Claim Public Lending Rights, DACS Payback and more.

From an illustrator’s point of view naturally!

Dos and Don’ts when it comes to contracts ….. coming soon. 

Setting up a digital record of all your books.

Maximise Your Income

After meeting with my publisher I got the impression that they were not sure how much their other illustrators, authors and other contributors such as translators, narrators, etc. knew about claiming more money from things like Public Lending Right (PLR) and other systems and making their work keep on working hard for them.  So I decided to share with them all I knew, and I don’t pretend to know it all, and I would like to share it all with you too.

I have been doing this for some time and have been shamelessly milking that cash cow for all its worth.  It makes a massive difference to my income and therefore can be true for other illustrators, authors etc. too.  If there are any idea or scheme, that are legal that is, that I have not mentioned below then please get in touch and I’ll add them on.  Thanks

Reading the below back I can see I have written this from an illustrators view, however, authors and other contributors can copy the ideas and do the same through their affiliated organisations.

So here are some tips to follow for making more out of your hard work and relatively easy money:

1) Join the UK Public Lending Right (PLR) system.  This is the Public Lending Rights through UK libraries.  Basically every time a book of yours is taken out of the library you get a few pence.  This does not sound much but it quickly adds up to hundreds if not thousands of pounds.  There is a cap of about £6,600 that any one illustrator, author etc. can claim.  This is funded by the UK government.

Once you have joined add every book you have done.  The criteria is that if a book has a unique International Standard Book Number (ISBN) number then add it.  So if you have Paperback, Hardback, Board book, eBook or any different variation of that book, it will have its own ISBN number.  You will have to input the same book multiple times for each separate ISBN.  If there are 10 versions put all 10 in.  Put in the Welsh and Scottish Gaelic versions too and keep going …. You only need to input the information once and then it is there forever.  You get statements and payment once a year. www.plr.uk.com

For more information on how to start collating your ISBNs click here ….

2) Irish PLR.  As the UK has a reciprocal agreement with Ireland we can also claim Irish PLR through PLR UK.  You can claim via the UK PLR system and it is done automatically (make sure you have checked all the right boxes to claim). You don’t get anywhere near as much but nevertheless is very very welcome.

3) Other PLR schemes.  We can also claim PLR in some other countries that the UK has reciprocal agreements with such as Austria, France and a hand full of others.  Though awkwardly for illustrators like me we can only claim via ALCS, which is the Author’s Licensing and collecting society.  We are not writers yet we have to go through them none the less. They have a weird system which makes no sense to me at all, but it works and I am very grateful to them.  There is a formula they use which to this day I don’t understand.  So the upshot is some books are accepted and some are totally rejected and I have no idea why.  The amount you will get will be similar to the Irish PLR.  How 4 or 5 PLR systems amount to the same as Irish PLR is beyond me, but hey that is life and I am not complaining ….. anymore ….. and there have been some developments recently which I have added as below …. www.alcs.co.uk

4) Designers and Artists Collecting Society (DACS) Payback.  Very basically Payback is an annual scheme run by DACS to distribute the money owed to visual artists or artists’ estates by various collective licensing schemes, such as TV broadcasts and educational recording.  The main money earner here is from the Copyright Licencing Agency (CLA) which sells photocopying licences.  So when someone in a school, university, public sector organisation or other type of business wants to photocopy pages from a book which features your work, as the creator of the work being photocopied, you are entitled to a royalty.  Rather than ask the person to contact you every time they photocopy your work, the organisation pays an annual licence fee that covers the photocopying of copyright-protected works.  The money is then split into royalty shares for different types of creators: authors, publishers and visual artists whose work has been featured in UK publications.

As a visual artist, you can claim your royalties through DACS Payback.  Authors etc. can claim the same through their respective organisation.  As you can imagine there is no way of knowing who copied what or how many times.  Far too cumbersome.  So DACS collects all this money then divvies out the total between all those who apply.  This again is a form to fill in each year.  They decide how much to give you based on a formula, i.e. how many books and how many illustrations and how many uses of that illustrations, also magazines etc. So you have to add up every illustration you have ever done. So you must keep good records.

