Monday Mailbag, Self-Publishing Questions and Answers

POSTED ON Jan 6, 2014

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

Home > Blog > Legal Issues, Self-Publishing > Monday Mailbag, Self-Publishing Questions and Answers

I know that it’s challenging to navigate the waters of the book publishing business when it’s all new to you. There is so much to learn just to get an idea of how all the pieces fit together.

And like in most fields, the same questions seem to repeat themselves. That’s why every once in a while I like to reach into my mailbag for some of the questions that have been asked lately.

Odds are that you might be wondering about some of these same issues. Here’s the latest roundup.

Q: I was planning to self-publish a 200-page cookbook with color lettering and a few color photos. Is there any way to have it published without paying more to have it printed and shipped than a reasonable retail price for the book? Please Help!

A: Color book production is a trade-off between the low unit costs you can get by offset printing and the price of a substantial up-front investment; or it’s the tradeoff between the low-risk of books printed through print on demand, but which carry a high unit cost, lower quality, and lack of flexibility. You can achieve your stated aim to “have it printed and shipped (at) a reasonable retail price” if you’re willing to invest $5,000 – $10,000 (or more) in the project for printing alone.

Q: I think I need permission to reprint soccer pictures in order to avoid copyright infringement. How can I do it?

A: You’ll need to identify, locate, and deal with whoever owns the rights to the pictures. The photographer who took them is the best place to start.

Q: I am in the process of building a website that will become a single stop source for all things in my niche. I want to include selling books by authors who write on my topic. How do I make deals with these authors? If they are published, do I have to make deals with their publishing houses? Do I just put up links to Amazon and if I do, am I cutting out a potential piece of commission income? I have never done anything like this so my experience base is starting out from zero.

A: You might want to become an Amazon Associate (an affiliate relationship). This would be the simplest and quickest way to add a “bookstore” to your site. Once you’ve got that up and running, you can start contacting the publishers of the top selling books in your field to see if you can cut a direct sales deal, buying a quantity of books at a deep discount for resale, because this will yield much higher profits than the typical percentage paid by Amazon.

Q: I have gone over your section on ISBNs a number of times, and I am getting ready to purchase mine. If I don’t want booksellers to know that this is my first book, is it advisable to purchase 100 ISBNs and assign a number to my book from the middle of the pack? Or is the 10 ISBN pack adequate? It is a stretch for me to do the 100 pack, but if it is the best idea in the long run for bookseller marketability, I will do that. And will I need to purchase barcodes as well, one for each category of printed book?

A: I think purchasing 100 ISBNs just to try to impress booksellers isn’t a good idea if you could put the money to better use. Your other marketing efforts will yield much more for the same investment. On the other hand, I have ISBNs I purchased in the 1980s, and I’m still using them, they don’t “wear out.” You probably don’t need to purchase any barcodes, especially if you’re hiring a cover designer, since they are likely to supply them. I’m not sure what you mean by “each category of printed book.” But the barcode is simply a scannable form of the ISBN, so if the ISBN doesn’t change, the barcode won’t, and each separate ISBN will need its own unique barcode.

Q: I’ve just finished my first ebook. It’s 45 pages and I’m thinking of self-publishing as I have set up a blog. You mention that if I want to publish a PDF and ePub that I would have to apply for 2 versions of the ISBN. Right now I have the PDF, what would be the purpose of a ePub format?

A: ISBNs are required for almost all books sold at retail. Since you need a unique identifier for each separate edition or format, you would assign 1 ISBN to each one you have for sale. For instance, a book published as a hardcover, a paperback, and an ebook, would need 3 ISBNs. ePub files are used by all ebook readers except Amazon’s Kindle.

Q: How I can remain competitive and afloat in an ever-changing and competitive market?

A: My general advice for all solo entrepreneurs and service providers is to start sharing your expertise by blogging, and finding readers/viewers for your blog content. It’s the fastest and most economical way to ramp up your business, get to know your customers, and establish authority, trust, and a connection with your universe of possible clients.

Q: My book cover designer used a serif font on my cover. I love the cover and think he did an amazing job (I found him through your monthly cover awards). My book formatter tells me that the serif font he used is not appropriate for use at a small size, and that she cannot set the interior of the novel in a serif font as a result because it would look like a mistake. She wants to use Calibre. I am not a big fan of sans serif in the interior of a book. Is it a big mistake to chose a different but similar looking serif font for the interior? Must it match the exterior exactly? Or is it a bigger mistake to set a book in sans serif, which readers are not used to seeing? Can you help settle this disagreement?

A: Easily. I agree with you, not with your designer. Serif fonts are often used on covers, and the covers do not necessarily have to coordinate their fonts with the interior. In practice, most traditionally published books treat the cover and interior as completely separate entities, usually produced by different people at different times. Regardless of the cover design, I suggest setting the interior in a normal serif book face.

Well, that’s it for this roundup. If these questions bring up things you’ve been wondering about, leave a note in the comments and I’ll try to help out.


Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

Liked this post? Share it with friends!

More Helpful Articles