Let's review the essentials of creating and building a self-publishing business as an independent author and self-publisher, with the acquisition of ISBNs and other important steps. Self-publishers wear many hats, including that of a small-business owner. This role can be rewarding for many authors once they realize how much more control they have over their book than if they had sold it to a publishing company.
Create a Self-Publishing Business Plan
A business plan, even a short one, will help you with goals and expectations because it requires that you research the marketplace. You can also perform a competitive analysis and create a realistic financial projection. Here is the content of a business plan if you’re planning to publish a single book:
If you’re planning many books, or if your book is tied to a business, product, or service, it will necessarily be more complicated. There are many business plan templates on the web and lots of books that can guide you through the process.
Market Research is Essential for Self-Publishing Business
It’s not a good idea to rush into publishing before you know where your book belongs on the virtual shelves. Only then can you create a successful format and design so that it competes with others in the genre. A self-publishing business needs hard work to be successful.
Make sure that your book fits in, yet stands out, in the sea of other books on Amazon and Google. Use Publisher Rocket to compare your book to others. https://selfpubbootcamp.com/publisherrocket/
A few authors I’ve worked with have insisted that their book is unique. They tell me proudly that there’s nothing like it! That’s bad. Because if there are no books like yours on the market at all, there probably isn’t a market for it at all.
Publisher Rocket is my favorite tool for book competitive analysis and it's very easy to use. It's only $99 and updates are included forever.
Test Your Book with Readers and Other Authors
Test your book with friends, communities, and editors. Solicit honest feedback. Make sure people can read it all the way through without putting it down. Make sure they’re excited about it and want to tell their friends.
Again, Publisher Rocket is my favorite tool to use because it prevents me from spending hours poking around Amazon Advanced Search to figure out what category a book fits in and which ones are bestsellers and what keywords they use. It’s good business to know as much as you can about your competition. Competition is probably the wrong word. I’ve found most authors to be more cooperative than competitive. Maybe it's because people don't seem to purchase only one book on a topic or in a genre; they buy a lot of them. So band together with authors who write books like yours!
Your Self-Publishing Business Mission and Goals
A business plan can help you to articulate your mission of setting up a self-publishing business. You may be tempted to skip this step and just blindly jump into publishing your book, but it’s better to think it out, write it down, and modify it as you become more aware of the challenges of this business.
These are some of the important questions you need to ask yourself:
- Why are you writing this book?
- Is your mission to change the world, to make money, to support your business, to leave a family legacy?
- Is your goal to entertain or inform a small audience—family or community—or a larger audience in a geographic area, profession, lifestyle, or interest group?
- Perhaps you are writing to establish yourself as an expert in your field or to promote other products and services you offer?
- Will you use your book as part of a book proposal to try to attract an agent and publisher?
Self-Publishing Business Tasks and Timeline
It can sometimes take years for a book to take off, so set up good channels, good relationships, and good communities. Never stop marketing.
A timeline can be general or very detailed. Here is a starter list of items for your timeline with estimated time to complete provided where applicable.
- Purchase a set of ten or one hundred ISBNs from Bowker (immediate)
- Obtain an EIN to replace your SSN on all business and publishing records (immediate)
- Choose your publisher name and obtain a DBA (two weeks)
- Create a publisher logo or type treatment (one day/week)
- Create good metadata – this is an important marketing tool and can (and should) take a long time. You can continue to refine it.
- Open a Library of Congress (LoC) PCN account, obtain an LCCN and P-CIP block for the copyright page. See this post for more info. (three to six weeks)
- Set a price for your book (market research competing books using Amazon Advanced Search)
- (Pre)register your copyright (immediate)
Note that this business timeline does not include book production and marketing tasks.
Use an EIN or Professional Tax ID instead of Your Personal IDs
A business basic is to obtain an EIN (US authors) so you don't have to use your SSN for your business. You can get it online in just a few minutes. Read my blog post to learn how and where you can get an EIN and to understand how it works.
Create a Publishing Business Name
Independent authors are often encouraged to create a business or publishing-house name (your publisher imprint), however, you can obtain an EIN in your name. In this article, I explained how you can name your publisher business.
For Self-Publishers Living Outside the USA
If you are selling books in the US, but you don’t live in the country, you do not need an EIN. I published this blog post to clarify misinformation about being taxed on royalties earned in the US.
All About ISBNs for Self-Published Authors
Listen. An ISBN is a birth certificate for your book. If you are an independently published author who wants to self-publish professionally, you absolutely must buy your own ISBNs.
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