Shoestring Publishing, Part Two

Last week we started going down the list of possible expenses you might have when starting up a publishing business. Let’s look at a few more of those.

4. Accounting software or physical ledger, file folders, etc.:

I have found that if you own a tablet or a smartphone, it is relatively easy to find apps that can help with business accounting. I know that there are expensive programs out there which do an amazing job of keeping a record of business expenses and income, such as Quickbooks, which is perhaps one of the most well-known names in business accounting software, whether it’s online or desktop. But it is possible to find programs out there in the form of free apps or downloadable freeware/shareware that will give you a basic ledger system. The one I chose to use is called GnuCash. It isn’t necessarily perfect, but it works pretty well and the price tag was perfect. If you’re looking for a free accounting program, you can learn more about it here: http://www.gnucash.org/.

There are others, of course. I found a couple of links that might be worth checking out, but I can’t personally vouch for them as I have not tried them.

https://www.waveapps.com/accounting/

http://www.turbocash.net/

And there are also a couple of articles with more information on free software:

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2382514,00.asp

http://www.techradar.com/us/news/software/applications/best-free-accounting-software-8-programs-we-recommend-1136684

If anyone has tried a different free accounting software program and found that it really worked well, feel free to share in the comments.

5. ISBNs for your books:

Ah, the ISBN. You really should not try to publish a book without one. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It’s this number that provides a unique identifier for your book that makes it distinguishable from other books, even if your book should happen to have the same title as a different book by a different author. If you try to special-order a book, a bookstore will need to find this number in order to get it for you and make sure it’s the right book. So yes, you really need one if you want to sell your book to the general public and not just print a copy for yourself and your family. However, there are a few considerations you need to know about where ISBNs are concerned.

Some authors decide to publish through CreateSpace or through a packaging service, and get the ISBN through them. You can do this if you choose, but I personally don’t recommend not buying your own ISBNs. Yes, CreateSpace and/or a book packager could issue you an ISBN, but if this happens, then they are listed as the official publisher of your book. In other words, if you get your ISBN through CreateSpace, if CreateSpace assigns you the number, then CreateSpace is listed as the “publisher” of your book. If you (or your new publishing company) want to be listed as your book’s publisher, then you have to buy your own ISBNs. In the United States, the source of legitimate and official ISBNs is called Bowker. Their website is here: https://www.myidentifiers.com/.

It looks horribly expensive, with the cost of a single ISBN placed at $125.00. But this is one of those expenses to which you’ll just have to resign yourself; it’s really not a viable option not to buy one. However, if you’re planning more than one book, it is far more cost-effective in the long run to get a block of ISBNs so that you have more you can use for future books. Also remember, you’ll need one ISBN for a print version of your book if you’re planning one, and also one for an ebook version. Any different version or format of your book will require a different ISBN. If you want a hardcover as well as an ebook and a paperback, you’ll have to have another ISBN for the hardcover. So choose which number of ISBNs you will purchase based on how many different versions of your book you plan on having, and how many books you’ll eventually be publishing.

A block of ten ISBNs is the most popular option for indies, and ten at once comes to less per ISBN then just buying them one at a time. I bought a block of ten ISBNs to cover RavenSidhe’s first several books. I’d have bought a block of 100 as an even better value if I could have, but the cost for ten is $295.00, and for 100 it’s $575.00. I needed to conserve my startup cash I’d saved, so I went with the block of ten, which will be enough ISBNs to cover my first five books with an ebook version and paperback version for each. Bowker’s interface is easy to use, and it keeps track of all of your ISBN data, including numbers once you’ve used them, and also those remaining numbers that you have not yet assigned to a book. So, depending on how many books total you’re planning to publish over the next 5 to 10 years, it may well behoove you to go for the block of 10 ISBNs for $295.00, and add that into your budget. Or, for just one version of one book, plan on a single ISBN for $125.00

Bowker also offers several other services, including help with cover design, ebook creation, proofreading services, etc. All of these services cost money, of course, and you can certainly find cheaper ways to do a lot of what you’ll need done. For example, Bowker offers the service of helping you file a copyright for a price of $79.95, but it’s just as easy to file it yourself with the Library of Congress and only end up paying $35 if you’re registering a work by a single author who is also the claimant, and if the work you’re registering wasn’t made for hire. (In other words, you’re the one filing for copyright for one book, you’re that book’s author, and you weren’t hired by someone else to write the book.) So as tempting as the services Bowker offers in addition to its ISBNs may be, as a small publisher, it is well worth your time to find out whether it would cost you considerably less to do most of these little tasks yourself.

