What would you like to see?

While Jon is busy with school and work, I thought I’d take this chance to ask you for some very specific help. One of our regular readers has asked us to discuss “getting a book ready to go out the door”. I’ve got some ideas about the post but I’ve been doing this long enough that much of the process is now automatic for me. Because of that, I’m afraid I might miss something you might want us to cover.

Here’s where you come in. You’ve got the book or short story written, or close to written. You know it’s time to start getting it ready to leave the proverbial nest. What questions about the process or explanations would you want us to go over?

Leave your recommendations/requests below.



  1. I’d be interested in hearing some more about the business end:

    1) Should you set up a corporation to be your “publisher”?

    2) Do you need a DBA in your pen name?

    3) What sort of tax forms do you need to have ready?

      1. Doing Business As, a document that ties your identity to the name you’ve created for your business.

    1. 4) Or if you’re just using your own name, does it even matter?

      I think that part of my terror is the idea that I might not even realize what I’ve missed. How can anyone know what they don’t know?

      (Of course, maybe the Amazon author thing walks people through that, too?)

    2. If you’re hoping to write and publish a lot of books, a professional sounding publisher name is a good idea. This can be just a DBA, an S corp, an LLC or you can incorporate. Mind you, I am not a lawyer.

      If you start making a large amount of money, you’ll need to consult a lawyer about getting one of the two latter, so your book income is taxed at corporate rates, not just as part of your personal income.

      If you start making lots of money, go talk to a lawyer and/or tax specialist who can get you what you need. Or at least more knowledgeable advice than mine.

      Amazon’s KDP or whomever you publish with, will need your ss number and a bank account number to send you money. Amazon will send you the W2 for your tax return. They do not withhold. Paying “Quarterly estimated taxes” will be necessary if-and-when you start making substantial amounts of money.

    3. I can answer No. 3: If you go with a sole proprietorship (a DBA or an FBN— Fictitious Business Name— what you need in the US, at least, is the Schedule C and Schedule SE on your regular 1040. The most important thing is, all year long, to keep track of your writing/publishing income and outgo using the IRS Sched C categories. That makes it a lot easier at tax time.

      As far as other tax forms you might need on an ongoing basis, if you want to hand-sell physical copies of your book, you might need a sales tax license. The threshold for needing to collect and remit sales tax varies from state to state, so check with the department of revenue in the state where you live.

      It will most likely be free for you to apply for the license, and it will come in the mail pretty quickly.

  2. I’ll echo Zsuzsa’s – the business end terrifies me. Some additional requests:
    – Final edits / review checklists
    – Common upload or post-release issues / things to watch for
    – What does this mysterious “marketing” concept entail specifically?

  3. This could keep the Geniuses busy for several months, going by the requests…

    Maybe trim this down a bit. It used to be that you would be told to “consult a local business attorney” for setting up a business. That is not a bad idea, still – but if you are not making or expecting to make a significant income, the online legal form sites are good and much cheaper to go to. There are “trigger” points in your income where you must get a CPA and a business attorney (or get reamed in the long run). An IP attorney is only needed if you are looking at “signing” something other than the standard Amazon, Kobo, etc. TOS (or are one of the lucky few who has people inquiring about subsidiary rights).

    For most people, too, something like QuickBooks (business edition) is more than plenty, and gives sufficient guidance. Again, until and unless you hit a certain income level, or a certain level of complexity in what you are licensing.

    The one thing that I do recommend is that you set up a separate bank account that is only used for taking in business deposits and for paying business expenses. Tax people have a much harder time giving you grief when you have everything that shows up on the business tax return completely separated out from the groceries, kid’s dental visits, what have you…

  4. I’ve got the writing, editing, formatting, book cover creation, and release to Amazon down. What I’ve never managed to do is sit down and try to figure out this pre-order stuff. Is it even worth bothering with if you don’t have a mailing list? When should you do it? Is it worth advertising a pre-order?

    I guess other marketing stuff would be of interest too. I’m pretty good with Amazon ads now, so that isn’t what I mean. Is it worth doing interviews with people? What about signings at local books stores? How do you approach a store with such a thing without getting laughed back to the street because you’re an indie?

