Ask Catherine: More Answers


If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know that Mousetrapped, my first self-published bookis now out a whopping three years. This is just nuts to me, because visiting and discovering CreateSpace and wondering if I should release e-books as well—that all seems like yesterday to me. Or at least just a few weeks ago.

To celebrate, I’ve released a brand new hardcover edition of Mousetrapped (which you can read about here) and I’m giving you the chance to win either a signed copy of it for yourself, or a paperback of Self-Printed 2.0 instead if you prefer. Just leave a comment on this or any other ‘Mousetrapped Madness’ post before midnight Tuesday April 2nd for your chance to win. You can also download my other travel memoir, Backpacked, for free for your Kindle at the moment.

For this second Mousetrapped Madness Week post, I’m going to answer some more of your burning self-publishing questions in  the second installment of Ask Catherine: The Answers.

Mickeys Very Merry Christmas 003

Every post this week is going to contain one utterly irrelevant picture from my time in Florida and one sorta relevant one from my self-publishing adventures over the last three years. Above: Me, Roy O. Disney and Minnie Mouse getting ready to enjoy Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom, December 2006. (And WHAT the hell kinda color is my hair? Bleached Floridian Blonde 103…?) 

Q: I was wondering about your experience with the second edition of Self-Printed. What problems did you come up against? (@SR_Summers)

A: I didn’t come up against too many problems, thankfully, because I’d already tied myself up in knots replacing the first paperback edition of Mousetrapped with the current one back in 2011, so I knew not to make the same mistakes again. What I tried to do then was to swap the old for the new, which is a nightmare and leads to all sorts of problems. What you should do is unpublish the existing one and publish a new one in its stead.

To be perfectly honest the biggest problem I came up against was people e-mailing me to tell me the first edition paperback was for sale for $999.99 on Amazon…

*Deep breath*




Am I the only one who, seeing a CreateSpace paperback for sale at that price on Amazon, immediately concludes that it’s not for sale at all, and that that price is actually indicative of a book being unavailable, i.e. out of print? Someone actually contacted me, all indignant, giving out to me for “allowing” them to sell it at that price. Um… o-kay. I just didn’t get why people didn’t get that. I still don’t. But that’s what it meant, and it wasn’t Amazon at all but third-party, “Marketplace” sellers, and not only was there nothing anyone could do about it, but there was no need to do anything about it, because it wasn’t a thing.

But anyway. Back to helping, not ranting. There’s a big difference between updating a book, which is easily done by just uploading new interior and e-book files, and releasing a new edition, which is an entirely new publishing project that you start from zero. It’s a brand new book. That means setting up a brand new title on CreateSpace, KDP, etc.


When it comes to this new edition, the first thing you have to do is make it obvious that it’s a new, different book. Make the cover different (add “second edition” or something; I put the little orange corner on Self-Printed, see above) and mention that it’s a new edition right at the top of the blurb/product description. If it contains updated or additional information, say what this information is so people can make an informed decision about whether or not they need to buy it.


  1. A month or two out, unpublish your e-books and close down all sales channels on CreateSpace. Yes, this will mean that for a short period, people are not able to buy your book. No, this will not bring about Armageddon. If they know about your book they know your name, and can Google it to find your website where you will have a box or a post or a link or something explaining that a second edition is on the way, and maybe even a sign-up box for a mail-shot about its release when it’s ready. This is the only way to avoid (i) both old and new being available at the same time and (ii) people buying Edition 1.0 on Friday only to discover that Edition 2.0 is out on Monday. Your e-book listings will just disappear, while on Amazon and elsewhere, your print edition’s listing will NOT disappear but will, eventually, go to “Limited Availability” or “Out of Print”.
  2. Publish your new edition paperback as if you were publishing the book from scratch. Make sure to set it up as an entirely different title, with a new ISBN.
  3. Publish your new edition e-books as if you were publishing them for the first time.
  4. E-mail Amazon to get them to link your new Kindle and new paperback listings.
  5. E-mail Amazon to get them to add a “newer edition available” widget to your “out of print” first paperback listing.
  6. Let your readers know your new edition is out now.

