Getting ISBNs in Canada

Self-publishers have it good in Canada. We can get our ISBNs for free.

If you’re unfamiliar, ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is a unique number used to identify your book. Most places that you will publish, be it physical or Ebook, will require you to provide an ISBN for your work. As I understand it, some companies will allow you to pay an additional fee and they will provide you with an ISBN.

In Canada, the process is rather simple.

Go to http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/ciss-ssci/index-e.html and click on Join CISS on the left hand side. There’s a form you need to fill in that asks about your publisher information as well as one of your current or upcoming publications. Once you’ve submitted that form, you wait. They say it can take up to ten days, but I think I waited for three.

An email arrives with your username and a temporary password. You login to their site, and fill out some more paperwork. The process is simple and can be done all online. If you need an ISBN, you just login, provide information about the book and within seconds, you have an ISBN.

If you’re using a service like Lightning Source, you will need at least one ISBN in order to complete the signup process on their website. The great thing with the Canadian system is that since it is all online, you can complete information for your first book before it’s published, yet you can go back and edit that information at any time. This means you can obtain an ISBN for signups, but go back and edit it when you know actual details like book size, weight & page count.

As I said, an easy and painless process in Canada. Dear readers, how are things done in your part of the world?

Going it Alone or Call me “Indie”

So I’ve given it a great deal of thought, and I’m finally ready to say for certain that I am going to self-publish.

Almost every indie writer has a blog post where they justify their decision to skip the traditional publishing model. I suppose this my post. But instead of belaboring the point, I’ll sum it up in two words, three syllables; Control Freak.

After all the work to write a book, if someone were to decide the title or cover design of my book for me, I think I might explode. To me, a book is artistry. Not just the words, but the design, the cover, the layout, even the font used. These things are elements of a book’s creation and I want my hand in all of it.

There’s other reasons as well, many that merit little mention. But the overall deciding factor here is that I want to call the shots. If this series succeeds or fails, I want it to rest firmly on my shoulders.

Yeah, I was the kid in school who hated group projects too.

Simply put, I believe in this series. I think it can do well. I want to be there for every step to see that it does.

So where do I go from here?

My first step was to create my own imprint. I wanted to publish my works under a publisher name. I suppose that’s vain, but to me it was just one more step in the creative process. Not only am I creating an identity as an author, now I get to forge an identity as a publisher.

To that end, I present to you Red Bucket Publishing. No logo yet, no live website yet, just a registered domain and a Paypal account. More will come, just as I will officially announce the name of my series and book one specifically in the next few days (remember, The Veil was just the working title).

I’m looking into Print-On-Demand companies to do physical copies, and I want to learn how to format ebooks myself (told you I wanted to be in on every level of creation).

As I go along in this process, I’ll post the things I learn. My writing journey is growing from just writing the books to also include publishing the books. I can’t explain how much that excites me.

So wish me luck. If you have any wisdom to impart, please do so. This is going to be a huge learning experience for me and I’ll need all the advice I can get.

When Did You Become a Writer?

A bit of a personal blog entry this morning.

Was there a defining moment for you? A point where scraps of stories hidden in folders became work aimed at being published? When was that moment that you started including “Writer” in bios of yourself?

When I was in grade school, I loved to write. There was only one type of assignment I looked forward to and that was creative writing. I was that kid who was assigned a “short” story and turned in a binder with chapters. In those creative and heady moments of youth, seeing my name on a book cover was my singular goal.

But as with most dreams of childhood, I strayed from that path. Other interests and influences pulled me away. Over the years I wrote less and that vision of my name on a cover dimmed.

Fast forward to me in my thirties. I had rediscovered writing, but had no focus. Every story I started was left only partially completed. I had ideas, pages and pages of ideas, but I couldn’t translate that into a finished product. My wife developed a look that said “Will you just shutup and write” that I saw on regular occasion when I started a conversation with “I had an idea for a story…”

My defining moment, the thing that finally made me focus on finishing something, anything, was the death of my father.

My dad left an impression on people. Even now, two years after his death, I still have people that stop me in my work life and tell me how amazing my father was and how he influenced/helped/changed/supported them at some point. I have a set of morals that I can easily trace to my father.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my love of science fiction, fantasy and reading I can trace to hours spent sitting next to my dad watching classic Star Trek and Doctor Who.

When my dad took early retirement, he looked forward to trips with my mom and had thoughts of writing a book about his paramedic days called “Life Under the Lightbar.” You can imagine his dismay when he was diagnosed with lung cancer two weeks after his retirement party. And then a year-and-a-half later, he was gone.

So much planned and dreamed. So much left undone.