So far, including a block of 10 ISBNs added to the total from last week’s sample expenses, we’ve spent $970.00 in establishing our publishing business.

6. Editing fees:

Oh, my goodness. This is a big issue, at least in my opinion. I cannot stress enough that many authors are not very good at editing their books for spelling, grammar, sentence structure, plot and flow of the story, etc. This is the kind of thing that contributed to the original stigma against self-publishing in the first place. It still does, because to be honest, I still see far too many self-published books out there that are poorly edited or that seem not to be edited at all. It makes me cautious about how much money I’m willing to pay for any self-published book. Thank goodness for those “see inside the book” widgets! They’ve saved me more than once from spending money on a book that would have put my teeth on edge.

The truth is that most authors really need an editor to go over their books in minute detail before the book is ever published. This is much bigger of a deal than most people think it is, and I would submit that people who think it’s not a big deal are probably those who just don’t happen to have much of a penchant for attention to detail. But for me personally, as a reader, if I try to read a self-published book (or any other book, for that matter) that is rife with spelling errors and clunky sentences, etc., then it pops me right out of the story. It drives. Me. Nuts. I simply cannot look at a book filled with errors like that as though it is professionally done. So if you are an author who has trouble with any of these details, then it would really be a good idea for you to get someone to edit the book, preferably not your spouse or other family member, who is less apt to be as critical of your manuscript’s quality as someone more objective. However, given the high fees that are often charged for editing services (Bowker, for example, offers fees “as low” as $8 per page. But I, as a publisher on a shoestring budget, could not even come close to affording to pay an editor even as much as $1 per page.) If you are in this same boat, how, then, can you get quality editing for less or no money?

One answer is to check into writers’ critique groups and beta readers–and not just any random beta readers. Find people you already know or meet new people through writers’ groups who are sticklers for grammar and line editing, and who also have a strong sense of plot and pacing. A writers’ conference or convention might be a good venue at which to find critique and editing partners who’d be willing to trade services with you. Local writers’ groups are also possible places to meet people who fit the bill. Or you may even find people in odd places where you’d never expect to find potential editors. For example, I just met an editor recently while I was at the courthouse for jury duty. No kidding. They’re out there. You just have to look for them. And after you’ve found them and they’ve agreed to help, you need to be willing and ready to consider honestly what they have to say by way of critique, and you have to be willing to return the favor if they’d like you to read their work (or format their manuscript, or whatever your strength is) in return for their objective opinion and/or editing skills.

Yes, it’s possible for you to do the editing entirely on your own if you happen to be really good at that sort of thing. But be aware that even then, you may still miss a few mistakes that you didn’t know you made, and so you’ll have to be extra vigilant when you’re going over your manuscript. Get a copy of Strunk and While’s “Elements of Style” and use it whenever you’re in doubt about any of your grammar, sentence structure, or punctuation. Use your thesaurus or dictionary if you aren’t sure whether you spelled a word right. Make the effort, please, even if you claim that you’re “just not good at that kind of thing.” It’s so worth it to come across as professional, and it will make a huge difference to your credibility.

I lucked out and have a great couple of critique partners I’ve worked with for many years, one of whom we like to call “the Grammar Queen.” I hope you can find your own “grammar queen,” because believe me, your book’s future readers will thank you (and her.) In my opinion, if you’re going to all the trouble of setting up an actual publishing company, then you really owe it to your future readers and yourself to do as professional a job of the editing as possible. As an end resort, if you have no other way to get the book edited, then yes, you’ll probably have to pay someone to do it. (That, or bake them a mountain of chocolate chip cookies.) For editing services, I spent $0, but I also spent countless hours editing my own work after having it gone over in minute detail by my two critique partners and two or three beta readers. It’s just a matter of extremely strict attention to detail, and the commitment to see the process through.

This post is getting a little long, so we’ll continue our budget discussion next week.

Shoestring Publishing, Part One

In outlining this article, I found that there were so many categories under “budgeting” that we really should break this down into several posts. So bear with me. First, I’ll list the general categories that I wanted to cover and that I encountered when establishing RavenSidhe, and then I’ll begin to address those categories two or three at a time, which may take several posts. I think it will be easier this way, both for me to write up and for you to consider in your own budgeting. When spending hard-earned or hard-saved money, it’s always best to make careful choices in what you buy.

