Why Indie Authors Need a Business Hat

POSTED ON Feb 8, 2016

Helen Sedwick

Written by Helen Sedwick

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When best-selling romance writer Sharon Hamilton quit her day job to write full time, she thought she was leaving the business world behind. After 25 years running her own real estate agency, she was sure she could “wing it” when it came to the business side of publishing her own books. But when Hamilton started selling books by the tens of thousands, she was caught in a bind.

“Unlike being a realtor, where the training is available, I found it difficult to find the good business information for writers,” Hamilton explained. “But I didn’t want to take time and attention away from my writing to set up and run a business.”

Sound familiar?

Many writers who dive into self-publishing are surprised to discover they are running a business. They have questions about incorporation and business licenses. They wonder what to do about sales taxes. They fear hiring editors, designers, and other freelancers.

Most of all, they don’t want to take time away from writing to figure it all out.

Sure, there is a lot of information scattered across the internet, but who has the patience to sort through such clutter? How do writers distinguish between useful insights from utter nonsense?

A few months ago, Joel approached me to see if we could put together a way to help authors through the process of setting up a publishing business quickly and easily. After 30 years of practicing business law, I knew the subject well, and I thought that we could do that, and got to work.

What would this help look like? What would be the ideal solution for today’s busy indie authors?

It seemed to me that it would have to include help with the critical tasks involved in setting up a business, including:

  • Deciding whether to form a corporation or limited liability company
  • Developing a realistic budget or a full-blown business plan
  • Choosing a publishing imprint name, including where to search for possible conflicts
  • Obtaining business identification numbers, permits and licenses
  • Purchasing ISBNs
  • Setting up bank, PayPal and other business accounts
  • Accepting credit cards
  • Keeping track of income and expenses
  • Retaining business contracts and records
  • Understanding tax reporting and payment obligations
  • Financing through crowd-funding and other options
  • Hiring freelancers
  • Buying Insurance
  • Growing a business beyond the book

And it would be an even better solution if it included form contracts for hiring editors and designers, samples of key documents such as a release and a privacy statement, and a spreadsheet for helping you keep track of income and expenses.

That would really be something a lot of authors could use.

Are Authors In Business?

Some of you may be asking, why set up a business? There are many advantages to adopting good business practices, especially if you are self-publishing.

  • You’ll have more time for writing. You’ll save yourself hours of frustration digging through piles trying to find information.
  • You’ll be ready for success. As your sales increase, you will be prepared to measure and manage that growth.
  • You’ll avoid losses. If you have a better handle on cash flow, you’ll know when your expenses are getting too far ahead of your income.
  • You’ll know what works. If you have a method of tracking sales, you’ll know which marketing efforts paid off and which were a bust.
  • You’ll avoid mistakes, like forgetting to collect and pay sales tax or to deliver 1099s to freelancers.
  • You’ll save on taxes. If you operate your writing venture as a business, you are more likely to be able to deduct writing expenses from your non-writing income and reduce your tax bill.
  • You’ll feel more legit. If you don’t treat your writing as a legitimate business, then no one else will, particularly the IRS.
  • Your heirs will thank you. If you are hit by the proverbial bus, your heirs will appreciate your organization.

As Hamilton discovered, by setting up her business and operating it with a little discipline, she had more time, more focus, and more “mojo” for her writing. She has gone on to become an NYT and USA/Today bestselling author and is most known for her SEAL Brotherhood series.

Free Webinar on Thursday

On Thursday Joel will host me on a free webinar called “Why Authors Who Want to Self-Publish Need a Business Hat.”

In this educational presentation you’ll learn about subjects like:

  • The steps needed to enter the business of self-publishing
  • Developing a realistic budget, a full-blown business plan, and your tax options.
  • Working with vendors, editors and hiring freelancers, and other contract-based workers.
  • Purchasing your own ISBNs,
  • Setting up bank, PayPal and other business accounts,
  • Accepting credit cards, and
  • Keeping track of income and expenses.

At the end of the webinar Joel will show you the solution that we came up with to help you set yourself up as a self-publisher. We call it “Publishing Business in a Box” and there’s nothing else like it anywhere. Join us live, and I’ll see you on the webinar.

When: Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. Pacific (4:00 p.m. Eastern)
Webinar registration: Why Authors Who Want to Self-Publish Need a Business Hat
Format: Presentation from 1:00 – 2:00, followed by Q & A with Helen 2:00 – 2:30

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

Helen Sedwick

Written by
Helen Sedwick

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