Saturday, June 20, 2009

Lions and tigers and IBSN#s -- oh my!

Dear Reader,

As promised, here is another fascinating and scintillating post about the launch of Good Manners Kids Stuff Press.


First, an update: Kecia started sending me illustrations earlier this week. They are adorable. (Did I mention before that there are about 30 little character heads she has to draw?) I can't wait to have the whole book in my hands. And I can't even begin to imagine how I will feel when I can make it available to you!

Now, Dear Reader, where did I leave you last post? Ah, yes: with my halfway laid-out children's fantasy novel and no clue what I should do next.

I had been checking out to self-publish my books -- both the children's fantasy and my good sports book that Kecia is illustrating. While it seemed a good resource to print my books if I didn't want them to be available elsewhere than my website or their online store, I suddenly realized that I would definitely want my book(s) to be available to as many people as possible.

To do that you need to have an ISBN# for the distributors to use to list your book. And it's also not just the #. It depends on who is printing/publishing your book as to whether they will/can list you.

Oh, the murky, murky world of publishing and distributing.

Blurb doesn't have ISBN#s to give you. If you want one, you have to go and get it yourself along with the bar code that all the distributors need. Then, once you have it, you can add it to the Blurb template. From Forum comments, that appears to be problematic because Blurb has their own bar code (which has nothing to do with ISBN) and the placements can be wacky.

(There was also some confusing stuff about including price on a bar code -- as I said, the murky, murky world of publishing and distributing. But for clarity's sake, I think I'll cover that on another post. Just know that it is confusing to get to the bottom of, and makes you wish, for the millionth time, that some one would have just published you and taken care of it for you!)

Apparently you can purchase your own ISBN#s at the Bowker Agency and then when you print the book, Blurb would include that number on your book and you would become the publisher. You would then have to pay extra to have the Blurb logo removed that would still be there because Blurb was still the printer. Once you did that you can try to get the book picked up by distributors to put on their lists which they make available to retailers such as Barnes & Noble.

Sounds great, right? But those distributors don't include Amazon.

So I was sort of back to the beginning. If I wanted more exposure, I certainly think that I would want to be on Amazon.

More murky details and thoughts to consider:
In the Help Forums, people mentioned Lulu and Lightening Source and Createspace as other print-on-demand resources that did offer listing with those distributors (only Createspace, which is part of Amazon, automatically lists there) and the option to use their ISBN#s (which makes them the publisher) or use your own, which makes you the publisher.

Suddenly, a light bulb turned on in my head: As my Good Manners Kids Stuff site grew in scope, I'd come up with other manners topics for books. Granted, I have yet to print or publish my first book, but all the pieces were falling into place for a much bigger picture. Why not have them come out through my own publishing line?

During this time I started checking out Lulu, Lightening Source and Createspace, checking out their forums, looking at their templates and processes. And I visited the Bowker site, hemming and hawing until I finally committed and bought a block of ten ISBN#s listing Good Manners Kids Stuff Press as the publisher.

I've hit the big time!

Suddenly I am getting mail and emails addressed to the Press. Hee, hee.

Maybe someday I will be a powerful force to be reckoned with in the publishing world. But for now, I'm just excited to be about to come to life with the launch of my first two books!

I think that's probably enough anyone cares to read about ISBN #s today. So, until my next fascinating and scintillating post, Dear Reader, I wish you happy reading!


Monday, June 8, 2009

The self publishing journey starts

Dear Reader,

While I wait for Kecia to start sending me the illustrations to my book, I've been re-proofing a children's fantasy novel that I started writing back at Gettysburg College for a creative writing course with Dr. Clark. (Oh, no, that's as good as admitting how old I am!)

(FYI: This will be the second book that Good Manners Kids Stuff Press will offer. Although it's not about good manners for children, it is about children (brothers and sisters) who aren't the same as everyone else ... and how everyone learns to appreciate and value them.)

I've proofed it a gazillion times -- and each time it's not that I see a mistake, it's that I just can't help tweaking it. I plan on publishing several books in this series so I'm excited to make this one available to kids beyond my own kids, friends and family. Then I can start on the next story!

When I posted last I wrote that I'd tell you more about how Good Manners Kids Stuff Press came into being. Well, it's really quite simple -- it just did.


Isn't that interesting?

Okay -- here's the real scoop, down to the last boring detail:

As I've mentioned before, I am a wannabe author. Or, more correctly, a wannabe author of the literary type. Since I write tv commercials and direct mail kits and newsletters and brochures for my day job, I refer to myself as a writer. And I'm actually not bad. Really. It's just that I want to be an author, not a writer.

Parallel to my launching I've been writing, writing, writing. Books for toddlers, books for middle grade, romance novels, science fiction -- all kinds of books. And I've been slowly and carefully sending them off to editors and agents. I've gotten some positive feedback and also a couple of nibbles (and requests for changes) from an agent. Maybe some day soon, one of them will be optioned and I'll have made the change from writer to author that I've been working for (and dreaming of) for so many years.

In the meantime (parallel-ly -- as I mentioned above, if I can use the word that way -- or should I just say at the same time) I've been having a great time launching my site and developing products for it. A logical new product line would be manners books. Of course, it made sense that I would and could write these books. But who would produce them for me. How much would it cost?

A friend of mine who is a real, published children's book author mentioned that he had used a company called Blurb ( to make a book of his family's trip to Disney World. He said it was easy to use and that he only paid for the copy he needed.

Now, he was an artist before he wrote and illustrated his books, so I was a little leery about my ability to get something usable on Blurb. So I started with baby steps.

I searched Blurb on Google. I clicked on it, poked around, and several days later (and trips back) I finally got the courage to pick a user name, password and sign up!

(I told you -- baby steps. It's amazing I get anything done in a timely manner.)

Finally, I downloaded the template. I went through the tutorials. I thought -- I can do this! I decided to try my children's fantasy first because I still needed the illustrations for the other book. I managed to flow the copy into the format and make a cute little novel-sized book. I was so excited! And, it was all free!

But I wasn't finished -- I still needed to get the cover designed and give all the copy another read through to make sure the sentences and layout weren't messed up when I flowed in the text. I also had questions about the information I needed to put on the cover page.

I started reading all the forums and stumbled upon questions about copyrights and barcodes and isbn #s and distribution -- and how Blurb didn't handle any of that. Apparently, if I wanted to be able to distribute my book, I needed to purchase my own isbn #s. But,that wouldn't put the book on Amazon or with other distributors. And I would want my own name as the publisher rather than Blurb (which I could do for an extra cost). And there seemed to be some issue with Blurb barcodes that were different than the ones that came with isbn #s -- and the placement was weird.

Hum. Interesting. Suddenly I was confused. And, suddenly I was thinking that I might want to have more than just a stockpile of printed books available to sell on my site. Suddenly I realized that what I did to produce the book could limit or expand what I could do with it -- where I could take it and where it could go.

So -- there I was with a halfway laid-out novel and no clue what I should do next to figure out the right solution.

And that, just as it's getting so interesting, Dear Reader, is where I'll leave you tonight.

I hope you'll check back soon for my next fascinating and scintillating post on my launch of The Good Manners Kids Stuff Press.


P.S. Although I did not ultimately choose Blurb, I do want to say how impressed I was with their site and tutorials. Their templates were very easy to use (easier than what I am doing now) and the books on their site were beautiful. You can sell your books on their site in addition to your own. It's just that the more I learned about self-publishing and print on demand, and determined that I wanted to control my books' destiny, I realized I needed a more retail friendly source.