Anyone who has ever met my mother could swear that when I was born, mum wasn’t hoping for a bundle of joy in a girl or a boy, she was hoping for a spreadsheet. My mum is a software engineer by trade, an excel addict by… well, I don’t know what it was by, but she is one. Ever since I was a teenager, any money I borrowed or bills I needed to pay toward (like the phone bill) was added to my spreadsheet, we each got one, like an unwanted Christmas present.
I say all this, not because I’m waiting to get a phone call which will confirm that my mother actually reads my blog (if you are, hi mum!) but so that you understand when I say that I am not my mother, and while I inherited quite a few of her traits, her skills with finances is not one of them.
When entering publishing, or indeed self-publishing, I am sure that many people have the dream of making a million. We may not admit it, we may cling to our craft and, like a hipster, declare with ferocity that only the sell outs make money… it’s a passion, man. But, in the end, I suspect most of us have had that fleeting dream.
However, while that dream is still in the corner of our minds, it does not pay for printed copies, nor does it pay for an editor or cover designer. Those millions we dream of will not help us in getting the first book on virtual shelves, nor help us in managing any money that does start coming in.
Unfortunately, there is not much I can say to help on this matter, whether you are frugal for six months in the hopes of hiring an editor, or you fall to your knees and plead with the bank of mum and dad to lend you the needed funds, or you decide to go without, that is whatever works best for you.
Upon a discussion with my mother regarding these expenses and the journey I am making toward self-publishing, however, she did come out with some very interesting insights. Some of it is common sense, but when our mind is so firmly fixed in the creative process and the dream of getting out book out there, are we thinking about one important factor…
This is not a book. It is a business.
What we are doing, in this process of moving toward self-publishing, is we are setting ourselves up to be self employed. We are selling books, and with no publishing house to answer to, we are our own boss.
So, here are five things I have been thinking about when it comes to self-publishing and self-employment.
- Start now. – Even before you are ready to release your book, you will have expenses. These will range from the small to the large expenditures, so keep a record of everything, starting as early as you need.
- Know your expenses. – This goes for everything, not just your large points like an editor or a cover design for your books. If you need to buy a new laptop to write on, that can be classed as an expense and claimed back in tax. If you need to buy a packet of paper to print on, this is an expense. Hell, even that single red pen can be counted against when it comes to your tax at the end of the year. As long as you can justify it and have the necessary proof, it can all be counted,
- Consider a separate bank account – This is not a must, but it could make life easier to keep your self employed records separate from your day to day living. Not only will this separate all expenditures, but it will also keep any earnings separate once you do release your book.
- Good Product – Just like someone who is making clothing, it is in our best interest to put out the best product possible. If you make a dress that falls apart within a month, customers will not buy from you again. The same is true of books. Yes, that will most likely mean larger expenditures at the beginning, like hiring for cover design if you cannot make a professional one yourself, but it will hopefully mean higher return business.
- Be Professional – Writing is an art, but selling books is a profession. I’ve heard many self-publishers say that once you release that book, you become your own marketing team, your own design team, etc, and this should be treated as such. Separating yourself from your work, especially when it comes to the business end, is vital. If you are yelled at by a hotel reception because you registered a complaint, you won’t go back to that hotel. The same is true if you bad mouth someone because they dared criticise your writing or they gave you an answer you did not want.
It’s all very easy for me to say these things, and I am sure that the process will not be as easy as it is on paper. However, moving forward, I think it will be some good things to keep in mind.