The good thing is as its now an online form the old one is still there as a reminder and all you have to do is update it if you have done loads more since the previous year. You also have to give example ISBN numbers for 3 books or 3 magazines etc.

The payments can be several hundred pounds and are paid out once a year. ……. www.dacs.org.uk

5) Dutch PLR. Yes it gets yet more confusing, but we can claim Dutch PLR, but this time through DACS, the Designers and Artists Collecting Society (also photographers).  You have to remember to fill in a form each year online and there is a deadline!! Forget and you don’t get.  This PLR was introduced only a few years ago and the first year I nearly fell off my chair when I got the cheque.  It was simply far more than I expected and more akin to the UK payout.  Though this gives it a false impression.  The first year not many people knew about it and so in subsequent years the payout dropped as more and more people applied.  The pot of money is only so big.  Also DACS is not sure how much longer this will go on for and may eventually stop altogether.  Funding is probably the issue as it is as usual government funded.  Also with the UK leaving the EU (not sure if we are or not?) this may influence these decisions.  So apply while it lasts.

6) German Royalties.  New developments, as of 2019 artists and estates can now apply for royalties if their work has been published in Germany, thanks to the partnership between DACS and the German collecting society VG Bild-Kunst.  So if you are a UK based artist or estate who has had work published on a German website, in a German book or featured in a German art exhibition, you may be eligible to apply for royalties.  The forms are quite straightforward to fill in and I submitted mine for the first time before the 2019 deadline which was Friday 14th June 2019.  I have no idea at the moment what to expect back, however, every little bit counts.  More information below and on the DACS website.

7) Amazon Author Central. This is more of an unknown but definitely a useful exercise that most illustrators, authors, etc. should do …… just in case. The idea is you create an account as an author with Amazon Author Central.  Once your account is verified you can write a profile / biography, add pictures, blog and events etc.  Your account allows you to add any of your books sold on Amazon to your page.

Now here is where is gets a little bit complicated …… Worldwide there are currently twelve Amazon domains such as Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk etc.  Off these only five domains currently have Amazon Author Central facilities and you need to join each individually as they are not linked to each other …. yes I know but hay it is how it is!  …… The domains are:-

Author Central for Japan is very difficult to do and they will not provide translation assistance unless you have lots of books being sold on that domain.  As such I only started with four Amazon Author Central accounts covering .com, .co.uk, ,de and .fr.  I later got some help from a friend and have now managed to do my Japanese page, however, if you don’t know anyone that can read Japanese then there is always Google Translate …. It’s not perfect but it is better than nothing.

For each account you need to use the add books facility to add all of your books, regardless of language, hardback, paperback etc. sold on that domain individually.  Also if you find a book authored or illustrated by you but does not have your name against it on Amazon you can use the contact centre to request for the book to be added to your Author Central page.  Fortunately you can use the add books facility to search for books in your name or the authors or illustrators you have done the book with so you can add as many as possible to your Amazon pages.

The idea is when someone is shopping online for one of your books they can click to see your Amazon Author page and see what other books you have done. So they may end up buying more of your books if their little one loved the first one they bought.  It just makes it easier for the customer to see more of your books.  All this may increase book sales even by just a tiny bit.  There is of course no way of knowing for sure unless there is a sudden jump in books sales immediately afterwards.

So you can see the hours and hours of time dedicated to doing something that only ‘might’ make you money.  BUT you just never know, once done on a global scale who knows what affect it will have on your royalties.  Even just small increase in sales could convert into a few extra pounds into your bank.  Your publishers might just thank you for it as it will reflect in their cash flow too!!!  So get talking with each other to make it easier.

