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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

February 2013

All Pointed Hats Do Not Belong to Dunces -- or Do They?

This article in the Huffington Post today reminded me that news media would often prefer to report the juicy and scandalous, rather than any good news of the day:


MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A Ku Klux Klan chapter has been granted a demonstration permit to protest the renaming of three Memphis parks that honored the Confederacy and two of its most prominent figures.
In a written statement Tuesday, City Attorney Herman Morris said the permit was issued to the Loyal White Knights, which plans a rally in Memphis on March 30.
The planned protest is in response to the renaming of Nathan Bedford Forrest Park, Jefferson Davis Park and Confederate Park by the City Council on Feb. 5.
The name change angered fans of Forrest, a slave trader and Confederate cavalryman who was a member of the first version of the Klan. Supporters of the changes say Forrest was a racist who should not be honored with a park.

I think most locals are simply planning to ignore the event and stay home to dye Easter eggs. I'm not so sure we should ignore it, although I don't have an appropriate response in mind. The whole thing simply brings back memories of the Panhandle of Florida in 1964, when school desegregation was forced on an unwilling populace.

I was barely 25, hopelessly naive, and new to town.  It had taken me less than an hour to find a new job as an English teacher at the local high school.  I suppose I thought I was good enough that their "open arms" reception" was simply my due. I had no idea that when school opened in September, a flood of protests would result from the sudden closing of all black schools and the bussing of all those black students to the various white schools in town.

I'm happy to report that the schools themselves adjusted beautifully.  Teachers found more desks, coaches went around grinning as they contemplated their new basketball and football players, the band director announced a new jazz band.  And our kids? They just said "Hi" and went on about their business.  But outside was a different story.

Faculty parked and school busses unloaded in an area surrounded by a high fence -- one gate, guarded by a patrol car at both the opening and closing of school.  Outside that gate, the Ku Klux Klan assembled every day, no matter what the weather -- hooded, masked, and bearing hate signs. I soon learned to enter the gate at a fairly good clip and head for the far side of the lot, where I wouldn't hear the slurs being shouted after every car.  Inside, I re-arranged my classroom, so that the student desks did not face the windows.  Only I could see the picket lines just beyond the property line, and I coped by imagining that those pointed hoods were real dunce caps.

That was almost 50 years ago.  Have we not learned anything in that time? How sad is it that such groups are still exercising their "legal right" to demonstrate their hatred?

The Oxford Comma

Another section of "The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese" deals with matters  of editing.  Here's a bit of what I have to say about commas:

RULE: A NATURAL PAUSE INDICATES A COMMA.
Listen for the pauses. Add commas.

As an aside, academics sometimes argue over what is called the Oxford comma. That’s the one that appears before the final “and” in a series. When I read a series of terms (like pens, notebooks, pencils, and erasers), I hear a pause after pencils, so I always use the Oxford comma. In other words, I follow my own rule about hearing commas. You may, however, encounter an editor who thinks that extra comma is not only unnecessary but adds an extra expense--one likely to drag the publisher into instant bankruptcy. She will tell you that a comma takes the place of an “and”, so you never need both. My advice? Don’t waste your breath on an argument in which both sides are right. Gracefully bow out, taking your Oxford commas with you. (Because editors always win.)

 
Just today, I found this Infographic that offers an even better explanation:

The Oxford Comma
Courtesy of: Online Schools

Copyright and the Library of Congress



Now, a brief word on copyright. The law does not require authors to pay for (or even register) their copyrights. Full copyright protection comes automatically when you write anything. So don’t let anyone charge you for that copyright. Just make sure your manuscript has that all-important symbol: Copyright ©Your Name and Year of Publication. It goes on the second page, the reverse of your title. That’s it. That’s all you really have to do.

It is possible, however, to register your copyright with the Library of Congress, if you so desire. Having the copyright registered provides an additional degree of protection if your book should ever end up in a court of law. For example, if someone plagiarizes your work and passes it off as his own, it may help to be able to point to the date on which you registered the copyright. You’ll have to decide for yourself if the registration fees are worth it.
 