As the grief subsided, I realised that dreams shouldn’t be put off. I looked at my pile of half-finished writing and loose ideas and thought, “If I die tomorrow, I don’t want a bunch of half-realised dreams left behind. I need to finish something.”

And now, a first draft is done.

My dreams are larger than just one first draft. What I truly want to leave behind is still incomplete. Which is fine, because I intend/hope to have more time to finish it. But I’m on the road. I feel that I can call myself a writer. I feel less unfulfilled than I did before.

Did you have a defining moment? Was there something in your life that finally pushed you hard enough that you were able to type “The End?”

Facebook

So I’ve decided to take the plunge and enter into the world of Facebook.

I mean, in a different capacity I’ve been mulling around Facebook for years, as many other people have.

But it occurred to me that if I was truly going to give this writing thing a shot (especially if I go Indie) I’m going to need some presence on Facebook. After all, it’s only one of the largest social networks on the planet, right?

I suppose my two biggest fears are that a) Few people will like my author page and it will turn into another vehicle for self-pity. b) It will become a massive time-suck that will pull me from other, more important, tasks.

What do you think community? Is jumping into Facebook a wise move? Will my writing/publishing career suffer or benefit from it? I’m wondering what your thoughts and experiences are.

In the meantime, I’ve set up an author page. Going to make it just one more place that people can find me.

If you feel so inclined, you can find it at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Justus-R-Stone/250724508276754 Give it a LIKE, I’d appreciate it. And if you have your own Author page, let me know, cause I’ll return the like in return.

 

Why The $0.99 Ebook Should Go Away

My wife, Carolyn, is a professional photographer. We had a discussion sometime ago about how it was difficult to convince some people to pay the appropriate price for professional photography when so many non-professionals charge cut-rate prices. I thought that people looking to hire a photographer would recognize the difference in quality and would therefor pay the higher price. I now think that was naive.

I visited writer Nathan Bransford’s blog yesterday and read an article on how attitudes toward e-book pricing seem to be changing.

So why the change? Why do people suddenly view the e-book as being worth less than they did a year ago? My simple answer, and it was the same for some of the commentators on the article, is the $0.99 e-book.

Why Charge $0.99 For an E-book?

There’s a number of reasons authors give to justify a bargain basement price for their e-books.

  • Readers are more likely to take a chance on something new/unknown if it’s cheap.
  • Price is the way indies can best compete with publishing houses.
  • I don’t care about money so much, I just want my book to get out there.
  • If I make this one cheap, more people will buy it & get hooked on my writing. Then I can charge more for the next books.

To an extent, all of these points are valid and true. But the question I find myself wondering is; Are we helping build these expectations in readers? Are there other ways to accomplish the same thing without selling ourselves out?

My Problem with the $0.99 E-book

I admit, this is mostly a perception thing. When I think of a book on sale for $0.99, I envision a garage sale. In that garage sale is a box of old paperbacks that have sat unloved and unread for years. Their spines are broken, their pages yellowed, and to be frank, they smell.

I have a problem thinking that a piece of writing I have dedicated possibly a year or more to would be valued on par with that when it’s brand new.

The other factor here is royalties. Amazon will pay 70% to the author for any e-book priced $2.99 or higher (though I understand at a higher dollar value, over $10, they drop the percentage again). Any book priced under $2.99 is paid a royalty of 30%. I understand this isn’t all about money to people. And if that’s the point, if you really want to get your book into as many hands as possible, give it away for free on your website. What you choose to do on your website is your business.

But when a book is for sale in a marketplace for such a low price, it devalues all comparable books. If a large percentage of well-written Young Adult novels are priced at $0.99, then after a while, won’t readers expect that all well-written YA novels should be $0.99? Aren’t we creating our own demon? If every book priced at $0.99 was an aberration, this wouldn’t be a problem. But apparently, there are some really well written books sitting in this price range. So readers are getting the message; Good e-books not written by a huge name author are only worth $0.99.

Why do you think virtually every hardcover, trade-paper, and mass market book are priced in a similar range by the big publishing houses? Because over the years they’ve built that expectation in readers and they know readers will pay those prices. Funny thing, new authors published by a big house are priced the same as established authors. Why? Because the big publishing houses have agreed that if they think it’s worth putting into print, it’s worth a certain price-point. For a great many number of years, readers have agreed.

So why would indies seek to set the bar so low when they’re finally getting some respect and recognition for their work?

Alternatives to the $0.99 E-book

First off, indies should take a page from the big publishers and agree on a standard pricing scheme for e-books. Perhaps stories less than 10,000 words should be $0.99, novellas at 20,000+ words are 2.99 and full novels are 4.99. This is all ball park, but if indies could establish a “norm” of pricing, it would condition readers.

