This week’s post is called Book-Building 101 because I want to provide my fellow indie authors a little info on the mechanics of putting out a completed book. And I’m not talking about plot, structure, or basics like editing or proofreading. I’m talking about the object itself.
Now, you might automatically assume that that means a post about cover design and interior design, but no. It’s not even that. Of course, those are the first few things you think of when you consider “building” a book. I’m talking about the stuff you need when you drill down a little further into the publishing business.
Here are the top three items you need on your copyright page – and only one of them is something I knew about before I began my journey as a publisher.
My Top Three
1) The ISBN Number – Yes, you know you need an ISBN number, right? But what ISBN number you get depends a lot on how you’re publishing. If you publish through Amazon only, my understanding is that they provide an ISBN number for that process. However, you are limited to Amazon with it. They are, in effect, selling you an ISBN that you can use on their platform only. Now, if you do what I did – publish through IngramSpark and use Amazon as one of many distribution channels like Barnes & Noble, iTunes & Kobo – then you can use your own ISBN number for all distribution channels.
Because I published my books in both ebook and paperback, I actually purchased my own ISBN numbers through Bowker, and assigned three different numbers to each book: one for the paper version; one for the ebook version available via Amazon; and one for the ebook version available everywhere else. It was complex to set up, but it also freed me entirely from being an “Amazon only” author.
2) A Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) – One of the most often overlooked items is the Library of Congress Control Number. After registering for copyright, I paid to obtain an LCCN. And there are a couple good reasons to do this:
a) It gives your book the legitimacy it needs to get into libraries.
b) It gives your book the legitimacy it needs to get into bookstores.
Once you have copies of your book available, you need to send one to the Library of Congress to show them you have published it. That’s the deal, and it’s a good one: with over 164-million titles on hand, the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. Librarians can search the database and find your title…potentially leading to extensive exposure.
Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that the Library of Congress will actually keep your titles in their system indefinitely, as I know from my own experience; fortunately, I also know that, once accepted into local library systems, your books are pretty likely to remain there. A quick search of worldcat.org reveals that one of my titles is in several Florida library systems, and another continues to show up in a New York system. And those represent sales, unlike the copies “gifted” to the Library of Congress.
3) A CIP Data Block – CIP stands for Cataloging-In-Publication. Go to your local library, take out a book, and flip to the copyright page. You’ll find a block of info, most likely provided by a company called The Donohue Group, that shows librarians how to catalog the book.
When you’re marketing your books to libraries (and yes, they do buy books…lots of books), you must have a CIP data block on the copy you send them. If you don’t have a CIP block, your book goes into the “No” pile; if you have a CIP block, it goes into the “Maybe” pile. See how that works? So it’s not a guarantee to get you in, but without it, you’re out. Period.
The extra benefit of getting a CIP data block is that it provides you with keywords that you might not have even considered for indexing, Amazon categorization, and so on. My CIP block for Brothers’ Hand includes the phrases Amputees–Rehabilitation–Fiction and LSD (Drug)–Psychological Aspects–Fiction. I never would have come up with those on my own, but they are appropriate.
So there you have it – my top three book-building suggestions for your copyright page. Not only can these help you sell your book, they can also help people find it. And aren’t those both important? Let me know what you think in the comments section.