8) International PLR.  I can’t not mention international PLR as there area other established PLR schemes in Denmark (the first country in the world to establish a PLR scheme back in 1940), Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Finland, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden, that if you are a resident or domicile or national of you might be able to claim directly through.  As a UK citizen I am reliant on the above to collect on my behalf, however, I do double check every now and then for developments as there are also another 27 or so countries that have PLR schemes in the development, no the USA is not one of them and having read the history of PLR in the USA I doubt very much that this will be coming anytime soon …… nonetheless an excellent market for books. 

9) Amazon Associate.  Basically your website linked to Amazon.  Oh god you are thinking there can’t be more surely, but I saved this for last as it is possibly the least likely to make money unless you become very very famous.  So you have a website and lots of pictures and info about you, great!  Though if you had a page of links to your books on Amazon, anyone who looks at your site has an immediate link to a particular book that they can buy.  If they do, Amazon will share a percentage of the price with you.  Simple!

Not so simple …. as with everything else you first need to become an Amazon Associate and then use your associate account to create links that you individually copy and then paste onto your web site.  These would be links to your books sold on that Amazon domain.  Basically when anyone follows a link from your website to an amazon page and makes a purchase from that linked page you get a payment for bringing that customer over.  If they navigate off that page and make a purchase you get nothing.  All twelve Amazon domains do this so again you need to set up an account for each.  Fortunately the European ones are linked to the UK Amazon Associate one so once you have your UK account it is not much extra effort to set up the accounts for France, Germany, Spain etc.

To get started got to https://affiliate-program.amazon.co.uk/, select your location in the top right hand corner of the screen and then follow the instructions.

To date I have earnt zero from Amazon Associate but then again I have not done anything to promote my web site in that way either and I would still say better in it than not as you never know.  As an update Amazon terminated my associate account due to low sales volume …. I think they were being polite as it was actually no sales volume …. It seems they will terminate an associate account after three months if it is inactive.  I will try again at some later date if the amount of traffic to my site is encouraging enough.

If you have loads of time you may want versions of your website in multiple languages as we are after all much more global than we have ever been. The problem is getting people to your site, so if you can solve that marketing problem then you may just succeed in squeezing that lemon a bit more.

OK there you have it, nine different things to consider doing to increase your earnings.  If you know of any other please let me know and I will add them to this page, as well as make use of naturally!

As you can see the above can mount to quite a bit of work and where publishers can help is by providing a list of all publications against their individual ISBN for the illustrator, author, etc. to use to register with PLR, ALCS, DACS etc.

There is no doubt that completing the above is a mammoth task, plus in the process of doing the above I found out that there were some variations of books that I have illustrated that I knew nothing about as some publishers are better at keeping in touch than others.  Off all the books I have illustrated to date there are over 650 variations i.e. separate ISBNs covering all languages etc.  It is amazing how it mounts up.

The downside is the amount of time it takes to do all of the above.  It is not difficult it is just laborious.  Luckily my husband (now working with me as my PA and managing my website) did it for me.  I was too busy doing arty farty stuff and focusing my core business.  For more on how to create a list of all your books click Create an Asset Register.

Advice to Writers

Hello all writers! This page is dedicated to those word smiths out there with a book shaped itch to scratch.  Here writers can find some advice from an illustrator’s point of view.  You may wonder why, but as it often takes two people to create a picture book, it is useful if there was a bit of information about it.  Often there are some misconceptions on how it all works too.  So when asked if an author should get their story illustrated before approaching an agent or publisher, the short answer is no.

For a more comprehensive reason why not are listed below.  This is only drawn from my own experience and opinion, so should not be taken as an absolute.

1) To illustrate a book can take 2-3 months working 5 days a week 9-5.  There is research, mood boards, character sketches, thumbing out the story, revising the thumbs, then drawing up full size in pencil then about 0-100 changes that drive you mad, then colour thumbs, revision to colour thumbs (or colour experiments), then tracing the approved drawings onto posh paper and finally actually painting the final art.  An A3 image with 5 characters and lots of detail can take 2 days or more, especially if I accidentally spill coffee over it. 