It’s important for there to be a delay between the unpublishing of the old one and the publishing of the new one—at no point should anyone be able to buy the old one when they could’ve bought the new one instead.

You might get messages from readers saying they bought your first edition recently and could they please have a free copy of the new one now? (Some won’t even say please.) Presumably these people also contact their car manufacturer whenever they release a new model, requesting the free replacement of their current vehicle. They clearly have no respect for you, your work or your time, so frankly I wouldn’t even bother responding.

Q: I just read your blog about ISBNs [and] I still have a few questions. No one, including Createspace themselves, has explained to me why you would want a universal ISBN. I understand what it enables you to do, but why would you want to do it? If you go to a new printer for your book, what difference does it make if you have to get a new ISBN? Also, do you need to have a new ISBN every time you sell your book at a different online place, like ibooks and Barnes and Noble Nook? Is there any downside to having your own imprint on a book? It’s only $10 on Createspace, so why wouldn’t everyone just do it? I am new to the world of self-publishing, but by far this is the most confusing thing I have yet to encounter. Createspace has four different options and they themselves can not explain the pros and cons of the different choices! Crazy. (Julian)

A: That’s, like, seven questions or something, but okay.

Before we get into this, can I just say that this is a prime example of what happens when self-publishers—or would be self-publishers—overthink things. I can practically hear the pathways in your brains tying themselves up in knots as you try to find your way through this process, Julian, but the thing is, you’ve already gone way past the turn-off. ISBNs should take up maybe five minutes of your time, and no more. Here’s ISBNs in a nutshell: you have to have one to sell your print book on Amazon, so just pick an option. Ta-daaa! That’s it. We’re done with ISBNs.

But I get that it’s confusing to you, even if I don’t agree that CreateSpace do a bad job of explaining it. I actually think they make it quite clear.

Here’s the deal with ISBNs:

  • Your paperback has to have one unless you plan on selling it exclusively from a lemonade stand at the bottom of your driveway
  • Each edition of your book must have its own ISBN. If you have a paperback edition and a hardcover edition, that’s two ISBNs. If you bring out a newer, updated paperback with a different cover, that’s another ISBN, or three in total. But if your hardcover is for sale on Amazon and for sale on B&N, that’s the same edition of the book, so that’s just one ISBN.
  • We in the self-publishing and publishing communities might notice who has published a book, but I’d bet 90%+ of the reading population couldn’t name three publishing houses if they tried. No one cares if ‘CreateSpace’ appears on your listing. To be honest, I’d rather see CreateSpace on there than what is obviously a made-up name for a fictitious publishing house named after your cat, whose sole output so far is your book.
  • CreateSpace, Lulu and some Smashwords channels require ISBNs, and they’ll all give you them for free. You don’t need an ISBN for a Kindle edition. Basically, you don’t need to buy an ISBN anywhere. There’s also a free one on offer.

These are your ISBN options, on CreateSpace at least (which is the POD service I recommend, and use myself):

  1. Take the free ISBN. The publisher of your book will be CreateSpace (<—I recommend this)
  2. Pay $10 to make whoever the hell you like, e.g. The Catherine Press, the publisher of record of your book, but still publish with CreateSpace
  3. Pay $99 to buy an ISBN from CreateSpace that you can use with CreateSpace OR anyone else you like (e.g. Lulu)
  4. Provide your own ISBN, which you’ll only be able to do by buying one from Bowker, for use with whoever you like.

Only U.S. residents can do #2 and #3, which is why everyone doesn’t do it.

Other people don’t do it because there’s a free ISBN on offer and nobody cares anyway. That includes me.

