This Week in Self-Publishing: Setting Up the Pre-Order

Money earned (total): $6,909

Money spent (total): $425

Money earned (this week): $0

Money spent (this week): $0

Last night, I mashed GO on the pre-order.

(If you are curious about the target audience for The Biographies of Ordinary People, it’s “the generation that still uses the phrase mash go because they heard it on Homestar Runner when they were young.”)

I wanted to set up the pre-order early, first because I knew it might have some unexpected quirks and second because I suspected there might be a lag between “me saying PRE-ORDER IS GO” and “the pre-order showing up on book retailers,” and I’m happy to say I was right on both counts.

I appreciate the number of times I’ve been right about things during this process, which indicates, more than anything else, that I’ve done my research. Earlier this week I went to an event at Phinney Books where publishing reps shared recently released books they hoped we’d get excited about—it is literally one of my favorite events of the year—and I was delighted to see that covers like mine were on trend. (My cover is a little minimal compared to the other covers, but I’m fine with that. Keeps my thumbnail nice and readable.)

But here’s one thing I was wrong about.

So with Pronoun I have the choice between using a Pronoun-generated ISBN, which means Pronoun is listed as the Publisher of Record, or using an ISBN I purchase myself through Bowker.

If I buy an ISBN through Bowker—and I bought ten, plus a barcode, for $275—then I become the Publisher of Record. Many self-pub authors would rather not have their own name listed as the Publisher of Record, instead electing to create a one-person publishing company with an evocative name like… Starfollow Press, which is what I thought about calling my Publisher of Record for a while. (The joke is that it sounds pretty, but it’s also the two actions I want readers to take after finishing the book. STAR and FOLLOW.)

I decided not to pursue the one-person publishing company. You have to set up an LLC and run the earnings through the LLC and do all of these extra tax and business license things that I already did, once, when I set up my freelance business. Yes, I might have been able to do Starfollow Press as a DBA instead of an LLC, but either way it was a lot of work for “putting another name on my book to elide the fact that I am my own publisher,” which I am not trying to do.

So I bought my ISBNs and listed the Publisher of Record as Nicole Dieker.

When I did that, the title page on my Pronoun-formatted ebook went from looking like this:

To looking like this:

This was a problem, and not just because it looks weird to have my name on the title page twice. I didn’t realize that listing myself as the Publisher of Record would mean losing Pronoun’s branding on the title page, which I guess makes sense. If I’m the Publisher of Record, then Pronoun is only the distributor, so I don’t get the benefit of its brand on my writing.

What is the benefit of having Pronoun’s brand on my title page (and sales pages)?

  1. It’s visually attractive. (Yes, we do judge books by their covers and their interiors.)
  2. It does everything that “Starfollow Press” would do, but unlike Starfollow Press, which is a name I made up as a joke, Pronoun is a growing publishing service that was acquired by Macmillan last year.
  3. I want to be a part of that. Every experience I’ve had with Pronoun has overwhelmingly exceeded both my expectations and my imaginings—their marketing tools and metrics are just ZOMG—and I suspect that listing Pronoun as my publisher will be a vastly stronger choice than listing myself.

When you hop on the self-pub forums or read the blogs, you’ll read about writers asking whether they should get their ISBNs from Amazon CreateSpace, for example, and other writers listing all of the reasons why CreateSpace should not be their Publisher of Record. None of those reasons currently exist with Pronoun.

Except for one. Maybe.

If I end my relationship with Pronoun—or if Pronoun stops publishing (I think)—then I have to republish my book under a different ISBN, which would disconnect it from the metrics and sales data previously associated with the original ISBN, which would affect rankings and so on.

I am willing to take that risk. Let’s make my book as successful and marketable as possible this year, and not worry about what might happen in five years. (If my book is successful enough, a new ISBN won’t matter; if it’s not successful at all, a new ISBN won’t matter either.)

So yeah, I was totally wrong about the “buying my own ISBN” thing, and although I’ll still be able to use one of my ten ISBNs for the print copy, I’m essentially counting the $275 I spent on ISBNs as a loss.

Back to the pre-order process. After I agreed to use Pronoun’s ISBN instead of mine, making Pronoun my Publisher of Record, I set up a future publication date—Tuesday, May 23, although that might change depending on the print process—and then clicked a button that was nervewrackingly labeled “publish” instead of “pre-order.” (There’s a two-minute lag while Pronoun creates the files, and the whole time I was like “I hope this button doesn’t actually publish the book.”)

Clicking that button gets you a set of shiny ebook ARCs and also unlocks your book’s order site.

This is another reason why I want Pronoun’s branding on my book instead of my own: I tried to build my own order site and it looked okay—but Pronoun’s looks great. I am absolutely redirecting the Biographies of Ordinary People tab on Nicole Dieker Dot Com to the Pronoun site, so that everyone gets to see their page instead of the HTML I knit together like I was making a scarf that only required one stitch.

At this point, the rest of the pre-order process starts moving. It’ll take 1–3 days for my book to show up on retailers (and up to 10 days for it to show up on Barnes & Noble), so I’m still calling February 14 the official pre-order date (and hoping I don’t have to push it back).

Pronoun is my Publisher of Record, I didn’t have to set up an LLC or a DBA, and I am assuming that I will report earnings/sales to Seattle and to the State of Washington through the same business license I use as a freelance writer. (If that isn’t the case, this is why I have a CPA to help me.)

Next week, we might get our first look at sales. ❤

 

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