I almost called this post “The Business of Publishing a Book,” but changed it. There are smarter bloggers and writers than me who have written extensively on the ins and outs of independent publishing. But there were a few lessons I learned the hard way that I kept thinking to myself, I should really warn other would-be writers about that. I always knew this writing and publishing journey I’m currently on would be a learning experience. I also knew the hardest part about the whole thing would be the writing bit. It’s not easy to sit down and answer the question “What happens next?” over and over again.
But the writing side is only part of the story. If you’re going to publish a book independently, you’ll have to navigate actually publishing your book – or as I like to refer to it, the not so pretty side of being an independed author. It’s the side with tax numbers and Excel sheets and accounting (shudder). It’s far from glamorous – there’s nothing like filling out an expense report months after the fact and trying to track down what exactly you paid each editor/proofreader/cover designer.
Don’t do it that way. It sucks.
Here are some of the things I wish I knew before I published my first book.
Save Your Money
Some people may argue this step is optional, and I suppose it technically is. You could edit your own book and design your own cover. Nothing is stopping you from being a one-woman (or one-man) show. But I don’t recommend it. First of all, I don’t care how good of a writer you are – everyone needs an editor (I paid for an editor and a proofreader). Whether you find a professional or pay a friend, invest in someone who can find all those stupid mistakes you don’t want your readers to find.
And while the budget is up to you, there are a lot of little expenses that add up fast. Before you even finish your book, set some money aside – and then try to triple it. Seriously, even independent publishing can be expensive.
Once you’re done writing, decide what is worth spending that money on. For me, it was having a really beautiful cover and a talented editor. Those are investments in my work, and I’d spend that money again in a heartbeat.
Look At Publishing Like Starting Your Own Business
Because surprise – you actually will!
For tax purposes, you probably want to have your book expenses and subsequent profits separate from your personal accounts. This means you need a bank account that’s just for your writing, which means you need a tax ID number (known as an EIN number), and to get one, you need to start an LLC.
Yep, 2015 was the year of the LLC for me. I am CEO of Cate Dashwood LLC, and doesn’t it feel good.
Every state is a little different, so it’s probably a good idea to check with someone who knows what they’re talking about re: finances on this.
Slow Down and Keep Editing
This was probably the hardest lesson for me. After so many weeks of work, I just wanted my book to run away and never return. I couldn’t bear reading it again – but I really wished I would have embraced the journey and taken my time. It’s your book – and one of the best things about being an independent publisher is you can take as long as you need to make it perfect – before sending it to an editor and letting them help you make it even more perfect.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list, and I’m sure as I continue this journey, I’ll have more lessons to pass along.