The Alliance of Independent Authors is a global non-profit organisation for authors with a mission of ethics and excellence in self-publishing. We do so many things for authors that it's hard to capture it in a sentence or paragraph. Which is why today, we're doing a run down of our most frequently asked questions (faqs) from non-members.
Alliance of Independent Authors: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)?
The Alliance of Independent Authors is a non-profit professional association for authors who self-publish (“indie” authors). Our mission is ethics and excellence in self-publishing.
ALLi has a global team who, together with ambassadors and advisors worldwide, provide trusted, best-practice information and advice to the author community and provide our members with an extensive suite of benefits. We also advocate for indie authors within the publishing and literary industries and run a number of campaigns to improve conditions for self-publishers.
What Does ALLi do?
Our work is fourfold:
- ALLi advises, providing best-practice information and education through our online Self-Publishing Advice Center, SelfPublishingAdvice.org, offering a daily blog, weekly live video and podcast, a bookstore of self-publishing guidebooks, and a quarterly member magazine.
- ALLi monitors the self-publishing sector through a watchdog desk, alerting authors to bad actors and predatory players and running an approved partner program.
- ALLi campaigns for the advancement of indie authors in the publishing and literary sectors globally (bookstores, libraries, literary events, prizes, grants, awards, and other author organizations), encouraging the provision of publishing and business skills for authors, speaking out against iniquities, and furthering the indie author cause wherever possible.
- ALLi empowers independent authors through a wide variety of member tools and resources including author forums, contract advice, sample agreements, networking, literary agency representation, and a member care desk.
How do you pronounce ALLi?
It's “al-eye”, not “al-eee”. We are the self-publisher's ally.
Also, the small i represents the individual self-publishing author allied to the big ALL… our wonderful community are so helpful and responsive to each other. ALL for 1… and 1 for ALL. ALLi.
I heard there was an Ingram Spark discount?
ALLi members receive access to a range of discounts from a range of partner members, including Ingram Spark. Discounts are always subject to change and the percentages and terms and conditions set around those discounts are always determined by the service providers themselves.
In the member portal, we have a ‘discounts and deals' dashboard where you can get access to discounts for every process of publishing: editing, formatting, cover design, audio and more. That's why it doesn't cost money to join ALLi, if you're actively publishing you'll recoup your joining fee in no time.
What do I get for joining?
- Advisory team – all questions answered
- Advice guides
- Private member’s forum
- Discounts for publishing services
- Affiliate earnings program
- Approved services directory
- Daily blog
- Weekly podcast
- Member profile
- Annual online conference, SelfPubCon
- Book listing for members
- Contract vetting
- General legal advice
- Blogging opportunities
- Speaker opportunities
- Interview opportunities
- Website badge
- Dedicated literary agent
- Business, tax, legal, and contract advice and resources
How do I join ALLi?
You can find out more information about joining, the benefits as well as the joining process right here.
Can ALLi introduce me to literary agents?
Literary agents only tend to be interested in an independent author once that author has established a following. Many of our members have their own agents and ALLi works with NYC based agency, Ethan Ellenberg & Associates, to advise our members on rights contracts.
Marketing, Business and Self-Publishing Questions
How should I go about marketing my book?
For help with the marketing and promotion of your book, this website: Self-Publishing Advice, specifically our marketing page has a huge amount of help and support. The blog feed brings regular self-publishing updates, interviews, advice and education, drawing on the expertise of the ALLi team and our extensive network of advisors. But you can also search the blog by category of information too.
This is the link to the blog homepage. It contains thousands of articles and there's a number of in-depth Ultimate Guide to… posts that we recommend starting with.
Our ALLi guidebooks – Creative Self-Publishing, 150 Self-Publishing Questions Answered and Choosing The Best Self-Publishing Services – would also provide some helpful information. You can purchase it through our Self-Publishing Advice shop here. If you're a member, please log in to the member site to download your free digital copies.
