Mailbag Monday With Answers to your Self-Publishing Questions

by | Feb 4, 2013

Well, that was an exciting ball game yesterday, wasn’t it? Today to help you cool back down, I’ve reached into the mailbag for some questions that have come in recently.

Since most self-publishers run into the same kinds of questions as they get further into the publishing process, I like to post these questions once in a while for the benefit of everyone.

Q: I’m ready to key my hand written story into a program that I can use to format, send excerpts from, massage, you know what I mean. Do you have a recommendation for me?
A: Most writers use Microsoft Word, but I’ve really been enjoying Scrivener lately, it’s a real writer’s tool. Scrivener gives you remarkable capabilities to organize your research and your writing in the same document, to easily rearrange parts of the document, many ways to view your content, and the ability export to ebook formats. It’s really state of the art.

Q: How do I determine the sell price of my book?
A: The best way to begin to get an idea about your pricing is to look at other, similar books that have been popular, like with Amazon’s “Top 100” lists in your specific category, niche or genre.

Q: I thought if something was written and/or published that in itself would copyright it automatically. Is that not the case?
A: Copyright is created at the same time you create the work. The Copyright office registers copyrights, and that would be particularly important for someone publishing under a pseudonym, to establish who the actual copyright owner is.

Q: I’ve been approached by a large on-line store who wants to carry our book. Hurrah!! They are NOT a bookstore, however, and I was unsure of what sort of discount to propose.
A: If the retailer is outside the normal book distribution channels it’s common to give a bigger discount in exchange for payment on delivery with no returns. The most typical discount for this type of sale is 50% in my experience.

Q: Do e-Books need to have the bar code? I know they need a different ISBN but I am just doubtful about the bar code and could not find the answer anywhere.
A: No, ebooks don’t need a barcode. Where would you print it?

Q: Is it possible to put the ISBN number on a book that has already been printed without the number? If yes, how do I go about it?
A: Yes, the way to do it is with self-adhesive labels. I believe you can buy these from

Q: What’s the downside of not buying my own ISBN and using the free ones, provided by PoD companies or ebook distributors?
A: There are 2 potential issues with using a “free” ISBN. First, it will show the owner of the ISBNs (the PoD company or ebook distributor) as the publisher of record. Second, if you ever want to move your book to another vendor, you will need to use a different ISBN and deal with the metadata issues that that implies.

Q: Would you help me to choose (I think mostly between Garamond and TimesNewRoman) for inside fonts for a semi-technical book (about nutrition) I am about to self publish? I just want to use what is most common, nothing fancy…
A: If you are choosing between Times and Garamond, use Garamond. Times Roman was designed for newspapers, not books.

Q: I am about to self publish my first book and was wondering if I should incorporate a publishing company name, or just put it under my current corporate business name. Should I make up a publishing company name, use my business name, use my name, or not have one at all?
A: You can choose to use your current corporate name or create a new company, either will work. Many people who already have a company structure use that but create an “imprint” name for their publishing activities. So for instance you could brand your books with an imprint like “LiveMore Books” and keep all the business activity within your corporation. Any of these ways will work.

Q: I’m a new self-publisher and I don’t know whether to use CreateSpace or Lightning Source or Lulu or what. Can you advise?
A: I think the best place for authors to publish their own books right now is CreateSpace, were you can contract for other services if you need them but you don’t have to. You’ll get low prices and decent quality books, with lots of support and resources to help you. Lightning Source is more of a business-to-business company whose customers are publishers rather than authors.

Q: Guy Kawasaki in his “APE: How to Publish a Book” (which I read this week) suggests that the order of the parts of an e-book can deviate from the Chicago Manual of Style. Your thoughts?
A: Guy is correct when it comes to ebooks. Print books often have a long frontmatter section including blurbs, previous books, half-title and blank pages as well as copyright and contents. Since only about 10% of your book will be made available as a “sample” on eretailers’ sites, you want to make sure browsers can get to your content right away. You can move some of the traditional parts of the print book to the end of the book or even put them on a web page you link to from inside the book.

Have you run into any questions that are holding you back? Don’t know who to ask? Go ahead and ask in the comments and let’s see if we can help.

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tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Sherri

    Thank you for this helpful information. With respect to your saying that an imprint could be set up for publishing books within an existing corporation, would payments for the books then have to be made to the name of the corporation or could they be made to the imprint? If made to the imprint, would the imprint then be considered as a d/b/a (doing business as/fictitious corporate name) entity?
    Thank you again.

  2. Valerie W Stasik

    I’ve just discovered that some fly-by-night site,, is offering my ebook as a free download. This violates my copyright and my agreement with Amazon. Amazon is the sole provider of my ebook. There is no contact information on the offending site. I have contacted Amazon and Google. I also went to WHOIS to see if I could find contact info for the site and only found the names of three domain registrar companies, one of which is based in Cypress. What other actions can I take?

