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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Guest Blogging for Authors:  How NOT to Query a Blogger… 

Informative article on how to query a blogger for guest posts (Book Reviews and Interviews as well).

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Guest Blogging for Authors: How NOT to Query a Blogger…and 10 Tips for Doing it Right

Want to land a guest blogging gig? Don’t clown around.

by Anne R. Allen

Marketing gurus will tell you guest blogging is one of the best ways to get your name out there to sell books and/or writing services. And they’re right.Here are some reasons why.

Read more

But the gurus don’t often tell you how to land guest spots. Or how to find the best ones to reach your readers

http://annerallen.com/guest-blogging-how-to-query-a-blogger/

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Social Media Intelligence: Why Your Boss is Reading Your Blog

boss-reading-emails

I was reading my scriptures when I decided to check my phone (an every 5 minute habit I’m trying to kick. These days, I have to turn my phone off for a moment of peace). As I did so, checked my phone, I saw a post that struck my attention. Colleen, as she always does, posted a link to another great author resource and I could not wait to get the juicy details of why Authors should watch out for this one dangerous trait from literary agents. As I scanned the article, nodding my head and wondering how long it will take my pizza to finish baking and how the beef sausage I sliced on top is going to be the bomb, I was struck by the following statement:

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“In and beyond the writing and publishing industry, the way someone uses social media is often a window into that person’s work attitude and style, and a signpost as to how a potential working relationship will evolve.” – Aine Greaney

I stopped thinking of pizza and thought, “Wow, that is so true!”

This got me to thinking about blogs and Facebook and Twitter. I started to think about how we tend to use them all so loosely. I also started to think about businesses or upcoming businesses. As an author, I thought of course of authors and how being a published author is likened to a business in many ways. Furthermore, this got me to thinking more deeply about the social media world in general.

We all like our personal space and the freedom to post what we want on our blogs. For personal blogs, that’s great. Some people are here to write publicly on a personal level. On the other hand, there are those who are blogging to strengthen their writing or to promote their written / published work. For these individuals, its important to keep in mind that your boss is more than likely reading your blog.

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The Boss. Who is he? This doesn’t have to be your actual boss but it is someone out there with the potential to take you to that next level. Facebook and Twitter may seem like harmless entities but the fact that professionals are trolling through pages and timelines is no conspiracy theory. For those of us online for fun, have at it. But for those of you seeking to become authors or to use your blogs for anything slightly professional, you may want to consider that the blog posts that go viral are usually the ones we least expect to do so. Personality is key of course. It is always good to let your personality shine through and to let us all know that you’re a real breathing person with passions and concerns and joys just like the rest of us. That personal touch brings people together and builds a bridge of commonality that helps us to get to know one another better, which in turn works well with building professional relationships.

And now we’ve come all the way back around. How you present yourself online should be a representation of who you are, but it should the best part of who you are. Cursing people out on Facebook and engaging in arguments and being nasty to people may be fun now but one day you will grow up. And when that happens you’ll want to explore new things and maybe you’ll even want to put some of those talents to good use. The problem is that the past image of you is still saved in social media files and although you have industry knowledge, Mrs. Smith, your future boss, just can’t get over how vulgar your language is. Mrs. Smith can’t see someone fitting into her communications department who can’t control something as close to them as their own tongues.

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I’ve actually experienced this myself. A long time friend of mine (who I am not in communication with but who I have known a while) was launching a new business and sought out support. For the sake of identity I’ll just call this person a she. She promoted across all of her social media accounts and the business itself looked really promising and got some good reviews. As for my friend, having known her for about nine years now, I know her to be very intelligent and knowledgeable about that particular field. In fact, I always knew she would be a business person some day. However, as I scrolled through her Twitter timeline, the one with the beautiful website layout and crowdfunding campaign and call to action, the more I scrolled the worse it got. Eventually, I had gone back a couple years and there was everything there from the use of profanity to sexual language. If I was a professional looking to hire someone with her skill set for my company, I would have been instantly turned off. Even as myself I was turned off. It was as if none of the prior things I saw attractive mattered anymore. My advice to my friend is to create a business account specifically for the business itself without linking it to her private account. Sadly, I’m not sure if that will even work this far in the game. The lesson is a brutal one.

In the end, we all enjoy what we do and I don’t want to leave without stating this fact. Whenever I talk professionalism I get feedback that suggest that in the end blogging should be fun. Of course it should be, but I wouldn’t take it lightly. Nothing on the internet can be. Employers and agents search social media accounts, such as blogs and Facebook, because social media is the largest data collection service to date for collecting and gathering intelligence and people tend to be themselves on these platforms more than they actually are in person. Social Media therefore becomes a valuable platform for employers to seek out potential clients in their natural state.

