1. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wherein I Roll My Own in the Publishing House Line

    Discussion in 'Self-Publishing' started by Catrin Lewis, Jul 6, 2016.

    All right, I'm doing it. I'm setting up Hendrick Hill Books as my own self-publishing arm.

    And in the spirit of @NigeTheHat 's pinned post about his self-publishing adventure, I think I'll start a thread on what happens when an author with little or no capital, slack habits, and a lifetime of all the wrong experience decides to set up her own official publishing house/imprint.

    (Publishing garden shed, more like it, but we'll overlook that for now.)

    First of all, why? I researched the matter all over the Internet and went through weeks of fog and confusion over what I should do.

    Use a subsidy publication service like WestBow or AuthorHouse? No, I found out what outfits like that do to your rights. Ouch.

    Shove my current novel out on Kindle and CreateSpace, and anything I write hereafter, too? Well, maybe. A lot of people do and are perfectly happy with it. But what if I want to pursue options that having CreateSpace as the publisher would bar me from?

    Do the first book that way, and think about establishing my own publishing name later? That would be possible, too, but what if I decide to make this book the first of a series? I'm already thinking about possible sequels.

    These two posts by author/attorney Helen Sedwick and author/book designer Joel Friedlander focused my thinking on the matter:

    http://helensedwick.com/should-self-publishers-use-an-imprint-name/#comment-94574
    http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2009/12/how-to-create-your-publishing-company/

    I won't repeat their reasoning; you can click over and read it for yourself. What persuaded me most was that having my own publishing house/imprint will force me to see this book writing and selling thing as a business, not just something I do to fill in time while the kids I sub for are completing worksheets.

    And I exaggerated when I said I had all the wrong experience. I have good and relevant experience at other kinds of freelancing; why shouldn't I bring it to bear for my writing?

    So if you want to follow along on my adventure, climb on board. Hopefully, it will be a good ride, and not a train wreck.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2016
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  2. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    So, a few posts about process. First, about ISBNs:

    Bowker is the sole entity licensed to issue ISBNs in the United States; the UK equivalent is Nielsen. According to international rules, the original owner of the number is the book's publisher, no exceptions made. So if I wanted truly to self-publish my fiction, I had to buy my own ISBNs directly from them.

    I did that Saturday night. As I mentioned in another thread, they're having a $45 off sale on a block of ten. If they'd been nice enough to mention how long the sale was going to last, I might have waited. But I'd already mostly made up my mind to get my own, and I got my ten while the getting was good.

    ISBNs can't be sold, transferred, or returned for refund. They can be assigned, by companies authorized as general publishers. That's not Hendrick Hill Books, so I have to use all ten numbers on my own. Meaning, to get my money's worth I have to write.

    Now, if Bowker makes further price cuts, will I purchase another block of ten and push myself to write even more? I'm now committed to making it a business decision, whatever I would decide.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2016
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  3. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    About deciding on a publishing house name:

    First of all, a publisher name and an imprint name are different things. See what Joel Friedlander says here. If I want to, I can make up different imprints under the Hendrick Hill umbrella (parasol?), should I decide to branch out into different genres.

    But it's amazing, shocking even, how all the good publisher names seem to be taken. And the name is important, because Bowker won't let you purchase your ISBNs without listing the name of your publishing company. No, not even if you choose Self-Publisher in the drop-down menu.

    I didn't want to use my legal name as publisher, as I'm already writing under a pseudonym to keep my fiction separate from my teaching job and from the nonfiction writing I do in another line of work. Kind of stupid, it would be, to list "Catrin Lewis" as the author and "My Real Name" as publisher. I don't think so.

    I'd been doing research on names for several weeks. I eventually decided on "Hendrick House Books" to honor my abolitionist Jayhawker third great-grandfather. But there's already a publisher called "Hendricks House," not to mention an apparently notorious student dorm called Hendrick House at the University of Illinois. So no.