2) Now you have an idea how long it takes then you have to consider that elephant in the room.  Money! Yep that ugly beast has reared its head, but one that can not be ignored.  Unfortunately illustrators are in the business of earning a living that can actually pay the bills.  Plus illustrators are a somewhat more practical breed of arty farty.  So think on the above as 3 months salary and you get the idea.

3) Once you have picked yourself up from the floor after the shock of the illustrator’s quote, there is the issue of contracts.  Urgh, the idea make my eyeballs hurt. I apologise to all laywers out there but if you think an illustrator is expensive, hiring a lawyer is enough to give you nightmares.  Though to proceed without a contract would be risky.  Very risky, see point 4) for the reason why.

4) Copyright.  Who owns the copyright of the images?  This is the bit that is often misunderstood.  The simple act of commissioning and paying an illustrator to do some work for you, on its own, does not mean you own anything.  In fact you are likely to have zero rights if there is no contract.  You may not even have the right to promote your story using the images you commissioned, unless you have a water tight contract that either assigns you the copyright or gives you specific publishing rights to use the work.  Proceed with caution!

If you want to buy the copyright you can do that of course if the illustrator agrees and signs a contract saying so.  BUT why would an illustrator sign away their rights?  Why give up rights to royalties and future income?  No illustrator with their head screwed on would do that for nothing.  You have to compensate the illustrator for the loss of future earnings which takes even more money.  Though you have no idea if your story will ever earn anything.  That is crystal ball gazing and total guesswork.  AVOID!

5) Then there are the publishers who simply love to fiddle about with your idea.  That means every word and scribble comes under intense scrutiny.  Which inevitably leads to changes and amendments.  So the illustrations you have paid a kings randsom for, have to be redone as the story has been tweaked.  Alternatively what if they do not fit the book format?  Not forgetting that publishers have teams of art directors and designers dedicated to getting a book illustrated and designed.  They may just not like your choice of illustrator or believe its just the wrong fit?  Hitting on exactly the right formula and format is extremely unlikely.

6) Let’s entertain the idea that you have commissioned an illustrator and everything has gone marvellously well.  You are ectastically happy and so is the illustrator.  Then lo and behold your book is taken up by a publisher.  Yay! Let’s crack open the champagne.  The publisher pays you your bit and pays the illustrator their bit too (if they still own the copyright).  Hang on wait a minute, they paid you exactly the same amount as you paid the illustrator, so that means you have in actual fact been paid diddly squat!  The publisher has no interest in what agreement you both had or who paid who what.  That is your problem.  Remind yourself why are you doing this.  Is it a vanity project or are you trying to earn a living?

7) OK we have considered the idea of commissioning, and that is not practical.  So your only option now is to tempt an illustrator in with a cracking story concept and approach a publisher together, i.e. working for free.  That can work and does happen but more often than not the two people already have a relationship like husband and wife, sisters, childhood friends etc.  If you live in the USA and your chosen illustrator is in the UK you have time, distance and two different legal systems to contend with.  Even if they lived in the same town, you are still strangers to one another.  It still takes a hefty chunk of an illustrator’s time to work on your idea.  Without the financial incentive your story is going to be consistently shoved to the bottom of the heap in favour of paid work.

8) I have on occasion spoken to the odd editor and their advice is always concetrate on what you do best.  For me it’s drawing and painting.  For you it’s your writing skills.  Don’t try to be editor, art director, designer and writer all rolled into one.  Unless you have worked in the industry the chances of doing it better is tiny.  They are not looking for art direction or design skills from you.  They want excellent word smiths.  That is simply all they care about.  Also what does it say about you, are you a prima donna and want it like this or nothing?  What they look for are people who are open, flexible and trust that the publisher actually knows what they are doing.