It’s not about being phony and fake, its about being mindful of your behavior. It’s OK to be yourself on social media. In fact, I would hope that you are yourself. Showcase pictures of your family, display the music you like, or speak about something that is passionate to you. However, keep in mind that thousands of people are potentially reading your blogs everyday and one of them, just one of them, may turn out to be your boss.

Going Natural: When LinkedIn Profiles Turns to Racial Profiling

How do we define professionalism?

(not) Mixed (up)

As I scrolled through my Facebook feed a few weeks ago, I came across a status update that was upsetting, though sadly not surprising: “That awkward moment when your decision to wear your hair natural comes up in an interview… and not in a complimentary way…”

My friend Sonia had interviewed for a position as a Social Media Specialist for a marketing startup in New York City. The interview took place in the common area of WeWork, a coworking office space where the startup had put down temporary roots. As distracting commotion took place around them, she and the rather cold interviewer had the following exchange.

Interviewer: “Is that how your hair is in your LinkedIn picture?”

Sonia: “…Yea.”

Interviewer: “Not straight?”

Sonia: “Nope.”

Interviewer: “Oh… Interesting…”

He then made qualifying statements, such as, “So you say you’re good at SEO,” and “You claim to be a good writer.” I…

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The Evolution of the Blog

blog-laptop

I was fulfilling some orders this morning, you know the daily grind, and my thoughts fell on blogging in general. I thought about the history of blogging and how it has changed over the years. But what my thoughts focused on more so is how the increase in technology seemed to have downgraded the professional image of blogging in the eyes of the (wait for it) blogger.

When we launch these blogs, I do not think we really understand its significance. At least I didn’t.

Anyone can create a blog today. It is as easy as signing up for a Word Press free account. You can write about what you want and organize your blog how you see fit. Though it is easy to do, have you ever thought about what it means to be a blogger? I remember watching television over the years and seeing someone speak. Sometimes the person speaking had a title that said “Blogger” and as he or she spoke concerning their subject of expertise I never second guessed that they were a professional. “Blogger” was no different to me then than “Attorney at Law” or “Psychologist”. That is because before the blog evolved into what it is today, it was a big deal.

“The modern blog evolved from the online diary, where people would keep a running account of their personal lives. Most such writers called themselves diarists, journalists, or journalers. The Open Pages webring included members of the online-journal community. Justin Hall, who began eleven years of personal blogging in 1994 while a student at Swarthmore College, is generally recognized as one of the earliest bloggers, as is Jerry Pournelle. Another early blog was Wearable Wireless Webcam, an online shared diary of a person’s personal life combining text, video, and pictures transmitted live from a wearable computer and EyeTap device to a web site in 1994.

The blog was independently invented by Ian Ring, in 1997. His online journaling platform was called an “e-journal”. Ring’s project was later abandoned, but was rewritten in 2006 but didn’t become popular amid the overwhelming flood of other CMS systems becoming available, including WordPress. Ring still maintains that he “invented the blog”, which is technically true even though there were other projects that could make the same claim with greater authority.

Another early example of an early online entry into the evolution of blogging was created by Dave Winer. Winer is considered a pioneer of Web syndication techniques and has been considered one of the “fathers” of blogging. As the editor of Scripting News claims that his site “bootstrapped the blogging revolution and that it is the longest running Web Log on the internet”, Winer did not use the term “blog” and has never claimed the term. However he has gone on record as saying that “The first blogs were inspired by this blog, in fact many of them, including Barger’s Robot Wisdom, used my software.”

Websites, including both corporate sites and personal homepages, had and still often have “What’s New” or “News” sections, often on the index page and sorted by date. One example of a news based “weblog” is the Drudge Report founded by the self-styled maverick reporter Matt Drudge, though apparently Drudge dislikes this classification. Two others—Institute for Public Accuracy and Arts & Letters Daily—began posting news releases featuring several news-pegged one-paragraph quotes several times a week beginning in 1998. One noteworthy early precursor to a blog was the tongue-in-cheek personal website that was frequently updated by Usenet legend Kibo.

