In the first of my series, So You've Written Your Book... Laying Down the Groundwork, I explained publishing options. As I said in that entry, we are going with Option 3. This means taking the leap and making plans to be a self-published author. Yay!
This article will detail the necessary steps to establish your very own publishing company. I am really not suggesting that you go into the business of publishing other authors' books. That's a whole different animal! This entry will explain how you can complete the process DYI, for a nominal cost, with the added bonus of publishing books which reflect a truly professional appearance.
I'll be honest, it can—and most likely will be—time consuming. But in my opinion, the rewards are well worth the effort.
So let's begin.
1. Choose a Print on Demand (POD) Company
Now I could provide a list of over 60 different companies that would be willing to print your book. But in general it boils down to two main choices: Createspace or Lightning Source. To briefly sum up the differences:
Createspace https://www.createspace.com/ is very user friendly including a phone help line, it has no setup fee, but does not allow book sellers to return the book if it does not sell. Consequently, book stores will not stock POD books on their shelves.
Lightning Source https://www.lightningsource.com/ has a steeper learning curve for print setup, has little in the way of a help line, and there is a setup fee. It does, however, offer hard covers, allows publisher to set the discount and offers broader distribution channels. A big plus is that LS offers book seller returns on unsold books.
Check the button link below to see a more complete explanation of how these two choices differ. I've also stumbled across what looks to be a great blog for self-published authors. It gives tips on writing, publishing, e-books, and book marketing. The link is right below.
2. ISBN (International Standard Book Number)
The ISBN is a global standard to identify a book title and track its distribution. If you plan to sell your book in bookstores, to libraries, or through online retailers like Amazon.com, you will need an ISBN.
If you want to save money, you can get an ISBN from Createspace for $0 to $99.00 Or buy your own from Bowker. Follow the link below for details.
The free ISBN from Createspace puts the Createspace imprint name on your book (amateurish), and they become the publisher. The $99 option allows the book's imprint to be your company name, but that cost is for just one ISBN (but still cheaper than the Bowker price of $125.00 for one ISBN).
In addition to ISBNs, Bowker provides great information for self-published authors at www.myidentifiers.com. You will find they have a lot of other tools they are willing to sell, but all you should bother with are the ISBNs. Barcodes, for example, are provided by Createspace for free.
Bowker does have a registration process for each ISBN assigned and you will be asked to fill in that information online.
3. Decide on Your Business Organization
Let's not lose sight of the original plan - creating one's own publishing company. For the serious author who wishes to make their product as professional as possible, forming your own business is a great first step to take. You have basically three business choices: a sole proprietorship, partnership or a corporation. Since we are looking at low cost, that leaves out the latter two. Unless you plan to publish other author's work, you will be fine with the sole proprietorship—the least expensive, simplest type of business organization. This is a business owned and run by one individual. Downside—if the business runs into financial problems, creditors will come after the owner since there is no legal distinction between the owner and the business.
A very thorough explanation of the sole proprietorship can be found at the link below
4. Fictitious Name Registration
Each state has their own registration process. You can go to your state's Small Business Administration website to get the details on your state/county requirements. In my state of Florida, it is a $50.00 cost to register a fictitious name (also known as Doing Business As or DBA) and can be done online. Always check to be certain your name is not already being used or is trademarked. You may find a link on your state's website to search company names already in use.
Most likely, you will be required to announce your new company by running a notice in the legal ad section in one of the your county's approved newspapers. Shop around for the cheapest one. They all charge different fees, even though they accomplish the same thing for you—so you just need to find the cheapest (I paid $25.00).
Your publishing company name becomes the "imprint" name and you will list it as the publisher of your book on Amazon and other online book sellers as well as in catalogs and on the book itself. Now it looks very professional and is less obvious that your work is self published.
I would also suggest a simple logo for your publishing company (you can see mine on a previous blog). You can find sites online that will do this for you, but it will cost you. With the slightest amount of creativity, you can design your own like I did. It's just one more professional touch that should not be overlooked.
You can trademark your company name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, but it will cost over $300.00 and I personally don't see the need.
I would, however, apply for a domain name (.com, if available) for your company. Hopefully your company name will be available. Purchase, from your host provider, a private registration site for your company if you have an author page on another site. It looks more professional if your publishing company is seen as a separate entity from your author or book website.
5. Obtain a Business License
Now that you have registered your company's fictitious name, you will need to pay a visit to the County Clerk's office and obtain your business license. A very simple process that should cost less than $100.00. My county charged me only $10.00.