9) Despite the above there is one reason when it is essential to send in illustrations along with the story.  If you are a ‘professional’ illustrator and a writer then you do need to show that you are the whole package. In that scenario you will not need me or any other illustrator as you are more than capable of doing it yourself.  Though be warned if you are not a trained professional illustrator and just dabble occasionally be prepared that perhaps only one half of your concept may be accepted.  Even professional illustrators might be told, love your art, love your story, but your writing style does not match your art.  Odd, but I have heard of that happening.

Also when you see a book with one name it would be a mistake to think the author hired an illustrator and then bagged a publisher afterwards.  It is almost always an illustrator that wrote the story in addition to doing all the illustrations. 

10) If you are going down the self publishing route and you pull it off you get to keep most if not all the proceeds and royalties.  Lovely! Possibly make more than the conventional method of using an established publisher.  Though this is a whole different animal than just being a writer. In this event you have to think cold hard business.  Though for the illustrator you commission you will have to prove not only that you can pay them the going rate, organise the relevant contracts but they will also want to know about royalties.  A large part of an illustrator’s income is royalties from book sales.  So you will have to prove that you can deliver that too.  You have to give them a reason to accept you over and above a job from an established publisher.  So you will have to go some way to do some confidence and trust building. 

Summary

The publisher always commissions the artist or writer, sorts out the contracts and pays all the relevant fees.  The publisher’s contract with writer is separate from the illustrator’s. The writer owns the copyright to the words and illustrator owns the copyright to the pictures.  So the writer and illustrator in a way own the picture book together 50/50.  The publisher pays the royalties to the writer and illustrator.  The writer has no say over how much the illustrator gets paid and vice versa.  If you don’t like the choice of illustrator that the publisher has made, then of course say so but you may just have to accept it.  The writer is often shown drawings the illustrator does for the story and can make comments but is in no way in control of it or has final say.  With picture books it is a mistake to think that the writer is somehow responsible for organising the illustrations.  In picture books the writer and illustrator are equals as the book relies so heavily on both.  It is actually more a trinity between three parties, writer, illustrator and publisher.

If I had got £1 for each time I have recommended these titles to people I would be a wealthy woman.  They are for the newbie writer and illustrator an absolute must to buy and read.  Scour their pages for crafty ideas to generate work and squeeze out every possible potential to make money.  Without these books it would have been so much harder to find out all the information I needed to freelance.
 
Plus when you do land the job from heaven and you dance round the room like a loon it is vital to have a book on contracts. Oh bore of bores, the idea of reading a contract and trying to understand lawyer speak…..urgh!  I would rather poke my eyes out with mouldy stick, BUT it has saved my bacon plenty of times. I even used it once to semi write a contract with a foreign publisher.  They probably thought that I was some weird monster lawyer/illustrator hybrid.
 
  • The Writer’s and Artists Yearbook by A&C Black – general publishing
  • The Children’s Writer’s and Artists Yearbook by A&C Black – for children’s book market. This an essential buy if you want to be a picture book illustrator.
  • The Artists’ Yearbook by Thames and Hudson – more for fine artists.
  • The Illustrator’s Guide to Law and Business Practise by Simon Stern – law, contracts, publishing deals. Can be purchased from the Association of illustrators. Also very useful for writers to as they will contend with the same law and publishing deals.

Contract Advice

Coming Soon …..

Create an Asset Register

If you are not thinking yet that you need a good digital record of all you work then you seriously need to.  I can’t emphasize enough how important and useful it is to have a record of all your work.  As I have already said I am very lucky that my husband (now working with me as my PA and manages my website) has set my asset register up and manages it for me.  It has been invaluable and quite an eye opener to me.

He started by creating a list of all my books starting with all the physical copies that we have.  Every time a book of mine is published either for the first time or in a different format, language, edition etc. I either get a hard copy or correspondence to let me know.  OK some publishers are better than others at this, however, it is a good place to start and you could always ask your publishers for a list of your books.