Alternatively, you can also join our alliance which gives you access to advice and help from our advisors – including a live monthly Q&A with Orna Ross and special guest where you can submit your question to get answered, as well as our private Facebook group where you have access to all our author members who are very happy to impart their knowledge also.
How many self-publishers are there around the world?
Nobody actually knows the answer to this question. Amazon and the other self-publishing platforms do not share this data. Plus, there are lots of self-publishers who trade on their own websites, or are speakers who sell their books only at events, etc.
We know that we have topped 1 million self-published books in English, but the likelihood is that there is a great deal more out there than we are aware of.
Alliance of Independent Authors FAQ: General Self-Publishing Questions
I have a general question about self-publishing…
Self-publishing is a fast-changing industry and so our #AskALLi podcasts cover every aspect, from beginners to advanced. Successful self-publishers trust ALLi to bring only the most up-to-date best practice and actionable ideas, tools and techniques.
If you'd like to access our podcasts, you can do that here.
As mentioned above, our ALLi guidebooks also provide lots of helpful information.
Do you have a service provider recommendation?
The best thing we can suggest as non-members, is to take a look through our Partner Directory. This is a showcase of ALLi Partner Members’ vetted author services that comply with ALLi standards of ethics and excellence. As a member, you get access to the entire database of vetted service providers, as well as access to an array of discounts and deals for those services.
Alternatively, our ALLi guidebook: Choosing The Best Self-Publishing Services – provides helpful information. You can purchase it through our bookstore, or download for free if you're a member.
Other specific ALLi guidebooks which may offer some good insights include: Creative Self-Publishing and 150 Self-Publishing Questions Answered.
This website also hosts our Best and Worst Self-Publishing Services reviewed and rated by our Watchdog Team which can provide helpful insights to companies you may have come across in your own research.
Alternatively, you can also join our alliance which gives you access to advice and help from ALLi members and advisors including a live monthly Q&A with Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black where you can submit your question to get answered, as well as our private Facebook group where you have access to all our author members who are very happy to impart their knowledge also.
What is the difference between retail and distributor?
Retail indicates that the company sells directly to the public. Distributors make books available to other entities (retailers, libraries, etc.)
- Draft2Digital is a distributor because they provide ebooks to retailers, but do not sell to the public themselves.
- Google Play is a retailer because they sell to the public, but do not distribute to other sellers.
- Amazon is both a distributor and a retailer; they distribute to various sellers via KDP, and they sell directly to the public as well.
In print publishing there are also wholesalers. A wholesaler buys books from publisher to supply retailers, libraries, or whoever else may want your book. They act for those companies or institutions. A distributor does very similar tasks but works for the publisher.
Do I need to establish a publishing company as an author?
As a self-published author, you have by definition assumed the responsibilities and the role of the publisher. Whether you do absolutely every task yourself involved in your books' production, or whether you delegate specific tasks that fall outside your skill set, the buck stops with you. Meaning you are the publisher. But that doesn't mean you need a publishing company.
You can set up an imprint, or a company. or just use your own name. Any of these will suffice. Here is our blog post about it.
Alliance of Independent Authors: Copyright, ISBN and rights questions
Should I purchase copyright?
Most companies are not official copyright registrars (there is no government-sanctioned registrar in the UK), and so their testimony might not be accepted by courts or by Amazon should a copyright dispute arise. It's a gamble, and the annual fee is an unwelcome and unnecessary ongoing expense.
The Watchdog Desk's advice is to copyright works through the US Copyright Office (https://www.copyright.gov/registration/), which gives authoritative proof of ownership that is honored by most countries, is available to anyone publishing in the US, and is easily completed online for $45 USD.
How do you register copyright?
Copyright registration in the US is available to any country that's a party to the Berne Convention or other copyright treaty (and that includes most nations in the world).
If you are publishing in any of those countries, you're eligible for US copyright registration. Ineligible countries are Iraq, Iran, and Eritrea. A few others have uncertain or disputed status, but otherwise, nearly all countries are eligible. You can find the list of participating nations here. And you can find general background here.