In making a general budget for your publishing business, you’ll need to consider quite a few needs that your fledgling business might have. This list is by no means exhaustive, and you might want to add some categories for your own use, but here’s what I have to begin with:

1. Making things official: business filing fees, etc.
2. Equipment: computer, monitors, peripherals, backup storage solutions
3. Business cards
4. Accounting software or physical ledger, file folders, etc.
5. ISBNs for your books
6. Editing fees
7. Cover art
8. Formatting fees
9. Library data block
10. File upload fees
11. Copyright fee
12. Incidentals such as art supplies or how-to books on formatting, font licenses, etc.

Looks like a daunting and expensive list at first blush, but I promised I’d show you how a publishing business can work on a shoestring budget, which just means a budget that is very, very tiny. So let’s start to break this down.

I’ve mentioned before that when I started RavenSidhe, I saved up for it first by putting aside money from Tarot readings over a period of a year and a half. There were also a very few expenses that I covered out-of-pocket, but generally speaking, RavenSidhe was built on less than $2000.00. With the official filing fees varying from state to state, your own amount may be more or less, but this will give you an idea of about what to expect in your budgeting.

We talked before about the difference between forming an LLC or a sole proprietorship. We also talked about how the filing/administrative fees to set up a business in your state might vary from those in Idaho, but for now, Idaho is where I am, so I’ll use Idaho’s figures. You’ll have to adjust your budget to accommodate your own plans in your own state. So moving into the categories, now:

1. State business filing fees:

  • Certificate of Assumed Business Name (DBA) for a sole proprietorship in Idaho: $25
  • Filing fee for an Idaho LLC, or Limited Liability Company $100

So far at this point, I’d spent $100, since I went for the LLC business model instead of a sole proprietorship.

2. Equipment:

  • computer
  • monitors (2)
  • peripherals, including backup drives or cloud storage, etc.

I already had a computer when I started my business, but not all computers are equal to the task of carrying out some of the operations involved in publishing. Most will do just fine, but if you’re limping along on an old, outdated model of computer with an obsolete operating system, you may want to consider an upgrade to a better, faster computer with more memory. You might also want to buy such a thing as a laptop, for ease of working on your stuff when you’re not at home on your desktop machine. In my experience, a good, working computer of some kind can often be found for $500 or less. Assuming you do have to buy a computer, the better a deal you can get, the more you can stretch your budget. Let’s assume you can find a decent desktop machine or laptop for around $350.00.

Next, I have to say that getting a secondary monitor for your machine might be well worth your consideration. I use two monitors for my desktop machine, one beside the other. This enables me to have such a thing as a digital instructional manual or a YouTube how-to video window open on one monitor, and my current work-in-progress being formatted on the other monitor, so I can refer to the instructions as I go if I need to. I never guessed how much having an extra monitor would make a difference to my work, or how convenient it would be. This alone was one of the best investments I made when establishing my business. The extra monitor costs around, say, $100. Luckily for me, one of my monitors came with my computer, so I only had to buy one extra.

Now we’ve spent about $550.00. We’ve established our business entity, and we have a computer. Other possible equipment-related expenses might need to include a new flash drive with lots of storage, or even an external hard drive that you can save your files onto as a backup, just in case of the sudden demise of your main computer, which would sink all your hard work in one dreadful moment. A good flash drive isn’t horribly expensive; they run between $14 to $40, depending on how much memory you want.

Here’s an example of something similar to what I use: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0041Q38QM?creativeASIN=B0041Q38QM&linkCode=w01&linkId=4E4IYPQ4XLMN3JBR&ref_=as_sl_pc_ss_til&tag=poostal-20

I’ve also gotten very good service out of an external hard drive similar to this one, which costs around $70:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000ND75CU?creativeASIN=B000ND75CU&linkCode=w01&linkId=7BEMU2QS6NHSJA6E&ref_=as_sl_pc_ss_til&tag=poostal-20

Price for both items, about $110.00. So far, our total for equipment and business startup fees comes to $660.00. If you already have all the electronic/computer equipment you need, so much the better.

