Monday, May 25, 2009

Q & A 171

Having read your blog and Miss Snark's, I've got your opinion of self-publishing: bad idea. But (of course there's a but) I have an offer from CreateSpace for a free proof copy of my book. I got the offer through NaNoWriMo (I reached 50,000), so it's legit enough until the offer's deadline, June 1. All I want is a single print copy of some of my short stories, just for me. I will NOT let it be available on Amazon or anything like that, because I know self-publishing like that could destroy any chance I have of getting the stories seen in respectable society again.

I'm worried about two main things. The first is that CreateSpace wants to assign an ISBN to it, and there's no option not to. The second is that two of the stories I want to include did well in the Scholastic Writing Contest, and Scholastics has the sole right to publish them for two years. Yay for that, but will this (the ISBN, really) violate that?

Is this ISBN business going to hurt me, or can I get a book copy of my stuff without having to glue it together myself (tried it, takes ages)?

First of all, I have nothing against self-publishing. Well, it involves spending money instead of making money, but it's your money being spent, not mine, and if you're printing one copy, you aren't looking to make money anyway.

When a collection of short stories is published, it's actually rare that some of them haven't appeared in print previously. Some have been in magazines or an anthology. So your career isn't going up in flames no matter what happens.

I'm guessing you were offered a free proof in hopes that you would cough up some cash for additional copies to give to your friends and family. They may have a good deal, but you might want to Google "book printers ARC" if you want a small batch. You'll find ads for companies that provide advanced reading copies to publishers, normally to be sent to reviewers in advance of the book's actual publication. Most of them will want you to order at least 25 copies for maybe a couple hundred dollars, but you might find one that'll go as low as 10 copies. If one copy is all you want and you're worried about the ISBN, check with large printing companies in your area to see if they do perfect binding. You print it, they trim it to the size you want and take care of the messy gluing, and no ISBN number needed.

That said, the ISBN isn't going to cause problems anyway. If your book later gets published by someone else it will have a different ISBN, as that number identifies the publisher. No one, including Scholastic, will know (or care) that your one copy exists, and if they do, they won't know what stories are in it. Heck, change the story titles if you're worried. Then they'll have to actually read your book to find out if it includes their story. And you have the only copy.

Here's what you seem to be worried about:

1. Scholastic decides to publish one of your stories.
2. They assign their top agent to search for your name with the ISBN people.
3. He discovers someone with your name has an ISBN assigned.
4. He contacts CreateSpace and requests a copy of the book.
5. CreateSpace tells him he can have one for thirty dollars.
6. He sends the thirty dollars, CreateSpace prints a second copy and sends it. They've now made a profit off of your book, despite your refusal to order additional copies.
7. Scholastic's eagle-eyed staff read the book and spot your story, the one they were planning to publish.
8. They have you killed. Or at least blacklisted in the publishing industry.

They have better things to do, and even if they don't, by the time all this happens their two-year window would probably be up. The only thing you have to worry about is Evil Editor blowing the whistle.


Anonymous said...

I was mostly worried because magazines I'm submitting to don't want anything previously published, and I associate having an ISBN with being published. If nobody's going to care about a lone copy, though, I guess I'm all right!

It's not going to be a saleable book, that's for sure. I wordcounted my best stories, and it's 11K, so I'll be dumping in some of my not-as-goods (ie, not as good and mostly unedited) to fill up room. Free, you know?


Anonymous said...

What does an author do when one of these web-magazine-ezines just disappears and goes away without saying anything after publishing a story online? It's bound to happen sooner or later.

BuffySquirrel said...

If an online market that published a story disappears from the web, what happens next is down to the author's own sense of right and wrong.

Anonymous said...

So, Buffy, since you do GUD, would this "publishing" put you off a story if you heard about it?

150 said...

I got this offer too. Since you can make a nice one-off ISBN-free copy over at CafePress for less than twenty bucks, I figured taking the CreateSpace deal wasn't worth the anguish.

BuffySquirrel said...

Well, we at GUD always like people to tell us when a piece has been published previously, but we take account of where when deciding if it's had too much exposure for us. If the online publication's disappeared, chances are not many people have already seen the story.

Previous publication affects payment rates, too, however.

Ruth said...

I got this offer too, and got my free book. The important thing to note is that you only get a PROOF copy. You need to "approve" the proof copy that they send you to make it saleable to anybody else. I also wanted one copy just for me, so I haven't approved the proof copy; and now nobody else can order one if they want to.

Also, shipping is included for free in the deal, so that made it worth while for me (since I'm in NZ and shipping would otherwise have been US$24+). The cover paper is glossy and...not great quality, but hey: it's free.

I would say go for it. It doesn't count as published if you don't release it for sale and there's only one proof copy in existence.