Tightening Up the Business Structure of Your Writing

I have had this post sitting in my drafts since October 2019. I didn’t want to publish it until I had tightened up my own business structure and then Corona hit and I thought, “maybe this isn’t appropriate right now” and I put it off. I have a habit of meditating on what I have to do throughout the day before I get up from the bed. This morning I thought, “wait a minute, this could actually be the perfect time to present this information.”

Even though there aren’t a lot of people working and the world is sick, this could be the perfect time for us to plan, organize, and restructure some things. Just the other day we cleaned out a closet that had served as the junk closet since we moved in and Husband organized the garage. These days, we are paying attention to things we have neglected to give much attention to, why not include our writing business too? Whether you will use this information now or later, this is a good time to at least give it some thought.

In the Beginning

For Self-Publishing a book, things are relatively easy in the beginning. You create a KDP account, connect your bank account (so you can get paid your royalties) and you are set. You can also create a PayPal account to collect funds from books bought through your website or blog and get a card reader to accept payments on the go (like at book signings or heck, you can sell books out the trunk of your car if you want). It also helps to have a Cash App account. Other apps like Zelle are also good, but I’ve found most readers have CashApp. These are the basics every Indie Author should have in place.

In the beginning…

Next Level

Everything I said is good in the beginning, but what if you’ve been doing this for some time? How do you level up from this structure? How do you go from author to authorpreneur?

Author + Entrepreneurial Practices = Authorpreneur

An authorpreneur is an author with entrepreneurial practices. 

Publishing a book automatically puts you in business, yes, but there are other things you can do to make sure you are running it like one. It’s not 2008 and Self-Publishing is not what it used to be. The standards are higher.

Anyone can publish a book today (even if they aren’t good writers), by uploading a Word Document or PDF to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. In the past, this has brought down the quality of the prestigious process of book publishing and specifically, Indie Book Publishing. Today, though, the stigma attached to Self-Publishing is fading and authors who publish top-quality material are being separated from those who do not.

With the current Pandemic ravaging the world, the realization of the value of Indie Publishing, social media, and doing business online is apparent now more than ever. A lot of brick and mortar bookstores are closed and some will not reopen.

The basic system I started this post out as is good in the beginning but the Indie Author who goes beyond the bare minimum will set themselves apart from the pack.

Create a business name/structure that is legal and connected to a business bank account.

When your business grows, you’ll discover how important it is to have a legal business structure. It has done wonders for me and is very helpful in keeping up with how much is coming in and going out which helps me to have a realistic picture of my ROI or return on investment.  You work hard to write these books, to publish them and spend good money to get them out into the world. Don’t let all this hard work go to waste.

You can get away with using a Pseudonym or creative business name at first but if you are serious about using that name, for certain projects you will need it to be legit. What happens if someone sends you a check in your fake business name and you have not made it legal? Without a business bank account in that name, you will not be able to cash it.

    • Decide if you want to be a Sole Proprietorship,* LLC, Corporation, Non-Profit (if you publish books for charity) or any other structure that suits you.

*A Sole Proprietorship is not recommended but it’s better than nothing.

  • Set up a business bank account – You can set up your bank account once you have your business structure in place and monitor just how much is coming in from your book sales and other author endeavors separate from other forms of income. You will get a business debit/bank card and checks to use for your business. You can even establish a line of credit.
  • Creating a business structure can motivate you because you get to see your writing as a real business and not just a fancy play-name. You can get logos made if you want and do transactions under this name which comes in handy when completing W-9 forms and other paperwork that may be required for you to get paid.

Stay Legally Compliant

With a business structure, you will need to keep your business compliant with state and federal business laws. The requirements will vary based on your business structure. (For instance, the requirements are more strict for corporations than LLC’s). An example is that you may have to file once a year with a filing fee of maybe $30 to stay in compliance. The process is not tedious and you may even be able to do it online. For details on staying compliant you can visit the small business administration website here.