Am I saying an indie should never offer a promotional price? No. But for a full novel, a good promo price should be $2.99, not $0.99.

If indies want customers to give them a try with little to no commitment, put the first third of your book on your website for free. Or, if you have a novella or series of short stories, put them on your site for free so people can get a taste for your style and content.

Traditional publishers have too many people to pay. They might be able to match the $4.99 price point, but I doubt they will beat it anytime soon. In this way, indies still are competitively priced in comparison to traditionally published authors.

Don’t forget community and word of mouth. In the large world of the internet, word of mouth can do more for your book than price. Get the word out. Send copies to book bloggers, give free copies away to your followers on Twitter. And if you read an indie book that you love, show that love by giving a good review on Amazon, Goodreads and plug it to your followers.

Don’t Devalue Yourself

Writing is a lonely pursuit. Most writers I’ve met, myself included, are very critical of themselves and their writing. While we fear the reaction to our work, we also crave it. I sometimes wonder if the $0.99 price point is more about ego, or lack thereof, than it is about marketing. Perhaps some writers think so little of their book and their ability to market that they believe it is impossible to succeed without nearly giving the book away.

If that’s the case, we need to stop being so hard on ourselves. Whether indie or traditionally published, we have all poured a considerable amount of hours, sweat, tears and sanity into the words we produce. What needs to happen is a fair price for such works needs to be established and maintained. The big houses have done it for years, maybe it’s time for indies to stop being so independent and to start looking at the larger picture. Through promoting those indie titles that exemplify the best of work and maintaining a consistent pricing scheme, indies will be able to make money and get their books out to readers without being a garage sale.

What are your thoughts? Is the $0.99 a good or bad thing?

The First Draft is Done – Some Things I’ve Learned

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, I finally typed the two words that I have spent over a year working toward; The End.

Sitting in a darkened room with a group of people that couldn’t have really cared, it wasn’t the sweetest of victories, but it was a milestone nonetheless.

But achieving a major life goal often leads to some introspection & retrospection. A lot of ‘pection going on.

So what the heck have I learned? What has writing my first draft of my first novel taught me? Well, here it is kids. Hope some of it is useful 😉

Writing Everyday Is Good Advice

Yup, you’ve read the same advice too. And if you’re anything like me, you said “That’s nice for you, but there’s no way I have time for that.” Well, I’m here to tell you, “MAKE TIME.”

In the final length of my race to the finish, I focused on writing something every single day. I set no minimums or goals, I just told myself I would find time to add to The Veil everyday.

Most days I was lucky to squeeze out 100 words. But other days it was 500. In the final two days it was over a 1,000 words. By pushing myself to write even a little everyday I found it easier to find the writer’s mindset and jump into my story. So in my future works, I will write something, anything, every single day.

Being a Pantser Sucks

I know this works for some people. Doing a mix of 1/8 planner & 7/8 pantser did get me to the end of my book. But it was painful. I wasted too much time staring at a blank screen uncertain of where to go. I often hit roadblocks that trapped me in a chapter for over a month. The more often I got stuck, the slower my progress. These factors lent themselves to a deep depression in regards to my writing. Many days I felt like such a hack I wondered what the point of continuing was. I persevered. I finished. But I don’t want to write a book like that again.

I’m thinking future works will be a flip 1/8 pantser, 7/8 planner. I hope to stick to that.

Twitter is a Godsend

There are a ton of people on Twitter that have encouraged me and helped me through my slumps. Add into that a number of those same people, and many more included, that inspired me and made me sit my bum in the chair. Writing is lonely. But with Twitter by your side, it doesn’t have to be.

When you add in a slew of great articles that people have directed me to that I never would’ve found myself, Twitter adds up to a must. Forget all the hype about joining Twitter to build a “platform.” Join Twitter to find a wonderful community. When you embrace it and open yourself up and join the conversation, the platform will evolve naturally.

Writing Software Saved My Life

This book never would’ve happened without Scrivener. It’s that simple.

I know you’ll be surprised by this, but I’m a bit scattered. I’ll be writing chapter three, then have an idea that probably won’t happen until chapter twenty. In the old days, this shiny idea would become a separate Word document that would be shoved in a folder and then probably forgotten.

Writing this way was a pain. To have character bios, notes and an assortment of other things available, I’d have to open five or more documents.

Scrivener just allows me to do this all organically. It puts all the information I want and need right in front of me. It’s easy, organised and gets out of my way while I get all creative and stuff.

I will never write a piece of fiction again without Scrivener.

So What Now?

Editing.

More Editing.

And then, just to change things up, editing.

