On this page, Michele DeFilippo provides detailed answers to author questions. You can submit your question using our Contact Form.

Book publishing IS a business, and every business requires an investment of the owner’s time, talent, and treasure.

Self-publishing has been hijacked. Authors are told they should do everything themselves, even if they don’t have the skill. The “average” self-published book doesn’t make money because the average self-published book is a homemade abomination.

Buyers don’t forgive shoddy work in any business, including books. If you are serious about your publishing business, you must offer your readers quality books so they tell their friends and leave great reviews.

Reviews are critical; just observe your own buying behavior, not only on Amazon but for any other product. Great books get great reviews. That’s why I always encourage authors to hire experts to edit and design their book, and save up to do so, if necessary. Bad reviews cannot be removed and once more than a few are posted, your publishing enterprise is finished. Buyers understand quality and they rightly retaliate with bad reviews if they don’t get it.

Before a book can be formatted, it should be designed by an experienced book designer, who will take into account the following information and limitations before design begins:

  • Your printer
  • Printing method (offset? POD?)
  • Binding style (hard cover, soft cover or eBook, or all three?)
  • File submission requirements (including signature size and blank page requirements)
  • The trim size

Once these issues are out of the way, a designer will work with you to:

  • Determine how the illustrations and text will interact
  • Choose appropriate fonts and colors that complement the illustration style
  • Design and build the cover and interior files to the printer’s requirements

After the design is planned, only then is the text formatted and then proofread.

If you do not follow this process (and most don’t), it may be possible to get from point A to point B. The best place to start however is to gather up everything you have and ask an experienced book designer for a quote. We do that, too.

Print-on-demand is a xerographic process. The entire book is printed on one machine, so if you want color anywhere, even a single logo on the title page, for example, you’ll pay for color everywhere.

There are only two legitimate print-on-demand companies: IngramSpark and CreateSpace. Other so-called “POD publishers” are unnecessary middlemen who upload your title to these two firms and mark up the price to you in one way or another. Many thousands of authors have been deliberately misled.

I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have. Download my free book, “Publish Like the Pros: A Brief Guide to Quality Self-Publishing” (subscribe in the sidebar of this page) and contact us for a free consultation any time.

Talk to your accountant or another advisor who is familiar with your unique situation.

A separate bank account may not be necessary, but it can be useful. It will show you, at a glance, your income and expenses for your publishing enterprise, rather than having to sort through an account with hundreds of unrelated transactions.

This could save you money on accounting fees at tax time and a lot of time and grief if the IRS ever asks for clarification.

THE BIG LIE about self-publishing has taken hold. The truth is, you don’t go from Microsoft Word to Barnes and Noble. Not if you want a real book and not just bound pages for bragging rights. Indie publishing with print-on-demand (POD) printing is a low-risk option, but don’t do it yourself as others may advise. You’ll wind up with something that looks like a book—and you may judge it wonderful—but it won’t be professional. How could it be without proper editing, cover design, interior design, proofreading, and oh, so much more? For more information on the steps to self-publish your book, click here.

In the U.S., the only legitimate source for ISBN purchase is Bowker at http://myidentifiers.com.

Others may sell or offer ISBNs for free but beware. The ISBN identifies the publisher and the title. Using anyone else’s ISBN makes them the publisher of your book. Self-publishing companies reel in tens of thousands of authors with this ruse.

You don’t need a self-publishing company. True self-publishing means YOU are the publisher, in charge of your publishing enterprise. Contact us to discuss how to self-publish your book.

No software on earth, in the hands of a beginner, can create a professional book cover. Only training and years of experience can do that. Even designers look back at their early work and cringe. Many people will tell you what you want to hear and offer you templates to do it yourself. They are taking care of themselves. Buyers respond more favorably to professional book covers. If your book is your business, and not a hobby, it deserves a cover designed by a professional, along with a professional editor and interior designer too.

A “free” ISBN from any self-publishing company, including CreateSpace, and having that company create your book files, is fine as long as you never want to work with another publisher or printer. Emphasis on never.