  5. 1) Where do I find a good NDA for my beta/test readers?
    2) How much should you pay an artist for cover art, assuming you want to retain all rights to the art (i.e. I want to go to cons and sell prints of my own), but the artist can sell it independently as long as they say clearly where it’s from?
    3) How to advertise, especially for a first book.

    1. I’ve beta’d for more than one writer without an NDA. I’m pretty sure I’ve never caused them any problems.

      So I’m curious what kind of writing situations are appropriate for an NDA, and what kind are not?

      1. I’d rather have the NDA and establish the tradition than the reverse. I might do it on the second book at this point, but to get the first out soonish…

    2. 1. What do you expect this NDA to accomplish, and why do you think it’d be useful? Because it’s actually the opposite of useful for you, in that it’ll A.) Throttle people’s willingness to be beta readers, and B.) Throttle your beta reader’s willingness to promote your book.

      There are two reasons to have beta readers.
      1.) To find technical errors, and execution errors. With a wide enough beta reader pool, you can find people to tell you that gun only holds 8 shots, that car only gets up to 115, that there’s a nasty roundabout between here and there that’s always jammed at that time of day, so it’ll take 2 hours if you don’t have the heroes take this route instead.

      You also find the errors that they can’t identify a solution, but they can feel. “I got bored here. I got confused here. I hated this character. This whole section made my eyes glaze over.”

      Now, unless you’re Big Name Famous, it’s very hard to find people who are willing to read a raw first draft and are able to give useful feedback. Even if you’re Big Name Famous, it’s hard… most people reach that state having already spent years cultivating a relationship with their beta readers, which goes something like “I provide kinda-entertaining material, and you tell me where I suck. You spend your spare time on this for free because you like me and kinda like my stuff, and I am grateful.”

      There’s a lovely aside where Brandon Sanderson talks about one of his beta readers having had Too Much Life, so they didn’t get to a read a book until they bought it after it had been published. And they told Brandon, “Hey, I forgot you are a good writer!” Because they’re used to seeing the sucky first draft… It’s funny, because it’s true.

      So what happens if you tell people they’re not allowed to talk about what they read? You’re asking them for a favour, and for their time and effort for free, and then telling them that you’re going to threaten them with legal consequences if they don’t comply with your demands on how they do their favour. This… this does not engender a willingness to give you favours.

      Let’s recast this.
      “Dude! Could you help me out and read something that kinda sucks but is mostly fun, and then write a book report on it?”
      “But I’m gonna make you sign legal documents before you can read the suck and write a book report!”
      “Oh, sorry, I forgot I’m washing my hair this weekend. Busy!”

      B.) How do brand new authors promote a book, so more than their mom reads it? By getting other people who like that kind of book to try it, read it, get excited about it, and recommend it to all their friends.

      How do you get people to read your book? Well, start with beta readers. “Female Friends A and C like science fiction with competent people and good guys winning! I shall ask them to read my tale of a plucky heroine on another planet, and the heroes she meets on the way!” If A & C like it (even after telling me lo, it doth contain suckage in this part and is confusing there, and you messed up your conversion to metric here), they’re going to feel somewhat invested in the outcome, because they know they helped make it better!

      And when I put it on the market, behold, A and C both put out blog posts or facebook posts saying “Harken! Friends who like my kind of fiction! This book, it doth not sucketh! Buy it! Read it! Review it!”

      This is also called word of mouth, and when you get enough traction and a large enough beta reader pool, romance authors start calling them their “street team”, for they go forth and enthusiastically promote the book upon goodreads, romance groups, their facebook, yon forums, as well as even offline!

      …so what happens if you tell your beta readers not to talk about your book, with legal teeth in the threat?

      *insert sound of crickets, in the empty night, devoid of promotion that swallows the book in darkness and loses it to the light of reader’s attention.*

    1. Pricing isn’t by page count on books, it’s by market rate set for genre. While there are different pricing conventions for short stories vs. novellas & novels, you have to look at, on average, what shorts are going for in your subgenre vs. what novellas and novels are going for. (And don’t forget to toss the loss leaders set at 99 cents while on promotion, when looking for mean, median, and mode pricing.)

      So check your subgenre – because military sci fi isn’t going to be the same as steampunk, cozy mystery, m/m erotica or chick lit.

  6. Thank you so much for doing this! The pre-launch checklist mentioned above would be fantastic. Any other marketing recommendations as well.

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