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.


Want more Indie Author Tips? Visit the Indie Author Basics with EC page here!


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Self-Publishing: Why I Bought My Own ISBN Number

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This post has been updated.


I am NOT going to get into the whole debate about whether you should or shouldn’t purchase your own ISBN. I am not going to get into it because what I’ve learned is that it depends on each individual’s vision for his or her book. Everyone is different and to say that someone is foolish for spending THEIR money on an ISBN or not isn’t fair. Some can’t get around why others would pay for something they can get for free and some can’t get around why someone won’t pay for one. The answer is simple.

A Createspace, for example (or Lulu) issued free ISBN lists Createspace or Lulu as the publisher. If you purchase your own ISBN, you are listed as the publisher. It will have your name or your company name, whichever you want. In the images below you see the difference. My Stella Books were published with a Free Lulu ISBN (all except for Book 3). Renaissance was published with my own ISBN:

 

Not everyone wants Createspace, Lulu, etc as the publisher of their books. It’s simply a matter of preference and each author’s goal for his or her books. It may not mean much to have Createspace as your publisher but it may mean a lot to someone else. So let’s stop stoning each other. If people want Free ISBNs let them have it and if people want to invest THEIR money into an ISBN, let them have it.

Now that we got that out the way, here is why I decided to invest in my own ISBN numbers.

What is an ISBN Number?

ISBN is short for International Standard Book Number and it is your book’s identity and proof of existence.

The ISBN numbering system is used worldwide and publishers around the globe identify their work in this standardized format. Owning your ISBNs also means controlling the book metadata that goes with it. According to Google and Ingram Spark, the book’s Metadata includes your book’s title, publication date, format, BISAC category you assign to it and more. The BISAC category, according to Ingram Spark, “is intended to guide shelving, categorization, merchandising, and marketing efforts. BISAC codes help signal to potential buyers, retailers, distributors, and search engines what your book is about – the primary genre(s), topic(s), and theme(s) that matter in regards to your book. Without these codes, readers and those within the industry cannot identify what your book is about or if they’d like to stock or read it.”

I purchased my own  ISBN for ownership and control of the associated metadata attached to the book. I love being listed as the publisher (me or my company) because it looks more professional. Createspace insists that you are the owner of your book even if you use their free ISBN. The only problem with this is that the language is a confusing  (to me) and may not mean anything right now, but can have bigger implications later based on the success of this book. It is my understanding that CreateSpace provides ISBN’s free to people using its service, but it owns those numbers and the associated metadata. My question is, if you don’t own the ISBN and metadata, how do you own the book? Just a thought.

I buy my own ISBN Numbers whenever I can afford them and when I can’t afford them I use Createspace. In the future, I’d like to purchase ISBNs for ALL of my books. I want to do this for the potential for my books to reach new heights. It’s not really about right now for me, it’s about the future.

It boils down to one basic understanding:

If an Independent Publisher wants to be identified as the publisher, the Indie must purchase their own ISBN and contrary to popular opinion, this is not a waste of money.  Right now it may not mean much but I want to ensure that when the time comes, I can maximize my opportunities. As an Independent Publisher with my own ISBN, I can publish under my company name, I can go to a different printer if I choose, I can open my own account with major companies and opt for national trade distribution, and I can even create my own team of publishing experts. I know that with the vision I have for my work, I have to think beyond today so the ISBN is worth incorporating into my book budget.


Yecheilyah (e-see-lee-yah) is an Author, Blogger, and Poet of ten published works. Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One) is her latest novel and is available now on Amazon.com.

Self-Publishing: The ISBN Number

isbn_banner-640x240Some online POD (Print on Demand) platforms like Lulu, allows its self-published authors the option of not choosing to include an ISBN number. Other platforms also have this option available and as such I have seen books without an ISBN Number. I’m going to briefly explain why this is a bad idea. In our quest to produce books at the highest quality possible, it is not just the professional outcome of your book that demands this number, it is the profitable outcome as well. To start, what is an ISBN Number anyway?

If you’ve ever read a book in your life, you’ve seen an ISBN or International Standard Book Number. It’s the set of numbers on the bar code of the book, usually in the bottom right hand corner. There are bar codes that exist without this number, but if you are looking to expand your reach, you need an ISBN. Because not having one is almost like having a book that doesn’t really exist.

isbn

The ISBN was introduced in the 1960s as the Standard Book Number (SBN) jointly by J. Whitaker & Sons Ltd, the British National Bibliography and the Publishers Association who set up the Standard Book Numbering Agency (SBNA) for British publications. The SBN became the ISBN in the 1970s. The ISBN consists of a group of symbols which identify each book title as a unique product. The number consists of ten digits divided into four groups, usually separated by dashes or spaces, each group having a specific function.

isbn

The principal purpose of the ISBN is to make the identification of any book as certain as possible. It works almost like fingerprints: each individual person (even twins) has a different set of fingerprints. With these fingerprints, the information of a person can be accessed. The same can be said of a Social Security Number, everyone has one and it can identify a person by itself alone. Likewise, when a book has an ISBN Number, assuming it is quoted correctly, one can be almost sure that the correct book has been identified even with no other information.

Below are reasons to make sure your book has an ISBN number:

• The first reason you want to make sure your book has an ISBN is because ISBNs are the global standard for identifying titles. ISBNs are used world-wide as a unique identifier for books. They are used to simplify distribution and purchase of books throughout the global supply chain.

• Secondly, which is equally important, is that most retailers require ISBNs to track book inventory. Without an ISBN, you will not be found in most book stores, either online or down the street from your house. Buying an ISBN is your first step to ensuring that your book is not lost in the wilderness.

• And finally, buying an ISBN improves the chances your book will be found. Buying your ISBNs and registering your titles ensures information about your book will be stored in Books In Print database. This opens up a world of possibilities that your book is listed with many retailers, libraries, Bowker Books In Print, Bookwire, as well as online services like Google Books, Apple’s iBooks, Chegg and the New York Times.