If you don’t stay compliant your business will fall into an inactive status.

Publish Your Books Under Your Own Imprint

Once you have your legal business structure, and business bank account in place, it is time to publish your books like you own your business.

  • Buy Your ISBNs – The ISBN is a unique identifier for a book, issued by an ISBN registration agency. In the U.S., this agency is Bowker.* In some other countries, the ISBN is free but in the US they are not. They are expensive so it’s best to buy them in bulk if you can. You can buy a block of ten which would cover ten separate paperback or hardcopy books. KDP, Lulu, and other POD (Print on Demand) companies do provide ISBNs for free if you absolutely cannot afford to buy one.

But…

Free assigned ISBNs belong to the company that issues it, such as KDP or Lulu. This means they (KDP/Lulu/Other said company) are the publishers and owners of that book and they will be listed as such. 

Once you have your own company, you will want to have your books listed under your company name. If you are the publisher you should be listed as the publisher. If ownership is important to you, buying your own ISBNs is something you might want to look into.

With your company name legalized and books under your ISBN, this sets you apart as a serious business person and makes it easier for high-profile people to do business with you.

There are tons of fake ISBN companies out there. If you are in the US, be sure you purchase your ISBN from Bowker.

It’s easy to go the free route but free is limiting and it does not always set you apart. By creating an actual business complete with the necessary paperwork, it is easier for you to stay organized, to file taxes, and to rise above the crowd and stand out as a professional author.

Extra Tips

  • Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created. Don’t let scam publishing companies fool you by saying “Keep 100% of Your Copyright.” This means they are promising you something you already have. For publishing rights (different from copyright) all you have to do is buy your own ISBN.
  • When tightening up your writing business, be sure you have both a paperback and a digital version of your book available.

I talk a lot about paperback books because I’ve always sold more hardcopies than digital (I’ve always been different, guess that translated to my business too lol) and I just love them but that doesn’t negate the importance of having digital versions of your book available too. We are living in a digital age and with everything being online, authors without digital books will be left out. Brick and Mortar bookstores without an online presence are struggling right now.

  • For those of you who sell paperbacks, consider lowering your print book price if you are not seeing sales. I love buying paperbacks from Indies but a lot of them are also very expensive. I am not saying you can’t raise your price. As an Independent Author, you can do what you want. I am saying to consider raising the price only after you see consistent sales. Who is buying a $30, 100-page paperback from an unknown first-time Self-Published Author? Do what works for you, but make sure you are being realistic.
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

When this post was first drafted, it was after I had watched a video of Tyler Perry advising entrepreneurs. I am not a big Perry fan but when people are advising about business, I listen. Perry talked about entrepreneurs learning when to let go. Here, he meant letting go of business practices that no longer serve you once your business grows. He talked about not being so used to how it has always been done that we are not open to change. For example, Perry’s sister used to keep receipts in a folder but as Tyler’s business grew that kind of accounting system no longer worked for taxes. Not when you have over 400 employees.

As professional Indie Authors, we must have the same mindset.


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My Biggest Lesson of 2018

This is the time of the year where we step back and analyze where we are and where we want to be. The time where we consider if the goals, we set at the beginning of the year have been realized and if there are any changes or improvements that need to be made. This is also the time of the year when I share with you the lessons I’ve learned from the year. Usually, I do this closer to the end of the month but my family is moving so things are busy around these parts. Last year, I had an entire list of lessons learned. This year, I only have one.

December is when I do a lot of reflection. An entire year has passed. What changed? What remained? What needs to be added onto or removed? 2018 has been filled with amazing growth for me personally as well as professionally. At the end of 2017, I was celebrating my move to Georgia and one of my books in a brick and mortar bookstore. At the end of 2018, four of my twelve books are in three bookstores and I’ve just purchased my first home. I attribute this to learning one valuable lesson. A lesson that I do not think we ever stop learning but that gets easier the more we love ourselves, a lesson that I’ve learned and that I will keep learning, a lesson that has changed my mentality and thus also, the way I do things. To further illustrate this point, let me first tell you about an experiment.

