We're going to be talking about business matters for the next several days. My comments will be addressed primarily to those who are indie writers, but even if you have a traditional publisher, you must start thinking in business terms. Here's why.
- If you think of your writing as a business, you are less likely to find yourself involved in legal technicalities. You'll be dealing with contracts all along the way, whether with a traditional publisher or with separate individuals who offer publishing services for hire. "New Press" seems more trustworthy and more likely to pay its bills than "Susie Newwriter."
- If you use one of the book production firms, they will offer you the option of listing your company as the publisher of record. if you don't have one, they'll add their own imprint, and all too many people see a book published by "CreateSpace" or "Lightning Source" as a mark of inferiority.
- Letting the printer put their own imprint on your book could cause copyright problems and control issues down the road.
- And if your book turns out to be a bestseller, someone may want to turn it into a film. In that case, you may find yourself in need of legal standing in order to negotiate your rights.
- Businesses are able to claim all sorts of deductions for their expenses. If you have not formally declared yourself a business, writing is just your hobby, from which you happen to draw a little income. And hobby expenses are not deductible. We'll look at the details of deductions later in the week.
- Further, if your hobby proves makes a little money, you may be required to pay a self-employment tax on the income, and that tax rate is extremely high. Without legitimate deductions to balance the income, your "hobby" may well cost you much more than it brings in.
- Businesses can also purchase their own ISBN numbers for their books, and business ISBNs are about five times cheaper than the one you get by allowing a book production company to provide one.
- In addition, an ISBN number identifies your publisher to people like bookstore owners, which brings us back again to the issue of legal credibility.
- Advertising a book with a publishing imprint is more acceptable and more successful than just pleading with your friends to buy your book.
- If you allow yourself and those around you to think of your writing as just "something you do in your spare time," it's going to take a back seat to everything else in your life. If it's your business, you are much more likely to devote regular hours to doing it.
- Keeping careful business records of your income and expenses provides you with daily motivation to keep the bottom line in the black.
- The very idea that you have a real business will encourage you to do other business-like things, such as creating a logo and branding yourself on social media sites.
- Almost by definition, a publisher puts out more than one book. If you think of yourself as a publishing company, you are much more likely to continue to write and put out other books.
Just this past weekend I ran into a couple of writers who seem to be destined to become one-book authors because they have failed to make this transition to a business model. One kept denying that he ever intended to make any money with his book; he just wanted someone to read it. Without any other goal, he's not headed anywhere. The other protested that she had no time to write because she was promoting her first book. That's rather like a factory owner locking the door to the factory in order to concentrate on selling the first production run. What happens down the road? Nothing!