  • If you want to revise your book files, they will have to do it.
  • If you want to revise your book yourself, you will have a devil of a time getting your application files and you may have to pay extra for them, even though you already paid them to create those files in the first place.
  • If you want to print your book elsewhere, such as at IngramSpark, you won’t be able to do it with a CreateSpace ISBN because you are not the publisher, they are.

That “free” ISBN can easily become a ball and chain. I help authors in this predicament every week.

Do yourself a favor and be your own publisher from the start:

  • Buy your own ISBNs so you are the publisher of record for your book.
  • Create your book files (if you must) or hire independent experts to create your files and get those files from them at the end of the job.
  • Set up POD printing and online distribution under your own ISBN (and yes, this can include using CreateSpace only as a pipeline into Amazon).

Following these steps will ensure that your options in the future remain open to pursue publishing in whatever way your business unfolds instead of being controlled by someone else who suckered you with that “free” ISBN.

Well, there’s the cheapest way and the right way. In the US, a block of ten ISBNs costs $295 at Bowker | Identifier Services. ISBNs never expire. If you are publishing only a Kindle book, you don’t need an ISBN because Amazon assigns its own ASIN number. But most publishers release a print book, a Kindle book, and an ePub book to capture every possible sale, so you’ll need two ISBNs right off the bat. A single ISBN costs $125, so it’s most economical to buy the block of 10. Never, never, never use an ISBN provided by someone else. The ISBN identifies the publisher of the book and the title. Using an ISBN from any other entity makes them the publisher of your book. They will control your files until you pay them ransom to retrieve them, this often after you paid them to create these files in the first place. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Please self-publish the legitimate way, controlling all aspects of your publishing business from day one. Before you relinquish control to others for any reason, dig deep and find out what you are really getting (or not getting) before making a commitment.
That goal seems unlikely, but never say never, right? Research the cover price of novels on Amazon. Deduct 40-55% for the retailer’s cut of the sale. Deduct $2-$5 or more for printing, depending on the page count. These are your “fixed costs” for each book sold. Try the calculator at How to Publish a Book to experiment with retail prices and discounts. Out of the net amount paid to you, you have to invest in marketing to find your audience. You have some control over this expense and some of it can be done for “sweat equity” on your own, but results are not guaranteed. Fiction buyers are very price sensitive, and who can blame them? A novel is entertainment, usually to be read once. It’s near impossible to convince them to pay a higher price for your book when another seems just as good. In my opinion, there’s much more opportunity to make money in non-fiction publishing. Price doesn’t matter nearly as much to a buyer when the book can solve a vexing problem, such as how to land a good job, or win more clients, or save money. The buyer hopes the advice will pay for the book many times over and this is usually true.
First impressions are critical. Site visitors will form an opinion about your site and the credibility of the content within the first few seconds. I can see you are just getting started, so here are my first impressions:

  • Identity: Your site should have a logo and perhaps a slogan. What is it? A business? A blog? Something else? You may know, but your first-time visitor does not.
  • Purpose: The site needs a graphic header to catch the eye and introductory text to elaborate on the site’s purpose. Confused visitors don’t stick around.
  • Structure: I would also recommend working with a web designer to map out the site structure so that any text you add, now or in the future, has a predetermined place. Sidebar navigation is also a plus. Steve Jobs famously said, “Design isn’t decoration, it’s communication.” The reader’s eye must be led from the most important information to the least important information in a logical way.
  • Ads: The pages look a little disorganized, and the ads seem haphazardly placed. There’s nothing wrong with monetizing a site with ads, but they should be grouped under their own heading and designed in a consistent way. Interrupting the reader with an ad every few minutes is rude, and it sends the message that your only interest is making money.
  • Accuracy: Finally, the text contains a lot of errors. Web readers are forgiving, but too many typos and missing words begin to detract from the credibility of your message. This is easily fixed by working with a writer and proofreader.

I hope you’re not sorry you asked! We design sites for authors, primarily, but the same skills apply to any website.