Ask The Experts – Start-Up Basics

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Topics Discussed Below Include:
Business Entry Name and Incorporation Options
Getting a Book Cataloged Properly in the Library of Congress
Library of Congress Number Help
Wholesaler, Distributor, and Print Run Advice
“Umbrella Source” Or Using Multiple People for Layout, Print, and Design

Question:

I am new to IBPA and want to start up a publishing company to initially publish my own books and eventually publish others. I understand the basic entity choices (e.g., “S” corp; LLC) but have no basis to know which of these is best for a start-up situation like mine.

I am also uncertain about how to handle naming the entity. I have selected a name, but I am not sure I want to use “xyz press” or “xyz publishers.” I instead want the entity to be “xyz media” to reflect future multi-media possibilites/endeavors as well as traditional/digital print. So, for example, could I set this up as “xyz media,llc” and then publish the book as “xyz press, a division of xyz media?”

Answer (09/2013) :

Your accountant or attorney can probably best advise you on the pros and cons of S-corp versus LLC. When I started Bold Strokes Books Inc I chose the S-corp path and have found the accounting and tax reporting seamless and straightforward. As to the corporation name – it’s common to have “divisions” within the parent company as you suggest, and again I would ask the professionals if any type of formal filing of the division name is needed for tax purposes. At BSB all the genre subdivision sales (Liberty. Victory, Heatstroke etc) are reported together.

~ Len Barot, Bold Strokes Books, Inc. President, is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Saints and Sinners Literary Hall of Fame, and IBPA. As an author, she has received the Alice B. Readers Award twice, once for lifetime achievement, the Lambda Literary Award in both romance and erotica, and a 2010 RWA/FF&P Prism award. She has contributed as a workshop instructor, moderator, and presenter at the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans, the York Lesbian Arts Festival in the UK , and the Publishing Triangle. She also organizes annual bi-coastal book events in Palm Springs and Provincetown, Massachusetts.


Question:

I’m new to self-publishing and will be publishing my first book soon through my publishing company. Very excited. My question is about the Library of Congress numbers and how to get book cataloged properly and what do I have to file to do that? This is a nonfiction inspiration/self help book geared towards teen girls and young women.

Answer (05/2013):

Check out the FAQ’s on this page: http://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/

~ Lisa Krebs was hired by Jan Nathan and Publishers Marketing Association (now IBPA) in 1998 and has been a sounding board and advocate for independent publishers for the past 15 years. She was previously contracted for West Coast publicity by Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books and Disney/Hyperion.


Question:

How do we get library of congress catalog number (LCCN) number? Site we’ve found says that we need to mail a hard copy, however, that means we’ll have a hardcopy without the LCCN numbers. Is there a step that we’re missing?

Answer (01/2013) :

1. Go to, http://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/, and click on “open account”
2. Fill out the information and they will email you the account number and password.
3. use the account number and password to sign in and they’ll assign you a pre LCCN.
4. Once you obtain the number, you include this info to your imprint page.
5. one you have a hard copy, send one to their address.

For LCCN related questions, this is the number to call: 202-707-6372. After following a few menu, it’ll connect to an operator if one wants to speak to a person.

Lisa Krebs was hired by Jan Nathan and Publishers Marketing Association (now IBPA) in 1998 and has been a sounding board and advocate for independent publishers for the past 15 years. She was previously contracted for West Coast publicity by Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books and Disney/Hyperion.


Question:

Hi! I have self-published a book that has fared well in POD distribution. Now I would like to do a full print run on this book (as well as other books from other authors in the next year). My question is, do I find a wholesaler or distributor before I do the print run, or after? Also, will I be expected to warehouse my books and if so, are there places that you would recommend? Thanks in advance for your kind consideration and expertise in this matter!

Answer #1 (02/2012):

The important first step is to know the difference between a wholesaler and a distributor. The February issue of The Independent, our IBPA magazine, gives a good summary of this issue. Basically a distributor acts like a publisher, warehouses the books, has sales reps, and pays you a percentage of the sales. They sell to wholesalers. (LPG, Publishers Group West, Consortium, SPU, Atlas.) Wholesalers are more of a fulfillment operation, filling orders that come in, not seeking out orders to fill. They are not a distributor. (Ingram, Baker and Taylor, Quality Books.)

Once you have that clear, then you can decide if you want a distributor or not. Many independent publishers do not, and many do! I use a national distributor for my publishing company. I like that they warehouse the entire printing, fill orders, and I do not have to do this from my garage.

There are also fulfillment companies who will do this for you, but they are not distributors. They simply take on the job to fill the orders you give them and help in that way, invoicing and sometimes collecting funds, and you pay them to do this service for you.

Whatever you choose, I would have this in place before you have your printing done, because you can save on shipping costs if the shipment can go directly to the distributor or the fulfillment house. You could not send an entire printing to a wholesaler to warehouse; they simply do not do this to my knowledge. (They only take enough to fill orders, not to warehouse and hope for orders.)

1001 Ways to Market Your Book will list all of these companies, and the Self-Publishing Manual does so as well. Perhaps one of these books would be of use to you.

Some fulfillment companies are BookMasters and Pathway. Others are listed here: http://www.bookmarket.com/4.htm

Top distributors are listed here: http://www.bookmarket.com/distributors.htm

Wholesalers are also listed at www.bookmarket.com <http://www.bookmarket.com>

~ MaryAnn Faubion Kohl, a current IBPA Board member, launched Bright Ring Publishing, Inc. in 1985 with her first book, Scribble Cookies (Scribble Art) based on her years as an elementary educator and college level instructor. Bright Ring has published eight books focused on art for children, parents, teachers, and care providers, as well as 12 titles authored for Gryphon House, Inc./Kaplan Early Learning (international rights in over ten languages). (www.brightring.com, maryann@brightring.com

Answer #2 (02/2012) :

This is actually a multifaceted question. First, doing a print run on a book is only financially feasible if you are going to print more than 300 copies or thereabouts. The “break” point is different for different printers but if you are doing more than about 300 copies then it makes sense to do a non POD regular offset print run. That is one decision.