6. Open a Bank Account
Once you have your company registered and have your business license, you are ready to open a bank account for your new company. For a company that's a sole proprietorship it is very easy to open your own business account and depending on the bank or credit union, it can usually be done with little or no cost. Open both a savings and checking account and you may also wish to have a company credit card as well. I did all this at my local credit union for no charge and no fees.
7. Consult the Experts
At some point you may wish to seek legal and/or business advice from a business attorney, accountant, or other business adviser. Many lawyers and accountants offer a free consultation and can guide you on the most appropriate course to best suit your needs.
8. The IRS
Now I certainly don't claim to be anything close to an expert on the IRS and for the most part I am flying by the seat of my pants on this issue (one of the things I plan to research a lot more), but I can offer a few bits of advise.
Personally, I don't like using my social security number if I can avoid it. This is why I obtained an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Employer-ID-Numbers-EINs It's really not required if you have no employees and are operating as a sole proprietorship, but it beats having to give Amazon and other book sellers your SSN. Make sure you get it from the IRS (it's free) and not some sham company that is after your identity.
Also be sure to keep accurate records of all your company expenditures and income. You can use a simple ledger or opt to use a program like Excel, Quickbooks, or a specific publishing industry template.
Finally, if you are from a state that collects sales tax and you sell your own books at book fairs, church events, schools, etc. you will most likely need to register with your state to collect, accrue, and pay the sales taxes to your state. If you are operating in one of the 38 states that require it, you must register for a sales and use certificate before you begin your business activities. Check your state agency website for specific requirements. Not only are the requirements different from state to state, so are the agencies that handle business tax issues. In Florida, you register with the State Department of Revenue. In California it is State Board of Equalization; Comptroller of Public Accounts in Texas; and in New York it is the Department of Taxation and Finance. Keep in mind, you may also have to collect a county sales tax as well. The fun never stops.
When you complete this registration process with your state, one of the documents you will receive is a resale certificate. Before you order your books for resale from your POD provider, get the correct fax or email from your POD provider, send the resale certificate there and they will wave the sales tax from all your book orders from then on. Good to know! (You will still need to collect state sales tax on each book you sell. All this may make you want to move to Delaware!)
None of this is necessary if your book is sold online by book sellers like Amazon, Nook, etc. as they collect all the sales tax.
9. Register with the Library of Congress
I know what you're thinking. Holy Moley! More agencies to register with and more numbers to be assigned?
Well, yes—but this is not one to overlook. Having a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) adds to that professional image you are creating for your business venture. It provides the possibility for libraries to find and order your book for their library collection. As part of your marketing plan, it will add to your ability to get your book out to the public.
It's easy and free. You do not need to pay Createspace or any other POD company to do this for you. Be sure you have an assigned ISBN before you apply—you will be asked for it on the LCCN application. You must apply for the LCCN before you publish the book. Once you receive your number from the Library of Congress, you will need to send them a copy of your best edition, ASAP.
Below is the link to the Library of Congress site that will provide the steps to register your book and open an account if you haven't already.
Hopefully I didn't miss any vital steps in the process, but there are a few suggestions and tips I'd like to include here.
Keep everything organized
Since you will be collecting so many numbers, from ISBN to bank accounts, it would be wise to have a go to spot for all these vital passwords and account numbers. Doesn't matter how you keep them—a notepad or a password app—just keep them where you can find them when needed.
Make a record of your progress. List the steps involved for getting your ISBN, registering your business with the state, etc. and keep all correspondences together in a file system.
Make a separate email account for your publishing company business. Then you won't have to sift through so much of the personal emails and spam you may have been subject to over the years on your personal email account.
Organize your bookmarks on your computer to save all the websites you referred to while starting up your business. Most likely, you'll be frequenting these sites again.
Company mailing address choices
You will need a mailing address for your company and there are a few options. You can use your home address as a business address. But if you are concerned about privacy, security and owning a professional sounding address you could rent a USPS post office box or a business mail box at UPS. Some may even decide it's worth the cost to setup a virtual office mailing address with a prestigious business address (or even add a telephone number with messaging services). I personally have kept it simple, cheap and convenient and I just use my home address at this point.
So there you have it. Other than the time involved— and there is a lot of it—you can have your own publishing company with very little cost to you. It will give your books the professional look of a serious writer.
Stick with it and follow my steps. But understand, my information is just a guide. It is not—the be all end all. I do not profess to have all the answers. Do not hesitate to consult other professionals and do your own research.
If you have questions, feel free to contact me at
I will be anxious to hear from you.