBN Guides: Title Set Up & Registration” with step-by-step instructions on setting up your title.

How Many ISBNs To Get

So how many ISBNs should you get?

First off let’s clarify a few common mistakes:

  • You can only use an ISBN once. The ISBN is a unique number for that particular book, and can be assigned once, and only once, to that title. It can’t be used with any other book in the future, even second versions of the same book.
  • You don’t need an ISBN to sell in each individual country. ISBNs are international, they are just assigned locally. A US based publisher can purchase their ISBN through Bowker, but can stock their book worldwide using that ISBN.
  • You need an ISBN for every specific format of the book, and any new versions. Want to sell your book in print, as an eBook, and also as an audiobook? That’s great, however you need a different ISBN for each one. If you want to publish a revised and updated version you’ll also need a new ISBN. (This doesn’t cover fixing some typos and errors).
  • If you create a series of books you can’t use the same ISBN for them. You can use the same ISSN, however. Many fiction and nonfiction authors, have an ISSN number assigned to their book series. ISSN stands for International Standard Series Number, and can be purchased from the Library of Congress. However, each book in the series will need its own ISBN.

We mentioned that in the USA you can buy ISBNs as a single unit, a bulk of 10, 100 or 1000. Here are the prices:

Number of ISBNs You Get Price
1 $125
10 $295
100 $575
1000 $1500

Screen Shot 2017 08 02 at 11.29.32 AM

First off, it rarely makes sense to purchase a single ISBN. A single ISBN would cost you $125, but a bulk of 10 only costs $295. Meaning if you purchased 10, each ISBN would cost you $29.50, a 76% discount.

Buying a single ISBN might seem feasible if you only want to publish one title, but remember that you need an ISBN for each format. So if you want to publish your book as an audiobook, you’d need a brand new ISBN for that. As well as needing different ISBNs for your eBook and print versions.

Not to mention that you’ll need an ISBN for any future books you publish, perhaps as sequels to your book.

We recommend that if your serious in making book sales you purchase at least a bulk of 10 ISBNs. That gives you 3 ISBNs to use for publishing as an eBook, in print, and as an audiobook. You can keep the remainder for books you publish in the future.

Wrapping It Up

Now that you have a very good idea how to buy and use ISBNs for your own books, all the best on setting this up. If you want to be recognized as a publisher and have your books available to a larger global audience by registering through Bowker, consider investing in your own ISBNs. Think of it as buying a piece of property: You own it and it is registered in your name.

For more information, you can find out anything you want to know by visiting the official Bowker page or at myidentifiers.com

Here’s a simple actionable checklist for ISBNs.

To buy an ISBN for your next book, here is what you should do:

  1. Go to the website https://www.myidentifiers.com
  2. Under the ISBN drop down tab, click on ISBNs—Buy Here. You can select 1, 10 or 100. For a bulk purchase, go to “Buying ISBNs in Bulk” and you can contact Bowker directly to discuss your options.
  3. Once you have your ISBN assigned, you can then use it everywhere that requires your ISBN number.
  4. At Createspace, under the “Setup” channel, you can choose to have Createspace assign you an ISBN. When you buy your own ISBN at Bowker, just put in the 13-digit number and Createspace will use this in your paperback.
  5. If you publish your paperback through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), you can fill in your number in the “Paperback Content” section of your book when you log into your bookshelf. If you choose to have Createspace assign you an ISBN, KDP will ask for your 13-digit number if you are transferring your physical version over to KDP.
  6. Register your ISBN here at Bowker as soon as your book is ready for sale. Download the free ISBN Guides: Title Set Up & Registration step-by-step guide.

Helpful Links & Resources

These links appeared throughout the post but here they are for easy access.

International ISBN Agency

https://www.isbn-international.org

ISBN.org by Bowker

https://www.isbn.org/faqs_general_questions

Bowkerlink Publisher Access System

https://commerce.bowker.com/corrections/common/home.asp

Bowker Identifier Services

https://www.myidentifiers.com

U.S. Copyright Office

https://www.copyright.gov

ISBN Set Up Guide

ISBN Guides: Basic Information