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What is BISAC? How about DRM? 7 Tips for Author Awareness

Posted by Brittany Lavin on Thu, Dec 16, 2010 @ 03:58 PM

by LinDee Rochelle

Sometimes the landscape of life – family, work, responsibilities, recreation (hopefully), and the myriad of other consuming chores – deter us from the pleasures and needs of our writing. This is especially true during the Holiday Season, as we add a round of social gatherings, gift-shopping and perhaps travel, to our already hectic schedules.

author awarenessWith this level of activity, it’s a wonder our books ever see publication! But we squeeze in a little “me” time for our passion. In haste, however, we can overlook learning some of the important nuances of our trade.

Rushing past yet another jolly gentleman dressed in red, swinging his bell, we may not have proper time for due diligence, and may neglect to discover publishing characteristics that could be of value to our books.

In speaking with hundreds of authors each month, many questions are oft-repeated; some may be less common but still impact your book’s content, appearance, marketing, distribution, or simply make you more knowledgeable about the industry.

L’s Seven Suggestions … for Author Awareness:

Why should I know about Publishers Weekly

  • “We are returning to our earliest roots,” said PW president George W. Slowik Jr. in an August 23, 2010 article (“The New PW Select: A Quarterly Service for the Self-Published”). “PW dates to 1872, when it was first known as Trade Circular Weekly and listed all titles published that week in what was then a nascent industry. We have decided to embrace the self-publishing phenomenon in a similar spirit. Call it what you will—self-publishing, DIY, POD, author-financed, relationship publishing, or vanity fare. They are books and that is what PW cares about. And we aim to inform the trade.”
  • What that means to you is a highly respected and reputable source for publishing news and trends - “Subject areas covered by Publishers Weekly include publishing, bookselling, marketing, merchandising and trade news, along with author interviews and regular columns on rights, people in publishing, and bestsellers.” (Even not opting for the rather pricey subscription, their website hosts plenty of free information.)

What is Books in Print®?

  • Aka Bowker Books in Print, “Bowker® is the leading provider of global book information and decision-support solutions through services that support an efficient supply chain to publishers, books sellers and libraries,” says their mission statement.
  • What that means to you is every self-respecting book title should be listed with Bowker. They are the go-to-guy to learn if your book is a viable title in the industry. Only your publisher can list with Bowker, as does Infinity – a free service for all of our titles.

-  What is a book’s Front Matter / Back Matter

  • Although these terms should be self-explanatory their content remains a mystery for some. Front Matter refers to everything in the beginning of the book, up to the first page of the body text. This includes the title page, dedications, Table of Contents, and more. Conversely, the Back Matter is comprised of everything after “The End,” to include index(es), appendix(es), author’s bio, et al. And, there is a specific order that is expected for each. The Chicago Manualhas a great line-up of the front and back matter pages, with brief, helpful explanations of each.
    • What that means to you is you could be leaving out some information that might be valuable to your readers, or simply present a book that does not compare favorably with the mainstream industry. A paraphrased and partial list of CM’s is in my Author Nation article, “Front Matter / Back Matter – Does it Matter?

What does a Distributor do?

  • Ingram Content Group, Baker & Taylor, and others are pure and simple, middlemen. They take book orders from retail outlets and place those orders with the publishers.
    • What that means to you is unfortunately, you need them. Why do stores use them rather than going directly to the publisher for a better deal? Because they can order many books from many publishers through one distributor and write just one check. Talk with your publisher – what distributors do they list with, and what is the distribution coverage?

What is BISAC?

  • No, it isn’t a military term. It’s an acronym for Book Industry Standards and Communications which is a standards practice code list of book subject headings organized by the Book Industry Study Group. This not-for-profit US book trade association created the effective industry-wide list for physical and digital publications.
    • What that means to you as author Walt Shiel explained in his 2009 blog, “Think of the BISAC subject heading as the shelf label in a bookstore, and ask yourself where in a bookstore you think your book belongs.” Give serious consideration to where you think your book fits best on store shelves and communicate that to your publisher.

What is a backlist?

  • Books generally are considered “new” for just one short, calendar year. (This is why I recommend inserting next year’s date on the copyright page if you’re publishing in mid-summer or later.)
    • What that means to you is at 12:01a.m. of the New Year, they are still listed with your publisher, but are now on the “backlist” as perhaps a solid performer, but no longer new. (OK, I’m kidding about the time, but you get the idea.) I’m sure you can guess what “frontlist” means. J

What is DRM?

  • As author Nathan Bransford defines it in his 2009 blog, Digital Rights Management “… is software encryption that (theoretically) discourages piracy and which allows [the] publisher [or eBook facilitator] to do fancy things like sync your e-book between your Kindle and your iPhone.
    • What that means to you is whether or not your eBook is as secure from illicit copying as possible. A publisher (like Infinity) that is concerned about this issue will ensure your digital rights are maintained at the highest possible level.

authors awareness2Have any questions class? Did you take notes? Please don’t hesitate to comment.


Tags: distributors, self publishing, self publishing companies, publisher's weekly

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