Early weblogs were simply manually updated components of common websites. However, the evolution of tools to facilitate the production and maintenance of web articles posted in reverse chronological order made the publishing process feasible to a much larger, less technical, population. Ultimately, this resulted in the distinct class of online publishing that produces blogs we recognize today.” – Wikipedia

So what of all this? What’s the point?

coffee

From personal reflection, understanding the magnitude of what it means to blog helps me to maintain a level of professionalism on my blog; whether that is the appearance or the quality of the content. It helps me to remember that people are browsing the internet and coming across this blog from Google everyday in hopes of finding solutions to problems, or to overall be informed. It is not to say that blogs are not fun because I have lots of fun on this blog. And as we have read the first blogs were online diaries. Interestingly enough, many of the blogs I come across have this format.

The blogger is not a writer in the organized sense, just someone using the web as a way to publicly vent their thoughts (which I think we all do to an extent). It is just to say that I have come to look at blogging in a new light. As opposed to when I first started this blog, I place a kind of value on it now that I didn’t really think about before. Not value as in its my whole world or anything, but value as in the fact that real people are taking the time to stop here and to read and to learn. Therefore, how I present myself online, as a reflection of my real self, is not just some mediocre past time. What we write here is a big deal. Every day you are helping people in every aspect of their lives. To be a blogger then is kinda a big deal. I would even say it is something worth mentioning on a resume.

Timeline: Blogging Evolution:

January 1994
Swarthmore student Justin Hall creates first blog ever, Links.net.

December 1997
Online diarist Jorn Barger coins the term “Weblog” for “logging the Web.”

April 1999
Programmer Peter Merholz shortens “Weblog” to “blog.”

August 1999
Blogger rolls out the first popular, free blog-creation service.

January 2000
Boing Boing is born.

July 2000
AndrewSullivan.com launches.

February 2002
Heather Armstrong is fired for discussing her job on her blog, Dooce. “Dooced” becomes a verb: “Fired for blogging.”

August 2002
Nick Denton launches Gizmodo, the first in what will become a blog empire. Blogads launches, the first broker of blog advertising.

December 2002
Talking Points Memo highlights Trent Lott’s racially charged comments; thirteen days later, Lott resigns from his post as Senate majority leader.

December 2002
Gawker launches, igniting the gossip-blog boom.

March 2003
“Salam Pax,” an anonymous Iraqi blogger, gains worldwide audience during the Iraq war.

June 2003
Google launches AdSense, matching ads to blog content.

August 2003
The first avalanche of ads on political blogs.

September 2003
Jason Calacanis founds Weblogs, Inc., which eventually grows into a portfolio of 85 blogs.

January 2004
Denton launches Wonkette.

March 2004
Calacanis poaches Gizmodo writer Peter Rojas from Denton. Denton proclaims himself “royally shafted” on his personal blog.

December 2004
Merriam-Webster declares “blog” the “Word of the Year.”

January 2005
Study finds that 32 million Americans read blogs.

May 2005
The Huffington Post launches.

October 2005
Calacanis sells his blogs to AOL for $25 million.

December 2005
An estimated $100 million worth of blog ads are sold this year.

January 2006
Time leases Andrew Sullivan’s blog, adding it to its Website.

February 2006
The Huffington Post surges to become fourth most-linked-to blog.

Free Editable Author Media Kit!

You may remember the article I re-blogged from fellow blogger Colleen of Silver Threading when she spoke about the importance of an Author Media Kit. And so yall know I’m always looking for free resources right? I was looking for something completely off this subject and discovered this website filled with tons of information for authors and you won’t believe what I found. That’s right, a free editable author media kit. Of course, not everything that says free truly is free so I checked it out and guess what, it’s FREE!

Just visit this website, and follow these directions:

Free Book Stuff > Free Editable Author Media Kit

Put your email address in and they will send you a free editable word template. Download the zip file and save it to your PC / Mac. (When you open it click “Enable Editing” to replace the information and pictures with your own) I would suggest creating a hard-copy Author Media Kit portfolio. Go to Wal-Mart or the dollar store and purchase a nice thick binder. Edit your free kit and print it out. If you could, get a professional author photo taken sometime in the future and add it to your portfolio.

Do we have time for a story? We do. Briefly, this discovery reminded me of women and nice clothes. I know, but hear me out. I always find it exciting that when I ask other women where they got their shoes or how they decorated their home, their answer tends to include bargain stores. Beautiful homes and lovely attire pieced together between Wal-Mart and the Goodwill. Bedroom sets and living room sets that look like they cost a fortune that somebody got from a garage sale. The moral of the story is that professionalism does not have to cost a lot of money. There are tons of free or extremely inexpensive resources available to help us to increase our professional image in just about every area.

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So anyway, class dismissed. I’m going to get started on my free author media kit.