Questions and Answers

Last week, I asked if there were any questions you had about “getting a book ready to head out the door.” You folks were awesome with the number of suggestions and questions you raised. I’m not going to try to answer all of them today. There were enough to make several posts. But I will deal with at least a few of them. Here goes. . . .

Should you have a DBA?

A DBA, or Doing Business As, is a handy little legal document that lets you legally do business under one name without publicly attaching your name to it. For example, author John Doe files a DBA to do business as Axio Publishing. That this means is when he uploads his books to Amazon or elsewhere, they will be listed as being sold by Axio Publishing and not by John Doe. His name will still appear as the author but not as publisher.

The benefit of doing something like this is it makes the indie author look more professional. The reader looking at the book detail section will see a “publisher” and not just Amazon Digital Services or the author’s name.

There are also other benefits of the DBA, like using a closed pen name.

However–and this is something to keep in mind–it doesn’t give the author the additional legal protection the various forms of incorporation do.

There are other reasons for a DBA, but the above is why most authors get one. In most states, the cost of filing a DBA is minimal. You need to check your state statutes for requirements and how often you need to renew it.

As with anything involving the law, speak to a lawyer in your jurisdiction who is experienced in that aspect of the profession.

Should you incorporate?

I will begin here with the advice I just gave. Consult an attorney. In some states, especially those with state income tax rules, incorporating may (will?) have a different impact on your bottom line than it will in states that don’t. In general terms, incorporating will mean setting up a separate corporate account. It is this account where your royalties will be deposited and where your business expenses will be paid from. The reason for this is to protect your personal monies. If you are making a lot of money through your writing or if you are thinking about becoming a “publisher” that deals with more authors than yourself, incorporating is probably the wise move. As to which form of corporation you should form? That depends on what you have in mind and why you want to incorporate.

Consult an attorney.


Pre-orders can be both the bane and the boon of an author. In order to post pre-orders on Amazon, you have to be enrolled in the KDP Select. This means you are selling only on Amazon. You can set up a pre-order up to six months prior to publication (release) date (iirc). Not long ago, Amazon changed its requirements that you needed to have at least a draft manuscript to upload. Now all you have to have is a cover and book descriptors.

The benefits of having a book up for pre-order are simple. Your book has a product page you can link to for promotion ahead of your actual publication date. Not only can you share the link on your social media pages, but you can use promotion sites like The Fussy Librarian to advertise your new release. Sites like this require, among other things, an active store link before they will consider accepting your ad.

The downside of pre-orders is simple. If, for some reason, you can’t meet the drop dead time when you have to upload your final manuscript, you are shit out of luck. Amazon’s terms of service for the KDP Select program state that failure to have your manuscript ready on time will prevent you from using the pre-order option for a year. I have a feeling if you know far enough ahead of time that there is a problem, they will let you cancel the pre-order or possibly move the date back. However, I can’t say that for sure and I sure don’t want to have to find out–and learn they don’t.

Alpha and Beta Readers

An alpha reader is someone who sees your work as you write it. They are the first eyes on your manuscript and can help you head off problems, or at least identify them, before you finish the manuscript.

Beta readers are those who get the book after you finish and usually before it goes to your editor. Beta readers come in many different varieties. Some will focus mainly on your grammar, spelling and punctuation. If they are good at it, they are invaluable.

Others will read the story and help point out where you go off the rails or where you left a plot threads hanging. In many ways, these are your content editors-lite. they might not be able to tell you how to fix a problem, but they can tell you something is wrong.

The question asked last week was about having a non-disclosure agreement for your beta readers. I’ll admit that my initial response was “why?”. When it comes to fiction, I stick with the question. If an author asked for beta readers and I volunteered and then she said I could only do so if I signed an NDA first, I’d walk. I’d also think twice about ever buying another of her books again.

The reason is simple, too. The author asked me to do something to help her. Sure, I get the thrill of reading her book before anyone else. ButI am also giving of my time with no remuneration. Then there is the fact that if the book is good, I’m going to talk it up to my friends and family. I’m adult enough not to give away all the details but, damn it, I want to tell them if it is a book they should buy.

So, as a fiction beta reader, I have to wonder why the author doesn’t want me talking about it. Word of mouth is a great–probable the best–form of advertising for writers. At least that’s what we (as readers) are told. Could it be the writer is worried the book is so bad we will trash it before it comes out? Or maybe we will recognize it as plagiarism and they don’t want the word to get out. . . See where I’m going with this? By asking a fiction beta reader to sign an NDA, especially if you are an indie author, not only insults them but can cause more trouble than it’s worth.

But, non-fiction can be a completely different matter. If the book is about a new discovery or something the media hasn’t yet picked dup on, I can see it happening. I wouldn’t be insulted on something like that. It may be a double-standard but. . .shrug.

If your only reason for wanting an NDA is because you’re afraid your beta reader will either steal your idea or will talk about it and someone else will, grow up. In fiction, there really are no new ideas. We make them our own by how we craft them. Besides, you have your various drafts of your work. Copyright already resides in you. Quit worrying about it and write.

Remember, you are asking your beta readers to do a favor for you. Don’t insult them along the way.

I’ll be back with more answers next week.

