Self-publishing: creating your own publishing company

After having had my book Castle Falcon on the market for a few years, I decided it might look a bit better if it had a company as the publisher instead of just me.

Of course, this doesn’t make any real difference in how things get done, but I think that a book gets taken just a bit more seriously if there’s an imprint on the copyright page. Okay, maybe not, but I still thought it would look better.

I’d picked the publishing name a while ago. In Castle Falcon, a major character is Aurachne (yes, I spelled it that way on purpose), the Golden Spider. She loves reading. So the company would be Golden Spider Books.

I whipped up an icon, which was a lot of fun:


The hard part was finding a 3D spider model online that was stylistic enough to not look creepy. As it is, I still had to delete the mandibles.

Then the work part:

Step One was creating the company. How you do this depends a bit on where you live, but here in California, you have to set up a “DBA” (Doing Business As). There’s a form to fill out for your county, and a small fee to pay to get registered. You also have to pay to get an announcement in the business section of your local paper. That’s pretty much it as far as I know, at least to get started.

Step Two was to go to Bowker, where I’d originally purchased my ISBN numbers for my various editions. I was pleased to find out that I could simply transfer my existing ISBN numbers to Golden Spider Books by request, and not have to buy a whole new set.

Step Three was going through my various editions and updating the copyright page and covers to add the new imprint and logo. Since I didn’t have to republish most of them under new ISBNs, this mostly involved updating the interiors for e-books and Lulu editions, and updating the cover image file (Createspace version below) for the latter.


The Createspace edition was a bit more difficult. When I originally published at Createspace, I just ran it through using Createspace as the publisher, where they provide their own ISBN number and add their barcode box to the cover image. Most people do it this way, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

To replace this with my own imprint and ISBN number required me to create an actual new edition, a second Createspace publication. I had no problems with this, updating the interior and cover (including logo and new ISBN barcode). I’m currently waiting on a proof copy of the new version. The only visible difference is the logo on the cover and some copyright text. I also added an “about the author” page at the end.

The real trick will be shoehorning the new Createspace edition into my Amazon setup and still retaining all my links, access to my five hard-won reviews, and other information. Particularly since I probably have to take the first edition off the market. More on this later (I hope).




ISBN adventures

I finally had to spend some money on my self-publishing odyssey, but at least I put it off as long as I could.

I’ve been researching marketing and review opportunities for my book, and discovered that some places don’t take a book seriously unless it’s got an ISBN, particularly paper versions.  My Kindle version has an ASIN assigned by Amazon, and Amazon gave the Createspace paperback an ISBN, but my Lulu-printed hardcovers had no numbers, and the dust jacket hardcover is the most professional-looking edition and the one I’d prefer reviewers to see.

Lulu will give you a free ISBN if you sign up for their distribution programs, but there’s some baggage attached to that.  Nothing sneaky, but for maximum future flexibility and control, I decided to cough up cash for my own ISBN numbers, which will list me (not Lulu) as the publisher of record.  Besides, I’m not interested in their distribution programs just yet.  My hardcovers are only being sold through the Lulu store (you might have noticed the subtle links on the main page).

Bowker, the place where you buy these numbers, charges $125 for one ISBN number.  Ouch.  But you can get ten numbers for $250!  How’s that for a price break?  Each edition of a given title needs its own number, and I have three Lulu versions, so I went with ten.  That leaves me seven for future use.

Bowker also has an interface that records and organizes book information for each ISBN number you buy.  I’m just starting to explore it.  I don’t think it’s mandatory, but it might be useful.

Lulu, in its revision process, has a step where you can add your own ISBN to the book.  I did that.  Then I had to revise and upload a new text file because I added the ISBN number to the copyright page (required).

The next step was revising the cover to add the bar code. That’s this thing on the back cover:

How you do that depends on how your cover was created in the first place.  Cover wizards sometimes generate these automatically.  I usually import a one-piece cover image, which is harder to do but gives me more options.  When I imported the cover image for Amazon’s Createspace paperback, Amazon automatically assigned the ISBN and pasted the bar code on the book cover image.

With Lulu, you are responsible for adding the bar code image to your cover graphics.  They are pretty good about reminding you of this during the process.

Bowker will gladly sell you bar codes for your numbers for $23 each, but I suspected I had other options.  Here’s one of them I found, a website that will create bar codes for you and deliver them in PostScript and PDF formats.  I used the default 90000 code in the price part, but you can plug a price in there if you want.

After that, it was simple to use Photoshop to convert the PDF to an image file I could paste into my cover on its own layer.

I also found a nice tutorial on the process here.  Be careful not to scale the image, as this will change the nice sharp edges of the bar codes into aliased gray edges.

Once I had modified all the cover images I uploaded them, and my Lulu books with ISBNs were ready to go.  Here’s my one-piece cover image for the casewrap hardcover:

I found out that Lulu does change the price structure on ISBN-equipped books, even if you don’t use their distribution.  The books immediately developed a more expensive purchase price for Lulu marketplace customers (the purchase price for me was still the same).  Fortunately, by using their price discount function, I was able to twiddle the price back down to the same price it had before.

Now the book will be more appealing to reviewers, libraries, and such.  I hope.

I ordered a bunch of copies to send to reviewers (getting reviews as a self-published author is a major topic of its own).  Which also set me back a nice chunk of money.

Oh, well, at least it’s deductible.