Self-Publishing 101: Q & A with a Ship’s Master

Beginners ask about things some of us take for granted. It’s useful to review the questions and answers to be sure we haven’t missed something which seems self-evident to others.

Sergiy KalyuzhnyI had a long online chat with Sergiy Kalyuzhny, Master at Marlow Navigation, Ukraine. He’s writing a non-fiction account of an event we haven’t fully discussed yet (though I sure hope Sergiy lets me help with the book so I can read about it.)

Since I’m posting late today, as penance, I’ll share the whole thing instead of splitting it into a half-dozen posts.

I recently bought e-book on Amazon, it’s very simple but I was really impressed. If somebody has an experience, please advice how much it will cost for me, etc.

Sergiy, I made a series of 16 short videos about self-publishing. They’re about 3 minutes each. You can watch them here:

They’re not specifically about ebooks, but self-publishing in general.

Once you have a complete manuscript, getting it uploaded to Kindle and Smashwords (who distribute to everyone *except* Kindle) is fairly easy if your book’s formatting is simple.

You can do all this yourself. I provide these services, but honestly, many people can just do this themselves. I earn enough working with people who don’t want to bother with it.

You can publish ebooks without spending any money, and you can also set it up for print. Creating a paperback book using CreateSpace is easy, and can also be done free.

I love sharing what I’ve learned publishing 10 books of my own and many more for clients. If you have any questions at all I’m delighted to answer them, whether or not you ever choose to hire me. I like helping.

Use of Photos?

Joel, thanks a lot, your answer’s really inspired me, for sure I will. Also tanks for the offer to help, keep it in mind.

One question I already have, what about copyright of using photos published in internet magazines and journals?

Things like that are nearly always owned by the magazine or photographer and shouldn’t be used without written permission.

There are many websites where you can get legal, free images. I use one called Stock Exchange for all the images on my blog (when I’m not using one of the thousands of my own photos.)

What kinds of images are you looking for?

Fair Use of Existing Materials?

Joel, my book will be about specific incident and I intend to use some pictures of the thing involved in this incident.

But ok, for instance, may I criticize an, article published in the internet magazine, which is describing this case? I think that I can use materials of the open official’s papers, some official reports of the authorities, etc.? Or open common issues, like Wiki, etc.? What do you think?

In the United States, “fair use” of copyrighted materials is legal, but defining “fair use” is vague.

If you quote an article with proper references, whether you’re citing it as a source, or criticizing it, is most likely just fine. But images included in those documents might have limited rights attached. A photographer might license an image for that magazine or website, but not for general use, which makes “quoting” the image problematic.

Here’s one possibility: ask others if they have their own photographs or images you could use. If this is something from the past 10 years, there are probably hundreds of private individuals who have photos, if you’re able to find them.

Tell me a little about the incident you’re writing about. I can help better if I have more information.

Amazon’s Share — and My Share

Joel, I will but little bit later, I’m busy now, I’m acting captain and now on the ship, it’s not so much time, sometimes no internet connection, like coming next 5 days. But when I’ll start work on it directly, of course I will.

I have another question if you would not mind? You said that it will be free for me on Amazon? Is it means they will have profit from the selling? Who is determining the price? I believe that Amazon is absolutely fare, isn’t it? Could they reject the book?

Y’know, when you can toss “acting captain” into a conversation, that’s fun.

If your book is prepared for print, you upload the files to CreateSpace, which is owned by Amazon. You don’t have to pay for the service, but of course, you’ll want your book edited and formatted like a real book, and you’ll want a good cover. But using CreateSpace is free.

Your book will be available on Amazon as a paperback. When a copy is sold, CreateSpace keeps the printing cost ($2 – $4 for a 150-300 page book.) Amazon keeps 50% of the profit, and you get the other 50%.

If you sell the book yourself, from your website, for instance, you collect the money from the buyer, and then order it from CreateSpace to be shipped directly to them. You pay printing plus shipping, probably $6 to $8 total, and keep the rest, which means you don’t share the profit with Amazon.

If you order 10 copies (for example) for yourself, and then sell them in person, you can autograph them and there’s no shipping cost. I keep a small stock of all my books on hand so that I can give them as gifts, sell them at speaking events, or mail them out when someone orders from my website. Order a few copies at a time saves the shipping from CreateSpace.

Finding an Editor You Can Trust

Some people are offering service like editing, formatting, etc. How I can trust them and sent a manuscript?

