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The Write Publishing: ISBNs

You may have seen a lot of this information floating around the interwebs but I’ve decided to put all of my knowledge and experience with ISBN’s here in an attempt to uncomplicate and facilitate new authors starting out.

Do you need an ISBN?

The short answer is YES!

Where do you get ISBNs?

Some publishing platforms offer free ISBNs but I prefer to get my own. There are many shady places that “sell” ISBNs but the only official and recognized source is Bowkers www.myidentifiers.com

Why should I buy my own ISBNs?

You should buy your own ISBNs if you want to have yourself listed as the official publisher of your work. If not the platform you publish on will be listed as your publisher and it can cause issues if you want to publish across multiple platforms with that ISBN.

Can you use an ISBN more than once?

Nope. Once you use an ISBN it is assigned to that book and that book only. That includes the same work in different formats. You will need an ISBN for your ebook, another for paperback, and another for hardback. eBooks thorugh Amazon will be assigned an ASIN which is not an ISBN and is not transferable to any place outside or Amazon.

Do I really need an ISBN for Ebooks?

That is honestly up to you. I personally rather have all my bases covered and have ISBNs for my ebooks.

How much do ISBNs cost?

On Bowker’s My Identifiers Prices are:

  • 1 ISBN $125
  • 10 ISBN $295
  • 100 ISBN $575

Those prices can be pretty steep for some and a lot of self publishers opt for the free ISBN from their preferred platform for that reason. I know I did when I first started. So if you are on the fence about where you want to go with your writing. If your self-publishing journey isn’t something you are pursuing as a career than having an ISBN isn’t necessary but I highly recommend getting an ISBN for your book if you plan to become a professional author.

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The Write Publishing: Traditional vs Self Publishing

Probably one of the most heated debates in the literary world. Which one is better? If you ask the writing community across social media, you will find many strong opinions about both. In this article, I will try and give an objective list of the pros and cons to help you decide for yourself.

Traditional Publishing

Pros

  • The backing of a company
  • Cover design, formatting, finding an editor all taken care of
  • Initial marketing push
  • Implied Prestige and legitimacy
  • More/easier access to brick and mortar stores
  • Advances and multiple book contracts

Cons

  • Deadlines
  • Less control over your work
  • Low royalty rates
  • Long process
  • Rejection
  • Contractual obligations

Self Publishing

Pros

  • Complete creative control
  • Produce and publish on your own schedule
  • The possibility of higher royalty rates
  • Flexibility in content (niche markets)

Cons

  • Covering production and marketing costs
  • Imposter syndrome
  • Harder to get into brick and mortar stores
  • No advances
  • Competition

Not all authors choose between the two. A lot of traditionally published authors self publish works for niche markets not represented well by traditional publishing. On the other side of it, many self-published authors still send out queries and pursue agents to traditionally publish their work at some point. The writing world doesn’t have to be one or the other.
It all comes down to what makes sense for you and your work.

The Write Process: Formatting

Hurray! You’ve completed your manuscript and its run the gammut of editing. Now it’s time to format for publishing.

I am going to be honest. Formatting your manuscript for print can be a total pain. Formatting isn’t just an issue for self-published authors. A poorly formatted manuscript will quickly get your work rejected by agents and traditional publishers alike.

Formatting for Traditional Publishing

Thankfully, manuscript formatting is fairly straight forward. Most writing software already has a manuscript template or setting that cuts down on your work immensely. Still, it’s good to know what the guidelines are in case you need to format on your own. The following is a screenshot of a template for Microsoft Word.

The title page should include your name and contact information, number of words in your manuscript, as well as the obvious title and by line.

Headers should have the author’s last name, the title of the book, and page number.

The Body of the manuscript requires a little more work. If you have chapter titles, include them instead of the basic Chapter One. There should be one-inch margins and double spacing between lines. Text should be Times New Roman with 12pt font. Some Agents and publishers may require slightly different settings or additional content, but these are the basics.

Formatting for Self-Publishing

This is where things get more complicated. Most people skip this part altogether and rely on a formatting program or pay a professional to do it for them. How you format your self published novel depends on your genre and personal style.