Number #3 and #4 are basically the same. What’s different is that with #4, you’re going directly to Bowker (the ISBN people) for your ISBN. In #3—I’m guessing—CreateSpace go to Bowker, get your ISBN for you, mark it up a notch and sell it onto you at a profit. I’m assuming there’s profit in it for them because (i) why else would they do that and (ii) does one ISBN really cost $99? The thing is I think you have to buy a block of ten from Bowker at a time, so #3 gives you the option of buying your own ISBN, but buying just one ISBN at a time. That’s why someone would buy a universal ISBN from CreateSpace: because they want to buy their own ISBN that has no restrictions on use, but they want to buy just one.

This can all be avoided by taking the free ISBN.


Q: Say if you had a good few images in your book. Which website would you benefit from, cost being a major player? (Lynsey)

You didn’t specify if you meant print or e-book, so I’ll do both.

For e-book, you can easily insert images into the MS Word document you plan to upload to KDP or Smashwords to get automatically converted. Simply Insert -> Picture File as you normally would, and set the layout to “in line with text”. I’d leave a return (a blank line) above and below as well. There’s two things to keep in mind though: the maximum file size you can upload to KDP and Smashwords (50MB and 5MB respectively), and what those images are going to look like on an e-reading device—and not just on a full-color, super swanky iPad, but on a basic model, black and white Kindle as well.

You might consider doing different versions for different devices. You could use iBooks Author for the fully-illustrated experience, and upload a pared-down, simpler version to KDP and Smashwords. I find that images are a hell of a lot more important to writers than they are to readers—unless it’s a cookbook or instructional,really ask yourself: does it need these pictures? The eventual reader will have never seen the fully-illustrated version, so it’s not like they’ll have a frame of reference or know what they’re “missing”. Also, by putting the pictures online and inviting those who are interested to visit your blog or Facebook page to see them, you’re potentially expanding your online presence as well. Alternatively, get a company like EbookPartnership to create your e-book for you, and let them worry about the images. They can distribute the e-book for you too.


A highlight from my self-publishing misdventures: The queue for signed copies of Mousetrapped at Mousemeets, a UK Disney fan convention, in Birmingham in 2011. Photo credit: Laura Pearson-Smith. 

For print books, I personally haven’t seen any evidence that the POD model—POD being uploading your files to a web-based service, paying for nothing other than a proof copy, and then that book being available on Amazon, etc. getting printed one order/copy at a time—is ready for full color interiors. It’s just not cost effective. I recently put together a book of my blog posts, just for myself, and Lulu wanted to charge me $77 for the book in 6×9 trim, hardcover with 300 full color interior pages. Seventy-seven dollars. And that’s just the cost to me. Blurb is a better option and they make the best-looking “coffee table” books around but for me, the unit cost is still too high (and Blurb don’t offer an Amazon connection; your readers would have to order direct from or you’d have to buy stock and sell them on). I think you’d be better off contacting a printers in your locality and seeing what they can do for you, but then you’ll still have to figure out a way to sell your books online.

Q: I’m publishing a children’s book and am] just wondering whether I should sell it on my website with my own ISBN number or if I should just go with Amazon and all the places and link people to those sites? (Jessica Hardiman)

A: Always sell on Amazon and other online retailers over selling through your website. On Amazon, a sale can lead to another sale, because a sale helps your sales rank, which helps your visibility and discoverability. In plain English, if you buy a copy of my book, Amazon is more likely to recommend my book to someone else visiting their site. It’s like that “if a tree falls in the woods and nobody’s around, does it still make a sound?” thing. Selling a book on your website only leads to a deafeningly silence, unless you have an established online platform with hundreds of thousands of followers.

Picture 3

Q: Is your blog still free, apart from the domain name, or have you ‘upgraded’ to (Cassandra Charles)

A: Yes, my blog is still free, apart from the domain name which I think costs $18 a year or something like that. I don’t think you should spend money in this game unless you absolutely have to, and I have no good reason to pay for self-hosting a website or blog. I love and can’t see myself not loving it anytime soon.

