Shoestring Publishing, Part Four

This week we’re going to talk about the next couple of potential items on your budgeting list.

8. Formattting fees:

I found this to be an interesting problem to solve. At first, I was afraid that I’d have trouble learning the process of formatting both my ebook files and my print book files to industry spec, and I considered whether it would be less daunting to hire someone to do it for a fee. To that end, I looked up some options.

One friend-recommended service that focuses primarily on formatting fiction ebooks is called the “E-Book Formatting Fairies.” Their link is here: http://e-bookformattingfairies.blogspot.com/

The fees were reasonable, (“$50 up to 30 chapters and 350 pages of double spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font in the Word document submitted for formatting”) and they offered a fairly fast turnaround. They normally don’t do nonfiction, but upon further inquiry, they indicated that if I couldn’t handle the formatting on my own, they might be willing to give it a go. Had I not decided to go through the learning curve and do all of my own formatting, I would most likely have hired them to format my book.

A quick Google search of “ebook formatting services” will turn up several links to various services, but many of them offer services far more expensive than the one I mentioned above. If you truly don’t want to handle your own ebook formatting, then you can expect to pay anywhere from the aforementioned $50 on up into the hundreds of dollars.

Print book formatting varies in price, but expect to pay quite a bit for the service. For example, I saw one service that offered a combo formatting package–print and ebook both, but the total for that package was $1400. As we’ve already discussed, this service simply wasn’t in my budget, no matter how daunted I was by the notion of learning to format my own print and ebooks.

As an aside, I should mention that I’ve had a couple of ebook enthusiasts ask me “Why do a print version at all?” In reply, I’ll say that it really depends on the author and what your goals are. For myself, after so many years of trying to get published, I wanted to be able to hold that paperback in my hands and see it sitting there in my bookshelf. But while that was my initial impetus for making a print version of my book, I’ve since found that different genres of books and different readerships tend to prefer different formats of books. For my Sidhe-related nonfiction book, RavenSidhe’s first offering, I’ve found that I sell more copies of the print version of the book than copies of the ebook version. For our first fiction book, an epic fantasy novel, it’s been the opposite. So I’d be inclined to say it might pay to do both, unless you’re selling in a genre that trends heavily toward having more readers who just want ebooks.

We’ll have to do a whole different post on the various types of formatting and tutorials available for learning how to do that, but for the purposes of this budgeting post, suffice it to say that I learned how to format both print books and ebooks using entirely free software, bringing my total formatting cost to $0.00.

9. Library data block:

This is the part that you won’t have to worry about at all if you’re only doing ebooks. But if you are doing a print version, then you may want to consider getting yourself what we call the “publisher’s cataloging-in-publication data” block of information for your book–the CIP data. You’ve probably seen these small blocks of data listed on the copyright page of some print books. The data block basically tells a librarian where to shelve your book if the library were to buy one. Most public libraries will buy one if you 1. have a library card and 2. provide them with the ISBN of the book you want them to purchase. If they can get it through their usual channels, then they will often be willing to buy and stock one on their shelves, and this in turn could potentially result in a bit more exposure for your book.

If you are publishing a larger number of books written by someone other than yourself, then you will likely qualify to have your CIP block provided by the Library of Congress itself. But as a smaller indie publisher with fewer titles out, you will probably not qualify for the main program and will probably only qualify for the PCN program–PCN standing for the “preassigned control number.” To get this number assigned to your book, all you need to do is go to the Library of Congress website, fill out a form online and request a number. They usually get this LOC control number to you very quickly via email, and it’s free. But since you are a small indie publisher or an individual author, they will not provide the rest of the Cataloging-in-Publication data block to you.

Here is an article that explains the CIP in a little more detail:

http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/03/cip-what-it-means-how-to-read-it-who-should-get-it/

The CIP data block consists of the title, author, publisher, Library of Congress control number, and the subject headers and proper subject/category headings and numbers to indicate where the book should be shelved. Technically speaking, if you were to research the process thoroughly and were reasonable sure you knew what you were doing, you might be able to create this data block yourself, but I have personally found that I much prefer to have this done by a professional cataloging librarian. While if you live in a larger city you may have access to a cataloging librarian who you might be able to sweet talk into helping you, I found it far easier to procure the services of a librarian online.

The above-mentioned article provides a link to a service that will provide you a data block for about $100, but I found a different service that I used for mine, and the price was less. I paid $60 for each of my data blocks for my books, and I consider it money well spent.

I’ve hired this particular librarian to create the data blocks for both of my books to date, and I’ve been impressed with her expertise and quick turnaround. All I had to do was provide her with the information she asks for on her website, procure a (FREE!) LOC Control Number from the Library of Congress online, and email it all to her. From there, she creates the data block and emails it back to me.

The librarian I hire to do this service has a website that will further explain the data block and what it’s for, as well as what she will need in order to create one for you. Her website is here:

http://cipblock.com/

Ultimately, I decided that the CIP data block is something that I prefer to have in my print books. I feel it lends an air of professionalism to the finished product, and it’s also a nice courtesy for the libraries who agree to put your book on their shelves.

10. File Upload Fees:

This is an expense that you will likely only incur if you decide to choose a printer/distributor who actually charges a fee for each upload of your book files. There are plenty of articles online about the pros and cons of various printers. While I think that’s a worthy subject and should be a post all by itself, for the purposes of this budgeting-related series of posts, I’ll just say that for various reasons, I decided to go with one of the book printers who charges an upload fee. This fee isn’t terrible: it’s $49 per upload and includes both print and ebook files in one fee if I upload both at the same time. If I can’t upload them both in one session, as happened with my first book when I uploaded the files weeks apart, then the ebook upload fee is a separate $25, with the print upload being $49. I got my upload fee refunded because I bought at least 50 copies of my print book within the first 60 days after the initial file upload. The fee refund was a great help.

Some services like CreateSpace do not charge upload fees at all, so if you are on a severely limited budget, this may be the way to go for you. I’ve seen their product; they turn out a decent-looking book. We’ll go into why I chose to use a different printer/distributor in a later post.

Next week we’ll finish up this budgeting series of posts, and then we can move on to other considerations.

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