Continuing from the self-publishing topic of last Thursday, “I’ve made up my mind to self-publish, now what?”. I will outline a few concepts I felt were important and critical in my early success and steps I (wish) I had not avoided early on.
Step 1: Determine a DBA & publishing company name
DBA stands for “doing business as” and you will need to create a DBA—if you plan on operating your publishing business apart from using your own name. Having the DBA will also help simplify critical banking transactions, especially when you are working to separate what money is actually used for the sake of your publishing business and what money is for your “regular” lifestyle. Try to pick a business name to coincide with your publishing company. In my case, I opted to use my last name for my publishing company: Ozuna Publications.
It is at this moment you may need to consider operating your business as a sole-proprietor or incorporating as an LLC. This step is crucial because if you plan on taking on small business loans you will need to prepare (or get help preparing) a business plan to apply for the necessary funding for this project.
Step 2: Open a business checking & savings account and apply for a Tax ID#
Now that you have a valid DBA, you can open a business checking and savings account with your local bank and from there you can apply for a Tax ID (EIN#), something you will need considering you will be selling an item that falls under taxing categories obligated and required to pay back to your State (depending on where you reside) your county and even your city. You will need a Tax ID when working with various vendors, such as print presses and distributors and more so you will need a means to record and audit your own tax transactions for the IRS.
Step 3: Register a domain name on the WWW
What domain name you use is entirely up to you, although you may wish to consider something along the same (identical) lines as your new business name or something that will allow people to isolate you during an Internet search. I could have chosen a domain name that was targeted towards my book title or business name but instead I went with: BobbyOzunaOnline.com. I knew there were not many authors with the last name Ozuna, so during random searches via Google or Yahoo, I wouldn’t be hard to find. Think of something catchy and unique and go with it! You can use many of the various service providers who include domain name registration as part of their hosting package. I went with NoMonthlyFees.com. For just about $100 bucks I was registered and hosted for one year with more than enough web storage to house my literary content. If you choose, you can go to Network Solutions and search for available domain names and register the one you want for yourself and from there find a viable hosting company. If you aren’t ready to proceed, you can use the Park feature to reserve your domain name. Parking allows you to reserve a name and prevents the name from being purchased by others until you are ready to proceed.
Step 4: Build your Author website
There are hundreds of posts on the Internet advertising free web-site builders and tools. What you choose to create your website depends on various factors.
1. Money—how much can you afford at this time? Remember, like a book project, you begin with what you have and revamp and rebuild later!!!
2. Time—how much of your free time are you prepared to allot to building and maintaining a website?
3. Ability—if you can do it yourself, I would recommend it. If you can’t, then you need to consider hiring an expert.The most important thing in the beginning is establishing a web-presence! If you can’t afford something extravagant right now, then don’t worry about it. Build a basic (free) site and start using it to promote your upcoming project. You can use a free website to coincide with your Blog. If you have the means to properly afford a more robust website, start researching web-developers in your area. I was fortunate in that 1) I know enough to maintain my own website and 2) I had a business partner willing to invest his time to help see my own dreams become a reality.
*FRIENDLY TIP* If you are local to the Dallas/Ft.Worth area, you may try contacting Jeff Sneed with OCR and make sure you reference this article to discuss discounted rates on professional web content!!!
Step 5: Consider your cover art design
As with each step of the publication process, you want to try to conform where necessary and think outside the box everywhere else. Remember, we are artists and you want your work (book content and cover image) to be unique.
You want something that will juxtapose the theme and message of your book and you want to do it in a manner that will truly set you apart. You can contact artist via the multitude of websites where people post and share their work and it can range from painters to photographers.
Pitch them with a professional query the details of your project. You may be surprised at the number of people who actually want to promote their own work and a book cover is one way to do it! One website you can use to try and begin researching potential artists is: The Talent Database.
Step 6: Locate a print and distribution company
This was the step where I spent a large amount of time collaborating, researching and biting my nails before finally making a decision. I tried local print shops but as you will learn unless you have the financial means, you may end up investing anywhere from $4000~$5000 up front for relatively small print runs that you may not break even with after selling and distributing the first run. The cost to produce such low print runs isn’t financially feasible for most print shops. This is the part that makes or breaks many self-published authors.
If you want to truly own the full rights to your book as a small press, you may want to avoid the vanity presses. These companies will help you “self-publish” your title but in the end, they are often viewed as third-parties to bookstores and because of that, it makes it harder to get your book in traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores. I am not implying you can’t do it, but again, I wrote this article to help you make the decision that works best for you.
Lightning Source is a major book publisher in that they bind and create the books for a multitude of vanity or subsidy publishing companies including many of the country’s university presses. This is the company I would recommend because the initial costs are low—I believe they have a content, graphic and one-time catalog fee which falls less than $150 dollars. They register your book and publishing company with Ingram to allow ease of distribution to almost every US bookstore. Also they work directly with Amazonto ensure your book is listed and available for (almost) immediate sale on the world’s largest online retailer’s storefront.
Remember, they will publish and produce the content you have ready for distribution. If you are doing the cover design (graphical design) work yourself, you may find yourself going through a series of “failure to accept” notifications if your cover image isn’t print ready. So again, there is more homework in your future unless you hire a graphical designer to help with the graphical design of your book cover image.
Step 7: Determine your book release date
This is also a very critical decision for your book project. First, you want to ensure you are working to establish some credibility—maybe with groups of readers targeted as potential sales. You also want to ensure you have done your research (I can’t say that enough) and began working towards gathering pre-publication reviews for your book.
Remember, I put this list together as a general basis for points to consider when venturing towards self-publication. I could write a book with all the information I have come up with the past two years of implementation but that’s not the point of these articles. This is one of those items I failed to do. Had I done a better job of projecting a release date, I might have gathered more reviews before the publication date and also gathered more momentum right from the start.
If this window of opportunity has already passed, don’t fret. You can collect as many reviews as you want after the book is available to the public. Here is a list of companies you can target for pre-publication reviews. But remember, some of them require a copy (or galley) 3~6 months before the actual release date.
Step 8: Begin (or revamp) your blog
This particular piece actually flows into the second segment of this article (which will continue next week) where we discuss some concepts for Post-Publication, including your long-term marketing strategy and tips. If you are a writer wishing to get recognized, a blog has become a must in the past few years due to the sudden surge of readers wishing to personally connect with their favorite author. You can use some of the blogging sites referenced below and which one you choose depends upon your own personal taste.
Remember, the key to blogging is connecting with an audience to promote your expertise, your genre and build a fan base. I always tell people I blog to share something insightful, something inspirational, something motivational and always something about how I am performing as an artist.
Try including reader questions and offer feedback to reader inquiries. This will help encourage reader participation. Give thanks where it is due and help recognize those who have helped you along the way and you will be surprised how many doors will open.
I truly hope this particular information was useful as I can say, there are many more details and concepts that can and must be covered, but it would take an entire book to fill the pages with that much detailed information. I know at times it seems long winded…but hey, I’m a writer.
Best of luck to you this year and remember, I believe…because you believe.