  3. Rossandra White

    I’m considering going with SheWrites Press a “hybrid” publishing company for which I will pay big bucks, well, not that big but certainly more than Lulu, CreateSpace and BookBaby–my other considerations. Oh, and I might mention, I’ve already had my book professionally edited. Bottom line can you tell me how much of a difference there would be going with SheWrites versus any of the other three, or let’s just say CreateSpace, which you already mentioned you recommend. Thanks!

    • Joel Friedlander


      Great question. I don’t know SheWrites Press, but there are publishing companies sprouting like mushrooms after a healthy rain these days, so it does pay to be careful with your investment.

      In evaluating author services companies, micro publishers, cooperative publishers and subsidy publishers, make sure you know exactly what you’re paying for, whether you are being promised “efforts” rather than results, who will control the retail price of your book, who will own the files used to create your book, and what the mechanics of getting out of the contract involve.

      Sound complicated? Sorry I can’t give you a blanket “Yes!” or “No” but going through this exercise will teach you a lot about publishing. In fact, I think this is a great topic for a blog post, so thanks for suggesting it.

      • Rossandra

        Thanks Joel. And you’re welcome (idea for blog post), looking forward to reading that one.

    • Tracy R. Atkins

      SheWrites is similar to Abbot Press, Publish America, Xlibris, etc. Notice the promise of “No rejections—ever.” on the website.

      The $4K+ they charge are for a bundle of services, many you may not need at all, and most are a bit over-priced as it is.

      If you have your edit complete, you are far ahead of the game already. Have a couple of proof reads completed by some independent people. Then I would suggest getting your interior formatting professionally (Joel has something coming up in a couple weeks that you might be interest in here), and then a professional cover. After that, publish with CreateSpace.

      Odds are you will get what you need to finish out your book for less than $500-$1,000. That extra $3K+ is only paying for a little hand-holding, if any, and a lot of scratch in someone’s pocket at your expense, that could be used to promote your book.

      There are more resources on this website that can walk you through it all.

      • rossandra

        Thanks Tracy. Beyond the point that unlike those others you mentioned, SheWrites doesn’t have class action lawsuits against them and/or shady dealings with their authors, I guess it boils down to trusting myself to take the most effective path to self-publishing, including the marketing.

        • Tracy R. Atkins

          Sorry Rossandra,

          I didn’t mean to imply that they were disreputable in any way, only that they are an author service company. Just be sure that what they are offering is what you need and you are comfortable with the return on your investment.

          • Rossandra

            No biggie, I actually understood your meaning, I just thought in passing that they shouldn’t get lumped in with the others. I really appreciate your advice. (As I continue to thrash around trying to make my decision!)

    • Rosanne Dingli

      This one is a no-brainer if it’s only a matter of money – Createspace is free except for an ISBN (and only if you don’t want their free one) and $25 for expanded distribution, which you can also decline.

      If it’s a matter of expertise, you can still take on services (like you already have with an editor) for formatting and uploading, which are once-only charges.

      Whatever you do, don’t incur double charges – that is, do not accept “royalties” on a book whose services you are paying for to the same publisher. That is, accept royalties ONLY from a publisher that has not charged you for anything.

      Another thing you do not do is sign away any rights. What are you giving away for those fees? What’s in your contract? How long are you tying your book up for?

      An author owes it to herself to be as informed and knowledgable as possible BEFORE she takes on and pays for stuff. It’s too easy to kick oneself when it’s too late to withdraw from a contract.

      • Rossandra White

        Good point, is it just about the money for me? Partly, but I realized that I’m mostly worried that I’ll end up not maximizing my options. Thanks Rosanne.

  4. Rosanne Dingli

    I forgot to say that I really enjoyed reading this Q&A blog. There’s always something you need answered or confirmed. Thank you, Joel.

    • Joel Friedlander

      My pleasure, Rosanne, and thanks for filling in more information about Times New Roman.

  5. Michael N. Marcus

    >> Times Roman was designed for newspapers, not books.<<

    Although The Times of London commissioned the development of Times New Roman by Monotype in 1931, the paper replaced the face with Times Modern in 2006.

    With the new face, the paper can fit even more words on a page—not a common goal in book publishing.

    Michael N. Marcus
    NEW: self-publishing company parody,
    NEW: reviews of books for authors:

    • Rosanne Dingli

      TNR is also the most commonly used typeface for manuscripts, school assignments and projects of non-professional people, or people outside the publishing industry. It’s what editors, high school teachers and students most commonly use. It is not a book typeface. A formatted manuscript is not a ‘real’ book.



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