Being able to publish your own work online, or in print is a fast growing industry. Given today’s huge market for online content, Kindle, Amazon, eBooks and more, not only is writing a great way to make money, it can provide you with the opportunity to control the process in which you make your work public.
There are pros and cons in being able to manage every aspect of self publishing. Being able to write freely design and bring to fruition your own work is very satisfying. Never-the-less, it is no small task.
Writing entails both creativity – and legal matters. It means understanding copyright, pricing and more. Here is a guide for online authors and writers who want to publish their content, get paid, and stay our of trouble.
Publishing for Yourself as a Writer
The most successful self-publishers are those who planned their project carefully and set themselves realistic goals.
There are five stages to planning a publication:
- Budgets and Finance
- Editing, Design and Printing
- Promotion and Marketing
- Budget and Finance
Here is a question that self publishers should ask themselves: “How much can you afford to lose?” Publishing involves risk as well as potential reward and you need to start by weighing up both objectively.
Don’t let your creative urge ignore the practicalities. With this in mind, the first thing to consider is your budget.
A Writers Budget
The first thing to do is work out a budget. This budget includes print publishing and online publishing on your blog or similar website.
Your Publishing Budget should take into account:
Expenditure must include any money that the author will spend directly on the project:
- Cost of printing
- Cost of editing
- Design and layout
- Web Design
- We Marketing
- Cost of Distribution Channles
- Telephone and fax
- Office stationery
- Cost of ISBN and Barcode
- Print Advertising Book Launch Publicity
It might also include money that will be spent indirectly such as Author’s time, fuel and mileage for vehicle * Office rental Add up the final costs.
Divide the final cost by the number of copies of the book to get the cost of each book.
For example: $10000 ÷ 1000 copies = $10 per book.
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Remember too that you may have to charge your customers a good and services or other sales tax on the books you sell, and that this cost must be passed on to the government.
- If you are in Australia visit the Australian Taxation Office website.
- If you are in the USA, visit the Department of Revenue’s Guide on self publishing
If the author sells all the books, and makes $10 off each book, then they will make their money back.
But the bookshop and other people selling the book will also want to make money.
The bookshop will require their cut of the recommended retail price. This will vary from on outlet to another but the take is normally between 30 – 40%.
If a bookseller takes 33% of the retail price and the author decides to sell the book for $18, then they get:
- Bookseller: $6
- Author: $12
This is slightly more than $10, so the author would only need to sell 417 books to break even. $5000 ÷ $12 = 417 copies.
Of course, any copies that the author sells without the aid of the bookshop returns all of the sale price to the author. This can be calculated as:
- Author copies 50 at $18 = $900 Bookseller copies 342 at $12 = $4104
- Total $5004
If the author sells 50 copies, then it only takes 392 copies to break even. The fewer number of books that need to be sold to cover the cost of publication, the easier it is to break even.
Be aware, though, of what the market can take. The more specialised your book the smaller the market.
Plan your distribution before publication. Many small publishers fall into the trap of thinking the publishing process is finished when the book returns from the printers.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Your success as a writer and publisher will depend largely on your channels for distribution. If you want the public to purchase your work, they need to first be able to find it – to know it exists.
Two or three months before your book is published it is imperative that you pass on details of your publication to one of the catalogues which booksellers use to find books.
Some distributors will provide bookshops with the information they need to order a requested book. The bookseller needs to know who your distributor is and where to locate the book in order to satisfy the customer.
Bar Codes and International Standard Book Numbers
All Publishers will need to have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) so that they can submit their finished works to regulation bodies such as ISBN International.
Having the barcode printed on the jacket of the book is often a requirement by booksellers before the y will even consider stocking your work. You will have to choose a business who is able to register your barcode.
Think laterally to reach your readership
In a bookshop, a self published book will be competing directly with hundreds of commercially published books, and thousands of dollars of promotional material.
If your means of distribution id affective it will reach your audience and enable you to sell quickly. This is perhaps one of your most important tasks. Find the right distributor for your niche or genre.
Here is some excellent reading on the subject of self publishing
The print edition is currently available through all good bookstores in Australia. An eBook edition is available from Amazon’s Kindle, either the US or Australian store.
A Copyright Guide for Writing Online
In its simplest form, copyright is the right to copy or reproduce a written work.
This section covers copyright and what it is, the difference between assigning copyright and licensing copyright, Internet publishing – its advantages and drawbacks, and where you go for expert, free legal advice.
Copyright is teh standard by which authors can legally lay claim to their work. It is not just about owning the paperwork and the words. Copyright comes with a myriad of legal obligations and provides a number of regulations to protect all parties. Those regulations ensure you have the power to:
- Reproduce the work in a material form
- Publish the work
- Perform the work in public
- Broadcast the work
- Cause the work to be transmitted to the subscribers of a diffusion service (for example, sent by email)
- Make an adaptation of the work.
Copyright allows publishers and authors to license certain aspects of the process to third parties without infringement.
The important thing to keep in mind is that copyright can only exist for a work which has a concrete form, such as a newspaper article, a novel manuscript, a playscript.
It doesn’t apply to any work that is still in the ‘idea stage’.
