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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Dear Author: Stop Giving Everything Away for Free if You are Trying to Run a Business

Booking

Not everyone doing well for themselves have “sold out.” Not everyone doing well for themselves are chasing the American dream. Not everyone doing well for themselves are seeking worldly success. These kinds of self-limiting beliefs will leave you stuck, broke, and dimming your light because, ya know, you don’t want people to think you are trying to get rich or die trying.

Stop giving everything away for free if you are trying to run a business.

I have a few free services I offer to authors to contribute to the writing community and my commitment to putting other writers on. (Author Interviews are one of them, and they are free. Click Here to learn how to sign up.) 

As an author, I feel it is my responsibility to do my part to help others. I genuinely believe in the saying, “do what you love, and the money will come,” so money has never (and will never) be my focus. My focus is on doing what I love while providing as much value as I can to others. I am passionate about writing, so it doesn’t feel like work, and I am happy to help no matter the circumstance. Besides my free services and tutorials, I also give away free chapters of books on this blog or my email list. 

But freebies must be kept to a minimum because I do run a business.

Would you work a 9-5 for free? Would it be more righteous for us to wait for a corporate promotion than to run our own business? Why is working for someone more admirable and respected than someone working for themselves?

While freebies are useful, keep them to a minimum. It’s okay (and I would even recommend it) to give stuff away for free now and again. How else will people get to sample your work? The problem is if everything you do is free, you are teaching your audience not to take you seriously, and they will get used to you doing everything free. Set a few things aside as freebies (maybe they get a free book when they sign up to your author newsletter) but charge your worth in other areas.

Advice is a consult and comes with a price, teaching is a service and comes with a price, and I am sorry, but no, all of my ebooks are not 99cents. This is not a game, I did not come to play, and neither should you. YOU are important. YOU are special, your work is exceptional, and in 2019 you deserve more.

  • Educate yourself to ensure that what you are charging for is valuable (research, research, research)
  • Charge your worth
  • Ask your clients to leave reviews. Reviews are like witnesses that your product/service is of good quality and worth the time / money investment.

This isn’t about money, but let’s stop acting like people don’t need money to live in this world. Let’s stop acting like your children don’t need to eat, your bills don’t need to be paid, and your books don’t need to be edited.

This is about knowing your worth and your value professionally. Financial literacy and management are the backbones of successful businesses. You don’t have to spend hours of blood, sweat, tears, and money, sacrificing your time and energy writing and doing all these AMAZING things so that you can give it away for free.

Not everything free is valuable. Paying for something of good quality creates more of a commitment to follow-through. When someone pays for something, they are more likely to listen to, watch, apply or read it. If they didn’t pay for it, they are more likely to put it off for a better time, and a better time may never come. I can’t tell you how many ebooks are on the Kindle that I got for free. I intend to read them all, but the ones I read first are the ones I paid for. That’s just real.

How serious are you about your writing? Either this is an expensive hobby or a writing business. You choose.


LeBron James Opens a Public School in Akron | LA Times

The I Promise School is in a renovated brick building that sits between a McDonald’s and a convenience store. Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

 

LeBron James just opened a public school in Akron Ohio and I’m here for it! Since LeBron is an entrepreneur, my hope is that the school will educate the students on how to be entrepreneurs even if they don’t attend college (as very few schools do).

 

“They settled on a program that helped teach the skills children need to handle trauma they see in their daily lives, combined with a hard math and science curriculum that would help further their education.

The school’s “wraparound” services help reduce stress kids might feel when their parents are struggling financially. That includes job and family services, a GED program, a food pantry from which they can shop and choose their meals, and help with housing if needed. They have a seven-week summer camp program to help avoid the trouble that comes with too much free time.

Every student gets a bicycle because when James was growing up, he used one to get away from the more dangerous parts of his community. The students also get a Chromebook to complete their homework.”