Preparing yourself to be interviewed by distributors is a whole other set of issues and questions. Usually a “master” distributor such as IPG (Independent Publishers Group), PGW (Publishers Group West), IPS (Ingram Publishers Services, NBN (National Book Network) require a whole book publishing program to be selected. So that would mean that you would have to be warehousing your own books for now and show that you have signed up a whole set of authors and that you intend to publish new books each season. Master distributors have a sales force and a whole program of selling, cataloguing, warehousing, fulfillment that is “expensive” in the sense that they take a percentage of sales (usually 30%-40%). There are other distributors that are more passive like New Leaf Distribution (metaphysical books) that don’t have a full sales force and do marketing and warehousing but you can check out distributors at http://www.bookmarket.com/distributors.htm.

Becoming a publisher of other author’s books is wonderfully exciting venture but you must learn about the whole range of issues around acquisitions/editorial, marketing, sales, financial/contractual and operations/distribution. Or get help in all of these areas by availing yourself of the benefits of IBPA or hiring a publishing consultant. Good luck!

~ Roy M. Carlisle is the Acquisitions Director for the Independent Institute. Mr. Carlisle has been Senior Editor at HarperOne, West Coast Senior Editor at The Crossroad Publishing Company, Co-Owner and Editorial Director at Circulus Publishing Group, and General Manager of the Fuller Seminary Bookstore. Roy currently serves on the IBPA Board of Directors.


Question:

I need help in layout ,printing and cover design as well as securing proper identification. Is it better to use one “umbrella source” or contact different people in each area — or should I have someone independent — a consultant — lead me through the process the first time?

Answer (09/2011):

Generally, an experienced publisher will contact different resources for each task you list. However, as you’re a first-time publisher, there’s a lot you need to know before you can evaluate the various service providers and make an informed decision. Before you start spending money on book production, invest in a publishing education. It can save you from a raft of potential errors, some of which can be very expensive, both in cash and to your book’s prospects.

My advice here is only a starting point. IBPA offers excellent educational resources, including IBPA’s Publishing University. If you’re planning to make any kind of serious effort in book publishing, I urge you to attend a program like Publishing University before you start signing contracts and spending money. I can also recommend the Self-Publishing Handbook by Dan Poynter. While this is hardly the only book on the subject, there are few other books in its league.

An “umbrella source,” that is, a company that offers all the services you list, is rarely going to be good at all of those skills. Some that offer package services are essentially offering a cookie-cutter approach. The lower the price, the more likely this is to be true, but spending a lot still doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the results you desire. The less you know going in, the less likely you’ll be to use the services offered in an effective manner. They aren’t in the business of turning Liza Doolittles into Duchesses.

The business of providing services to self-publishers has mushroomed over the years, as changes in technology continue to reduce the financial barriers to entry into publishing. Unfortunately, the number of successful self-published books has not increased significantly, as the success of a book has less to do with layout, cover design, and printing than it has to do with knowing how to market and promote the book. That’s one thing none of “umbrella source” services seem to offer in a substantially meaningful way. Getting your book listed in Books in Print, at Amazon.com, and at Ingram (the book wholesaler) is not “marketing and promotion,” those are just pre-requisites to a marketing and promotion effort. Almost uniformly, the services leave true marketing and promotion to you, with relatively little guidance.

A competent consultant will be able to walk you through the entire process, and should be your advocate with the various service providers. The problem remains, however, that the less you know, the less able you are to determine whether the consultant is qualified, or doing a good job for you. Further, the more help you need, the more you’ll have to pay for those consulting services. If you start with a fair base of knowledge, you’ll be far better able to effectively utilize a consultant’s services, and take on some of the tasks yourself (preferably, with input from the consultant).

As to “securing proper identification,” are you referring to obtaining ISBN numbers, or registering/licensing your business with the state and federal government agencies?

For setting up your business, a good CPA who specializes in small businesses will get you off on the right foot, and can be an invaluable counselor on the ongoing financial operations of your business. While attorneys will also set you up on the legal side, once you’ve set up your corporation/LLC/partnership (if any), tax ID numbers, state registrations, and such, their job is done, while your job of running a business is just getting started.

If you need ISBN numbers, it’s best to do that yourself. The ISBN system identifies the “publisher of record.” Some book publishing services will assign their own ISBN number to your project (for a fee), but your publishing imprint and contact information will not appear. As you’ll be identified as the client of a publishing service, your book will be pigeon-holed accordingly. While the fact remains that if you purchase your own ISBNs, your ISBN record will also earmark you as a novice publisher (you’ll have only a limited number of titles in print), you are in a position to establish your own reputation. And if someone offers to sell you an ISBN number? Note that third parties cannot sell you an ISBN in your name. They remain the publisher of record.

To learn about and obtain your own ISBN numbers, go to http://www.isbn.org.

I hope I’ve been of some assistance, and best wishes for publishing success!

~ Dave Marx is the Publisher at PassPorter Travel Press, and co-author of several of the company’s guidebooks. PassPorter guidebooks have received over a dozen awards, including IBPA’s Bill Fisher Award. He’s spent 35 years in the media—print, broadcast, music, and online. Dave also serves on the IBPA Board of Directors.


We hope you will find this program useful, but as with any advice, we recommend that you make sure it fits your specific business needs. IBPA does not specifically endorse or support any particular group or service.


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