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

There are two ways to publish a memoir:

  1. Hire a ghostwriter. This is very expensive, so your life experiences had better be extraordinarily interesting to a lot of people to recoup the investment.
  2. Write it yourself, with the help of a writing coach, then hire an editor and proofreader to polish the text. Less expensive than (1) but still a significant investment that will have to be recaptured through book sales (or new gigs, if the book is meant for that).

Writing a book is easier than selling a book. Before you begin, figure out who needs your book and why, then develop a marketing strategy to reach that specific audience. No book is for “everyone.”

It’s difficult to make much money if you are only selling a book in a retail environment (online or offline). The retailer takes 40-55% of the cover price right off the top. After the cost of printing is deducted, the author or publisher may net a few dollars per book at best. Then there is the additional upfront investment in marketing to drive buyers to the retailer in the first place and the other costs of administering any business.

But retail is not the only way to sell books. If you are a coach, speaker, consultant, professional, or business owner, a book can be written to share your expertise and win more clients. If you give presentations, your book can be sold at the back of the room (eliminating the retailer’s cut) or given for free to each attendee to increase registration. In these indirect ways, a book can be very profitable indeed.

Books can also be sold in bulk to schools, businesses, non-profit organizations, and a host of special interest groups. With POD printing, these bulk orders can be customized with the logo of the organization, as if they had published the book themselves. As someone wise once said, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Part or all of the book can be offered on your website. It has always been possible to sell books from your website via ecommerce plug-ins, with the author shipping books to the buyer. Now, authors can sell books directly from their website with built-in fulfillment by IngramSpark through their subsidiary, Aerio at a 10% fee, including the credit card charge. It doesn’t get easier than this.

All money issues aside, authors can be paid in satisfaction for a job well done. Book publishing should never be financed with the rent money, but if you have the means, it is one of life’s great pleasures to hold your own book in your hands and proudly share it with friends and family.

US publishers are required to send authors (and the IRS) a 1099 by January 31 if they paid you more than $600 in the previous calendar year. In the case of self-publishing, the company through which you distributed your book (e.g., CreateSpace, IngramSpark, Amazon, or a self-publishing company) will send the 1099 form. That’s the threshold for a business to report income to you. You are required to declare all income on your federal and state tax returns. Therefore, if you sold your books at a conference or book fair, you must report that income yourself.

At tax time, your accountant will total the income you received from all sources, subtract your deductions, and arrive at your Adjusted Gross Income. From there, he or she will determine whether or not you owe taxes over and above the amount already collected through payroll withholding. Your tax refund may be reduced or the amount of money you owe the IRS on April 15 may increase. If the uncertainty worries you, set aside a percentage of each book sale payment (roughly equal to your tax bracket) to cover any taxes that may be due, and check with your accountant now.

Word is fine for writing your manuscript and applying elementary formatting. For professional results, the pages of your book should be designed by a book designer and “composed” by an experienced book typesetter. Typesetters use page layout software, not Word, to make minute adjustments to line spacing, word spacing, and letter spacing. The result is text that is easy on the eyes, which makes reading a pleasure instead of a chore.
Properly typeset text has been clinically proven to increase reading comprehension (see Type and Layout by Colin Wheildon). For a complete explanation of the issues typesetters routinely consider see The Complete Manual of Typography by James Felici. As a committed “typophile,” I freely admit that these books would be a fine remedy for insomnia for most people. I offer them as a counter-argument to today’s DIY narrative. Beautiful books are not, and never have been, about the tools. Beautiful books have always been an art form and that is sadly being forgotten.

It’s not amateurish, but it’s not allowed (normally). According to the USPTO, a book title (or the title of a “single work“) can’t be trademarked, but a series title can be. Think of the popular series Chicken Soup for the Soul. Chicken Soup for the Soul is trademarked, and they have made a great business out of the distribution of licensed products bearing that trademark. However, the title of each individual book (e.g., Like Mother, Like Daughter:Stories about the Special Bond between Mothers and Daughters) is not.

Note also that book titles are not copyrighted, hence the number of books with the same titles.

The place to start is the US Patent and Trademark Office at www.uspto.gov. The first step is to make sure a trademark for the words in question doesn’t already exist, then the application process can begin. “TM” denotes that a trademark has been applied for. Once a trademark has been granted, TM is replaced with ®.

If you’re not sure how to proceed, check with an attorney. This article may also be helpful to you.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Find out where your audience hangs out online. For example, there are thousands of special interest groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, some public and some which you must ask to join. To make the most of your time, select groups with a large number of people or groups hosted by well-known people in the genre.
  • Quietly monitor the group discussions for a while before posting, then say something when you can genuinely help.
  • Add a signature that includes “Author of…” to your answers. Over time, group members will begin to know you as a person and respond.
  • Blog regularly from your author website to ping Google so people searching for information (but not necessarily a book) will find you.
  • Most groups, but not all, will allow you to announce new blog posts. Some group moderators are downright hostile so check the group rules first. A group is like a cocktail party; it’s a place to chat and begin relationships. Nobody likes the person who says hello and immediately launches into a sales pitch.
  • You can also announce new blog posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and from your own Facebook page.
  • If you have the time and inclination, start your own Facebook or LinkedIn group.
You will need permission from the publisher to use the image. Anyone can post an image on Google and that’s great for the public’s education. Using the image to make money is another matter entirely. You may be able to find “royalty free” images online. “Royalty free” doesn’t mean free of charge; it means the creator of the image has given permission for anyone to use it. You may have to purchase the image at one of many stock photo sites. “Licensed” images are often better but more expensive. The creator negotiates with the end user to convey limited rights to use the work, for example, on a book cover, for a fee. On the photo website, look in the FAQs for a link to the licensing options and associated fees, and any restrictions on the image’s use.
The services you list are often promised by self-publishing companies who specialize in emotional sales pitches and separating authors from their money (at least until they run out of credit). We talk to authors who have been scammed in this way all the time, sometimes to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. There is no evidence whatsoever that showing your book at a book fair or entering award contests will sell enough books to cover the entry fees.

We don’t publish your book; you do, and we’ll show you how, step by step. Our specialty is to help you create a great book with professional editorial and design services. We can also help you build a professional author website and design promotional materials. We can recommend honest book marketing people who will interview you and craft a marketing program geared to your goals, but ONLY if they believe they can deliver results.

My advice is to release your book in both formats to give your buyers a choice instead of making the decision for them. This is what the major publishers are doing, and you can be sure they have researched the topic thoroughly. If “the big six” publishers thought for one minute that they could ditch print with all the associated typesetting, printing, distribution, and retailing expenses involved, they would have done so by now.

Print books are alive and well; 70% of all books sold are print books. Many people still prefer a “real” book, especially after working on electronic devices all day. Audio books are the fastest growing segment in book publishing today. All three formats will coexist.

It’s tempting to embrace new technologies to the exclusion of earlier methods, but history teaches us that old technologies hang on. Radio survives despite television and the Internet. We still use pencils and pens along with our keyboards. Smart business owners offer buyers choices to capture every sale. POD is the greatest thing since sliced bread, allowing publishers to hang on to their capital and print books only after they are sold.

It’s very important to test your manuscript with as many readers as possible to identify areas in the text that need improvement from the consumer’s point of view.

Beta reading is usually managed by the author, either during the writing process or after the manuscript is complete, before editing begins.

1106 Design is not a self-publishing company; we don’t publish your book, YOU do, and we’ll show you how, step-by-step, so you can earn the maximum profit possible in the publishing industry. We help you prepare a market-ready book with professional editing and design and other services that authors need. At this time, beta reading is not one of our services, but now you have me thinking…

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.