Shoestring Publishing, Part Four

This week we’re going to talk about the next couple of potential items on your budgeting list.

8. Formattting fees:

I found this to be an interesting problem to solve. At first, I was afraid that I’d have trouble learning the process of formatting both my ebook files and my print book files to industry spec, and I considered whether it would be less daunting to hire someone to do it for a fee. To that end, I looked up some options.

One friend-recommended service that focuses primarily on formatting fiction ebooks is called the “E-Book Formatting Fairies.” Their link is here:

The fees were reasonable, (“$50 up to 30 chapters and 350 pages of double spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font in the Word document submitted for formatting”) and they offered a fairly fast turnaround. They normally don’t do nonfiction, but upon further inquiry, they indicated that if I couldn’t handle the formatting on my own, they might be willing to give it a go. Had I not decided to go through the learning curve and do all of my own formatting, I would most likely have hired them to format my book.

A quick Google search of “ebook formatting services” will turn up several links to various services, but many of them offer services far more expensive than the one I mentioned above. If you truly don’t want to handle your own ebook formatting, then you can expect to pay anywhere from the aforementioned $50 on up into the hundreds of dollars.

Print book formatting varies in price, but expect to pay quite a bit for the service. For example, I saw one service that offered a combo formatting package–print and ebook both, but the total for that package was $1400. As we’ve already discussed, this service simply wasn’t in my budget, no matter how daunted I was by the notion of learning to format my own print and ebooks.

As an aside, I should mention that I’ve had a couple of ebook enthusiasts ask me “Why do a print version at all?” In reply, I’ll say that it really depends on the author and what your goals are. For myself, after so many years of trying to get published, I wanted to be able to hold that paperback in my hands and see it sitting there in my bookshelf. But while that was my initial impetus for making a print version of my book, I’ve since found that different genres of books and different readerships tend to prefer different formats of books. For my Sidhe-related nonfiction book, RavenSidhe’s first offering, I’ve found that I sell more copies of the print version of the book than copies of the ebook version. For our first fiction book, an epic fantasy novel, it’s been the opposite. So I’d be inclined to say it might pay to do both, unless you’re selling in a genre that trends heavily toward having more readers who just want ebooks.

We’ll have to do a whole different post on the various types of formatting and tutorials available for learning how to do that, but for the purposes of this budgeting post, suffice it to say that I learned how to format both print books and ebooks using entirely free software, bringing my total formatting cost to $0.00.

9. Library data block:

This is the part that you won’t have to worry about at all if you’re only doing ebooks. But if you are doing a print version, then you may want to consider getting yourself what we call the “publisher’s cataloging-in-publication data” block of information for your book–the CIP data. You’ve probably seen these small blocks of data listed on the copyright page of some print books. The data block basically tells a librarian where to shelve your book if the library were to buy one. Most public libraries will buy one if you 1. have a library card and 2. provide them with the ISBN of the book you want them to purchase. If they can get it through their usual channels, then they will often be willing to buy and stock one on their shelves, and this in turn could potentially result in a bit more exposure for your book.

If you are publishing a larger number of books written by someone other than yourself, then you will likely qualify to have your CIP block provided by the Library of Congress itself. But as a smaller indie publisher with fewer titles out, you will probably not qualify for the main program and will probably only qualify for the PCN program–PCN standing for the “preassigned control number.” To get this number assigned to your book, all you need to do is go to the Library of Congress website, fill out a form online and request a number. They usually get this LOC control number to you very quickly via email, and it’s free. But since you are a small indie publisher or an individual author, they will not provide the rest of the Cataloging-in-Publication data block to you.

Here is an article that explains the CIP in a little more detail:

The CIP data block consists of the title, author, publisher, Library of Congress control number, and the subject headers and proper subject/category headings and numbers to indicate where the book should be shelved. Technically speaking, if you were to research the process thoroughly and were reasonable sure you knew what you were doing, you might be able to create this data block yourself, but I have personally found that I much prefer to have this done by a professional cataloging librarian. While if you live in a larger city you may have access to a cataloging librarian who you might be able to sweet talk into helping you, I found it far easier to procure the services of a librarian online.

The above-mentioned article provides a link to a service that will provide you a data block for about $100, but I found a different service that I used for mine, and the price was less. I paid $60 for each of my data blocks for my books, and I consider it money well spent.

I’ve hired this particular librarian to create the data blocks for both of my books to date, and I’ve been impressed with her expertise and quick turnaround. All I had to do was provide her with the information she asks for on her website, procure a (FREE!) LOC Control Number from the Library of Congress online, and email it all to her. From there, she creates the data block and emails it back to me.

The librarian I hire to do this service has a website that will further explain the data block and what it’s for, as well as what she will need in order to create one for you. Her website is here:

Ultimately, I decided that the CIP data block is something that I prefer to have in my print books. I feel it lends an air of professionalism to the finished product, and it’s also a nice courtesy for the libraries who agree to put your book on their shelves.

10. File Upload Fees:

This is an expense that you will likely only incur if you decide to choose a printer/distributor who actually charges a fee for each upload of your book files. There are plenty of articles online about the pros and cons of various printers. While I think that’s a worthy subject and should be a post all by itself, for the purposes of this budgeting-related series of posts, I’ll just say that for various reasons, I decided to go with one of the book printers who charges an upload fee. This fee isn’t terrible: it’s $49 per upload and includes both print and ebook files in one fee if I upload both at the same time. If I can’t upload them both in one session, as happened with my first book when I uploaded the files weeks apart, then the ebook upload fee is a separate $25, with the print upload being $49. I got my upload fee refunded because I bought at least 50 copies of my print book within the first 60 days after the initial file upload. The fee refund was a great help.

Some services like CreateSpace do not charge upload fees at all, so if you are on a severely limited budget, this may be the way to go for you. I’ve seen their product; they turn out a decent-looking book. We’ll go into why I chose to use a different printer/distributor in a later post.

Next week we’ll finish up this budgeting series of posts, and then we can move on to other considerations.

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.

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.

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 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:

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.