The Asch Conformity Experiment

Named after Solomon Asch, the Asch Conformity Study was meant to study conformity in people (how we behave according to other people’s desires and standards) and was conducted in the 1950s. The participants were shown three lines on a piece of paper and a fourth line. The participants had to simply match one of the three lines with the fourth line. Most of the people were accomplices in on the study with only one or two real participants. According to the study, 76% of participants picked the wrong line after the majority of the room picked the wrong line. The study was groundbreaking in studying conformity in groups and has been repeated many times throughout the years. (You can find examples of the study on YouTube.)

As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to fall into conformity by doing what everyone else is doing in an effort to achieve success. The problem is, entrepreneurship is about authenticity and there is nothing authentic about conformity. Everyone wants to be an influencer. The only question is, what are you influencing people to do? Who are you influencing people to be?

We talk about embracing being unique and different but at the same time, we secretly want a seat at the table. At the same time, we don’t really want to be different. We want to be like everyone else because not being like everyone else comes at a cost that we are not courageous enough to pay. It is the cost of standing out instead of standing in. It is the cost of rejection and being misunderstood. It is a beautiful sacrifice that many of us, despite what we say, are not willing to make.

But you can’t want to be like the world and be different from the world at the same time. Either stand for something or fall for anything.

In the midst of the Kevin Hart situation, I think it’s important for us to all remember how important it is to be ourselves and to stand on our own integrity. And if we must influence, I hope it is to influence others to be undeniably and unapologetically themselves.

I. The biggest lesson I learned 2018 is to be fully myself even when who I am is not accepted by others. There are people who will think I’m foolish about certain decisions but it is my decision to make and my lesson to learn. I’ve learned to trust Yah more and to trust his will for my life. To make decisions without explaining myself or feeling the need to defend my position.

…and I hope the same for you.

Tall Tales Book Shop. 11.30.18. Copyright©2018. Yecheilyah Ysrayl.

What I enjoy most about being an Independent artist is the freedom to produce work that speaks to who I am, to not have to pull back, slow down, or sugarcoat my beliefs because of someone else standard. The right and the freedom to live freely in every sense of the word. To be true to myself, to my authenticity and do not have to apologize for it. I don’t have to tap dance around the truth for a check, I don’t have to scratch my hair unless it itches, and I don’t have to laugh unless something is actually funny. I’ve never been part of the “cool kids table” and I am not about to start now. This is freedom.

I hope you walk into 2019 not afraid to shine or to fail, understanding that both experiences shape you. It can be liberating to choose yourself, armed with the power to move forward without guilt, without arrogance, and without pride but with a deep love for yourself that is so strong that you can quickly realize when anyone or anything devalues you, even if that someone is your own self. The biggest challenge is not the war we fight with others but the war we fight with ourselves. To quote the African proverb, “when there is no enemy within, the enemy outside cannot hurt you.” Kill the enemy within. Slay your demons, silence the doubt, and walk free.

 

 

 

9 Authorpreneur Habits You Can Start Today

Usually, I present author tips for new authors but this is not really a new author tip. This is more so for those authors who’ve been publishing for a while and want to level-up their writing career. Also, these are not rules, must-haves, should-haves, writer commandments, should-dos….you get the point. I call these tips because they are nuggets and tidbits I’ve picked up along the way that may help you. In the end, everyone must find their own way. I just hope I can help in that journey by sharing what I’ve learned. Will this be helpful to you? Maybe not. But also, maybe it will.

What is an Authorpreneur?

Authorpreneur means merging the concept of being an author and an entrepreneur. Typically, an author’s book stops selling after their family and friends have bought it and then it swims in the Amazon sea of unread books. Most authors starting out will probably not sell more than 100 books. This is a real bummer considering the amount of time, emotional investment and money this author may have put into the book. Going from Author to Authorpreneur is not just about writing books and publishing them on Amazon. For most Indie Authors, Amazon royalties will not be enough which is why I think it’s so important to develop more entrepreneurial habits. Indie Authors must start to think about ways of earning money that will produce long-term sustainable income.

