Once you've taken a moment to think about the goal of your authorship, it’s important that you have a clear understanding of what success as an author means for you. Does success simply mean the satisfaction of seeing your name on a book cover? Does it mean building connections for your business? Does it mean making a income that will allow you to write full-time?
Whatever success looks like for you, it's likely going to take time to achieve. The first thing you need to tell yourself is that everything you do from here on out to become an author is one step closer to accomplishing your goal. If you only do one small thing every day to inch closer to your idea of author success that is more than most people will ever do. Keeping that forward momentum is the hardest part of the entire journey.
One of the things I kick myself in the butt over is not writing down everything I went through on my own journey to authorship. So here's your opportunity to learn from my first mistakes. Write down your goal and what it means to be successful as an author for you. Then continue writing down everything you do to work toward that goal. Don't forget to also include all of those blogs, articles and video resources you will use (like this one!). Trust me when I say you don't want to be left banging your head against the desk trying to remember where you saw a piece of advice.
This doesn't mean you need to run out and purchase a $50 journal. Unless you want to, of course. Use a free notes or dictation app on your smartphone (you're going to want this for all of those random ideas that pop up anyway). If you're a paper kinda person, drag out your old college notebooks or grab some printer paper. It doesn't matter what you use, but take a moment to think about what would work best for you so that you can start off organized. You should be able to easily store, search, and carry with you any information you start compiling. As they say, data is the oil of the 21st century.
Once you have your primary goal and an idea of success written down, put it somewhere that you will see it everyday to remind yourself what you are working toward. Hell, get some star stickers and slap one on there every time you do something to move toward your goal. Acknowledging your small wins and celebrating them is a key component of the author mindset that is going to help you keep pushing forward. So what, if you only typed ten words today. Good for you! At least it's not a blank page and that's ten more words than yesterday.
We've talked about having a goal, an idea of success, and celebrating your steps along the way. Now let's talk about one of the best things you can do for yourself to get you in the right mindset for this journey. I believe that any authorship should be started by thinking of this as a business, but I’m not here to tell you what to do. I’m here to provide you with some advice and resources so that you make the most informed decision possible. With that being said I'm still going to make my case. Here is why I prefer the business path:
No matter what type of goal you have for your authorship it is very difficult to publish a book without incurring expenses. I know what you’re thinking. You probably said to yourself that you’re going to write a book on your Word program, Crowdfund it to get it published, and be the next JK Rowlings. You'll get a movie contract and be rolling in the money within a year. Wrong! We all want overnight success, but the real world generally doesn't work that way. Part of the author mindset is being realistic about what you can accomplish so that you keep putting one foot in front of the other. This is an old article, but I think it helps to give some perspective on the world of the author.
(I apologize that these links aren't clickable. Wix is working on their blog options. Just copy and paste the links into a new browser window.)
I didn't share this article to discourage you. I'll go back to my earlier statement about if you don't want the brutal truth this isn't the blog for you. Hopefully, though, this article helped to clear away the rainbows and butterflies of what you dream being an author is like. The truth is that it's hard work with lots of self-doubt, naysayers, and a crowded market to deal with. Even the big named authors had a long road to travel to get to where they are today. This is a journey, not a race.
The good news is that self-publishing is a very viable option that is steadily growing and there has never been more tools at your fingertips to help ease your way into authorship. That brings me back to my reasons for the business mindset. You can spend thousands of dollars just getting your book published no matter if you choose self-publishing or traditional publishing. It's best to separate those expenses from your personal expenses so that you can take advantage of tax breaks. It also helps to keep track of any expenses for your writing much easier when you use a separate business account.
From my research an LLC is the best option of the different types of businesses that you can set up. It offers liability protection which is more than a sole proprietorship, but without all of the paperwork hassle of a corporation. Setting up an LLC also helps to provide some legal protection and gives you more legitimacy in the market (i.e. you can list the publisher as your business name like mine for Dragon Mountain Press LLC). Check out the link at the bottom of the page for a Publishers Weekly article on the advantages of creating a business for your authorship.
Chances are that there’s a reason why you’re wanting to publish your book and it’s likely that you want more than just your mother to read it. This means investing in your writing so that you have a product people want to buy. This also means you will need to purchase some services to give your book the best chance possible of reaching a wider audience. Having a business mindset is especially critical if you are wanting to turn your authorship into a full-time career at some point. If you are in group B, those who have a specific goal or this is just a hobby, then the business approach may not be for you. Either way make sure you do your research so that you don't have to backtrack.
If you do decide to set up your own business, here are a few first steps to help you out. Make sure you keep all of your paperwork and receipts somewhere safe. There are apps to help you keep digital copies and track expenses. I always make digital copies and put them in business folders on my laptop. I also like to keep track of everything in Excel spreadsheets. You can use Google Drive which is free or pay a small monthly fee for storage on Amazon's AWS site. Whatever filing system you choose, make sure it's easy to gather your docs for tax time.
1) Get an address for your business separate from your home address.
Go to a UPS store or your local post office. If you have the money you could also do a virtual office, but these can be expensive. When you file your LLC paperwork you will be required to give a physical address. You will also need to list a physical address when you create your email marketing platform and registering with the Library of Congress. You can use your home address and in some cases make the address private. However, you will not always have that option and it is good to have a separate address. Make sure you specify that a physical address not a PO box is what you need if you go to the post office. My local post office couldn't give me a physical address so I went to the UPS store. It was more expensive, but there are advantages to the UPS store like call-in mailchecks and texts when a package arrives. I got a larger box for about $110 every six months.
2) Get a registered agent.
A registered agent is a third-party in the same state where your business was established who can handle official paperwork on your behalf such as tax papers, correspondence with the Secretary of State, notice of lawsuits, etc. Most lawyers can fill this role for free if you are a client or for an annual fee. My lawyer offered this service for free, but it can cost between $100-$300 per year.
3) Get a lawyer to help you file the paperwork for the LLC and talk through the best set up.
There are places online that will file everything for you, but it's about the same price. I found a local lawyer who filed my LLC paperwork for $250. Working with a lawyer gives you the advantage of legal advice and piece of mind that it was done correctly. Before you go to the lawyer print off an online form for an LLC Articles of Organization, this is required in most states. The Articles state details about your company such as how it is managed and if you have any members. If you are the sole person included in the business you will want to specify that the business is a Single Member LLC. This will often be taxed as a sole proprietorship, but be sure to ask questions about how you should set your company up. You may also want to fill out an operating agreement which spells out the purpose of your company and any capital contributions made toward the business. You can find free forms here:
4) Open a business account.
Once you receive your Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Secretary of State this will be like your social security number for your business. You will want to have a copy of your Articles of Organization or operating agreement and your LLC paperwork to take to the bank. Be careful about which bank you choose. I made the mistake of choosing the bank I had my personal accounts with because it seemed easiest. I didn't realize until I had signed the paperwork that there was a minimum balance requirement of $1,500. That caused some problems early on because I got stuck paying $12 a month in service charges when I dropped below that amount.
I have included some resources below to help you make your decision and get in the right mindset for your journey. If you choose not to create a business, at least make sure you keep track of your expenses. If possible designate one account or credit card for those expenses.
A quick note about writing: If you haven't started writing anything yet at least start getting your book ideas written down. Anything that pops into your head is game and as long as you are putting words on paper you are well on your way. Congratulations, on taking action toward becoming an author.