And as The Veil takes it’s final form, I will move into plotting The Veil Book 2. I did say it was a series, right?

I also have a character I’m itching to write. It’s a joint creation between my wife and I. She’s going to do visual work and I’m going to write the words. At this point, I’m thinking a series of novellas.

So, whew. Done. I feel lighter having finished it. I’ll feel lighter when I have it edited and it’s ready to be released to the wild.

Thanks for hanging in with my journey. I’ll do my best to post more regular updates.

Author Intention or Audience Intervention?

Last week I saw the movie Sucker Punch.

The movie focuses on Babydoll, a girl committed to an asylum when she accidentally kills her sister.

Once in the asylum, Babydoll’s evil stepfather pays off an orderly to have the girl lobotomized. Babydoll, knowing her time is short, devises a plan to escape.

The thing about Sucker Punch is that it tells the majority of Babydoll’s experiences in the asylum in dreamlike sequences that are like fevered geek-boy fantasies. Dragons, zombies, killer robots and more all become obstacles Babydoll and her friends must overcome in gaining items needed for escape. Add into the mix a group of attractive young girls dressed scantily with guns, and well, you can see the demographic this one is gunning for.

My wife and I both enjoyed it. Yes, we are those kind of geeks.

We started talking about the film and the various imagined worlds Babydoll & co. encountered. At one point I said to my wife, and yes this is the point of this post, “Do you think he really meant it to be that deep, or are we just putting our own ideas into it?”

The question that still lingers in my mind is, did the writer intend for us to interpret things the way we did, or are we seeing those themes and ideas because we brought them to the movie ourselves?

How much control should writers exert over the audience experience? How clear should we make our thematic intentions?

When your audience completes the tale you’ve written, do you want them to think a specific way, or do you want to leave it open for numerous interpretations?

Sometimes this can work. When a story has enough layers, enough emotional power, leaving room for audience interpretation makes the story more personal for each person that experiences it.

Years ago, an anime called Neon Genesis Evangelion caught my attention. Evangelion left so much open for debate and interpretation that even today, more than a decade after it’s run completed, people still debate various plot and philosophy points. It’s given the work a staying power that is rare in our consume and toss society.

But does it always work? Well, let’s look at Sucker Punch. Fact is, this movie has the world pretty divided. Some see it as having a deeper psychological message about trying to overcome feeling owned and trapped. Other people see it as a pointless story that exists only to satisfy an orgasmic display of anime and video game inspired imagery. Even those who recommend Sucker Punch do it more for the visual appeal as opposed to the story.

Simple fact is, Sucker Punch doesn’t have enough meat to allow the audience a deep level of participation. It’s too easy to see the film as exploitation as opposed to being a statement against it. It’s far too easy to walk away with no message at all.

So how do you do it? How do you strike a chord that unites the audience, yet leaves them enough room to make the story their own?

I think the trick is balance. First of all, you need a good hook. This should be clear, no room for interpretation.

Take Inception.

What’s the hook? Crooks break into people’s dreams to steal information.

It’s clear, no one is going to debate that their interpretation is any different.

But as Inception continues, it starts to throw ideas out that ask more of us. The deeper we go, the more the film allows multiple interpretations, but only a handful.

For instance, the ending presents us with a simple is he or isn’t he? type conundrum. The writer has still controlled our experience. He knows we will walk out thinking one of two things. There is room for personal thought, yet it’s still been controlled and manipulated.

When I watch Inception, I know the writer intends to leave us hanging. I know he intends to leave us slightly disoriented and questioning. But one reason it still worked was that it made perfect sense in context of the story we had watched. Either possibility was plausible.

In Sucker Punch, Babydoll’s delusions, while being visually engaging, leave us wondering where the imagery came from. How does a girl in what appears to be the 1950s or 60s have visions of giant samurai or killer robots? Instead of fitting in with the story, it takes us away from it. Instead of Babydoll’s experiences informing her delusions, it is the author who is informing the visuals. This robs the film of a genuine voice of its own.

But I liked it, so I start peeling at the nasty rind to find the juicy orange inside. I see the movie how I would’ve written it. I have no idea if I see things for the reason the author meant, because I haven’t been given enough clues for guidance. I am intervening into the film as opposed to following the author’s intentions. And I’m doing it to justify my enjoyment of the movie.

Here’s what I’ve learned;

  • You can leave some things open for interpretation, but they must be informed by the story
  • You can’t just throw things in because you think they’re cool & expect the audience to buy it
  • You need to exert control over situations where multiple interpretations present themselves.
  • You should know the majority, if not all, of the ways people will view the story and its themes.
  • Don’t allow the audience to question your intentions. Mean everything you do.