There are some template available online, most of them are for word. How you format your self-published work also depends on what publishing platform you decide to use, and if you are publishing an Ebook or Print Book. Sites like Ingram Spark, Draft2Digital, Amazon KDP, and LuLu all provide either a template of guidelines for submission.

If you plan to publish with Amazon, the process isn’t as bad. Amazon provides users with a free formatting app, Kindle Create, for ebooks that simplifies the process immensely. While the app says it works for print as well, having personally used it, I cannot confirm that claim. Hopefully, there will be a way in the future as this is still in Beta testing. Below is a screenshot of Kindle Create using the word file from the manuscript template shown above.

The Write Process: Alphas and Betas

I know in my Rules for writing a first draft I stated “not to talk about write club” but that was just for the initial output of ideas. Now that your draft is completed and you’ve given it cursory scrub in the first edit, it’s time to share the wealth. I am not talking about hitting the publish button just yet. Your draft is still just that a draft and it will go through several more drafts before it’s done. This is where alpha readers, beta readers, and professional editors come in.

Alpha Readers

These are the first people to lay eyes on your work. Their critiques can help you find the holes in your plot that you hadn’t noticed before. Tell you if your characters are relatable and give you input on how marketable your story may be. These are all good insights to have before shipping your work off to the editor or pitching your manuscript to an agent or publishing company.

Beta Readers

Betas are your final scrub team. They can also be the same group you used as Alpha readers or a completely different set of people all together. Beta readers will give you many of the same insights as Alpha readers but since they will have your completed and formatted work at their disposal they can also check for formatting errors and anything else missed in previous rounds of polishing. Most Beta Readers will also gladly provide reviews for your books in exchange for the opportunity to read your story before its published.

Where to Find Your Crew

The best place to find Alpha’s and Betas is within your own writing circle. People within your local writing group, other writer friends.

Family members you can trust to give honest feedback. I myself use my sisters and sometime even my mom to help me with my drafts. I am lucky in that they all are avid readers of the genre I write and really don’t care about hurting my feelings if they feel the story isn’t up to par.

I have also used writers groups online. Simply asking for people who would be interested in being a beta reader, although this approach is hit or miss. Out of the ten that said they were interested, only five provided emails to receive my work and out of those five only two actually provided feedback. One I traded critiques with but none were repeat customers.

By far the best experience I had online with finding critiques online was using the writer’s community of Scribophile. The site is a critique for critique format and while it takes work to get a good community, it’s definitely worth it in my opinion.

Check out Scribophile Here

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Short form videos to accompany the related blog posts below.

The Write Process: 1st Edit

First I would like to say that even if you are the best grammarian you know, having a professional look over your work is always best. With that being said, before you drop $$$ on that professional look you should at least do some editing on your own.

If you are going the traditionally published route, unless you already have a deal in place your first draft isn’t what you want to submit to a publisher for review. At the very least, your work needs to be edited for major plot holes.

That’s why in my writing process, plot holes is the first round of editing. Unless you outlined you story to death beforehand, it’s very common to find glaring holes in your plot or actions that don’t really make sense to your characters personality or motivation.

This first look is strictly about tightening up your story. Don’t worry about grammar and punctuation just yet. Why not? I personally think that it’s better to stay in the free form mode when editing for the plot. I am more creative that way and my new writing may not be so grammatically correct. I rather catch all of that at once, if I can.

Bonus doing some self-editing can save you money on professional editing. The more polished the draft, the less time and corrections for the editor to make. Depending on the length of your work and how your chosen editor charges their fee, that could mean the difference of a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars.

The Write Process: First Draft

This article is going to be a little more pep talk than informative. Writing the first draft is a significant accomplishment for any writer. It’s the first chance to see where that idea in your head is going to go. Even if you have outlined your story to death, surprises are sure to come when you finally put pen to paper.

Here is a list of “rules” I use to get my first draft completed with as little hair pulling and head bashing as possible.

Rule 1: Don’t sweat the small stuff

The first draft isn’t supposed to be perfect. Don’t fret if not all your characters have the perfect names or one scene doesn’t quite fit the way you hoped.

