Writing Stories for Profit – Key Facts about Book Publishing

By Rhonda Campbell
Everyone has a story to tell. In fact, many people are going about doing just that, telling their story.  However, excitement over writing a book can blur the details necessary to successfully publish and market a book. As reported in the January 27, 2009 New York Times article “Self Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab” written by Motoko Rich, over 480,000 fiction and non-fiction books were published or distributed in the United States in 2008.  A rising number of those books were written and published by independent publishers, or the books’ authors themselves.

No doubt the dreamy idea of publishing the number one book of the year (maybe the all time highest selling book ever) and imagining copies of one’s books flying off bookstore shelves into the hands of eager readers can be intoxicating.  Yet, intoxicating or not, selling lots of books rarely (if ever) just happens.

Identification Numbers for Fiction and Non-Fiction Books

Bowker is considered to be an axle of the book publishing industy.  The firm that is located in New Providence, New Jersey assigns International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) to books published in the United States.  Bowker works with small presses, e-books, large mainstream publishing houses and self-publishers to assign the book identifying numbers.  The company also works with libraries, bookstores, distributors and printers to market and promote books.

Before a book goes into print, a publisher reaches out to Bowker to purchase a block of ISBNs.  An ISBN operates similar to a Social Security Number (SSN).  For example, the same way a SSN identifies an individual, an ISBN helps people in the book industry to recognize a book title, the date the fiction and non-fiction book was published and who wrote and published the book.  Getting an ISBN is but one of the many steps involved in publishing and selling books.

Book Authors Protecting Their Creative Works

Creative works are generally protected as soon as they are composed (e.g. written, recorded). However, to provide additional protection for their creative works in the event they have to go to court to prove that they are, in fact, the creator of the work, book authors (or their publishers) are encouraged to contact the copyright office in their country of residence.  In the United States, book authors and publishers can contact the U.S. Copyright Office online.

Generally, there is a $30 fee to file a book copyright.  It is as simple as filling out the 2-3 page copyright form and mailing the completed form, with the fee, to the address listed on the form.  If the creative work is completed (e.g. a finished novel), submit a copy of the completed work to the U.S. Copyright Office as well. 

Book Writers and Publishers Reaching the Library Market

Book writers and independent publishers who want to sell or distribute copies of their fiction and non-fiction books to libraries, are encouraged to get a Library of Congress Card Catalog Number.  Akin to an ISBN, this card catalog number helps libraries to identify books that are available in their catalog for purchase and distribution.  The Library of Congress has an online catalog that libraries and other organizations can search against to locate a book they want to either learn more about or get a copy of.  Because libraries have an offline and an online presence, being listed in their catalog helps a book’s author to find new and different readers.

By doing their homework and contacting Bowker to get an ISBN for their book, writers can begin to realize their creative dreams and goals.  They can contact the Library of Congress to get a card catalog number for their books so that librarians can search for their book titles in the Library of Congress book database.  With the right knowledge and marketing efforts, writers can do more than just write and print their stories.  They can generate sizable interest in their book and pull in strong book sales.

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Get Your Copy of Spiral at https://www.ebookit.com/books/0000000841/Spiral.html


New York Times.  January 27, 2009.  “Self Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab.”  2 March 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/28/books/28selfpub.html


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