At the BAIPA Meeting: Questions and Answers

by | Feb 13, 2010

BAIPA meeting Feb 2010

Pete Masterson fielding questions from the crowd

I wasn’t sure what kind of turnout we would have at today’s monthly meeting of the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. After all, just 20 minutes away the San Francisco Writer’s Conference was a sell-out, so we had schedule conflict.

But the meeting was one of our biggest of the year, with many new faces. As usual the first hour was devoted to questions and answers, moderated by President Pete Masterson, author of Book Design and Production for Publishers.

And just as usual, it was a mixed bag of questions, which I present here for your enjoyment. The answers are from Pete and members of the audience, smashed up here for brevity:

How can I set up presentations to schools for my educational play books?

Contact the principal’s office at the school, or try to connect when the school is running a book fair. Don’t try to sell the parents through the kids. Offer to donate a percentage of sales in a specific event to the school. Brand the worksheets you give out with your publishing information and website URL. Write an article for a local paper on the value of your products and use it as leverage with the school.

Do you need reviews before you can sell on Amazon?

You may be thinking of prepublication reviews. Although your book shouldn’t be for sale during the prepub review period, you can sell pre-release copies on your website, and you can set a publication date and sell through Amazon Advantage, and Amazon will take advance orders on the book.

Any suggestions for selling a military memoir to the firms that supply on-base stores?

Give talks to veteran’s groups, try to locate the many military libraries, and look for a distributor who already sells into those retail outlets. Let them know about your book and how they can order it.

I sell my book for $37, but I do not sell to Amazon because I choose to support independent bookstores. How does the book end up on Amazon for $84?

You should list your book on Amazon. There are sellers that use automated programs to capture data from distributors like Ingram, and these same sources may be selling the book tomorrow for $40. Instead, join the Amazon Marketplace program even though your listings only last 3 months, because it’s a free program and you get a reminder to renew your listings. There was also a discussion of how discounting works from distributors to Amazon.

Discussion forums on Amazon don’t allow you to pitch your own book. What to do?

Go to Gmail and set up an account in a different name. Use this name to comment in forums and, as long as you also recommend other, complimentary book, you can also recommend your own book in a “soft sell” way.

I was screwed by a big subsidy publisher and now what do I do about my book?

iUniverse, xLibris, AuthorHouse, Lulu are not self-publishing companies, they are all subsidy publishers. iUniverse CEO once stated that only 86 books out of 17,000 published had sold more than 500 copies. They make their money from authors, not book sales. And bookstores don’t want books from the subsidy publishers anyway. Disengage from the company:

  1. Read the contract and terminate it
  2. Check to see if the company has copyright on your cover
  3. Re do the book and publish it yourself.

Does Bowker have a monopoly on selling ISBNs?
Bowker is the US administrator for the ISBN agency. It has also licensed a few others to sell individual ISBNs. Lulu and CreateSpace were discussed as places to publish with your own ISBN or to get cheaper proof copies than are available at Lightning Source.

A discussion of the lack of promotion on the part of traditional publishers ensued, and it was pointed out that the total promotion budget on a book for which the author received a $3000 advance was likely to be $300, about enough to cover the cost of one press release. You can do more for yourself.

What about selling to academic presses?

Because of budget cuts, academic presses are becoming more open to popular books, so if you can find a good match in subject matter, it pays to approach them.

How to transfer copyright after you pass away?

Have a publishing contract with your publishing company. Specify an individual who will receive complete rights to your book in your bequest. Copyright is property, and transferable. Or, as Pete said, print a huge number of books and tell your heirs that, if they want their inheritance, they will have to sell the books to get it.

How to publish training materials that are downloaded via PDFs without them getting stolen?

If you know of a specific example, write them a “cease and desist” letter with a threat to sue, and they will likely stop. However, there is no effective way to make files that can’t be copied, so make sure you brand every page and try to turn it into a marketing opportunity. Dan Poynter sells many $3 – $5 download reports, but many need updating and that precludes a lot of copying.

Can you stop people from downloading your images off your website?

Although you can’t stop it entirely, you can make it more difficult. Check with your webmaster to see what they offer for protection.

Well, that’s it for this month. Next month is BAIPAs annual Publish It! Institute at Dominican University, on March 13. This is an all-day affair with lunch, speakers, break-out sessions, and lots of people to meet and network with. If you’re in the area and you have an interest in self-publishing, it’s well worth the investment in time and money. Here’s a link: Publish It! Institute.