Rule 2: Don’t Edit

If you are anything like me, you may be tempted to polish that paragraph a bit. Fix those spelling errors and minor grammar issues as you go. Don’t do it. Not only will it slow the writing process but how will you know if your paragraph makes since there if you don’t have completed work.

Rule 3: Don’t talk about Write Club

It may be super tempting to discuss your cool ideas with friends, family, and fellow writers. While it’s not always bad to bounce ideas off people when you get stuck on something, it can also lead to second-guessing your plan.

Rule 4: Deadlines are suggestions

Unless you have a publisher breathing down your neck, take your time. Getting the first draft done is arguably the best part of the writing process. The time when your imagination should be able to roam free and mingle with your excitement to write. Take your time and smell the pages.

Rule 5: Just write!

You can’t have a first draft if you never write it in the first place. Writing is hardly the best time and best place sort of activity. Get your words in whenever you can and don’t be afraid to mix things up to help you get in the writing groove.

Now that you know the “rules” for completing your first draft, it’s time to get writing!

The Write Process: Outlining

I am not going to get into the Plotter or Pantser debate in this post. I am simply going to provide my opinion on outlining in the process of writing. Now that you have an Idea of what you want to write, it’s time to get those ideas organized. How you organize them, like everything else in writing, is based on your personal preference.

Ways I Outline

Get the bigger picture and find some wall space! It doesn’t have to be an entire wall but maybe the size of a large wall calendar. Give yourself enough space to expand with as much or as little detail as you see fit.

Use note cards both physical and virtual! Note cards work great when you need to shuffle ideas around. Most writing specific software includes a note card format in their outline section for that reason.

Remember your outline doesn’t have to be fancy or complex. A simple line graph can be just as effective for some people. Outlining is a key step that shouldn’t be skipped. A good working outline will not only help you create your masterpiece in record time, but will help streamline the editing process.

The Write Process: Ideology

Ideas are Key!

Before you even put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, you need to have an idea. Some call it a spark of genius, others just dumb luck. No matter how it gets to your brain, that is where the magic starts. Here are a few ways I get my ideas flowing.

Television and Movies

I am a sucker for Korean drama! Give me a Kpop idol crush any day and it’s bound to put sappy romantic ideas in my head. There is a reason why fanfiction is so popular. Even the best plots can deal with a little tweaking or continuation. Just remember to put your own spin on things to avoid plagiarism.

As if you needed an excuse to binge your favorite programming

Daily Events

Ever have a day that turned out crazier than anyone would believe? Well, guess what? You just found a new story or poetry idea. Your local news outlet might have some crazy story ideas for you too.

Imagine your character as one of those laid off journalist or perhaps fictionalize the life of an Oscar Winning Composer

Writing Prompts

Maybe you don’t have time for inspiration to just strike or you’re feeling a tad lazy on the imagination front. There are plenty of places online to find writing prompts. My favorite places are Reddit and Google. Seriously! Just google writing prompt and your preferred style/genre. I dare you.

A simple google search can lead you in the “write” direction!

Word Generators

Random word generator– There are several random word generators online that give you a handful of words to test your creative ability.

Try writing a paragraph using these ten words

Now that you’ve gotten a few ideas on where to get ideas, it’s time to bust out your favorite writing tool(s) and get to work! Feel free to share your muse magic in the comments.

Be a Perpetual Tourist!!!

Why do you ask? Being a “tourist” means you can get away with doing things that wouldn’t normally be acceptable.  See a fountain you would love to climb all over? A funny statue or cool mural you want in pictures? I say go for it!  Forget what other people think of you and have fun but don’t do anything illegal. As a writer, having this kind of attitude has helped me gain a plethora of experiences to draw on for scene setting and character development. Here are a few shots of times I’ve played “tourist.”

Be a Perpetual Tourist!!!
Farmer’s Market Monkey

Gas Station Art
Gas Station Art

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Skelephant Statue

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A part of the Moment

Tired from sightseeing
Tired from sightseeing

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Frame yourself

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Yummy, ice cream!!

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Try navigating your city using a map instead of your phone.

Winter 2010-springbreak 023
Had to stop anyway, why not have some fun?

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This picture was taken when Planking was a thing.

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