Self Publishing Logistics

Please note that the following info is particular to print books. I’ll get to ebooks in a future post, I promise.

publish write author

So, you’ve weighed the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus doing it yourself, and you’ve decided to self publish.

Now what?

Decide which kind of self publishing you want to do.

That’s right. There’s more than one kind.

Option 1
The really really old-school definition of self publishing is that you’d have your local printer (or an online printer, like Blurb or Shutterfly) ink out a bunch of copies, which you’d then keep in your basement and distribute by hand.

Funny enough, many people still think of this and only this as self publishing despite the fact that, according to Thom Kephart of Amazon ( Pub Camp, November 2013), more than 25% of Amazon’s top 100 printed books sales are self published.

Amazon doesn’t buy from people’s basements.


Which brings me to Options 2 and 3…

Option 2
Companies like Author House and Balboa Press will publish, distribute, design, and help market your book for a package fee. Your book will have their publishing house name printed on the inside cover (as the official publisher), but it’s still considered self publishing because you’re paying them for the book’s publication versus a traditional publisher picking up a book and paying you.

  • Pros: They take care of virtually everything, from editing to illustrations to layout to distribution to marketing.
  • Cons: Like I said, they’re publishing the book, not you. You pay them up front, they get a larger percentage of the profits, their brand stamp is on it, and the ISBN number is registered under their name.

Option 3
Companies like CreateSpace and Lightning Source will print and distribute your book on demand for a small fee, and that’s the extent of their services.

  • Pros: You don’t have the upfront cost of printing and buying a bunch of books to store and distribute yourself. You’ll also have complete control of the final product, and a much greater percentage of the book’s sales will go back into your pocket.
  • Cons: You’ll personally have to shoulder the work and upfront costs of securing an ISBN number, editor, illustrator, proofreader, marketing consultant, etc. You’ll have to take care of all the marketing as well versus getting a little help with that (for some more money of course) in Option 2.

If the pros of the third option persuade you to go that route (as they did me)…

Photo courtesy of Scott McLeod, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo courtesy of Scott McLeod, Flickr Creative Commons

You’ll need a self publisher name

It’s still good to have a publisher’s name stamped on your book’s inside cover, even if it’s your own. Technically, it’s not necessary, but it will help readers and buyers take you and your book more seriously.

How to pick a name
Leave it open ended enough that you could potentially publish future (very different) books under the same umbrella. For more help on naming, read this.

Once you have your company name, you’ll need to officially register your company.

Getting your business license…s
That’s right. You’ll need more than one. It takes a little time and paperwork, but it’s really quite easy.

  • City: Search online for “[your city name] business license”. Avoid any top links that could be ads. Read the descriptions and make sure the url ends in .org or .gov before clicking through. This should take you to the exact instructions you need for your particular city.
  • State: Search online for both your states Department of Licensing AND Secretary of State. You’ll need to register with both. If you have any questions, just call them or go their offices. I found all of the staff I encountered almost shockingly helpful.
  • Federal: If your company is registered with your state, it’s registered with the federal government. So take the time you would’ve spent doing this step and take a nice walk or treat yourself to a celebratory drink of choice.
Selfpub Freelance Seattle
The birth place of my city publishing license, March 5, 2015!

Already have a business license?
Great! Even easier. If your publishing biz is loosely related to your current one, you can just register it as a branch of your current company. No new license. No new UBI business number. Just a bit of phone calling, paperwork, and a whopping $5.

  • City: I went in person and asked them what to do. Turns out all I needed was to write my publishing name on the “Operating As” line of the license and resubmit it.
  • State Department of Licensing: I called first and (per their instructions) went online, added my publishing name under “Register New Trade Names,” and paid $5 plus processing.
Yes, it's this easy. Almost embarrassingly so.
Yes, it’s this easy. Almost embarrassingly so.
  • State Secretary of State: If you’re not creating a separate business with a new UBI, they’ll just refer you back to the Department of Licensing. In other words, nothing to do here.
  • Federal: Again, nothing to do. The registration with the state essentially takes care of this.

I absolutely suggest that you call your city and state offices to confirm these steps before you proceed. They could differ according to your place or time of filing, and as much as I want to help, I’m not taking personal responsibility for the legitimacy of your self-pub business. That said, this should at least get you pointed in the right direction and, more importantly, prove just how easy it is.

Next up, a company needs a logo doesn’t it…?

Self Publishing and Branding
Building a Beta Reader Dream Team
Finding an Illustrator

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