Yeah, right! - Writings by Brian Murdock

Madrid,Spain

August 29, 2011

Any more of that ISBNing, and you can forget it

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 It was, I said.  It was different.

       At least in the sense I couldn’t find the website at all, other than the part where they have lists upon lists of cataloged titles, which interested me zero, because what I wanted was to become a part of those lists, not peruse through them.  Other than that, there was nothing.  I went back to the POD’s. 

        Several online publish-on-demand sites offer to do the paperwork for you, but for a small fee, or even free.  What’s the catch?  Because you know there is one, oh yeah.  They register their company as your official publisher and thus control all the commercial rights and decisions. That includes distribution.  The book would be yours, as would be the copyright and you would get royalties.  You just couldn’t sell it where you wanted.  Essentially, that would be the case if you went through the traditional route of publishing through a publisher.  This may be a bonus for some who would like someone else to do the work for them, but I always fear I am giving away my soul. 

        For example, let’s just say I sell a 100,000 copies (that’s not going to happen but I am having a little fun with this here) and instead of spending the rest of my days as a literary star attending all the big celebrity events around the world, I would end up on one of those History Channel documentaries of “Whatever happened to Brian Murdock?” when the world learns how my agents and publishers swindled me of 99.97% of my earnings because I had my head up my ass when it came to signing my contracts.  I wasn’t going to let that happen. 

         To be fair, these websites have all the options available to you, so you can pick; they just make the more advantageous ones for them sound the most advantageous ones for you as a writer…which is what companies do so well.  I wouldn’t expect any less from them.  But I don’t mind that, as long as I am aware of it.

        Word was also out that in order for me to have my own ISBN, I needed to have my own publishing house, which would require yet another application and, in turn, more paperwork…and more time.  And I was getting sick of shoveling out more time. 

        So I checked outMadrid’s publisher’s guild and started shivering.  Guilds depress me.  They unnerve me.  The website was harmless enough, but I couldn’t help getting the feeling it was a disguise for a society of literary thugs who don’t appreciate unknown authors like me butting in on their business.  I kept thinking that one day they would grab me by the collar and throw me into an alley, crush my fingers with a laser printer and grunt, “That’ll keep you from writing for a while.  He-he.”

          So, for simplicity’s sake, I pretended not to read publisher requirements and went on hoping it wouldn’t matter in the end. 

         Now, the reason I couldn’t find what I needed was that the ISBN agency stopped being a part of the Ministry of Culture in 2010 and has now become its own entity.  Well, according to the agency, the ministry still has the rights to them, but the agency itself is separate.  Or something to that effect.  It really made no sense to me, so I stopped paying attention. 

         Once at the site, I was led through the right channels until you can get an online form which I could and must fill out and send back via email.  I felt I cold field things like putting my name and address without any problem, but when I got to other issues like the book size, price (without IVA) and number of copies, I was at a loss.  I had no idea.  I hadn’t reached that stage.  The publishers asked for the ISBN before working out the specifics, and the agency asked for the specifics before handing out the ISBN.  See what I mean when I mention Kafka? 

         Then I finally got to the fees.  There was a section that indicated the cost.  I knew it!  I told you we weren’t inToronto.  But then came the twist.  No prices were listed.  All it said was that obtaining an ISBN used to be courtesy of the government but that there would now be a charge to cover administrative expenses.  I interpreted it as: our colleagues inAmericaare making a killing, why the hell shouldn’t we do the same?  

          The thing was…no fee was listed.  The costs would be published on the website in some unspecified time in the future.  Hmm.  So, now I had to guess what they were going to take me for.  That was going to be interesting.

         There were too many variables and too many unanswered questions for me to proceed, plus I felt like watching a video (yes, I am from that generation), so I decided I would pay them a personal visit next day…personally. 

        As a precautionary measure, I expected the worse.

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