Taking time to set up your author business before publishing your book can save you time, money, and a lot of frustration in the long run. Here are seven important steps to help you avoid mishaps.
#1- Purchase Your Own Set of 10 or More ISBNs
Buy your own ISBNs and apply them to your books, no matter what company is producing or printing them. This is the number one step you can take to make sure your book is portable and it will never get stuck with a single publishing service.
Don’t use a publishing service's free ISBN. Why? Because it traps you. You won’t be able to print and distribute your book with a different service. It also marks your book as “published by service name” and not your own publishing company. You need to publish under your own publishing company name (called an imprint).
Purchasing your own ISBNs is the best investment you can make as an independent author. You’ll need one ISBN each for your hardback, paperback, eBook (both EPUB and MOBI), and audiobook. A pack of 10 costs $295 in the US. Sorry, citizens, ISBNs are much cheaper, and even free, in other countries.
#2 - Own Your Customer List
Your email list is a list of customers who have specifically asked to be notified when you have news related to your book, making it your most valuable marketing asset.
Place an email signup form on your website now, so you can start collecting addresses of people who say they want to hear from you. If you don’t have a site or a landing page, create a list and link to it from social media. Do this, even if you don’t know what to do with your list yet.
I like MailChimp because you can collect 2000 emails before you have to start paying.
Read more about email marketing in my blog post, here.
#3 - Register Your Copyright
You automatically own the copyright to your work as soon as you put it down in writing (or type it or publish it in a blog or a book or in your journal or anywhere). But if you ever really do need to sue somebody for infringement—and that’s rare—you’ll need proof of copyright registration.
You can register copyright for your book (blog, photos, software, music, game) for about $35. If you have all your info at hand it’ll take about 35 minutes, too. Make sure to use the government site and not a third party service that will charge you a lot more.
Get detailed instructions on about how to copyright your book in a post I wrote for PBS MediaShift.
#4 - Gather All Your Book File Formats
However you obtain your final interior book files, create a folder on your desktop and back it up in a place like DropBox. Many authors want to correct copyediting errors or make design changes after publication.
#5 - Own All of Your Artistic Assets
Over the years I’ve had many authors hand me a PDF book cover or website banner in JPG format to “fix.” Sadly, without the original files, I have to get a designer to recreate them, and that takes more time and more money.
So please obtain all the photography, graphics, sketches, design files, fonts, and licenses…everything used to create your final, publishable file. Even if you don’t own the programs that will open the files (such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign) you’ll be able to hand them off to a pro who does.
When hiring a designer, it’s a good idea to use a contract to spell out costs and deliverables. Here’s a good design contract template.
Learn more about book cover creation tools in my earlier post.
#6 - Self-Host Your Website and Blog
Free website and blog services shut down all the time and the people who use them lose all of their posts. Your work may also be removed if you somehow violate (or are perceived to violate) the company’s terms of service. Or somebody in the company might simply make a “stupid mistake,” as surmised by a source in The New Yorker story about the deletion of a popular writer’s blog.
Avoid all this potential for disaster and pay for your own self-hosted website and blog, which can cost as little as $1/month. A self-hosted “managed” WordPress site provides your site with security against hackers, daily backups, a choice of starter WordPress themes, 24/7 support, and more. If you’re tech-adverse and overwhelmed, hire someone to set up your site and blog for you. Make sure the price includes an hour or two to teach you the basics.
See this blog post for details on exactly the kind of self-hosted site you need and where to get it.
#7 - Obtain an EIN for Your Author Business
Like your SSN, the EIN is just another TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number). When you use an EIN for your author business, it. makes it very easy to separate business from personal expenses at tax time. Read my earlier post for details.
As an independent author, you are in the driver’s seat. If you’re in a hurry to publish, consider publishing “small,” first, before you use Amazon or IngramSpark, Smashwords or Draft2Digital to publish widely. (Here’s how.)
It really does pay to map out your journey in advance to avoid expensive and potentially embarrassing mistakes, not to mention the time it takes to retrace your steps. A publishing plan with a timeline and estimated budget is a good start. And don’t forget to check up on the reputation of vendors like distribution services, formatters, illustrators, and coaches you plan to hire.
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