Book Publishing A to Z Part 3 (Re-Air)
Do you need an ISBN? How about a literary agent? Maybe you’ve heard that keywords are important, but you aren’t sure how they apply to you as an author. Or maybe you feel completely lost about how to price your book.
If that’s you, don’t worry — you’re in the right place! In Part 3 of the Book Publishing from A to Z series, Coach Tam digs into some of the details of publishing and selling your book and explains how to approach both from a business perspective to set yourself up for future success. Whether you’re thinking about self-publishing or hoping to land a traditional publishing deal, you won’t want to miss this episode!
In this episode, you’ll also hear:
- How to obtain an ISBN, and why you might need more than one
- How to use keywords to attract your ideal reader to you
- Tips on pricing your book – and why it won’t necessarily reflect the hours of work you put into writing and publishing
- What a literary agent does and why you probably need one
It’s easy to be really passionate about the writing process and about wanting to share your story with the world and, at the same time, also be really lost to how the industry actually works. But if you don’t understand how the industry works before you publish, it can actually hurt your book’s success and impact.
If you missed the previous episodes in this series, you can check them out here!
Here are the next set of publishing terms you need to know.
If you have been thinking about self-publishing a book, you’ve probably seen this term, but you may not have fully understood what it meant. So let’s break it down. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. As the name implies, this is a way of identifying your book. In other words, it’s a way of distinguishing your book from others.
Each book receives its own ISBN, which is typically 13 digits in length and used internationally. But why does it matter? Let’s say you want to get your book into a library. The ISBN helps that library find your particular book out of all the books out there.
How you get an ISBN varies depending upon where you are. If you’re located outside of the United States, you can get one through a local ISBN Agency. If you are here in the United States or in the UK, ISBN numbers are administered by the companies Bowker and Nielsen, respectively.
You do have to pay a fee to get an ISBN, but remember: publishing a book is starting a business. So consider this one of the startup costs for your book business.
Often, the source you use to publish your book will offer you the opportunity to get an ISBN through them. For example, Amazon will grant you a free ISBN. But a word of caution: that ISBN can only be used on Amazon KDP. That means you’ll have to get a new ISBN for every self-publishing platform you want to list your book on.
A better alternative would be to purchase your own ISBN, so you have just one to use across all platforms. That said, you may still want to purchase multiple ISBNs at a time, because a single ISBN is only good for that particular format of the book. So if you get an ISBN for your print book, you’ll need a separate one for your audiobook or Ebook.
So, for that reason, it’s not uncommon — and could be a wise business move — to go ahead and purchase 10 ISBNs at once. And because they don’t expire, you don’t need to worry about your money going to waste, even if it takes you some time to put out your audiobook, updated version, or other formats of your book.
In this age of the internet, chances are you’ve probably heard mention of keywords before. But you may not know how this term applies to you as an author. So here’s a very simple way of thinking about it: keywords are what the reader puts into the search engine when they want to find something to help them with a problem they have or questions they are looking to answer.
Think about it. When you turn to Google or Amazon because you have a particular need or question, what do you type into the search box? Those are keywords.
To put keywords to work for you, you’ve got to put yourself into the mindset of a reader, not the author. When readers go looking for what you have to offer in your book, what words will they enter into the search box?
Spend some time brainstorming answers to that question so you can strategically select keywords that best describe your book and that match what your idea readers are looking for. Then, you’ll need to use those keywords to your advantage. Include them in:
- Your bio
- Your book description
- Your information on Author Central on Amazon
- Anywhere you can!
That way, when people in your target audience go looking for a solution to their problem or answer to their question, your book comes up in the list of search results. When you choose the right keywords and leverage them effectively, you can attract your ideal reader to you.
Pricing is an important topic, because there’s so much wrapped up in it — and not just for the book. Many aspiring authors have a desire to use their book as a platform to build a coaching, consulting, or speaking business, so pricing also comes into play as they price their coaching and consulting packages and set their fees as a speaker. That means this is an important thing to get a grasp on as early as possible.
Remember, books are a business, and businesses have to think about things like pricing strategy. So, again, put yourself in the mind of the reader. If you only think about it from your point of view as an author, you’re only going to be thinking about the countless hours you’ve invested in researching and writing the book, how much you’ve paid for the book cover, formatting, editing, and so on.
