Sunday, July 12, 2009


Given the state of current economics we all have had to reassess our fiscal positions and adjust our personal and business belts accordingly.

As authors, determining which option will be most cost effective while providing the quality product we demand, can be a daunting task.

In our search for the right fit we investigate possibilities at our disposal and weigh word-of-mouth recommendations. We comb through volumes of literary news offerings that keep us abreast of industry trends, its newest innovations and the downside of the business.

Of late the majority of the news has placed focus the closing of long time publishing institutions and the downsizing and merging of others. With the number of publisher's dwindling the already competitive process of manuscript submission has gone to a higher level.

There will be new authors presented to the public, but for the most part publishers seem to be focusing on what they feel will bring in the largest return for their investment. Their investment, to the chagrin of the mid and lower list authors is the shrinking financial investment committed to their projects. On the other side of this is the author’s contractual obligation to promote the book; in most cases placing the primary financial burden upon them.

Companies offering alternatives to traditional publishing are very aware of the shrinking opportunities through traditional Houses. That knowledge has brought forth a massive advertising blitz promoting a need for their services in what seems to be desperate times.

What seems like desperate times can occasionally cause the most prudent business person to reach for non-traditional options. There is nothing wrong with alternate means of doing business. In fact, there is truth to the adage that necessity is the mother of invention. What you want to avoid, is necessity becoming the demise of your good works.

If you are considering publishing your book through non-traditional means I suggest you sit down and make several lists.

Items on the first list should include such things as:
1. Why am I publishing?
2. Do I know my target audience?
3. Do I have the time to commit?
4. Do I know what my publishing needs are?
5. Do I have the finances?

The second list:
1. Contact authors published through your top three considerations.
2. Ask about their experience with the company, quality of editing, production quality and marketing assistance

Third List:
1. What are the pros and cons of using this company?
2. Are they really publishers?
3. Will they provide all of my publishing needs?
4. Do I have to pay for everything?
5. If they are the publisher should I be paying for everything?
6. If they are the publisher should I be paying for books?
7. Will the cost to purchase books necessitate having to overprice the book?
8. Who owns the rights to the book?

The lists above can be added to as you deem necessary. The Point is, before you sign a contract you must understand your legal rights. Thoroughly investigate any company you are considering doing business with. Obtain the services of a literary attorney to help you understand terms of any contract presented to you. Most of all, know your rights.

If you have questions or comments I would like to hear from you.

Until next time be blessed and remember – There is no such thing as an acceptable loss in God’s Kingdom!



Of late I have had many inquires regarding ownership of titles as it pertains to the ISBN (International Standard Book Number). My first response to this inquiry is – always understand your obligation and rights according to any contract you sign. Language will vary from company to company and according to any special circumstances worked out between publisher and author.

For those who do not know what an ISBN number is and where to obtain one you can follow this link.

For your convenience the FAQ from Bowker (the official ISBN distributor) is listed below.

What is an ISBN?
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 10-digit number that uniquely identifies books and book-like products published internationally.

What is the purpose of an ISBN?
The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.

What is the format of the ISBN?
Every ISBN consists of ten digits and whenever it is printed it is preceded by the letters ISBN. The ten-digit number is divided into four parts of variable length, each part separated by a hyphen.

Does the ISBN have any meaning imbedded in the numbers?
The four parts of an ISBN are as follows:
1.Group or country identifier which identifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers;
2.Publisher identifier which identifies a particular publisher within a group;
3.Title identifier which identifies a particular title or edition of a title;
4.Check digit is the single digit at the end of the ISBN which validates the ISBN.

Why do some ISBNs end in an "X"?
In the case of the check digit, the last digit of the ISBN, the upper case X can appear. The method of determining the check digit for the ISBN is the modulus 11 with the weighting factors 10 to 1. The Roman numeral X is used in lieu of 10 where ten would occur as a check digit.

Who can assign ISBNs to a publisher?
There are over 160 ISBN Agencies worldwide, and each ISBN Agency is appointed as the exclusive agent responsible for assigning ISBNs to publishers residing in their country or geographic territory. The United States ISBN Agency is the only source authorized to assign ISBNs to publishers supplying an address in the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico and its database establishes the publisher of record associated with each prefix.
Once an ISBN publisher prefix and associated block of numbers has been assigned to a publisher by the ISBN Agency, the publisher can assign ISBNs to publications it holds publishing rights to. However, after the ISBN Agency assigns ISBNs to a publisher, that publisher cannot resell, re-assign, transfer, or split its list of ISBNs among other publishers. These guidelines have long been established to ensure the veracity, accuracy and continued utility of the international ISBN standard.

