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Best Posts on Book Publishing Options

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Publishing a book is easier now than it’s ever been—but it’s still not easy. So many options, so many variables. How do you choose?

To help, we’ve pulled together some of our best and most popular posts about publishing options.

You might also want to grab a free copy of The Author’s Guide to Publishing Options. Take the 10-question quiz inside and see where it points you.

And if there’s a burning question you still can’t find the answer to, you can always pop a note into the question box.

Best Posts
Let’s start with a review of the three main publishing models: royalty (traditional) publishing, self-publishing and subsidy publishing.

Amazon has recently made big moves into publishing. Amazon is a royalty publisher but with some definite advantages over the usual model.

Is one publishing model better than the other? These posts give food for thought.

CIP Data: What Is It and Why Should Authors Care?

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

A Cataloguing-in-Publication (CIP) data block contains information about a book and its topic that’s used by librarians and booksellers. The data block is delivered in a prescribed format, and can’t be changed or re-formatted once issued. The data is placed on the copyright page of your book, along with the ISBN and other bibliographic data.

Sample data block

Does Your Book Need CIP Data?

Technically, CIP data isn’t required to publish and sell a book. Amazon, for example, wouldn’t reject your book because it doesn’t contain CIP data. But since every traditional publisher acquires CIP data, a book lacking the data block screams amateur effort.

You definitely need CIP data if you have any intention of selling your book to libraries, since they are its primary users.

How to Acquire a CIP Data Block

In the United States
If you’re a self-publisher, especially one producing your first book, you’re not eligible to receive CIP data through the Library of Congress. (To qualify, you must have at least three published titles.)

Not to worry, however. In the place of CIP data, small publishers can use PCIP (Publisher’s Cataloging-in-Publication) data. It’s exactly the same data except it’s produced by an independent cataloguer instead of the Library of Congress. Expect to pay a small fee of $60 to $150 to have the data created.

To find cataloguers, Google search PCIP data, PCIP cataloguing or similar terms.

Highspot recommends
Adrienne Bashista is a librarian and small press owner who creates PCIP data blocks for $60. Find her at

In Canada
CIP data is issued free of charge by the National Library of Canada. All publishers based in Canada, including self-publishers, are eligible.

To apply, visit the Library website and complete the form. Your application will take about 10 days to be processed.

Subsidy Publishing: Managing The Minefield

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

row of books where one stands out
So far we’ve discussed self-publishing and royalty publishing, and why you might choose one over the other. There is, however, a third option: subsidy publishing.  Easily confused with both royalty and self-publishing, subsidy publishing can be a minefield for unsuspecting authors.

Subsidy Publisher: A company that makes money both from charging authors for production costs and from keeping a portion of sales revenue.

If you find yourself wondering if your “publisher” may in fact be using the subsidy model, here are a few defining characteristics:

  • Authors are issued an ISBN that identifies the subsidy publisher—not the author—as the publisher of record.
  • Authors are asked to pay for design, layout, and printing.
  • Authors may also be asked to pay fees for marketing, advertising, or other expenses.
  • Despite paying for their own production costs, authors are only paid royalties, rather than earning full sales revenue.
  • Sometimes the subsidy publisher retains the rights to the material.

Another area of confusion is Print On Demand (POD). If you assume POD is a publishing model, we’re here to burst the bubble. POD is simply a method of printing. It’s an alternative to a full off-set press run where many copies need to be printed at once for cost-effectiveness. Some royalty publishers use POD on occasion. Self-publishers can also use POD and still be truly self-published. Keep in mind that if a company tells you they are a POD publisher, you know only what technology will be used to print your book and nothing about their publishing model.

Download An Author’s Guide to Publishing Options, a free report that includes details on each of the three publishing models plus a 10-question quiz to help you identify the model best suited to your goals.

Ready to learn more about subsidy publishing? Let’s look at the pros and cons around money, creative control, credibility, and the chances of being published.

For a fee, a subsidy publisher lays out your book and designs a cover. These services are generally sold for a price lower than the cost of contracting directly with a designer (as you would do if self-publishing). However, the templates you’re offered are limited, and are also shown to other authors. You’re not getting a custom design that helps you stand out from the crowd.

Royalty payments from a subsidy press are generally 25-50% of the book’s full retail price when sold through internet sales channels. If a customer buys through one of these online stores, you receive your royalty payment. The catch comes when you try to sell your book to other outlets, such as bricks-and-mortar bookstores. First, you have to buy your books from your subsidy publisher, which could easily cost $7 or $8 per copy. Say your retail price is $14.95 — bookstores usually want a 40% discount on the retail price to stock your book. A distributor or wholesaler will take another 10-15%. That means you need to sell your books to the distributor at a cost of $6.73 each—but you can’t because it costs more than that for you to buy them.

With subsidy publishing, you can’t give the bookstores and distributors the discounts they need, so you effectively lock yourself out of those markets. And forget about book clubs, catalogs, corporate sales and other bulk selling opportunities, because the discounts they receive are typically even higher.