On Monday I plan to post about the speaker at today’s meeting, so watch for it.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Joel

    Hey Mike, thanks for your comment. I think your idea is really good because as you say, the speakers often run a little long and, consequently, there’s not much time for Q&A with them.

    But beside that, anyone who can use “druthers” in their comment is definitely a force to be reckoned with!

  2. Mike Lipsey

    Thanks for putting up these notes. I can’t always get to the meetings, and when I do I seldom get there in time for the Q&A. If I had my druthers BAIPA would do business first, speaker in the middle of the meeting, and the Q&A in the last hour, hopefully with the speaker present to participate. With the speaker at the end there is sometimes very little time for questions before we have to clear out. Putting the speaker in the middle would allow for combining the Q&A and the speaker’s Q&A, assuming the speaker was willing to hang around a bit longer, and I think most would.

  3. Joel

    Pete, thanks so much for your comment, and for explaining with such thoroughness your position on ISBNs and the clarification of what happened at the meeting. As you say, it’s necessary to pretty much “smashup” all the various comments in order to get a rundown of the sessions. I do it because I find the questions people ask very interesting, and I think a lot of other people could profit from the information.

    Don’t be a stranger!

  4. Joel

    Andy, thanks for stopping by. The question is as it was asked by a newcomer to publishing. In fact, I was taken with the way they put the question, and understood instantly where they were coming from.

    Perhaps if you’d like to make the case for the “value propositions of ISBNs” (something I’ve never doubted, by the way) you would be agreeable to an interview. I’d be happy to provide some questions via email that many people would be interested in hearing you answer. What do you think?

  5. Pete Masterson

    The question about ISBNs was necessarily abbreviated in this blog. I have long encouraged beginning self-publishers to order (at least) a block of 10 ISBNs from Bowker, as the U.S. ISBN Agency.

    We have also long emphasized the disadvantages of “getting” an ISBN through a subsidy publisher that is registered to that entity– forever tying the book to that subsidy house. For the independent author-publisher, that is a major disadvantage as it (1) ties the book to the subsidy publisher, (2) makes it impossible to choose other printing and distribution options if they appear to be more economical, and (3) gives you “3 strikes” against you when you approach booksellers to sell your book (as many booksellers won’t consider stocking books obtained from subsidy publishers).

    While single-ISBNs are available through Bowker (and sub-agents with resale agreements with Bowker), we do not advise these as they are almost 1/2 the price of a block of 10, a self-publisher may choose to publish another book or release another edition of the same book (requiring another ISBN) and a block of ISBNs is specifically registered to the self-publisher while the single numbers come from a ‘generic’ block — this is information that book professionals can easily verify. Ordering a block of 10 also shows more commitment to publishing than ordering a single ISBN.

    As to the monopoly issue, that was the question that the beginner asked. Our response was that R.R. Bowker is the exclusive U.S. Agent for issuing ISBNs. We did not use the term “monopoly.” We explained that each country has its own ISBN agency and in some cases it’s a public entity (often a national library) and in other cases it is a private concern. Bowker, as publisher of Books In Print, is an obvious candidate to operate the ISBN management for the U.S. since they also need to obtain data for the BIP database.

    Joel does a good job with his summary of the Q&A period at BAIPA meetings. The one hour segment moves quickly and Joel is not providing a transcript of the discussions, but is rather trying to give a ‘feel’ of what ensued. I appreciate his good work at taking on this task (without our asking him!) — but those who read his Blog must understand that it is impractical to get together more than brief notes of the questions and responses. Often, several members contribute to the response, further complicating the summarization process.

  6. Andy Weissberg

    A very informative article; however, with respect to ISBNs, perhaps rather than raising the question, “Does Bowker have a monopoly on selling ISBNs?” it would be helpful to educate your readers about the value propositions of ISBNs as a global cataloging, trading and discovery industry standard leveraged and operated by over 180 countries worldwide. You should explain the difference (and implications) between getting ISBNs from Bowker versus from self-publishing organizations like Lulu and CreateSpace. Bowker exclusively operates the US ISBN Agency and ensures that publishers and authors, and their titles, are discoverable and unambiguosly catalogued in search engines, e-commerce, retail point of sale systems and library catalogues. Are we a “monopoly?” No. And would we prefer that you do not refer to us in this capacity going forward? Emphatically, yes.



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