Authors who self-publish their books are notorious for letting someone else maintain possession of these three things:
- Their ISBN
- Their book files
- Their domain registration and web hosting.
OK, maybe that’s four things.
In any case, I am constantly helping authors retrieve ownership of one or the other, or between myself and my 1106 Design team, all four. Here’s why being the owner of each of these vital assets is in your best interest as an author and as a business person.
The ISBN is the unique identifier number assigned to your book. It also links the book to the publisher.
In the US, purchasing an ISBN costs money. It’s also just one more step that some self-publishing companies “help” their customers avoid. Some companies purchase blocks of ISBNs (you can purchase blocks without assigning books to all the numbers). The companies then offer authors one of the ISBNs from their blocks; a lot of authors take them up on that offer, usually because it’s free.
If you ever want to republish your book, or if the self-publishing company goes out of business, you are up the proverbial creek. Plus, you are not listed as the publisher of record. After all the work you put into this book, wouldn’t you at least want to be the author AND the publisher?
Your Book Files
At 1106 Design, we always give our clients their files at the end of the project. Then, if they ever want to revise and republish the book in the future, they are free to take their business elsewhere if they so desire. We don’t hold our clients hostage by keeping their files, but there are plenty of companies that will and plenty of authors who let them.
Understand that there are two types of files. There’s the PDF of the formatted book that is sent to the print-on-demand company such as Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or IngramSpark. This file cannot be altered, and so most companies are more than willing to send you this file if requested. If you ever want to revise the book, you would have to copy the text from the PDF, a painstaking and frustrating process.
Then there are the design files, for example, the files formatted using InDesign. All edits resulting from the proofreading process are entered into this formatted file. As such, even if you have the original manuscript, you would lose those edits and the formatting. Companies will sometimes release the design files to the authors for a fee.
Your Domain Name and Website Hosting
Have you ever had your website hijacked? It’s not pretty. And I don’t mean by a hacker; I mean by a person who offers to register your domain and host your website, and then who goes out of business. Or who disappears off the face of the earth, along with the login to your domain registration account and your hosting login. And then your domain expires without your knowledge and you have no idea of how to get into your account to renew it. Even when you DO find out where the domain is registered (Hint: Type WHOIS and your domain in your search engine), try convincing the tech support person at the domain registry company that it really belongs to you and not Joe Blow who isn’t answering your emails.
Same thing for your website hosting. I had one client come to me whose website was hacked. The hosting “company” (who was just some guy in his basement) said “too bad” and said that no, he hadn’t ever backed up her website. The client opened a new hosting account with a reputable company, but the original guy in his basement refused to release her hosting and allow it to be hosted by anyone else. We did a workaround until her hosting with him expired.
These website issues can easily be avoided by:
- Only dealing with reputable hosting companies. Do a Google search and look for customer reviews on companies.
- Being the person who opens all accounts and pays for the domain and the hosting. Deal with just one company for both items.
- Being in control of your user name and password to all accounts.
ISBNs, book files, domain names and websites are all valuable assets in which you have invested thousands of dollars. Protect these assets and you’ll have fewer issues when it comes time to make changes in the future!