I didn’t think it was, until my book started to gain national attention and the first screen writer came sniffing around my copyright set-up. Then I learned that $35.00 was a cheap safeguard,  particularly when I compared it to what a successful screen version of the book might earn. It is now possible to file your registration online and then mail in a copy of the book to complete the process. I say, do it.
 
You will definitely want to obtain a Library of Congress cataloging number, which guarantees that your book will be included in the Library of Congress catalog for all time. Librarians also want to see an LCCN so they know how to enter the book into their own cataloguing system. The publisher must send the first copy of the completed book to the Library of Congress, where someone will record all the necessary data describing the book and create an original catalog entry. Your production company should take care of that for you, although they may charge you a fee. Then the production company adds the assigned number to all copies of the book.
 


Portions of the above blog have been  taken from my book, "The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese: How to Avoid the Traps of Self-Publishing," available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks, and Smashwords.com.

ISBN


If you want to sell your book in any retail outlet, whether it be a book chain, an independent shop, or an online source such as Amazon, or if you want your book in any library, it must have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN). Every country has a single agency responsible for issuing ISBNs. In the United States, the company is Bowker Identifier Services.

Publishers—including self-publishers—may register their company and contact information with Bowker and order anywhere from one to one thousand ISBNs. Then when a specific number is assigned to a particular book, the publisher just goes to the Bowker website and registers the number and title. That guarantees that purchasers will be able to find your book, and that the book will be listed in Books In Print, among other bibliographic resources. Don’t skip this step. The lack of an ISBN number marks the book and its author as rank amateurs.

Every book should have a number, and each number can be used only once. A new edition, or a different format will require a new number. Originally ISBNs had ten digits. In 1998, the numbers were expanded to a thirteen-digit format, with the first three digits being 978. That will remain the case for the foreseeable future, but it provides for the possibility of change if all available numbers are exhausted. The numbers are broken into five parts of variable length. The first three are always 978. The second section represents the country; the third, the publisher; the fourth, the title, and the fifth, a code number that can be used to verify the other sections.
Most printing/publishing companies will offer to provide your book with its own ISBN, but that means that the book will be listed with the imprint of the production company: for example, Smashwords, or CreateSpace, or Lightning Source. If you want your own publishing company listed, you must purchase your ISBN directly from Bowker.

I had already decided that I want to publish under my own imprint, “Katzenhaus Books,” not the book production company, and that meant I had to procure my own ISBN number. Next decision: they sell one for $125.00 or ten for $250.00. It’s a bargain, right? But at the end of months of writing, I had reached the “never again stage” and wasn’t at all sure I would ever need more than one. After agonizing a bit, I opted to order ten, all the time feeling ridiculously extravagant.

Then I started checking on other matters. While I love print books and definitely want my book to be an object people can pick up and examine, I also love my Kindle. And I’m hopelessly infatuated with the new iPad. I wanted my book available in all available formats.
 
So what difference did that make? Well, you don’t have to have an ISBN for the Kindle edition, but you can provide one, and it’s useful if you plan to issue in several formats. And if you plan to publish an  Apple version? You have to go through Smashwords, a company that formats your manuscript for all other e-book platforms (Sony, B&N, Palm, etc.). Smashwords requires an ISBN that is different from both the print version and the Kindle version. So I already needed three ISBNs for my single book. I actually saved myself $125.00 by ordering the set of ten.

Many bookstores also require books to have a printed barcode—also issued by Bowker. The barcode is a graphical representation of the book’s ISBN and its retail price. That decision is up to you, and it may be that your local bookstore will accept the book without a barcode. However they are relatively inexpensive, and they give the book that final published look.
 




Portions of the above blog have been  taken from my book, "The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese: How to Avoid the Traps of Self-Publishing," available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks, and Smashwords.com.