 

READ MORE AT THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE SOURCE HERE

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Black Wall Street and the Power of Community

On June 1, 1921, in Tulsa Oklahoma, occurred just one of the worst catastrophes to ever grace the communities of Black people (Red Summer of 1919 was another one). It was when the systematic destruction of years of building had made manifest in less than 24 hours. Also known as “Little Africa”, the black business district of north Tulsa lay fuming—a model community destroyed, mansions melted down to the ground, hope stretching its mournful arms forward in a desperate attempt to hold on to its dear Greenwood.

It began the same way it always has, with a black man accused of accosting a white woman. On May 31, 1921, “the Tulsa Tribune reported that a black man, Dick Rowland, attempted to rape a white woman, Sarah Page. Whites in the area refused to wait for the investigative process to play out, sparking two days of unprecedented racial violence. Thirty-five city blocks went up in flames, 300 people died, and 800 were injured.” (Fain, Kimberly, 2017)

This was the beginning of what culminated in the destruction of the Greenwood community.

Greenwood is a neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was one of the most successful and wealthiest black communities in the United States during the early 20th Century, popularly known as America’s “Black Wall Street” due to its financial success that mirrored Wall Street. During the oil boom of the 1910s, which gained the town such titles as “Oil Capital of the World,” the area of northeast Oklahoma around Tulsa flourished, including the Greenwood neighborhood. Home to several prominent Black business people, the community held many multimillionaires.

Greenwood boasted a variety of thriving businesses that were very successful up until the Tulsa Race Massacre. Not only did blacks want to contribute to the success of their own shops, but also the racial segregation laws prevented us from shopping anywhere other than Greenwood, forcing us to be in support of our own people and thus contribute to the success of our own people.

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Greenwood became the mecca of opportunity to build up what they had been shut out of because Blacks could not shop anywhere else. Instead of complaining that they were not included in the all-white Newspaper, they created their own (two). Blacks were discouraged from using the new Carnegie Library downtown, for example, for whites, so they built their own smaller all Black branch libraries. Not stressing over being left out of restaurants, grocery stores, and public schools, they made their own on the backs of a drive toward honest entrepreneurship.

Clothes bought at Elliot & Hooker’s clothing at 124 N. Greenwood could be fitted across the street at H.L. Byars tailor shop at 105 N Greenwood, and then cleaned around the corner at Hope Watson’s cleaners at 322 E. Archer. The dollar in this community rotated 36-100 times, taking as long as a year before it left the town (today the dollar leaves the black community in less than 15mins).

These were not people who started wealthy; they were neither businessmen nor businesswomen, but being locked out the whole of society (stripped from employment in the oil industry and from most of Tulsa’s manufacturing facilities), these men and women toiled at troublesome, often dirty, jobs. They worked long hours under trying conditions, but it was their paychecks that built Greenwood and their hard work that helped to build Tulsa. Following the massacre, the area was rebuilt and continued to thrive until the 1960s until integration allowed blacks to shop in areas that were restricted before.

“By the 1940s, the Greenwood District was rebuilt, but due to integration during the Civil Rights era, never regained as much prominence.” – Kimberly Fain, 2017

This community is one of many examples of the power of support, not just for black businesses, but for entrepreneurship in general. While liking social media posts is beautiful, it is financial support, dedication, and consistency that ultimately helps small businesses to grow into larger companies, to support and hire its own, to thrive, and to empower an entire community.

Just Leap

One of the most distracting things about being an entrepreneur is wanting to do right so badly that you fear doing anything at all, especially if everyone is pulling you in a lot of different directions or telling you why you shouldn’t do this and that. But as I said on one of the podcast episodes, I often do what I am afraid to do, so much so that people don’t think I am shy. Even my own blood sister said I was outspoken. This had me thinking. ‘Surely, my sister would know me enough to know.’ And sometimes you do need someone outside of yourself to reveal the truth of who you are, a truth maybe even you couldn’t see. The truth is that I am a very private person but no one ever changed the world sitting at home in the dark. So, though afraid, I step out to try things that disturb the fear in me. Things that make me go, “I don’t know”, are the things I strive to do. That’s courage. Not the absence of fear but the presence of it while you act on whatever it is that’s making you afraid. Being afraid, but doing it anyway.

