I’ve heard indie authors describe self-publishing as akin to starting a business, which it quite literally is, but I have no idea how to run a business. My guess is, most authors don’t.
When I decided to self-publish, I took some advice I found on a writing blog I can’t remember the name of and started an LLC. You can do this relatively cheaply, and it will help you file taxes, which is why I did it. I figured I would lose money on this thing for a little while, and I might as well be able to write-off the expenses.
That is how G & D Publishing LLC (named for the first initials of my two children) started. I got the paperwork filed, and now, I am a business owner… kinda. It doesn’t feel like a business because I’m the only employee and the sole investor, but in a legal sense, it is.
As an added benefit, I can use my LLC to purchase ISBNs, and my publishing company will display as the publisher on Amazon and any other retail sites.
Every author takes a different approach to their records, but I take the time to build out spreadsheets for everything. I have a spreadsheet for each year’s budgets and expenses. There’s a spreadsheet tracking my inventory—how many physical copies I have on hand, the people and indie stores that have bought books directly from me, my total sales, the copies that I have given away to reviewers or in giveaway contests. I keep the list of ARC reviewers I reached out to or who reached out to me on another spreadsheet.
You get the idea. I have lots of spreadsheets.
They help me keep track of everything because I know if I don’t force myself to have order, I will have chaos and become extremely anxious about it.
My advice is to know yourself and your needs, then act accordingly.
Having just launched my debut, I am only beginning to dive into marketing, but best believe, I will have a spreadsheet for that as well.
This year, in all odds, I am going to lose money. I have my ebooks for sale for $0.99 because I am investing in creating a readership over immediate financial gain. So, it would take a mountain of sales to compensate for the money I am investing into artwork, editing, marketing, and developing audiobooks for my series.
At the end of the day, I remind myself that I can write-off the losses, as if that is going to help. But treating my sales and marketing like a business helps me think about these decisions more rationally than if I was approaching everything through the lens of my dreams and passion for writing. I need that level of distance to keep me from going fetal in the corner.
I never set out to be a small business owner. I wanted to be a writer, and doing the work that supports my writing takes away from the minimal time I have to write. However, if I don’t take it seriously, I will always wonder if I could have made my writing work for me like I dreamed it would.
Everyone takes a different approach to self-publishing, which is one of its greatest strengths. Self-publishing is versatile.
Some people focus 100% of their time and effort on writing and worry about money later. Some people are able to produce their books without bearing a heavy cost. Some people are fortunate enough to not have to worry about writing-off losses on taxes. Other people don’t have the time to even think about starting and maintaining records.
The only rule with self-publishing is you have the autonomy to choose. For me, I have chosen to relinquish some of the hours I have to write and focus on the business of publishing my books. It will make my writing schedule harder to maintain, and it might not help much in the long run. But this is the path I’m betting on.
My goal of writing these blogs is to be open and honest about my process in case it helps someone else out there who feels as lost as I did at times when working towards my debut.
So, yes, self-publishing is like starting a business, if that is the path you choose to take.