(Inspired by part of a conversation with Scott yesterday…) There are as many reasons to take publishing into your own hands as there are writers. Tired of rejections. A work that just doesn’t fit a specific catalog. The desire for control. An ingrained mistrust of publishers. Point to someone who has taken that publishing plunge, and they may have several dozen reasons.
Up until fairly recently, self-publishing could be an expensive proposition. You had to purchase ISBN’s if you wanted to be listed anywhere. You had to purchase cover art. You’d best have a professional editor or folks like me will use their outside voices. Lulu was perhaps the first self-pub platform that offered a cheaper solution, but it was limited and the quality was sometimes questionable.
Then came Amazon with promises of exclusive wonders. You didn’t need an ISBN, the ‘Zon would provide. Join us…join us… the siren song drifted over the internet waves.
The world has a tendency to change, especially when giants start getting involved and publishing for yourself is now a different story. There are choices of where to publish and wider distribution than ever. And most of the time? You don’t need to purchase those packs of ISBN numbers. But there are still some things you need on the business end of things…
* You do need to set up publisher accounts. Whether you go with KDP exclusively or keep your options open, you’re going to need to set up accounts. Which means you need to be thinking about what kind of a tax structure you’re going to be using and how you want to be paid. This may even involve setting up an LLC for your publications, separate bank account/etc. for your business, possibly even a post office box depending on your situation.
* You don’t need an ISBN, necessarily, but you do need to understand what each distribution company uses. Amazon will assign you an ASIN, which is used on Amazon and nowhere else. All Romance/ Omnilit will assign you a numbering system unique to you as a publishing house. Smashwords, which gives you access to a number of distribution points without you needing separate accounts at each (e.g. iTunes, Kobo, etc.) will also assign an ISBN without charge.
* You will need to fill out Tax information forms for these companies. With some of them, you need to verify every year. Sometimes this can be painful since the form must match the government website for the tax ID exactly. (I added a comma once and it was rejected. Yes. Like that.)
* You need to understand how payment schedules and reporting works for each of these places. Some places pay quarterly. Some monthly. Some run a month behind. Some two. Some of their payment reports are made available several days after the payment is made. In order to reconcile (and you do need to reconcile) you need to be able to read some of these reports and understand what’s been deposited. Amazon makes this notoriously difficult. If you are struggling, get help. There are a lot of authors out there who do this stuff now.
Do you need to do any of this? No, of course not. There are other funding sources these days. But if you want to have books out there that could be picked up by libraries and bookstores, if you want professional looking books to take with you to conventions and trade shows, and you don’t have a publisher? Probably best to use the more traditional distribution points out there.
Oh, and about that editor? You can’t skip that part. Sorry.