I often get author/user questions in my email. I thought I’d write a longer post here since it’s been a little while since I blogged.
I want my rights protected. Would it be safer to go with a mom and pop print shop or to work with a friend that has the same know-how and equipment in their basement?
How do you plan on people purchasing and receiving your books. Either the mom/pop or basement approach leaves you with the question of distribution and delivery side of things as well as the sales hub channels. You certainly COULD go small (Its a model called micropress, actually) but you should also get your book set up to be produced, marketed by, sold by, and shipped by the big players. Ingram is where bookstores go to purchase their books for resale and libraries often go there as well. Ingram is basically a professional middleman. Amazon is the same, except that customers (lotsof customers) got here too. more than 60% of all books sold in the USA come through Amazon. In my book and blog I recommend doing both Amazon and using Ingramspark, which will provide the same service, but there are reasons I recommend doing both, each one relating to its target market. Mom and Pop print shops typically can’t match the price of their services for author copies. If they couldthen it would be worth using them to print copies that you would sell personally, but it’s only really worth it if you’re going to be selling hundreds of copies per year and if the savings are going to be at least 0.75 per book.
I promise, I’m coming to your rights questions… I’m making an assumption that this is your first book (or your first serious attempt at getting books printed and making a run at being an author.) Author is a business title, so you’ll want to think of it like a business. Even collecting sales tax, etc. which means tracking sales and paperwork for taxes, etc. It sounds daunting, but there are lots of great tools to help… but having less to track as you get on your feet is very helpful, and it’s why the savings should be significant per copy if you are going to get a bunch from a local printer… how many should you get? The answer to that is how many do you think you can move… it’s an answer that requires a gut check and guidance (I’ve published more than 30 novels, and honestly, I think I’ve sold less than 20 copies of my books in total to family. Maybe again as many to friends, and that’s over the last 15 years.) It’s maybe more than an email, but I often take authors to my live sales events and teach them how to sell and get familiar with the tools that I use so that they can learn what I’m doing and use it for themselves. LMK if you’re interested.
On to rights. My advice is to not worry much about it. All books are protected by copyright the minute they are completed. Thieves and criminals don’t care about rights or laws and rules. By their nature they will violate rules. Your rights won’t stop them. that may sound disheartening, but accepting it will give you the freedom to continue creating anyway, despite them. The thing about your rights is that to enforce them, you’ve got to know where someone is violating them… just like owning a trademark: it is the trademark owner’s duty to enforce it. If you spend all your time worrying that someone is ripping you off, you won’t be spending time working on a new book, or marketing and selling an existing one. And places like Amazon and others have built-in tools that help you enforce your rights… Amazon pretty much assumes authors are guilty of infringing on IP right out of the gate. I got sued by the lawyers for E.L. James (of Fifty Shades of Gray) early this year… well, they threatened to sue me and filed a complaint on Amazon (a process that is easier than ordering tacos at a fast food self-serve kiosk). The trademark lawyers saw “50 Shades” and “Fifty Shades” (not the same) and assumed I was a scammer, despite my comedy being so far different that you could never confuse them, they simply looked for books to hit with a C&D to validate their existence and collect their lawyer fees. Not only did those 2 books in my comedy series get booted from amazon (my bestsellers, actually) but my entire account got banned and I was blacklisted (a seriously bad thing for any legit author). After about 2 1/2 weeks everything was restored after I explained how vastly different my book was to the lawyers and they rescinded their complaint. There are other stories of Indie authors who have hit #1 on the charts and a copycat author is coming in with something similar that would be “great for the fans of XYZ Author” and then file infringement complaints on amazon to temporarily remove their strongest competitor whose fans they want to market to. This kind of maliciously false infringement claim has been a problem in the past, but Amazon is getting better at it (for the better known authors, anyway). Regardless, Zon reacts almost too strongly to complaints, IMO and I have ideas I think are better, but Bezos doesn’t care about my opinion. There is also the case of Gravity (the Sandra Bullock movie) which was blatantly ripped off from the author who received nothing for it. Despite all the protection and proof in the world, it’s still possible to have your work legally stolen right in front of your eyes.
There’s one more issue to think of: you’ve got to do pretty well with your sales and really be hitting on all cylinders in order to have people bother stealing your work or infringing on your rights. I’m of the persuasion that it’s best to keep creating. Scammers gonna scam, but creators are gonna create. Just don’t let fear of someone ripping you off rob your joy of making your art or prevent you from doing your craft. Get big enough so that you’ve got your own lawyers searching for criminals so you can keep writing.
I have worked with the Library of Congress before on a music project. (I have not looked into the particulars for a book yet.) My thought was (given that they require the best sample of my work) to have a copy of the book printed, send it to the LOC in the mail and await registration. Is it that simple or is there more to it?
Yes, it’s pretty much that simple. There is also a fee and there are lots of guides online. I honestly don’t other with LOC. It doesprovide you with a sample for the strongest possible reaction to defend your rights, but there are enough other methods and protections that it doesn’t seem worth it to me. I honestly feel it’s like buying an extended warranty for your new toaster. Not usually worth it, but there are a few times you might consider it. It doeshelp expedite things in defending a maliciously false infringement claim like I mentioned about.
The mom and pop printing shop told me to get a barcode for the book (as it would be more cost effective for me). How can I acquire one?
You WILL need a barcode. Most of the bigger places will automatically generate the barcode for you. Ingramspark and Amazon’s print services (KDP Print) will do that automatically. You just need to input the ISBN which all books are legally mandated to have (another government conspiracy, IMO.) There are applications you can purchase which will create them, or you can pay someone on fiverr a few bucks to make one for you. When you purchase an ISBN, your ISBN broker will usually be able to provide a barcode for a few extra bucks. The cheapest way to do it is probably fiverr, unless you’re buying the ISBN and they have a cheap ($15 or under) option to get the barcode generated. Check out Fiverr.
I know that I will need an ISBN number as well. (It’s been a long time since I worked with the Library of Congress.) Are they usually provided with the copyright registration or do I need a separate application?
The best way to pick up an ISBN is from Bowker. All ISBNs come from Bowker in the USA. Remember what I said about a conspiracy? Not to go all Dale Gribble, but the government forces anyone publishing books to purchase a product they exclusively control. It’s worth a letter to your congressperson. ISBNs are separate from LOC registration and you need the ISBN in order to LOC (and have it on the book you send them for an example.) Bowker’s sales page for ISBNs is at https://myidentifiers.com/ and 1 ISBN will cost you $125. You need different ISBNs for different versions of the book (you can change and edit mistakes out of future editions without new ISBNs, but changing trim size or format [paperback to hardcover or ebook] will each require a new ISBN.)
Hopefully the info helps. You might also check out TreeShaker books… might be able to shortcut some of the publishing things for you.