I was so nervous at my last signing and I wanted to use being late as an excuse to leave. In fact, I was going to walk in and reschedule. That was my intent. I had literally made up my mind that I would just do the evening signing but guess what? Most people came to the morning signing, the one I was too afraid to do. The one outside of my comfort zone. Had I just did the evening signing, I would not have sold many books. The people just did not show up in the numbers I’d anticipated.

So what am I saying? What is all this about? It is about leaping.

Do what you are afraid to do. Jump. Take risks. Don’t wait until you got it together to put yourself out there. Remember, faith is the expectation of what you can’t see because if you can see it, then what is there to expect? So go. Take the first step even though you can’t see the whole staircase. Publish that book even though you don’t know if people will like it. Start that blog even though you don’t know what to write about. Record that first podcast or YouTube video even though you don’t think you will get much support. Start that business even though you don’t know how successful it will be. The joy is in the not knowing! If you know you’re going to win then your dreams are too small. Why would I race a 4-year-old? I know that I am going to win. There’s no challenge. So leap. In the words of Lisa Nichols, ‘leap afraid and then gather your courage on the way down.’

Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews – Coed by James Fant

Title:  Coed

Author: James Fant

Print Length: 188 pages

Publisher: James Fant Books, LLC

Publication Date: February 14, 2017

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Language: English

ASIN: B01N9SH36I

*I received a copy of this book as a gift from the author*

Coed is a romantic comedy about a man and woman who invests in a barber-beauty shop business called Coed. In a scene reminiscent of the movie Barber Shop, men cut hair on one side and the women do hair on the other. Owners Travis “Trap” Barber and Sade Styles are best friends whose friendship is put to the test when Sade’s lease is up and she moves in with Travis. Being “besties” is one thing but can Trap and Sade maintains a platonic relationship while living under the same roof? The novel seeks to answer this question in a hilarious way.

I loved this book mostly because the author had me rolling. Make me laugh like that and you’re a winner in my book. When Sade moves in with Trap, they each fight to control the feelings they have for one another like Sidney and Dre from the movie Brown Sugar. It is obvious they are attracted to each other on multiple levels but Sade has a man and Trap’s a playboy. Eventually, Sade breaks it off with her boyfriend and Trap insists on attending Myrtle Beach with her to see Lalah Hathaway. What he doesn’t know is how deeply the trip would impact them both.

While Coed is funny, I enjoyed the important messages throughout the novel as well and how it took on a more serious feel toward the end. We get to understand more deeply about the past of the main characters and what contributed to them being the way that they are. It was refreshing and I appreciated this because it is not something we often think about in relationships period. That is, why do people do the things that they do? What makes them tick? So, they are exhibiting off behavior, but why? Have we sought to understand or did we write them off? Instead of casting one another off, see people through the eyes of love. Usually, when someone is being nasty it’s because they are going through something. If we thought of this more, I think the world would be in a much better position.

My least favorite part was that there were instances where the author inserted himself into the narrative. I found this distracting and unnecessary. I also think the “He Said, “She Said” at the beginning of the Chapters is not needed. The author is talented enough to capture whose perspective we are reading without it.

However, none of these took away from the story. At the end of the day I was still laughing my butt off and Trap and Sade’s past revealed was really the final touch this novel needed to bring it on home. I stayed up late just to see what would happen. If you’re a fan of Brown Sugar, Barbershop, and The Best Man, you’ll want to read this book.

I recommend it for lovers of romance, comedy and drama. It has it all.

Plot Movement / Strength: 4/5

Entertainment Factor: 5/5

Characterization: 5/5

Authenticity / Believable: 4/5

Thought Provoking: 5/5

Overall: 5/5

COED is available now on Amazon

 

Be Sure to Follow this Author Online!