Cloud storage may be a zero-cost option for you, if that is something that seems more convenient or feasible than buying electronic storage solutions. I cannot personally vouch for any of the cloud services found at the link below, but feel free to check them out on your own and see whether this is something that would suit your preferences and/or budget.

http://www.1mtb.com/top-10-best-free-online-cloud-storage-services/

3. Business Cards: There are many options for business cards. The least expensive way I’ve found to get them is to order them from an online printing service such as Vistaprint or Moo. Yes, you could print some out yourself on cardstock using your own computer and printer, but your home printer usually can’t handle the weight of cardstock that you’d want to keep things looking professional. I’ve had great service from both Moo and Vistaprint, and the quality of their cardstock and printing is absolutely professional:

http://www.moo.com/us/

http://www.vistaprint.com/

Of the above services, I’ve found Vistaprint to be the more affordable of the two. I’ve generally gotten my business cards from Vistaprint on one of their promotional specials, and so I’ve never paid more than about $15 for a box of business cards. Of course, your total price also depends on how many you’re ordering. I tend to order in smaller batches because I don’t go through them all that fast, but if you’re planning to hand them out all over the place, then you might need a greater number of cards.

All in all, it’s a very worthwhile business expense. If you’re at an event with your books and someone approaches your table with interest but can’t buy a book “right now,” then if you have a business card to offer them, they can later look up your book and buy it online, especially if you wrote or included your book title and ISBN on the back of the card. That potential online customer might even pass the business card on to a friend. You never know where that information might end up and how it might result in sales. In my opinion, it’s well worth it to have business cards—much more so than those postcards and bookmarks you probably see many authors handing out at conferences or conventions, (and admit it–you know you probably just throw away or recycle those bookmarks once you empty your bag at home.)

I thought about going into the topic of business card design here, but I think that’s a whole separate post. See, I told you it would be a while before we run out of topics to cover!

Let’s stop here for now so that you can consider what we’ve discussed above. We’ll continue going down our list of possible expenses and business needs next week, with a look at more great resources you may want to obtain, whether those you’ll have to purchase or those you can get for free.

Business Plans: The Important Step People Tend to Skip

The business plan is not always the first thing on everyone’s radar. I’m not sure exactly why it often gets left out, but it may well be for the same reason that I never used to make an outline when I was about to write a report in school. I’d write the report first and make an outline afterward, and then only if a teacher required it. What I didn’t realize was how helpful an outline could actually be if written first.

Carrying the analogy a little further, the outline of a report and the written plan for a business are similar and have similar objectives. They both give you a direction to go, set out an order of events and subjects to address, and state clearly all of the things you’ve planned to include in your work, so you can see ahead of time whether you’ve left out anything important. As far as goals, they give you something to aim for. Just as an outline helps give a book an advance look at the structure and direction of a book’s plotline, the business plan does something very similar for the business you’re creating.

Now that we’ve got at least an inkling of why it might be good to make one in the first place, the next question is going to be, “What should I include in a business plan?” That answer will vary depending on whom you talk to, but there are a few general considerations that will work for most small businesses, including a small indie press like mine…or yours.

If you want to see how this might look for you, perhaps you’d like to bring up your word processor or grab a notepad. I’ll ask a few questions, you can answer them onscreen or on paper, and by the time we’re done, you’ll have the bare bones of a business outline. Then I’ll throw a few links at you, and when/if you feel like it, you can go see how the pros do it, and refine things a bit further or add things you think should be added. It’s simpler than a lot of people think, and it doesn’t have to be particularly fancy. It’s just important to know the answers to a few questions, and get those recorded so you can refer to them at some later date when you want to take a look at the progress your business has made and see where you might want to make changes.

1. Goals: What are your goals for your publishing business? What type of books do you plan to write and publish? How many books do you think you’ll be publishing—one to two a year, or are you more prolific than that? By the time five years have gone by, what do you hope to have accomplished with your writing and publishing venture? Keep your answers relatively simple to start with. This part of your plan is also what some would call a “mission statement.”

2. Audience: Who will be reading your books? Are you writing for an adult audience, for teens or children? Are you hoping to reach the DIY crowd, or the sci-fi devotees, cosplayers, horse lovers, backyard mechanics, crazy cat ladies? Who do you hope will see your book and want to buy it? You’ll be tailoring your marketing to them, so it’s important to figure out who these readers will probably be. If you’re writing in multiple genres, you’ll want to write down a couple of sentences to a paragraph to describe each group of readers you’re trying to reach.

3. Your Unique Focus: What makes you stand out from the crowd? This can be a tricky question, because of course there are plenty of other mechanics, math majors, self-help enthusiasts, life coaches, fantasy writers, etc. This is the time to consider what it is that makes your company and your books different from all the other indies out there. What makes it shine? What about your subject matter makes you feel passionate about it? These are important questions, in part because they are the same questions your potential readers will be subconsciously asking themselves each time they consider buying one of your books.