Yes, those things are a significant investment, and you want to make sure you get a return on that investment. But they’re also the startup costs to your business, so they shouldn’t necessarily determine the price you set for your book.
Ultimately, you’re going to earn the bulk of your income from what happens after the book — as you launch your coaching or consulting program, start getting those paid speaking engagements, or launch your online course. The book is just one piece of the puzzle. So everything doesn’t rest upon the book.
Instead, think of the book as a way of attracting people to you and what you have to say. That means the price needs to be reflective of the value that the client, the reader, is going to get and what they believe is reasonable for a book in your genre.
Of course, this will vary depending on the type of book you want to write. So you’ll want to do some research to find out typical price points for books in your genre, and also think about what your pricing will communicate to the reader and your future client.
There’s a little bit of an art and science to pricing your book, but ultimately, you do have a few options:
- Lower price: Pricing your book lower can help you sell more copies. Just be careful not to price it too low, because that can imply that it’s of inferior quality.
- Middle ground: Choosing a mid-range price can be a safe medium that’s not too high or too low.
- Higher price: A higher price communicates a higher value. However, the reader who stumbles upon it must believe that the value is there. If you price your book higher, you’ll need to ensure that you have the credibility to back it up.
Like it or not, your reader is likely comparing your book with your competitors’. So choose your pricing carefully, and keep in mind what your prices are communicating about you and your book.
Most of the above terms are related to self-publishing, but a literary agent is relevant when you are thinking about going the traditional publishing route. A literary agent, or book agent, acts as the intermediary between you and the key players that can get you that book publishing deal. You aren’t necessarily required to work with a literary agent, but it’s a very good idea if your dream is to be picked up by a publishing house.
Traditional publishing is a business that operates on relationships. So, as a new author who does not have those connections and relationships, you need to lean into someone who already has them. Someone who has already built a network, versus you trying to come in and convince people who have no idea who you are to give you a chance.
Again, it’s not impossible to get a traditional publishing deal without a literary agent, but it is extremely difficult. A literary agent helps reduce friction and makes the process much easier and faster, because they know how the book industry works. They have the relationships already, and they can act as your advocate to help you get the best deal and position your book for success.
Without a literary agent, it’s so much harder to get an editor to look at your book proposal or manuscript. And that’s huge, because the editor is actually the person who sets you up to get that publishing deal.
If you approach an editor on your own, you could easily end up talking to someone who doesn’t specialize in the type of book you want to write. Then you’ll be wasting their time and your own. But a literary agent knows what types of books editors are looking for, and can act as your liaison to introduce you to the right editor for your particular book.
Because literary agents know market trends and keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry, they can even help you shape your manuscript so you’ll have the best chance with an editor. Plus, they’ll help you negotiate the terms of your contract.
Of course, as the agent representing you, the literary agent gets a percentage of the deal they help negotiate. Typically, they operate on commission, and are only paid when you as the author get paid. So, while the literary agent may receive a 15% commission, keep in mind that they aren’t paid for all the work they do prior to landing the deal, and it doesn’t always work out. So when a book deal does come together — largely because of their network and relationships — they deserve that 15% commission!
Of course, you do want to do your due diligence and make sure the literary agent is someone you feel good about. Pray about it, and make sure you trust them, because you’ll be counting on them to advocate on your behalf. You want to make sure you have the right person for your particular project.
Next Week on Book Publishing A to Z
We’ve covered some important terms this week, but there are still plenty more to come! Here’s a sneak peek at what to expect in the next installment of the Book Publishing A to Z series:
- Personas (an often-overlooked concept in the book publishing industry)
- Print-on-demand for self-published authors
- The importance of proofs
- Book publicists: what they are and what they do
We’ll cover all that and more right here next week!
My name is Tamara “Coach Tam” Jackson and I am a published author, Facebook© Certified Digital Marketer, host of the Top 100 Publishing Secrets podcast, and founder of The Christian Authors Network (C.A.N.) Facebook© community. I specialize in helping mission-driven authors, coaches, and entrepreneurs increase their exposure, impact, and income through strategic self-publishing and digital media appearances. Just say yes and we will work together to attract a tribe of loyal followers that 1) “get you”, 2) love what you do, and 3) are happy to invest in your book, business, cause, or movement. Plus, we will accomplish all of this without fake, salesy, sleazy, or manipulative tactics. Yes you CAN write, publish, and profit in a way that honors God; join the community today at https://christianauthors.net/fbgroup.
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