“Indie Fiction writers don’t fail at writing. Indie Fiction writers fail at starting a business. – Anne R. Allen

We are living in an age where you do not need to go to college to start a business and you do not need to be signed by a publisher to be a successful author. That’s why authors who are entrepreneurial and run their book publishing like a business are the authors that tend to be successful. Here are nine Authorpreneur habits you can start today:

Promote Your Books Offline Too

Something I have ventured into myself, get into the habit of promoting your books offline, not just online. There is an entire community of people who are offline. By neglecting them you are leaving money on the table. We can do radio shows, events, bookstores, book readings and a ton of other face-to-face activities that will help us to expand our brand. Social media is vital to an Indie Author’s career and very necessary. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should neglect other ways of networking and making money. Get out of your comfort zone and go talk to people face-to-face. As an introvert that is what I have had to do. I have had to get comfortable being uncomfortable. You will be nervous but by surrounding yourself with people who are a level up from where you are, you will see signs of your own growth.

Offer a product or service related to your book

I had a hard time coming to terms with this myself but I learned that you can’t be afraid to charge for your services. Yes, times are hard but that’s why your service is not for everyone. The people who need you and can afford you will invest in you but first, you must have something of value to offer. This product or service can be connected to your book in some way, but it must exist. You can become a motivational speaker or offer a service for something you do well. The book is the start, but it is just the beginning.  What do people need that you can provide? You may think charging for your services will mean that people won’t want to support you.

I’m not gonna lie to you. Some people won’t support you. There will be those who don’t think it’s worth it or that you’re valuable. There are also those who don’t trust you. They trust your free services but they may not value you enough to pay for it. That’s okay because charging means that you are reaching a certain group of people. These are people who see your worth, the value in your product/service and who can afford you. Also, those who do want to support you will when they can but they won’t complain about you. They may not have the money but they do understand your growth. Bottom line: You can’t talk butterfly language with caterpillar minded people. The truth is that free does not always mean valuable. Charging for a service increases the value of the product or service and produces a spirit of commitment from the client to follow through.

Dont spend a whole lot of time measuring your growth by numbers that are not representative of actual Sales

Checking your Amazon stats will drive you crazy, especially when Amazon’s algorithms is funny acting. Your Amazon ranking does not necessarily mean that you have made sales so dont hype yourself up too much or get down on yourself. I sold more pre-orders for Even Salt Looks Like Sugar than I did with I am Soul but you can’t tell by the ranking. I made it to number seven on Amazon’s ranking with I am Soul. Meanwhile, Even Salt Looks Like Sugar didn’t rank well at all. Shouldn’t it have if I sold more? My point is, your Amazon ranking or number of reviews does not always mean book sales so get out of the habit of measuring your success by what other people are doing. I’ve seen plenty of authors with less than 20 reviews do great things and make good money. The level-up is about results and real progress, not perceived progress. Look at your efforts and check to see if those efforts are producing actual sales, which nobody will see but you, instead of rankings that everyone sees but may not be representative of the truth. A good example of this is Alice Walker’s new book “Taking the Arrow out of the Heart.” At this writing it only has 3 reviews, but it is also a best seller.

Write a Book Business Plan

Serious business people have business plans to help them to map out the goals for their business. Creating a Book Business Plan for every book you release is a fun and helpful way to create a roadmap to help guide you through the process and to identify your goals for each book. The good thing? You can create this plan at any stage of the process. I am creating one right now for my new short story. It’s never too late to begin.