By way of example, telling someone over coffee about a great idea you had for a work of fiction does not give you rights of ownership or privileges. The story is essentially up for grabs.
To guard your idea, you need to have a written transcript of the work or idea. This is also very much the case with the intellectual rights to music and songs. Still, when considered on the whole, copyright infringements are not that common.
- Copyright lasts for the author’s lifetime plus fifty years.
- Copyright protection is automatic
Australia and the United States are both a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. This means that if you write the work in question, you will also be considered as owning the copyright on it.
Basically, if you wrote it, it’s yours.
There are occasions when this rule does not hold. If an author is creating the work in the course of his or her regular employment, copyright will usually belong to the employer, not to the author.
This is true any form of written publication including journalistic pieces, emails, letters, etc.
The copyright symbol © followed by your name and year is an assertion of your ownership.
Although unnecessary to establish your legal rights, it tells anyone who reads it that you know your rights of ownership. This is usually written © Bob Writer 2017.
Over seventy countries are signatories to the Berne Convention. The World Intellectual Property Organisation has a complete list of signatories and detailed information on international copyright available on their website at World Intellectual Property Organisation.
The Copyright Council advises that,
“If there is a dispute about who created a copyright work, which cannot be resolved by negotiation, it may need to be resolved by a court.
A court will take in to account the available evidence when evaluating a claim. The most all the relevant evidence when determining a dispute. The most important evidence is usually the creator’s evidence and the evidence of the witnesses to the creation of the work. Such cases are extremely rare.”
Where people want to give themselves some insurance against copyright infringement will mail the manuscript to themselves by Registered Post, and when it arrives, leave the envelope unopened and put it somewhere safe.
The date on the envelope provides some proof that the manuscript had been written before that date. Whether or not this is enough of an insurance is unknown; it has never been tested in any court that I know of.
It also helps to keep all the drafts of the piece of work.
Contracts, Licensing and Copyright
The author of the work can either assign or license any of the rights to their work.
Assigning copyright means that you are effectively handing over control of the work, just as it would if you were selling your tractor or boat. Once the exchange takes place, the material no longer belongs to you and you forfeit all claims.
It is customary in the film industry, for example, for a screenwriter to assign the rights of their film script to a film company, meaning the film company then owns it and can do what they like with it.
This is not customary in the world of book publishing, however, so if anyone offers you a contract that asks you to assign the copyright to another party you should seek legal advice before you do anything else.
Licensing means that the person who produced the material keeps the copyright or ownership of the work but allows someone else to exercise those rights under agreement without infringing copyright.
A contracts for publishing is a covenant between the author and the publisher which give rights for the publisher to publish the author’s book according to the contract agreed to.
The author might license the publisher to publish the book in hard copy only, and withhold the licence to publish it, say, as a talking book.
Such agreements may specify things like where the book can be published and so it is important to remember that you are in a position to give consent.
The Library of Congress
If a publisher offers you a contract and you don’t have a literary agent to protect your interests you can contact any of the organisations listed below for help.
Be sure to talk to someone with expertise in this area before you sign a contract.
It is still possible to register a work with the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress, and doing so has some advantages under United States’ law.
Registration creates a public record of the claim to ownership and copyright. IN the United States, registration is necessary before a court will consider any case or claim regarding infringement.
Litman Law points out that if it’s made before or within 5 years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.
If registration is made within 3 months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions.
The alternative is that the copyright owner is only entitled to available profit and is awarded damages accordingly.
Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies
More information about copyright registration can be obtained from: Library of Congress Copyright Office Register of Copyrights 101 Independence Avenue Washington, D.C. USA 20559-6000
Legal Advice for Writers
To ensure you sign a contract that gives you a fair deal find below some helpful resources available to you.
PO Box 3238
Enfield, CT 06083-3238
Please note that SFWA is neither a publisher nor a literary agency and persons seeking such should not use this form.
They do not read manuscripts, nor do we promote the books of non-members.
PEN America is the largest of more than 100 centers of PEN International.
For more than 90 years, they have been working together with our colleagues in the international PEN community to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature.
588 Broadway New York,
Arts Law Referral Service
The Arts Law Referral Service provides free legal advice and referrals to Victorian artists on a range of issues.
It is now managed by the arts management company Keep Breathing, based in Melbourne but working with a diverse range of clients across Australia and internationally.
Specialising in the contemporary performing arts, Keep Breathing acts as a creative management partner for independent artists, arts organisations and government offering expert consulting, project management and producing services.
Tel: 9376 6680
PO Box 5 Flemington VIC 3031
Australian Copyright Council
The Australian Copyright Council publishes over 80 information sheets on their website concerning a range of copyright matters.
The Council may be able to provide information about issues raised in an enquiry, if you’ve read the relevant information on their website and been unable to find an answer.
Tel: 02 8815 9777
PO Box 1986, Strawberry Hills, NSW 2012
Australian Writers Guild
The Australian Writers’ Guild represents writers for film, television, radio, stage and multimedia. It gives free contract and other legal advice to members. See the AWG FAQs for copyright and rates.
Tel: 1300 552 228
Fax: 02 9281 4321
8/50 Reservoir St Surry Hills NSW 2010