    Saturday night, I modified it slightly to Hendrick Hill, did some quick polling to gauge response, and bore down in my research to make sure it was available. Google, Bing, Yahoo, the Business White Pages, the list of registered businesses on my state's website--- all came up blank. The only "Hendrick Hill" I found was a street somewhere in Maine.

    So in the name went into the blank in the Bowker online ordering form. I still have to do the legal business registration, and wouldn't it be a good joke on me if I've jumped the gun?
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2016
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  4. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Next step was to register my little publishing company as an official business in my state. This has positive tax and banking implications, as I know from having done freelance work before.

    Apparently there are services online you can use that'll do what's needed to register your Fictitious Business Name (FBN), or as it's called in some states, your Doing Business As (DBA). But none of them would tell me anything without making me set up an account first. No, sorry, I don't wanna. I chose to do it the old-fashioned way, in person, at the county courthouse.

    Easy for me--- my county courthouse is about a half mile away. Yesterday morning I dressed myself presentably, drove over, and asked the receptionist to direct me to the office where I could apply for a small business license/FBN.

    Oh, she said, they don't do that there. I had to go to our state senator's office, two miles up the hill. OK, good thing I drove.

    At the state senator's office, I filled out a form from the commonwealth's Department of State and wrote a check for $70 (yes, it had to be a check). The clerk offered to send it in for me, after making me a copy for my records. No muss, no fuss. This took me a lot less time than searching all over the Internet trying to figure out the right people to do the job.

    Then I had to advertise my intention to use the name. I'd found and printed out the correct form for that, and it directed me to the County Bar Association and Legal Journal office back down by my county courthouse. The nice receptionist there guided me in filling out the paper and accepted my check for $75. She also will be sending it in for me--- no hassle with envelopes or stamps. In her experience, advertising in the Legal Journal will be sufficient; I won't have to advertise in the general-circulation newspaper as well. So unless the Secretary of State says otherwise, or unless the name choice is declined, that's all I have to do to get my FBN.

    I expect to hear back from the state in two or three weeks at the soonest. That's good. I still have editing to do on my book and beta readers to hear back from.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2016
  5. dbesim
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    dbesim Contributing Member

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    @Catrin Lewis , I'm glad you're taking this step. I was wondering what sort of author, books or pieces of writing your publishing house will be looking for once your publishing house is established. Any particular type of genre? What sort of writing do you imagine you will be rejecting, or will that simply be a case of poor punctuation and/or story-telling? What sort of editor do you imagine that you'll be and how do you imagine you'll be taking people's manuscripts forward with your publishing house?
     
  6. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, as a sole proprietorship I'll just be publishing my own stuff. Who knows, if I get my act together, maybe someday I'll do other people's, too. But that's a long way off, if ever. Skill sets aside, I'd have to incorporate, and that's talking big bucks.

    My own work all has, or will have, contemporary, recent-contemporary (late 20th century), or historical settings. By genre, it's romance, suspense, and some horror and supernatural, all leaning towards the literary side. No science fiction or fantasy with magical systems.

    However. I don't see that anything would keep me from offering editing services under the business, with the author then free to seek publication where he or she will. What kind of editor would I be? The sort who finds out where you want to go with your story, and helps you figure out the best way to get there. One, I hope, who would be tough, but useful.

    I wouldn't work on erotica, or on fantasy featuring "good" demons or vampires, zombies, etc., as separate species. (I'm strictly traditional where it comes to my monsters and ghouls). Ditto manuscripts where evil is made out to triumph forever, or where the hero is as bad as the villain.

    That said, I've beta read for authors whose cosmology contradicts mine and suggested ways their systems could be more convincing and consistent, and they've found it helpful. Whether I could in good conscience do that for pay, I don't know.
     
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  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Hendrick Hill Books is a great name, for what it's worth. In WA State I have a Master Business License. It's required. Because of the banking laws after 9-11, I have to have an official DBA on that MBL in order to deposit checks made out to my business.