A business plan is a written document on the plans, goal, and overall creative vision of the business. It is what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. A Book Business Plan helps you evaluate the possibility of a new book idea in an objective, critical, and unemotional way. It provides an operating plan to assist you in planning your book release realistically and improves your probability for success. But you don’t have to create a boring and complicated business plan. You can take elements of the business plan and apply it to the pre-launch, launch, and post-launch strategy of each book that you write. Your business plan really just needs 7 Basic Elements:

1. Name your book
2. Write a Log-Line for your book
3. Write your book summary
4. Book Marketing Budget
5. Book Marketing Strategy
6. Publishing Timeline
7. Executive Summary (In a business plan, the executive summary is first but it helps to write it last for your book plan.)

Put Together an Author Media Kit

About 95% of Indie Authors don’t have a media kit which means that you can quickly rise above and stand out from the rest with yours. An Author Media Kit is a major marketing package that helps influencers to learn more about you and your work quickly. It ensures accuracy in news stories, helps people to promote you and your book and is free publicity (beats paid Ads).

7 Key Audiences Who Will Access Your Media Kit

  1. Journalist – Broadcasters, Talk Show Hosts,
  2. Bloggers – Easy access to photos bloggers can use, social media handles
  3. Reviewers— Amazon reviews in your kit
  4. Retailers
  5. Individual Buyers
  6. Event Planners
  7. Anyone Who Wants to Promote you or Your Book

One Key Goal of the Media Kit: Make these people’s job easier. By making their job easy, they are going to promote you and your book.

Purchase Your ISBNs

Get into the habit of purchasing your own ISBNs.

I know there’s a big debate in the Indie Author community concerning whether to purchase an ISBN number. I am not going to get into all of that. You can’t tell people what to do with their money. What I will say is this:

ISBNs are expensive, so I wouldn’t stress out if I can’t get one for every book. But, if you can afford to do so, and if you’ve already created your own company, it looks more professional for you to own your ISBNs and is a level up from what everyone else is doing. With your own ISBNs your name or your company name will be listed as the publisher of your books. As an Independent Publisher with your own ISBN, you can publish under your company name, go to a different printer if you choose, open your own account with major companies and opt for national trade distribution. You can even create your own team of publishing experts.

This post is not about doing what everyone else is doing. This post is about the level-up.

Get Legal

Speaking of ISBNs, get into the habit of legalizing stuff, starting with your name. Legalize your business or Author name. You can create a business name or register your author name as an LLC.

You can file the paperwork easily through Legal-zoom under an LLC, Sole Proprietorship, or S-Corporation (please Google these terms for further understanding on what they are). Or, you can just get a DBA. A DBA is a doing business as name that gives you the opportunity to legally write and conduct business under your author name. This will really give you the feel that you’re in business. You will be able to open a bank account in your business name, acquire a debit card, and do so much more. Sure, you can just set up a PayPal account but having a business bank account will take you to a new level of business. You can even upgrade your PayPal by setting up a business PayPal account that is connected to your business bank account. You can then apply for a PayPal debit card (which is free) which gives you another avenue to access your payments directly from your PayPal account. With a PayPal business account, you can purchase a PayPal Here card reader and accept payments on the go!

Website

Having a website for your author business is one of the most basic but professional things you can do. Even if this is just your blog it helps to have a website where people can access all your work in one place. To learn more about the difference between a blog and an author website and if you need both, see a recent post here.

Your website should be clean, well-organized, and not changing in design every three months. For blog websites, be sure that you have a clear follow button, contact page, about page, and visible social media widgets. Make it easier for people to find and follow you.

Business Cards

Get into the habit of carrying business cards around with you. You never know who you’re going to meet!

The truth is that people throw business cards away so I wouldn’t spend a lot of money on business cards. Keep it simple and professional and give your cards away sparingly. While you may have bookmarks that match your book covers, your regular, standard business cards—the ones you’ll pass out on the go at meetings and bookstores—should be simple, easy to read and clean. It should not have any major designs that distract from the important information, should include your name, business name, phone number, email address, website, and social media handles.

This does not scratch the surface I know, but I hope these basic tips can give you the push you need to put yourself in position to level up your writing career and go from Author to Authorpreneur!

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