The next best place, or actually thinking about it probably the best place to start is the WorldCat website.  Simply do a search on your published name(s) and start gathering all that wonderful data into a tabulated list.  I would gather as much information as practical as you never know what you are going to need over and above ISBN, book title, author, illustrator, translator, narrator, publisher, publication year etc.

He then Google searches for any library, Amazon domain and any other sites that list book ISBNs.  He found trade book selling sites to be some of the best places for information after WorldCat and your own publisher’s website.  He has basically created an asset list of all my books including information such as title, language, author, dedication, format (hardback, paperback, eBook, board book etc.), translator, narrator, ISBN, royalty share, publication year, and also, were possible, the number of images in each book (which he has only done for the ones we have physical copies of).  The list has proved to be very useful when completing PLR, ALCS and DACS claim forms and registering my books on their websites etc.

I ….. OK maybe I should say we …. or he! …. keep my asset register in the form of a spreadsheet at the moment and if you would like any more pointers on that then please get in touch.  One thing I can tell you now is that it can take hours of dull boring work to put together, however, it will pay off for years to come.  My claims would never have been as good as they are if it were not for the effort put in ….. thank you my PA ….. now where’s my tea? …. what seems to be the delay!?

Self Publishing

Over the past few years I have been increasingly approached by writers that wish to self-publish and want me (and other illustrators I know) to quote for the illustrations.  This has corresponded to the emergence of a new type of publishing house.  The model is similar to a traditional publishing house but with one massive shift. Instead of the publisher taking a financial risk to publish they are now asking the author to pay a fee to publish. This can be £2,000 – £3,000. This does not include the illustrations.  They offer the usual editing, art direction, packaging warehousing, distribution etc. that traditional publisher would have done. With this new business model the decision to publish is with the author not the publisher.

The idea is that the author will get a much larger slice of the profits, as you would expect if you are the one taking ‘all’ the financial risk. What I am not so clear on is who is responsible for sales and marketing.  Some books are sold directly online on the publisher’s website. If they actively sell to book shops or exhibit at book fairs etc., I am unsure of but that could be my own ignorance.  I would expect that for self-publishing route to be successful a strong sales team would be essential to recoup costs.  This would be key questions to ask if this is included in their fee and if it would incur further ongoing costs.

For the wannabe author this seems on the face of it a wonderful service that takes all the pain out of self-publishing. You can bypass the scrutiny of agents and traditional publishers that seem impossible to break into.  Though there are some serious problems with this model.  The main one being quality. I hate to say it, the vast majority of self-published picture books I have seen, and I have not seem them all by any means, the artwork is, in my opinion a bit amateurish (sorry if I have offended anyone I am just trying to be honest with my opinion).  I cannot really comment on the stories as it is not my area of expertise.  There are a few exceptions where they seem more professional but those are far and few between. So in my humble opinion there is more often than not a very good reason why books like this have been turned down by traditional publishers.

So why is the artwork of poor quality, why not just simply hire a professional illustrator?  The fact is it costs far too much for most authors.  To achieve art of any quality it takes far too much time.  Creating a full colour A3 piece of art can take 1-2 days and some illustrators styles are so intricate that it can take considerably longer.  This does not take into account all the research, full size preliminary drawings, numerous amendments and colour samples that have to be done before you go anywhere near a paintbrush.  It takes an average of 3 months to illustrate a book. So the illustrator will expect to be paid the equivalent of 3 months salary just like anyone else working full time.  Some may charge more if their style is particularly detailed and takes a long time.  If an artist is very well known in the industry then they will charge even more.  A self-publisher’s only hope is to bag an art student who will be considerably cheaper, but nevertheless should still be pricey if the student has any sense to consult their tutors.