As defined by the ISO Standard, the ISBN publisher prefix (or "root" of the ISBN) identifies a single publisher. If a second publisher subsequently obtains an ISBN from the assigned publisher's block of ISBNs, there will be no change in the publisher of record for any ISBN in the block as originally assigned. Therefore, searches of industry databases for that re-assigned ISBN will identify the original owner of that assigned prefix as the publisher rather than the second publisher. Discovering this consequence too late can lead to extensive costs in applying for a new prefix, re-assigning a new ISBN, and potentially leading to the application of stickers to books already printed and in circulation.

If you are a new publisher, you should apply for your own ISBN publisher prefix and plan to identify and circulate your books properly in the industry supply chain. You may encounter offers from other sources to purchase single ISBNs at special offer prices; you should be wary of purchasing from these sources for the reasons noted above. There are unauthorized re-sellers of ISBNs and this activity is a violation of the ISBN standard and of industry practice. A publisher with one of these re-assigned ISBNs will not be correctly identified as the publisher of record in Books In Print or any of the industry databases such as Barnes and Noble or Amazon or those of wholesalers such as Ingram. If you have questions, contact the US ISBN Agency for further advice.

Who is eligible for an ISBN?
The ISBN Agency assigns ISBNs at the direct request of publishers, e-book publishers, audio cassette and video producers, software producers and museums and associations with publishing programs.

How long does it take to get an ISBN?
Allow 15 business days for non-priority processing from the time an ISBN application is received at the agency (not from the date sent by the publisher.) Priority processing is two business days from the time an application is received at the agency. Express processing is 24 business hours.

How much does it cost to get an ISBN?
There is a service fee to process all ISBN applications. Service fee information is contained on the application. Priority and Express processing involve an additional fee.

NOTE: The processing service charge is NON-REFUNDABLE.

What do I do when I receive the ISBN and where is it printed?
An ISBN should be assigned to each title or product, including any backlist or forthcoming titles. Each format or binding must have a separate ISBN (i.e. hardcover, paperbound, VHS video, laserdisc, e-book format, etc). A new ISBN is required for a revised edition. Once assigned, an ISBN can never be reused. An ISBN is printed on the lower portion of the back cover of a book above the bar code and on the copyright page.

How & where do I register my ISBN?
Once ISBNs have been assigned to products they should be reported to R.R. Bowker as the database of record for the ISBN Agency. Companies are eligible for a free listing in various directories such as Books in Print, Words on Cassette, The Software Encyclopedia, Bowker's Complete Video Directory, etc.

NOTE: Receiving just your ISBNs does NOT guarantee title listings. To ensure your titles get in the Books in Print database you must submit your title information.

Book titles should be registered with Books in Print at

Can a publisher have both an ISBN & an ISSN?
Both numbering systems are used for books in a series and with annuals or biennials. The ISBN identifies the individual book in a series or a specific year for an annual or biennial. The ISSN identifies the ongoing series, or the ongoing annual or biennial serial. If a publication has both, each should be printed on the copyright page.

How can I find an assigned ISBN?
The Publications (hard copy listings) in which the assigned ISBNs appear are Publishers, Distributors & Wholesalers of the United States, published by R.R. Bowker, and Literary Market Place, published by Information Today.

How are ISBNs used in a Bar Code & how do I obtain one?
The ISBN can be translated into a worldwide compatible bar code format. Publishers who wish to have their ISBNs translated into worldwide compatible bar codes can now make their request directly online at or Bar code scanning is a required step required by for many retailers in the sales transaction process for book publications and book-related items. We hope that offering this service will save you time and enable you to meet all of your transaction partners' requirements.

How do I select the correct amount of ISBNs?
ISBNs are sold in blocks of 10, 100, and 1000. When purchasing ISBNs, we recommend that you estimate the amount of publications you will be publishing within the next five years, and select the block that best suits your needs. It is always best to select the block that will last you for a few years because you will be able to maintain one publisher prefix, and minimize the unit cost per ISBN. When purchasing a larger block of ISBNs, the price per ISBN decreases.
What is the format of the new ISBN-13?

Every ISBN will consist of thirteen digits in 2007. The thirteen digit number is divided into five parts of variable length, each part separated by a hyphen.

Does the ISBN-13 have any meaning imbedded in the numbers?
The five parts of an ISBN are as follows: 1. The current ISBN-13 will be prefixed by "978" 2. Group or country identifier which identifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers; 3. Publisher identifier which identifies a particular publisher within a group; 4. Title identifier which identifies a particular title or edition of a title; 5. Check digit is the single digit at the end of the ISBN which validates the ISBN.


Joyce M Averils said...

Thanks Linda for some really great information. I know that I am going to follow your suggestions as I begin the publishing process.


It is my pleasure Joyce. Do come back often there will be much more information that may prove helpful to you.