Hiring Your Staff

Self-publishing is something of a misnomer. The process of taking a book from first idea to a spot on someone’s bookshelf requires the help and talents of many people. The work used to be done by huge publishing houses. When you offer to self-publish, the responsibility for all the many tasks involved falls squarely on your shoulders. But you are already the author, the editor-in-chief, and the business owner. You cannot hope to sit isolated in your little home office and do everything yourself, no matter how talented you may be. The success of your book will depend upon how well you assemble a team of assistants. Here’s a look at the staff I have assembled. Perhaps it will give you some ideas.

My most important hire was my husband. Of course he was already on board to give me moral support, but as time went on, he has taken upon himself three important roles. First, he is my travel agent. Second, he is my mail clerk. He’s much better than I at packing and wrapping, and he never seems to mind a quick trip to the post office. I can count on him to mail out single book purchases or handle large book shipments. And third, he is my official photographer. He also comes with the advantage of being inexpensive. His salary is $1.00 a year, augmented by clean laundry, home-cooked meals, and endless affection and gratitude.

My business plan recognized that I would need to hire a design artist to create the book cover and a layout expert to make sure that the final book meets the exacting standards of the publishing world—page numbers, attractive fonts, spacing, chapter titles, and flourishes all in place. Since both those areas are way beyond my expertise, I hire a design team through the production company who contracted to produce the physical book. My covers and book trailers come from a cover artist. A note here: Tax experts refer to these people as "contract labor. and yes, their services are business deductions.

Many people are not trained to handle money efficiently. I certainly wasn’t. My first lesson came when a friend of a friend bought a book from me and handled me a check. When I looked at it the next day, I found that she had made it out to Katzenhaus Books. I took it to the bank, only to have it rejected. I couldn’t cash it because I didn’t have an account in the name of Katzenhaus Books. I could either hunt the person down and ask them to write another check (embarrassing!) or open a business account as Carolyn Schriber, DBA (doing business as) Katzenhaus Books. Since there was a real possibility that other checks would follow the same pattern, I went ahead and opened the account. A good move, as it turned out, since the account came with an associated credit card that lets me keep business purchases separated from household purchases. It also provided safe direct deposits for royalty payments.

At about the same time, I realized that I needed to be able to take book orders on my website, which in turn meant I needed to have a credit card manager. Despite what you may have heard, most people trust PayPal to handle their credit card purchases. The service they provide is the easiest—and the safest—way to handle such charges. I’ve never had a PayPal charge that was not paid in full, and the company is quite good about forwarding customer information. They charge only a couple of percentage points on each transaction, and those are pennies well spent in terms of convenience. Granted, occasionally I get a “phishing” attack on my account, asking that I send in my bank account number, but since all such requests are by definition fraudulent, there is no real danger of an account being compromised. Further, PayPal is very good about tracking down the perpetrators if you send them copies of any such e-mails. I use their services constantly without problems.

When Beyond All Price began to make a lot of money —not a fortune, but more than I ever expected—I sought more help with money management. A financial advisor helped clarify the best uses for unexpected windfalls. He found flexible investment ideas that helped preserve the principle while providing a way to start earning interest on the money. He also introduced me to an absolute necessity—an accountant who could help me organize my records and deal with the tax complications that come with self-employment taxes and irregular income schedules.

Somewhere along the line, I received an e-mail from a would-be film maker, asking whether I had protected my film rights to the book and if they were for sale. At that point, I had no idea. But I quickly learned that I needed the advice of an intellectual property lawyer to guide me through the intricacies of formal copyright registration and to prepare a simple options contract that would guard against anyone snatching my story and profiting from turning it into a movie without my knowledge.

So there are the people I needed in order to “self-publish” a single book. Even I am surprised at how many there are: travel agent, mail clerk, photographer, design artist, layout expert, production company, printer, web host, banker, credit card manager, financial advisor, accountant, and lawyer. Each of them deserves partial credit for any success my book has achieved. If you’re beginning this same process, start now to identify the staff that can help you along the way.

Portions of the above blog have been  taken from my book, "The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese: How to Avoid the Traps of Self-Publishing," available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks, and Smashwords.com.