First, always work with someone with a proven reputation. They should be someone you personally trust, or someone trusted by someone you trust. (That sounds confusing.) What I mean is, if your best friend does editing, you can hire him because you trust him. If he recommends someone and says “I trust them” that trust is transferred.

People should be able to show you samples of their work. They should have verifiable testimonials from clients.

My team provides all the publishing services an author needs, but of course, since I’m just a guy you met on the internet, you’d want to see work we’ve done, talk to past clients, and generally prove that you could trust me. (I can tell you that I’m trustworthy, but that’s not especially effective!)

Tell me a more about your book. It’s non-fiction? Are the events you’re writing about from your personal experience?

Sergiy, I’d like to ask: do you mind if I share these questions and answers on my website? Many new authors wonder exactly the same things, and reading your questions and my answers could be helpful to them.

Overcoming Language Barriers

Joel, you can share it, no problem.

My book is actually professional analysis of one catastrophe recently happened. But it’s written in a simple language with all necessary explanations. It would be interested for even non-professionals. You will not find such information in official publications.

The Manuscript is not completed yet, but I remember you promised to help. When it will be finished I’ll try to get permit for publication of some docs, photos etc., but sum questions we can discuss now, for instance, may I make a photo of navigational chart on my ship? Or the permit of UKHO is necessary? If I during watching a video clip on the internet made some print screens, then made some schemes on it, can I use it as my private?

I understand that English is not my native language, that’s why I’m writing it not in the manner like these comments. I’m writing it in my language and then divide on many parts, disguising it and substituting some words and finally sending it to professionals (with payment). It looks not bad. The problem is legislation of using some materials from the internet.

Sergiy, I’m only familiar with United States law on photography, but I’ll share that in case it helps.

In this country, if there is a reasonable expectation of privacy (it’s inside a building or some privately owned space, for instance) you need permission to photograph anything.

In a public place, you do not. So charts INSIDE a vessel in the US would require permission. If they hung on the wall in a shopping mall, you could take photos.

A video clip is also intellectual property. Again, US law, but if you’re analyzing the video itself, “fair use” means you can use elements of it. But if you’re using that video to discuss a completely different event, in the US, you would need permission.

For the videos, is it possible to get permission? And for the charts, unless you’re looking for handwritten notes which make the chart unique, there are other copies elsewhere, right? If you can find one somewhere else, you could buy it or possibly use it. Or, ask permission to photograph the one you want.

It sounds like you’re writing an interesting but detailed book. I hope very much that you get these permission details right so that it doesn’t cause you trouble in the future. It would be sad to do all this work and have something go wrong.

Your Own Work

Joel, noted. What about substituting the original in manner like this: I draw a picture, the scheme which will be looking very similar to original photo and make remark that I didn’t receive permission to use it but you can see it on the “www….”?

Another problem I have to pass on, I am not US citizen and don’t have account US bank, can I be published on the Amazon and be paid?

If you create a drawing, you own it. If you direct readers to an original elsewhere, that’s also acceptable. Makes sense to me.

Amazon (CreateSpace) has a process so non-US residents can get a tax identification number (TIN) so you can get paid, and not have US taxes withheld. I’m told it’s not complicated, though of course I haven’t gone through the process.

When I hear further from Sergiy about his book I’ll let you know. (An account of a disaster, written by a Ukrainian ship’s master? How could we not love this?

4 thoughts on “Self-Publishing 101: Q & A with a Ship’s Master

  1. Joel, excellent advice for any one interested in self publishing. In my opinion Createspace is definitely the best and simplest choice especially for anyone with limited experience. You are absolutely correct that you have to pay the cost of printing the book but as far as the commission that Amazon takes, there are two levels. Createspace creates an eStore for each of your books to make it easy to sell from your own web site or by email. For any books sold using that eStore Amazon only collects a 20% commission. For books sold directly through Amazon they collect a 40% commission. If someone orders a book through a retail bookstore Amazon handles the sale but charges a 60% commission because the bookstore keeps 40%.

    I have worked with Createspace since 2007 and recently completed my thriteenth book with them. Their customer service has always been excellent and I don’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone who asks.



    Yeah, your recommendation carries weight.

    I’d forgotten that we can just use CreateSpace’s link on our websites and give them the 20% in exchange for fulfillment. Not a bad deal. I’ll have to have Best Beloved to the math on whether it’s worth doing our own fulfillment.

  3. Although there are some things that aren’t perfect (like their hardbacks don’t show up on Amazon) they’re the best option for right now for the beginning author.

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