Well, Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook is for you.
I wish I’d waited one more month to buy it, then I could’ve gotten the updated version too. But the one I have has provided me with some vital tips and information, resulting in a few changes in the way I do things.
In the first chapter, Helen Sedwick covers the fundamentals of setting up a business, from owning your own domain name and ISBNs to determining whether to incorporate or remain a sole proprietorship.
Using the information found in this chapter alone:
- I learned how to check the availability of my imprint name, Canopy Books
Unfortunately, I discovered it’s already registered to someone in New York and is being used by someone else in Washington. Thanks to Pegg Thomas talking me down from a major freak-out (since the name is on the bulk of my books in Amazon and IngramSpark), my imprint is now Canopy Books of Texas.
- I realized I needed an Employer Identification Number
You may not need one, I don’t know. But as an author who participates in novella collections, I have to fill out a W-9 for whoever is serving as “publisher” for the collection. This IRS form requires either my Social Security Number or an EIN. I give this to the “publisher” to keep her from paying taxes on more than her share of the collection’s royalties. As an editor, my clients require one because they can deduct my services (now called Canopy Editing Services) from their income taxes. For both of these reasons, I prefer to send out an EIN instead of risking my SSN.
- I decided to file a dba
I haven’t set up the paperwork for this yet because I still need to research it and see how much of a headache it’s going to be to change things for state tax purposes, but filing a “doing business as” (a.k.a. Fictitious Business Name) statement is in my near future. Basically, I’m creating Canopy Books of Texas Enterprises, which includes my imprint, Canopy Books of Texas, my editing business, Canopy Editing Services, and my “bookstore,” Canopy Bookstore of Texas. (The store is set up under our blue canopy only during festivals and book events.)
“But I don’t want to do all this,” you say. “I just want to write.” Okey dokey, let’s look at what else Helen Sedwick discusses in the book:
- the difference between hiring self-publishing service companies or going completely independent, using print-on-demand services, and the contractual things to watch for in each.
- contracting with freelancers and knowing what freelance services are tax deductible
- taxes pertaining to the business in general
- protecting your rights and how to avoid stepping on someone else’s rights: Copyright laws vs Creative Commons vs Public Domain.
- DCMA, SPAM, and COPPA: navigating the “alphabet soup” of the internet
- how to avoid marketing service scams
All this and much more, including links to some great resources.
Indie authors need to remember they are in a business now. Among the things they need to do early in their careers: join a professional writers organization, develop a network of freelancers to help with every aspect of book development and marketing, and study Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook. Keep it handy.