4. Distribution and Sales: How will you get your books into your readers’ hands? Do you intend to buy a bunch of copies of your printed book and then just sell them out the trunk of your car, the way people used to do way back in the day when self-publishing wasn’t yet a widespread thing and POD was unheard of? Will you get just a box of copies printed at a time, and take them to various genre-related events to sign and be seen? Or are you planning to skip the print version and just sell ebooks through Amazon or other online retailers? There are lots of online venues for ebooks, and if you’re going to be your own distributor, you’ll probably need to establish an account or business understanding with each one you plan to use. For the purposes of this particular blog post, let’s just have you begin to think about these questions for now. Write down a couple of ideas for what you’ll do, or just leave this spot blank for the moment. We’ll talk about distribution strategies later on, where we can devote an entire post just to this topic.

5. Projected revenue: Oh, this is a fun one–sort of. It’s very hard to predict exactly how many copies of your books you’re going to sell, because sales depend on so many things, like exposure, visibility, and marketing. But for now, just throw a number up there. Set a goal for how much money you want to bring in per month. If you set a goal that’s higher than a few dollars per month, it may take time and several books published to work up to that level, but that’s okay. Just write down the amount you’d like to see and keep it somewhere in the realm of realistic. It’s probably not realistic to set a monthly revenue goal of $1000.00 right at the outset, but it’s at least somewhat realistic to expect a monthly income of anywhere from $10 to $30.

Don’t get discouraged; this is potential income just from sales of your first book alone, if people find it right away and if you start gaining readers via word-of-mouth. It may not look like much, but if you get even a few dollars a month, it’s enough to save up to finance the production of future books, and you can build up further from there. Remember, one of the possible reasons you went Indie was so that you could take the time to build a business from the ground up, and it won’t be a grand mansion right at the outset. At first it may look a lot more like a cottage than a mansion, but you can keep adding on to it with more books published, and eventually it may become much larger and roomier than it was at first. In the meantime, you’ll probably want to hold onto that day job.

6. Production Process: How and where will you run this business? The most likely answer is “Out of my home,” but some may have the benefit of a separate office building or the like. Besides location, you will also need to consider how you will produce the most important parts of the book—the manuscripts, the files for your ebooks, and the layouts for your print version if you’re doing one of those. Another thing to consider: Will you be doing all of this work yourself, or do you plan to hire someone to format your book? This question is important for reasons that we’ll cover in a future post.

If you will be the one doing the formatting/coding/layout work, do you have a dedicated computer that you will use for this, or will you have to use a shared machine or a library computer? I assume that if you’re reading this blog, you have access to a computer, but you may want to jot down its capabilities here. Is it a Windows machine or a Mac? Does it have a decent amount of storage/memory? Are you currently limping along with an old machine and are you in need of an upgrade, or can you get by with what you’ve already got? This is important to know because it will figure into the budgeting, which we’ll also get to later.

These questions cover the very basics and can get you started, but there may be more parts you’ll want to add to your business plan as you go. There are also templates that you can download and use to structure your business outline, if you prefer. Here are some links to look at for more help with the business plan process:

https://www.sba.gov/writing-business-plan

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/247574

http://www.myownbusiness.org/s2/

Even if you decide to use any or some of the above guides, you’ll still want to make sure that your business plan is tailored to your specific needs. You may find that there are parts of a more service-oriented business plan that, as an independent writer, you simply don’t need or want. Just get your underpinnings down and then fine tune your business plan from there. It’s perfectly okay to revise it and add to it as you go. It might even be useful to document your changes as you make them. That will give you the ability to look back and see where you had to re-evaluate your original plan from time to time to adapt to changing circumstances and opportunities that arose during the first few years after establishing your business.

I’m by no means an expert on business plans, and as you’ll see when you chase those links, there are other people who are far more adept at designing them than I am. But regardless of its level of sophistication and regardless of what you may happen to leave out or overlook, I truly believe that it’s far better to have at least some sort of business plan than to have no business plan at all. Good luck with yours, and have fun creating.

Sole Proprietorship or LLC – What’s Your Style?

Just for starters, I need to make the following disclaimer: The information found in this blog is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel, and RavenSidhe Publishing does not offer any legal advice whatsoever. Any and all actions you may decide to take and any decisions you may make in establishing your own business are solely your own responsibility.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the business side of publishing.

If you decide to create your own publishing company, one of the first things you’ll want to decide is whether to establish it as a sole proprietorship or as an LLC, a Limited Liability Company. Both have certain advantages.

A sole proprietorship is a business that has only one owner/operator. There is no legal distinction between the owner and the business; in short, you are the business. You are legally responsible for any and all of the business debts, and of course all of its profits are yours as well. Your business and you are taxed together, not separately, so it simplifies the filing of taxes.