I am considering paying the extra $30 to upgrade to “no ads” though. Because I’m only ever looking at my blog while logged in as a WP user, I rarely see them, but when I do they make the color-co-ordinator in me itch. It also doesn’t look as professional as it could when some flashing blue horror advertising a cowboy self-publishing outfit pops up underneath a post I’ve written saying don’t use those services. But even then my yearly payments to WordPress will be less than $50, and considering it’s the hub of my entire writing, self-publishing and social media career, that’s not a bad deal.

Q: Is that really necessary to apply for a EIN? (@nahemacherry)

A: Nope. EINs are only for people who’d like to receive all of the money they’ve earned.

You can read the first batch of questions and answers here. If you have a burning self-publishing question, go here.

Picture 4

For your chance to a personally inscribed copy of Mousetrapped in hardcover OR Self-Printed in paperback, simply leave a comment below and/or on any post I publish between now and Tuesday. Only one entry counts per post but you can enter multiple times by commenting on more than one post this week. I’ll post the prize anywhere mail can go. The winner will be announced here and informed by e-mail. Good luck!

16 thoughts on “Ask Catherine: More Answers

  1. Linda Acaster says:

    Amazon has a “newer edition available” widget?! [Slaps head] Off to write an email.

    Thanks for another informative, and interesting, post. I wish you well with your hardback.

  2. Shah Wharton says:

    I just love how you answer these questions with a morsel of tongue in cheek, sprinkled with an ever so cute dose of sarcasm. 🙂 It really does make the reading of them more pleasurable. Plus, I’m learning a little something too.

    I spent the last year using a paid-for blog – bought a posh theme (expensive waste of dosh in my humble opinion!) and everything. Has it made any difference to ratings? Nope. Have all the SEO plugin’s done anything at all for my web presence? Nope. Was it worth the hassle? Two guesses.

    The first year promo offer was only $30 for my server provider – so it was worth a shot. A shame though that next year will be $160 and is due in a few weeks. Quite a difference. And the fabulous – ‘You cannot blog without it’ theme/child theme I purchased is letting me down on the main area I invested in – customer service. So I may have to reconsider this Free vs Owned website debate. I tend to think you’re simple argument was spot-on.

    Shah. X

  3. beautifulorange says:

    I only found your blog recently – but love it. And your story’s a really inspiring one – so great to see someone succeeding and being happy doing something we’re all passionate about. Keep it up!

  4. Kristen Valentine says:

    Thanks for more excellent advice! I only discovered your blog recently (while scouring the internet for information on how to format an ebook using Word) and I really wish I had been reading since the beginning. Luckily, the internet is forever. Thanks again!

  5. startingthedialogue says:

    Catherine, you are right up my alley. I love your quick wit, information filled responses and the fact that sometimes you let it all hang out when someone asks a question with an obvious answer. You tell it like it is and give us the straight shot. Thank you.

    PS. I liked your response about I’ve often wondered why someone would shell out extra money (that could be spent on books instead) to upgrade when does great work for me.

  6. marilynslagel says:

    Catherine, I save all your posts – great info. This one will really help me with my second book. I’m embarrassed to admit I went with a vanity publisher for book #1. Never again!

  7. emchandles says:

    Mousetrapped is a very special book to me – kept me company all the way through an Inter-rail trip last summer and caused an outrageous amount of laughing between stops. So, yeah. Thanks for writing it and happy third year anniversary 🙂

  8. sharonrosesummers says:

    Hi Catherine!

    Thanks so much for your very thoughtful response to my question about experience publishing a new edition. Sage advice, as always.


  9. Carolyn Brooke-Millward says:

    Interesting post, thanks for the advice and responses to the questions. Lots to think about there.

    Plus – I am in the signing queue photo at Mousemeets!! (In the pale pink t-shirt, turned away from the camera, talking to my husband and my sister and wearing lovely earrings, apparently!)

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