Research

If you’re reading this, you have decided to publish some or all of your books independently. It’s a brave decision, and comes with a lot of headaches, but with a little forethought, it doesn’t have to be scary. Going Indie essentially means you become a publisher of one author: you. It still means all the core processes will need to get done, but now you get to choose when, where, and how they get done. That means, you’ll have to know about all of those processes, so research will be essential.

Things you’ll need to learn about:

  • Legalities of licences, copyrights, pen names, and attributions
  • Freelance editors, cover artists, and formatters
  • Distributors and stores
  • Marketing and advertising opportunities
  • Social media rules of etiquette
  • Financial and tax considerations
  • Copyright registration

As always, you want to know who you’re doing business with, but you also need to know what you’re doing. For example, do you know if or how you are allowed to use song lyrics in your manuscript? What about quotations from other books, movies, etc.? Are you sure you’re allowed to use that image on your book cover? Do you need to register for a small business license? Once you publish your book, how and when will you get paid? How will you pay income taxes on the royalties? Do you need to register for a copyright?

These are all things you will need to read up on–in depth–because as an independent publisher, you are responsible for everything you publish, which also makes you the person who will get sued if you do something illegal. You’ll find partial answers to some of these issues on this website, but you should not rely on that alone. I am not a lawyer, cannot give you legal advice, and nothing on this website is intended to be legal advice. Always do your own homework. Read every contract and all terms of service and agreement. Make sure your accounts are all set up properly so you can get paid on time. Hold on to all business receipts for tax purposes.

All of this needs to be done before you even start looking at stores and distributors to put your book into. Once the book is published, it’ll be too late to wonder. You want to make sure your ducks are all in a row, neat and law-abiding, before you stick your neck out for them.

As with traditional publishing, the correct approach is to ask your fellow authors, or search Google for who or what you need first. Then do more in-depth research, look for reviews, testimonials, how-to guides, tutorials, and any supporting materials your potential business partner has to offer. For example, the eBook distributor Smashwords is already pretty robust. But they also have a list of freelancers available to authors looking for them, a how-to guide for formatting your eBook file for publication, a marketing guide, and  book of best practices by bestselling Indie authors–all of which are free. Even if you don’t plan to publish with Smashwords, doesn’t that sound like great source material to check out?

You’ll also want to know how your chosen platform pays contributors. Some use PayPal. Others require you to add a checking account. Some pay you monthly, others quarterly. At some, you’ll need to reach a minimum threshold before they’ll pay out. These are all things you’ll want to be intimately familiar with before you entrust your book to anyone.

Bottom line, learn as much as you can, from as many different places as you can find, and go from there.

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