    I should be incorporated but after 25 yrs as a sole proprietor, I don't see the point now. I have malpractice insurance and there aren't many things I do that would fall under business liability instead of malpractice liability. And the tax benefits weren't that much different.

    Cities differ. Most don't require licenses but since I work in multiple cities, the one I live in requires a license but it was free, and two cities I do work in have an annual license fee. State and city B&O (business and occupation) taxes are pretty low unless you have employees and then it gets more complicated.
     
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  8. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good luck! You will screw up repeatedly, and this is OK :D
     
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  9. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    LOL. Asleep at the wheel/clueless will be my biggest roadblock.
     
  10. Brindy
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    Brindy Contributing Member Supporter

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    I am just going through this whole process myself, in the UK. I have just applied for my block of 10 ISBN's for the same reason as you, I have plans to publish more than one book, and having the remaining 9 sitting there may be the focus to keep me on track. Good luck to you.
     
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  11. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Came home this past Thursday, picked up the mail, and yippee! The Commonwealth has issued me my Fictitious Business Entity number!

    First thing to do after that was to enshrine it in a domain name. But anything more complicated than a Blogspot or WordPress blog site is a bother and a confusion to me, and I've been spending too much time the past three or four days trying to figure out what exactly I should buy.

    I mean, what is Premium DNS, anyway? (The web nerd pages say if you don't know what it is, you don't need it).

    And can I purchase my domains under my pen name to maintain privacy? (I could have sworn I read some authority who said you can, but I could never find him or her again. And everything else I read seemed to say using a fake personal name for your domain registration was unethical and maybe illegal.)

    So how do you keep your contact info private? (You set your addresses to private, using this thingy called Whois Guard.)

    I finally completed the domain name purchase tonight/this morning, one for the business and one for my pen name. Of course I don't yet have a website attached to either. If I read the domain hosting service right, I can redirect them to other addresses, so for the time being I could use one of my writer's blogs as a placeholder. I'll figure out how it works after I get some sleep.
     
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  12. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    This afternoon I got on IRS.gov and got my EIN (Employer Identification Number). That will enable me to take checks made out to Hendrick Hill Books. It will also keep things cleaner when I fill out my Schedule C at income tax time.

    Now, according to Helen Sedwick in her book on legal matters for self-publishers, in her state, at least (California?), an EIN allows you to deposit a check to your publisher name into your personal account. But my best friend here in Pennsylvania, who's been in banking forever, tells me no, I'd have to open a business account.

    No problem. With the EIN, now I can.
     
  13. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    You may run into service charges/account fees that will be an issue... I know banking is different in the States, but in Canada business accounts are significantly more expensive than personal accounts..
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    Getting an EIN is free but I get paid in my business name and don't have an EIN. I just had to show the bank my Master Business License showing I did business under my business name and open the account as DBA [business name]. DBA - doing business as.

    Your friend may be wrong, I've been getting checks in my business name for 25 years and it's a personal, not a business account. And I've had two different bank accounts with the DBA designation since (because I changed banks). I'm pretty sure those are federal and not state regulations but since it is a state business license I have, Penn. could be different. But it's moot since the EIN is free.

    It does mean you might need to file two separate tax forms. That might be complicated if you aren't incorporated. Again, since I don't use an EIN, I don't know how that works. I just know I use my SSN on my tax form and not the EIN.

    You need an EIN if you pay employees.

    @BayView is right that business accounts have different fees but I'm not sure you are forced to open a "business account" per se if you are a business. That one I don't know for sure because my DBA account is set up like my other individual account.

    I do have two separate accounts, one in my name and one in the DBA name. If I recall they offered me a business account and I declined for the very reason the fees were higher.

    My business is fairly simple. I do contracted work and have no employees.


    Edited to add: I now have three domain names, one in my pen name and two in my tentative book name.
     
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