Should I purchase ISBNs?
ALLi recommends that all authors own their own ISBNs to set themselves up as the publisher of record for their book.
Depending on where you live, there is a charge for an ISBN or not. In France and Canada, for example, they are issued by the government and are free. In the US they are sold by Bowker, in the UK by Neilsen. i.e. This is not an Ingram charge, this ISBN is used to alert the book trade to the format of the book, so a bookseller or librarian, for example, knows whether they are ordering a print book or an ebook.
We have an in-depth article all about ISBNs here.
How do I assert copyright?
In terms of asserting copyright, you can simply put your pen name on the cover and your copyright notice e.g. © 2021 [your pen name] . Some authors put the copyright notice in both their pen name and real name, but this is not necessary.
If you register the copyright of your work (no need to, but US authors tend to like to) you can register under your pseudonym, your real name, or both. Downsides to registering the copyright under a pseudonym are that it may prove difficult to prove ownership of the work later and in some countries, including the US, the life of copyright can be shorter, in that instance.
Should I include the price on my barcode?
We do not recommend including the price if you're using a print on demand service to sell your books through online retailers. Why? Because it will sell all over the world—so having a currency price on it marks it out as being from somewhere else to everyone outside your home territory. In addition, if suppliers change their paper prices, the price will need updating.
What do I do about Copyright / Permissions with regards to quotes and excerpts?
Excerpts from other people's work fall into one of the greyest areas of copyright. There is no clear legal rule stipulating what quantity is okay to use for information.
Major legal battles have been fought over this question. You need to be aware that there is no black and white rule. And that ALLi is not a legal company and we don't provide legal advice on this matter. Opinions and guidelines on this issue vary widely.
In copyright law such quotations are covered by reference to “fair use” – provided the quotations used are small and properly attributed, so a reader can follow up and find out more, there is no need to seek permission for every quote.
However there is onus to ensure that the quotation is properly attributed (lots of quotations found online are attributed to the wrong person, for example) and it is more and more expected with e-books that there will be a direct link to the original work.
You do not need to seek permission for any work that’s in the public domain.
What legal issues should I be aware of if I use a pen name?
Laws requiring people doing business under another name to register don't apply to writers using pen names. You don't need a Doing Business As (DBA) to use a pen name and there’s no legal process to follow —you just pick a name and use it. Though if you want to use a DBA you can.
The author's right to legally use a pen name or pseudonym to publish their intellectual property is well established in law in most jurisdictions. e.g. When you register your work for copyright in the US, you can choose to be identified by your legal name with the U.S. Copyright Office, or you can omit your legal name and just have your pseudonym listed.
This doesn't mean that you sign contracts using that pseudonym, or register a trademark, take a loan etc in that name. IN those cases, you WOULD need a DBA. You can't legally misrepresent who you are.
Maintaining complete secrecy in the Internet age is difficult. The higher the level of secrecy, the more complicated the process. Using a pen name is enough to protect identity in 99 / 100 cases but if somebody is determined to find out, they can.
Robert Galbraith was unmasked as J.K. Rowling by her lawyer and the “unmasking” of Elena Ferrante made headlines all over the world. When there’s a mystery, intrepid reporters and amateur online sleuths will find it out!
What do I do if I want to use a real place or person in my writing?
The essential rule here is always the same—as authors, we must do everything to protect and respect the reputations of others, while telling our truth.
We have a good article about other issues around libel and defamation here.
Can I use a trade name in my work?
In general the use of trade names is to be avoided, it makes everything simpler.
Depending on the stage you’re at with your book, you may want to make changes to avoid those names. If you’re at the publishing stage now, with a fully edited book ready to go, we can understand why you maybe wouldn’t want to make this change and feel it is unlikely that anyone will pick up on this. And even if they did that any legal case would ensue.
However, we are not lawyers and this is not legal advice. Ultimately only you can decide the risk / benefit here.