In addition to that illustrators are usually offered royalties from traditional publishers and will expect that.  Plus they will be keen to see evidence that you as a self-publisher can deliver those sales, or accept the risk.  Royalties form a large part of an illustrator’s income so they will always be on the hunt for the job that will most likely give them that reliable steady income.  A self-publisher will be looked upon as a risky unknown at best.  Royalties are wonderful, you still get paid even if you have not worked for a year so as you can imagine it seriously helps to even out the feast and famine of freelancing.

The self-publisher’s knowledge on publishing deals, how it works, royalties, contracts, accounting and copyright are often questionable.  All of which most established illustrator’s will be very aware of and somewhat twitchy that the self-publisher is still learning.  Authors are sometimes not willing or able to offer royalties which is understandable but not something that can be easily waived.  If an artist is working for you they will be unable to accept work for traditional publishers that are far more likely to deliver solid sales.  Therefore they may not be keen to accept or worse bail out half way through.

Self-publishers and writers also need to get a thorough understanding of copyright too.  The act of commissioning and paying for artwork does not mean you ‘own’ the art and have the right to publish.  That right is not automatic.  This is an area where it can go horribly wrong if you do not have a water tight contract that gives you all the publishing rights.  Nor will you own the copyright of the images, that will always stay with the artist unless they assign it to you in a contract.  They will not do this unless they are compensated for loss of future earnings (in addition to initial fee).  Gauging how much to compensate is nearly impossible to guess at.  Crystal ball gazing in the extreme.  It will be without doubt even more expensive.

To fork out a small fortune of money on your story is not small undertaking.  An author should very seriously think about if they should pay for their story to be published especially if it has not past that crucial test of being accepted by an agent or traditional publisher.  It is unfortunately an industry thats foundation is built on opinion and creative judgement.  Just by throwing money at it does not make a terrible story any better.  This new breed of publisher are not going to tell you your story is not good enough because all they care about is your money.  They are trawling the prospective writer market knowing full well the majority will never be published the traditional way.  There is money to made in giving people false hope!   So it is therefore vital that every self-publisher gets their story read by as many people as possible.  Your granny or best friend is certainly a good start but they are not going to be in a position to tell you that you have talent or not.  They will shy away from telling you things you may not want to hear.  Showing your story to a professional writer’s agent or editor is altogether different and far more valuable.  I would rather base a decision to self-publish on a professional saying its good. Otherwise your whole investment is based on very shaky ground indeed.

I know there is always the exception and I do wish you all the best success, unfortunately it is not something I have entertained doing yet and if I ever do the risk would be reflected in my price.

ISBN - International Standard Book Number

An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number. ISBNs were 10 digits in length up to the end of December 2006, but since 1 January 2007 they now always consist of 13 digits. ISBNs are calculated using a specific mathematical formula and include a check digit to validate the number.

Each ISBN consists of 5 elements with each section being separated by spaces or hyphens. Three of the five elements may be of varying length:

  • EAN Prefix element – The International Article Number (EAN) prefix currently can only be either 978 or 979. It is always 3 digits long.
  • Registration group element – this identifies the particular country, geographical region, or language area participating in the ISBN system. This element can be between 1 and 5 digits long.
  • Registrant element – this identifies the particular publisher or imprint. This can be up to 7 digits long.
  • Publication element – this identifies the particular edition and format of a specific title. This can be up to 6 digits long.
  • Check digit – this is always the final single digit that mathematically validates the rest of the number. It is calculated using a Modulus 10 system with alternate weights of 1 and 3.

All you really need to know is that each book will have a unique number which is the number under the bar code normally found on the back bottom left or right hand corner.

What is an ISBN used for?

An ISBN is essentially a product identifier used by publishers, booksellers, libraries, internet retailers and other supply chain participants for ordering, listing, sales records and stock control purposes. The ISBN identifies the registrant as well as the specific title, edition and format.

If you would like more information on the wacky world of ISBN’s here is a link to the National ISBN Agency.

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