Creative Control
Subsidy publishers often acquire the print rights to your work in their contract with you. That means you cannot self-publish or submit the book to a royalty publisher until the contract is finished or broken.

Remember that a subsidy publisher is the publisher of record for your book. That might not be such a problem except that many subsidy publishers have horrible reputations with the mainstream book trade. Come out with a book under the label of a well-known subsidy publisher, and many people won’t touch your book with a ten-foot pole. While there are gems printed through subsidy publishers, there’s also a lot of junk. Reviewers and other book trade professionals don’t have time to dig through the dump for a treasure, so they ignore everything.

Chances of Getting Published
As with self-publishing, chance doesn’t factor into it. If you pay the fees, you’ll get a book.

If you want to publish simply for the sake of having a book in print, and you aren’t worried about selling through bookstores, subsidy publishing can be a fine choice. For example, if you have a family cookbook you’d like to print for 50 of your closest relatives, a subsidy publisher would be a great fit. However, if you’re serious about selling a lot of books, getting mainstream reviews, or building credibility in the publishing world, consider another route.

Subsidy Publishing: Pros

  • Good for limited run books that won’t be sold through traditional channels
  • Guaranteed to be published

Subsidy Publishing: Cons

  • Poor credibility in the industry
  • Poor pricing model locks you out of many sales channels
  • You are not the publisher of record
  • You may sign away ownership of your own material
  • Limited design and layout options

Can There Really Be Too Many Books?

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Stack of books, Prague Library

We’ve entered a time where getting a book to market is as simple as 1, 2, 3. First, write the book. Second, make sure it gets a thorough edit. Third, self-publish in print and e-book form. Boom — “published” author. That isn’t to say it’s easy, but there has certainly never been a better time to get a manuscript off the shelf and into the hands of interested readers.

But some are asking, in a world where anyone can become published, how do you find something “good” to read? How do readers sift through the exploding number of titles to find the gems in the pile?

The answer may be, “just as they do now.” Even with a flood of new titles available, it stands to reason readers will continue to choose titles using the same criteria they have in the past. Google has determined (through some fancy algorithms) that there are nearly 130 million published books in the world. Readers have managed thus far to sort through those millions of book titles to find the ones they’re interested in. With that in mind, one can only assume readers will be able to do the same as the self-published market explodes over the next few years.

People gravitate towards what they like. They find authors or genres or subject matters they care about and are interested in, and make choices out of that pool. In fact, adding more titles will only grow the pot for readers, giving them even greater options on the subjects they enjoy.

Author Scott Nicholson explains it well in his article on the topic. He offers the analogy that despite her popularity, he has no idea what Lady Gaga sings, nor does he ever care to. But he finds new music that does appeal to him, when he wants to, through the channels he always has. Finding book titles would be the same. He finds and reads what he already likes.

Perhaps the growing wave of self-published titles will create some complexity and debris in the market, but how much it affects consumer buying and reading habits, if at all, remains to be seen.

I’ll Take 1/2 That Book, Please

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

High on the wish list for many of our clients are books that can be read in 2-3 hours, tops. With Twitter conversations and other online articles talking about this very thing, it seems our clients aren’t alone. This is definitely a trend authors and publishers, both traditional and online, should pay attention to.

With the average Canadian working nearly 40 hours per week and our neighbours to the south even longer,  there isn’t a lot of time left over for things like reading — especially a traditional 300-page business book that could take hours and hours to finish. So if authors and publishers want to get non-fiction works into the hands of consumers, it could be strategic to significantly prune those longer books.

Quicker to write and get out to market, this easily digestible style of book could compete with magazines and online publications, allowing consumers a quick and timely read, but still with substance. However, these shorter-format books need to feel sizeable enough, both in terms of experience and takeaway, to justify the price.

The challenge will be to find that sweet spot: the point where price, value, and length all come together to create a book that flies off the shelves and opens an entirely new niche market.

What’s your take? Is short and sweet a better model for non-fiction?

The World As I Tweet It: Aug 1-7, 2009

Friday, August 7th, 2009

notebook with Twitter symbolThis week on Twitter: Amazon, Amazon and more Amazon.


7 Aug 09

Good comparison of ebook offerings from Amazon and Barnes & Noble in the New York Times: (via @mdash)

NYT tech columnist David Pogue explains how Barnes & Noble, depsite a valiant effort out of the gate, doesn’t quite measure up to Amazon in the ebook arena. Yet.


4 Aug 09
Will Amazon hold onto its lead in the ebook market? Forrester thinks it will be a struggle: (via @wordywoman)

Over at research firm Forrester, the long range forecast is for Amazon to struggle in maintaining its leadership position in the ebook market.


4 Aug 09
RT @vooktv RT @SeanDonahoe: Sony officially unveils new Readers, drops price of e-books

Meanwhile, Sony introduces what may be one of the most significant changes to the e-reader market — a device priced under $200. Could this be a tipping point in getting consumers onboard with e-reading?


4 Aug 09
Are you a business book author? @800ceoread is now accepting submissions for 2009 Business Book Awards:


4 Aug 09
RT @AMACOMBooks RT @ConsortiumBooks: The ISBN is dead?

The debate continues on whether the ISBN is a relic that has outlived its usefulness.