13 thoughts on “Questions and Answers

  1. Oh! And ISBNs? I guess a person doesn’t need to have those anymore? Though they might add to the “looks professional” part?

    1. It depends on your platform and format. Some platforms, like Amazon, don’t require them for e-books. However, for print, you do need an ISBN. Honestly, I recommend getting them because it is one more layer of protection for the author.

      1. In order for my public libraries to order Indie books they MUST have an ISBN and be in dead tree. Ebooks and libraries seem to be, at best, problematical, but both libraries I use will order Indie paper books off of Amazon if they can find them by ISBN, by patron request, as long as funds allow.

    2. Just be sure that if you do get an ISBN: it’s one number per format. If you have a hardcover, then it needs a different ISBN than the trade paperback, which is a different ISBN than the mass market paperback, which is different from an omnibus edition (of a trilogy let’s say), which is different from the ebook ISBN (if you use one on an ebook for some reason). This is a longstanding system that has worked for decades; the ISBNs are information that bookstores and libraries, and — in certain instances — readers use to nail down which copy of a book they’re getting. Some indies don’t get that, so I thought it worth pointing out.

      Think of it like so: if you had twins or triplets, they can’t have the same social security number because they are, in fact, two or three different people. Hardcover doesn’t equal paperback, which doesn’t equal ebook. I think 10 is the cheapest block of ISBNs you can buy, and they go on sale periodically. I haven’t checked in a while.

  2. Thank you so much!

    I actually thought of one more question that someone might be able to answer quickly: what are the correct dimensions for a cover? I know that I’ve seen an answer to that question on here before, but I’ve come up empty on the search function.

    1. It changes periodically. It also varies between the different sales platforms. It’s best to check the FAQs for wherever you are putting your books up to be sure.

    2. For an ebook, you can use Amazon’s specs. Apple and Kobo are similar, but Amazon’s is the largest, so if you use Amazon’s, you’re covered. Plus, it can be readily adapted to print use:

      1. Amazon asks for 2560px long, 1600px wide, with resolution of 350dpi. File size should be in the RGB mode, and saved as a .jpg (or .jpeg) 5MB or less.

      2. iTunes asks for 1400px minimum on the shortest side (width), 1873px tall. Otherwise, 1600px wide by 2500px tall. Must be either a .jpg or a .png file. Use the same specs as Amazon.

      I don’t have recent info on the print part of KDP, but when they were CreateSpace this is what I have in my notes:

      CreateSpace users advise keeping cover images in the RGB mode and assigning a profile, e.g., sRGB, AdobeRGB1998, etc. Then when you save as a PDF, save it as a PDF/X-3 document. This will allow for accurate reproduction of your colors. Per “InDesign Secrets”: PDF/X-3 is similar to PDF/X-1a except that it also supports embedded RGB profiles and color management. Choose this option for color-managed environments where you expect the printer to optimize color reproduction for the specific printing environment.

      Amazon’s latest Kindle guidelines are always going to be at this link:

      Click to access AmazonKindlePublishingGuidelines.pdf

      Since I think WordPress only allows one link at a time, search Joel Friedlander’s Book Designer blog for an October 2015 post by David Kudler, where he explains how to compress HD images so the file sizes won’t be so large (5MB would be large, for example).

  3. I can see some room for quibbling on the fiction NDA side. When you reach the point of having fairly different sort of project. A pornographic visual novel, for example, might be close enough to a videogame for a more standard sort of beta testing agreement. I don’t know what the standards are for film either. I can also see a publisher of Japanese light novels wanting to keep some control over the internal images, but if those are strictly necessary for the reader test experience, then the story is probably weak.

    But yeah, as a reader, while I might not consider an NDA insulting, I would consider it a lot of hassle to bother with. Get a copy of the NDA, sign it, return signed copy? Consider the reader’s opportunity cost versus the cost of a volume after publication. I would have to think that the story is really cool, and see a solid business case for the writer preserving secrecy. Phrase that comes to mind is ‘back when I was really into Mahouka, and HP level popularity and expectations for the next volume’. The NDA also has transaction costs for the writer, meaning expectations of level of effort on the reviewer’s part. Being able to ensure production as a reviewer at that level would cost me. Perhaps I am in a pit of depression, but right now I can’t see any fiction story being that cool.

    1. I’ll add one more consideration as a reader. Say I do sign the NDA. Then, at some point in the future, the author decides someone violated the NDA and talked about the book out of school. That author may believe I was the one, even if I wasn’t. So they file suit against me. It is going to cost me money to hire an attorney to try to block the suit. Even if it goes to court–or mediation–and I win and attorney’s fees are awarded, I’m still out the up-front money. It isn’t worth being a beta reader when I’m presented at the very start the “fact” the author doesn’t trust me and is more than willing to sue me when, in fact, I’m helping them and I’m not getting paid for it.

      1. Yeah, if an author wanted me to sign an NDA for something, this isn’t a favour anymore, this is a legal relationship. At that point, if I’m doing something I’m legally liable for, it’s work. And I get paid for work.

        And if I’m going to be working, my time is worth a fair amount, and I’m not charging a token amount. I don’t work for peanuts. It’s free or it starts at $50/hr, including time taken to read your book and any research needed for background on the report; pick your pricing structure and its consequences.

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