A freelance writer would already be considered a sole proprietorship. However, if you choose to conduct business under a chosen business name rather than simply under your personal name, then you can file a form for that, known as either a DBA (doing business as) or an ABN (assumed business name.) It may cost you a small amount of money to file a DBA or ABN form, but the amount is usually fairly minimal. Whether you use an assumed business name or not, a sole proprietorship is the most common and cheapest type of business to establish.

If this type of business structure sounds appealing to you, you can learn more about it at the following sites.

https://www.sba.gov/content/sole-proprietorship-0

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/sole-proprietorship-basics-29694.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sole_proprietorship

As you already know, this isn’t the type of business model I decided to use for RavenSidhe. While a sole proprietorship would certainly have been cheap and easy, I liked some of the features of the LLC structure better.

An LLC is a legal entity in its own right. That means that if (heaven forbid) anyone decides to sue your company for any reason, your personal assets are at least somewhat protected, presumably leaving only your company’s assets at risk. Please note that the exact circumstances and rules may vary from state to state and case to case, but generally, the above tends to hold true. The LLC is also responsible for its own debts. As such, it has its own number, known as an EIN (employer identification number) rather than using your social security number like a sole proprietorship would do. An LLC can have either a single “member” (owner,) or multiple members (owners.) If you form the LLC with yourself as the only member, as I did, then it is still functionally very similar to a sole proprietorship, but with the differences I just mentioned.

It doesn’t have a lot of expensive and bothersome regulations like a Corporation, so it’s still relatively hassle-free. I have to submit an annual report online that basically involves filling out a brief form saying “Yes, I’m still in operation at this address, and yes, I’m still the one in charge.” I also have to submit a list of business expenses and profits to my accountant, so it can be included with my taxes. Not too onerous, responsibility-wise, and nowhere near as complicated as I had once feared. I don’t know how it would be in states other than Idaho, but it should be easy to find out the regulations/requirements for your own state. Here are some links that will tell you more about the LLC. I particularly like the first one because it makes it all seem very easy and straightforward, and it even has a helpful little video.

http://howtostartanllc.com/learn-the-basics/what-is-an-llc

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limited_liability_company

http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Limited-Liability-Company-LLC

If you reach the point at which you want to create an official LLC, then you’ll need to go to the website for the Secretary of State for your state to get the forms to acquire a Certificate of Organization, or whatever similar form your state requires. For Idaho, it’s http://www.sos.idaho.gov/corp/llc_form.html. Your own state will have a similar website. Filing fees will vary from state to state, and obviously some states’ fees will be more expensive than others. Idaho’s fee was $100.

The IRS website has all sorts of helpful links, forms and publications for different small business entities, including the form to fill out to obtain an EIN, as previously mentioned—the Employer Identification Number. And here’s the best part: the EIN is free. No filing fee. You want one, you get one, often within moments. No wait, no hassle. (Amazing, right?) Here’s a link you’ll want:

http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed

I wanted to mention one last thing for this week. There are plenty of websites and legal companies that offer their services in filling out and filing forms for you—for a fee. I promised I’d tell you how I created RavenSidhe on a shoestring budget, so let me just add that I did not use any of these form-filing services. I found and filed the correct forms myself, and paid only the fees I already mentioned above.

Yes, it may be easier to have someone else look up the forms you need and file them for you, and if you have plenty of money to avail yourself of those services, more power to you. But I did not have money to pay someone else to file my forms, so I went to the effort to find out what I needed to do to make things all nice and legal, and I filled everything out and submitted it myself. Having only a small amount of seed money to start the business with made me very frugal and budget-conscious. (And yes, we’ll definitely talk budgeting in a future post.)

The caveat to the above paragraph is that every state is different, and every state makes its own rules for what steps you need to follow in establishing your business entity. Idaho’s rules governing the establishing of a business are amazingly simple, but that may not be the case in all states, so of course you’ll need to look into the specific requirements for your state. If your state happens to be one where they require you to have your forms filed by a lawyer, then you might need to check into retaining a contract lawyer to help you. Most states have some form of cheaper legal aid for people who just need a few papers filed.

Whatever decision you make about whether or not to start up an independent publishing company or just produce books as an individual author, it’s always good to know what your options are and what the potential benefits or hassles might be. In my opinion, it’s always best to know as much as possible about what you’re potentially getting yourself into.

Next week: Making a business plan and how it’s useful.