3 Aug 09
Amazon, Microsoft & Google file patents for ad delivery systems in online gaming, ebooks, POD books & more:

The patents Amazon has filed reveal a potential ebook that looks more like a web page — a screen sprinkled with ad banners, sponsored links and more. While I’m not altogether against advertising in books, I’m not looking forward to changes like these that will disrupt an immersive reading experience.


And that’s the world as I tweeted it for the past week. You can also follow me on Twitter (@jennifertribe) for news and discussion as it happens.

The World As I Tweet It: July 18-24, 2009

Friday, July 24th, 2009

notebook with Twitter symbolEvery day on Twitter is an education.

As news breaks in Twitterville, it gets passed around, discussed, dissected, analyzed, blogged and retweeted. There’s so much good information circulating there that I’ve decided to do a weekly round-up of book & publishing news that I’ve tweeted in the past 7 days. I’m hoping this will give you an at-a-glance summary of some of the big stories & issues as they emerge.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think of this round-up format. Useful or no?


24 Jul 09

NiemanLab: Good morning! The Associated Press comes out and says it: They think a headline and link require a license

Wow, I just … wow. Does AP really think this is an appropriate and feasible strategy in 2009? Jeff Jarvis, Shel Israel, Matthew Ingram, and a host of other journalists, authors, and bloggers tweeted out about AP’s announcement.


22 Jul 09
RT @FernReiss: Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek…Which will fold? Analysts predict at least 1 dead in next 6 months:

The beleaguered magazine industry continues to take major hits. This week’s crystal ball reading says one of the three big business publications won’t make it through 2009.


21 Jul 09
RT @electricbook: Point-by-point comparison of Kindle Store and B&N eBookstore

On Monday, Barnes & Noble announced the launch of what they’re dubbing the “world’s largest e-book store.” The chain says it currently offers 700,000 e-book titles and that number will rise to more than 1 million in 2010. B&N has also announced a partnership with the as-yet-unreleased PlasticLogic e-reader.

For more on the announcement, try ZD NET, the Washington Post, and the Post again.


21 Jul 09
See @unmarketing test TwitCam live Twitter video feed What are your thoughts on Twitter video?

Buzz is beginning to build around a few different apps (including TwitCam) that allow people to stream live video through their Twitter feeds. The technology provides some intriguing possibilities for authors to build relationships with readers. Who will be the first author to give a reading over Twitter video?


21 Jul 09
Bard Press giving away 20,000 free ARCs of its new diet book: That’s a lot of books!

Speaking of buzz, how do you get people talking about your book? How about giving away 20,000 free copies. While this tactic is beyond the reach of most self-published authors, it will be interesting to see how well it works for Bard Press. I learned of the promotion outside of Twitter and so far, I haven’t seen anyone talking about it — neither the campaign nor the book. What are your thoughts on it?


20 Jul 09
RT @sarahw: Entertainment Weekly launched a book blog called Shelf Life:

TSIA (tweet says it all)


19 Jul 09
RT @bookoven: le book de la future:

This intriguing 9-minute video explores how we might write, publish, and read the book of the not-too-distant future. The video is in French but if you don’t speak the language you can still understand the essence of what’s being portrayed. The only thing that perplexed me was why the creators thought the public would still go to a bricks & mortar bookstore, which stocked print books, only to scan a barcode and take away an e-book version.


19 Jul 09
Foldable Readius ereader bankrupt before launch: (via @liza)

News of the Readius’ parent company… um … folding before launch slipped quietly by with hardly a ripple. With the e-reader market still in its infancy, we can expect a lot more devices to come and go like this before the dust settles.


And that’s the world as I tweeted it for the past week. You can also follow me on Twitter (@jennifertribe) for news and discussion as it happens.

Do We Need a Slow Media Movement?

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

A recent article in Publisher’s Weekly made reference to print books as “slow media”. Given the never-ending proliferation of technologies that facilitate constant and instantaneous communication, the term — and the article — intrigued me.

Slow media, as I understand it, is about appreciating the time that goes into producing and consuming a piece of information. It reminded me of the Slow Food movement, which touts the leisurely enjoyment of an organically grown and naturally prepared meal.

I decided to do some digging, and sure enough, I wasn’t the only one to draw parallels between slow media and slow food. Blogger Matt Shepherd wonders if anyone is actively forming a slow media movement to underscore the value of printed books and handwritten letters.

While Matt acknowledges that “fast media” has its place, this blogger from the Rocky Mountain News sees slow media as an either/or proposition. In his or her opinion, choosing slow media is a conscious rejection of fast media — because you’re tired of fast media, overwhelmed by it, or simply unconvinced of its usefulness. You choose slow media because your “inner Luddite” is screaming to be free.

I disagree. I don’t think one delivery has to be valued over the other. Each has its place, its benefits, and its pleasures. Perhaps books in the form that we know them aren’t doomed for the dustbin of history after all. We just need to acknowledge that both the tortoise AND the hare have their place in the world.