Website: http://www.jamesfantbooks.com/

3 Reasons Working for Yourself is Harder than Working for Someone Else

Book Signing at The Doubletree Hilton Hotel, downtown Chicago, circa 2014

It is more challenging to work for yourself in my opinion than someone else. My husband and I both run our own businesses. Here’s why it’s more of a challenge:

  • You Can’t Be Lazy

I know, you work for yourself, why can’t you? The truth is that though it’s more freedom, this freedom is a doubled edged sword. Having and running your own business is different than working a 9-5. When you work a 9-5 you’re expected to be there every day and on time and you can have paid times off or vacations or just decide not to come into work today. Pull that when you’re your own boss and it’s the difference between buying groceries and going hungry. The truth is that when you work for yourself you can’t be lazy. Instead of getting paid per hour, you’re getting paid per client and it is how you pay your bills and provide for your family. Not putting in work means to literally not get paid that day.

  • More Discipline

This goes hand in hand with not being lazy. Working for yourself requires more discipline. The reason is because when you work a 9-5 you have days off. When you work for yourself, however, you have to create those days and it’s tempting to procrastinate or put things off. Even though I work from home I still must discipline myself to get up early. There are only so many hours in a day and the earlier you get up the more you can get done. First of all, I need to get a good workout in to get the juices pumping and then I have to get to work which works well if I get up early enough. For my personal business, it’s more so building. Since I don’t have any “clients” yet what I don’t spend in money I spend in time. Researching, writing, blogging, sending off packages, marketing, promotion, and organizing.

However, since I am also the Vice President for my husband’s contracting business, I only have a certain amount of time to do certain things so I do not neglect any key responsibilities. My husband calls it “clocking in”. I call it walking into the office with a cup of coffee in my PJs. Though liberating, I have to constantly remind myself to take breaks and because I make my own schedule I have to incorporate my own vacations. This isn’t as easy as it sounds because when you work for yourself you’re never off. Your phone is constantly ringing from clients, your email and text messages are overflowing with new messages, and you’re just overall always locked in. My husband had to literally talk me into writing last weeks Black History Fun Fact Friday article. If it was not for him you all would not have had a BHFFF article for real. After grocery shopping, putting up food, and cleaning the kitchen I certainly didn’t feel like researching on the computer. But my husband’s work ethic is amazing and he does not let me slack off.  Truth is, people think that not having a “job” means you have all the time in the world and that you spend your days staring at the wall. In reality, I rarely have time to watch TV. (My version of TV is CNN as background noise). So, breaks such as movie night is something that we create.

  • Taking Breaks

10603772_720596317976228_4749338203801196478_nSince I mentioned breaks, I figured I should go ahead and list this one for the last bullet point. When you work for yourself you must schedule your own breaks. This sounds simple, but it’s not. Entrepreneurs are largely made up of what people call workaholics. The truth is not everyone is a workaholic, it’s just that when you make your own money you’re constantly working (as I’ve just mentioned) because nothing is guaranteed and every cent is earned. Therefore, business owners must create schedules to ensure they don’t lose their minds. We must create our own days off and vacations (mine is coming up, whoo hoo!) When we return, we’re reminded of why working for yourself is so much more mentally challenging. Everything we put off has piled up and so the grind continues but….

I would do it all again in another lifetime.

When you own your own business, you don’t just have more control but you gain so many more valuable skills, such as being more accountable for your actions and being more attentive to your surroundings and the behavior of people. You learn to do things like take the initiative (doing what needs to be done without being told) which is a great leadership skill. There’s something about doing the work yourself that gives you a different way of looking at the world, a new perspective, and a higher level of discipline and responsibility. In addition, the reward for all of this work is well worth it. The benefits of entrepreneurship certainly outweigh the challenges.


Yecheilyah Ysrayl is the YA, Historical Fiction author of The Stella Trilogy. She is currently working on her next book series “The Nora White Story” about a young black woman writer who dreams of taking part in The Harlem Renaissance movement and her parents struggle to accept their traumatic past in the Jim Crow south. “Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One)” is due for release summer, 2017. For updates on this project, sneak peek of chapters and the pending book cover release (coming soon) for this project, be sure to follow this blog and to subscribe to Yecheilyah’s email list HERE.