So, even though I’m just edging towards publishing my first book, I’ve learned so much already! Because of the countless hours I’ve spent reading and making calls, I thought I’d share a little bit of what I’ve learned with those authors who are considering self publication, or may just be embarking on their writing journey. Take it with a grain of salt, do with it what you will!
Are you considering self-publishing? Yes? Ok.
1. Decide early on if it’s going to be a hobby, or if you want to pursue the writing as a career or side job.
2. In most states, your writing will be looked upon by the government as a hobby, until you meet or break a certain $ point. It’s advisable to find out where that margin is, as you are generally required to pay taxes on earnings that go over that amount in the calendar year. This, of course, varies from state to state.
3. Research your states laws in reference to ‘Doing Business As’ or Fictitious name usage. I.E. Your Pen Name. Some states require you to register any name that you intend to do business with that is NOT your legally given name. In some places, it’s even considered a misdemeanor if you do not (all though you may not be required to register at all in other places). Also, registering a fictitious name filing (Doing Business As) offers you an additional layer of protection relating to your writing.
4. Research your state’s small business website. If you anticipate making your writing into an actual business, and plan to treat it as such, investigate what it would take to register as a business in your state. There are different forms of registration (sole proprietorship, LLC, etc), and different requirements for claiming business identification numbers (which many sites ask you for to prove you are a business and make you eligible to be tax exempt on some purchases). Is it worth it, to you?
5. If you are choosing to register as a business, keep receipts for every purchase related to your writing. Whether it’s purchasing notebooks, office equipment, isbn numbers, paying a cover artist, editor, etc, KEEP IT. I recommend getting a file box for all your records. These purchases are usually tax deductible at the end of the year, and will count as losses against your earnings for the year. This often positively impacts the amount of taxes you are required to pay, as many government entities expect small business’s to be in the red at first.
6. If you are planning to self-publish, for God’s sake, do your research. While there is a lot of advise offered in Facebook groups, I recommend seeking out writers guilds and self-publishing websites that may have treasure troves of information to help you along the way. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked questions in Facebook groups full of supposedly ‘experienced writers’ who have given me awful advise (i.e. don’t register your pen name, self-publishing doesn’t cost money, you don’t have to claim your writing income on your taxes, etc.’). Be very careful who you chose to listen to. When you think you know everything and you’ve read so many articles you are sick of it? Read some more. XD
7. Don’t rush yourself! I think once everyone gets it in their mind that they want to self-publish, they are so excited to get it done that they rush through the most important parts of the process. You sell yourself short when you do this, so try to set realistic goals and not stretch yourself too thin.
8. Make a plan. List everything that you need to do, then break it down into monthly or weekly checklists that you feel are reasonable for you to accomplish based on time and budget. (I.E. complete manuscript and send to editor, research cover artists, compile a list of sites I can promote on, research formatting or people who can do my formatting, set up a facebook author page, etc.)
9. BUDGET! Don’t put yourself in debt. Now, I’m not saying that you can do this without spending any money. Unless you have mad Photoshop skills, know all the formatting rules and how to do it, etc., you’re going to have to spend some money. But, make your plan around your budget, so you aren’t adding financial stress to this process.
10. DON’T SKIMP! Please, don’t do this to yourself! You don’t have to spend a fortune to make your dream come true, but if you want it to take it seriously you need to take care of it and groom it for success. If you can get a cheap, sort of sloppy cover now, or save and get a cover you absolutely love that costs a little more by an experienced designer in a month or two, WAIT AND SAVE. If you can’t afford an editor, save until you can. NO ONE recommends publishing your novel when you are the only one that’s edited it. Why? Because even if you are an English Major, it’s unlikely you will catch all your own mistakes. Lets face it, most of us ARE NOT English Majors, and there will be errors in punctuation, grammar, word usage, spelling, plot holes, sentence structure, etc. that you just won’t see because you’ve stared at it for so long that it just won’t register. People are constantly complaining about the quality of books available on kindle and how there is such an obvious lack of polishing before publication. No one wants to read a book chocked full of errors or bad writing. Even if your story holds a lot of promise, if it’s obvious you edited it yourself (and failed) they won’t finish reading your book, and if they do they are unlikely to buy your next one.
11. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, whether it be in a group or of authors that you admire. A lot of them are super friendly, and more than happy to offer a helpful bit of advise. We’ve all been here, right? Just starting out, totally clueless, looking for someone wiser to share their insight. The worst they can do is ignore you, right? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This goes for contractors as well (editors and cover artists, the person doing your formatting, etc.). If you are paying for a service, you have a right to ask questions, even if you think they are silly or you might be wasting someone’s time. Your time is just as important, and if they are a true professional they will not have any problem answering your questions.
And for now, I think I’ll stop! If you enjoyed this or found it helpful, leave a comment! I’d be happy to continue to share my novice insights, if anyone is interested 😀 Have a great night!