A Hard Day’s Night
Time to dust off those khakis and roll up your sleaves because you’re startin’ a business. At least, I hope you are!
As a writer myself, opening and operating a business is the last thing on the planet I want to do, but it’s a necessary evil. If you were traditionally published, all the big wigs would take care of most of this for you, but they would also be taking most of your money for you as well. The uncertainty of filing for your own company is scary (believe me, I know), but I will do my absolute best to get you to the ribbon cutting no matter what State you live in.
Why I Recommend Starting An LLC
Believe it or not my name isn’t actually Sodak Publishing—it’s Chris Berke (heh)—and I think the best decision you can make as a self-publisher is to make your own LLC. Below are some of the many reasons to consider doing it yourself:
- Separate your home and work/writing life.
- If you get sued for copyright (Which you won’t because you read Part 4 & 6!) they will only take your business assets and not your home.
- Separate bank account (Easier to track income and expenses so you don’t have to sift through your personal finances.)
- Write-offs, baby!
- Keeps you accountable. (No pun because I mean it in the broader sense. Having an LLC reminds you that you are not only trying to make money, but a potential career out of your passion!)
*To be clear, if you are just publishing one book to sell or hand out to friends/family, then don’t worry about any of this. Go ahead and take that cash and spend it on a treat!
Where To Start
First, get the following things in order:
- What you want your business to be called?
- Do you want a unique business email address, or will you continue to use your own?
- Do you have your Imprint ready (Part 5)
- Have you already registered for ISBNs under your personal name? (That’s totally fine! You can go back and edit your Bowker credentials.)
- Do you know which bank you will be opening an account with?
This all may sound like a daunting barrier to entry, but I promise you everyone you will speak to throughout the process genuinely wants to help you out. (Including me!)
Filing For An LLC
In my State (South Dakota), nearly all of this can be done online. What you are looking for is the Secretary of State website with a .gov at the end. In SD, it is www.sdsos.gov. Your State will have a similar syntax but if you’re having trouble finding it, just Google “My State + Secretary of State” and you should be fine!
Note: If you have to Google, scroll past all results that say “Sponsored”. You want the actual government website.
Note 2: You may have to do a little digging once you reach the site, but for convenience SD’s has a “Start a Business!” button right on the landing page.
Once you’re on your State’s SOS website and in the “File for LLC” section, you will be taken through a guided form that should be self explanatory. I will list a few things to look out for below:
- YOU will be the personal contact of the Business, so use your information. (Example, address if you don’t have an office.)
- You’ll file for a “Domestic LLC”, meaning you’re an American business.
- If you are not having a partner, you can leave related fields blank
- When choosing type of business, if an option like “Book Store” is not available, you are essentially “Retail” or “Sales”.
- Don’t stress. Everything can be changed in the future!
For example, the fees in South Dakota are as follows:
- Filed Electronically Online: $150
- Annual Report (Filed annually to say you are still alive and a business): $50
- Business Changes: These can range anywhere from $25 – $60
When you are all finished, you will receive a document called something like Articles of Organization and you will receive and Employer Identification Number. Download and save these in a will organized filed structure!
Also known as a “Doing Business As”. You may file for one of these at the time of filing for your LLC if you want to do business as “Your Company Name” and “Your Company Name, LLC”. Not required, but encouraged in case you wrongly type one or the other on an official document.
Sales Tax License
That’s right, if you’re selling a product you gotta pay Uncle Sam. To do so, you need to file for a Sales Tax License.
If the Secretary of State is who gives you your business name, the Department of Revenue is who gives you your tax status. The process to filling for this license is similar to registering for your LLC. In South Dakota, you visit www.dor.sd.gov. I’m assuming your State is nearly identical! From the landing page, the options SD citizens need to click on are Businesses > Taxes > Sales Tax. Follow the guided instructions (you will need your EIN from your LLC registration) and click submit! This fee will vary from State to State.
Note: At the end of this process, an accountant or CPA will likely call you and ask you how you would like to file your taxes. They will answer all of your questions so ask away!
Example: I file my sales tax bi-annually (the twice per year bi). It’s extremely simple, too. I log into the portal, put in one box how much income I made for the period, hit submit, and it automatically tells me what sales tax I need to pay in which I can pay with a debit/credit card.
Note 2: Taxes are complicated, but essentially this is why you charge sales tax. So the burden of this tax payment isn’t solely on your income.
New Bank Account, Who Dis?
Now that you have all of your business credentials (and important documents downloaded and well labeled!) you can call your favorite bank—if there is such a thing—and open a business account! This is exactly how it sounds. They’ll ask you for your business name, EIN, and maybe some other personal information, then issue you an account and card with your official LLC on the front! Congrats, you’re a mogul!
Note: Some business bank accounts charge a small monthly fee to remain open. Mine is called an “Account Analysis Charge” and is $3.00 per month.
Some Other Considerations
Now that you are an official business, you can not only begin selling your product, but you can also start purchasing important tools and resources under said business account! Here are some line items to consider keeping separate from your personal life:
- Website domain name (i.e. www.sodakpublishing.com)
- Business email account (i.e. [email protected])
- ISBN, Copyright, & Distributor registrations
- Promotional items with business name or Imprint displayed
- Any W-9 required to be filled out from distributors (i.e. Ignram, B&N, or Amazon)
- Your payment portal (I believe Square is the most popular.)
Sell, Sell, Sell!
With your business name, tax status, bank account, and payment portal in hand, you now have the green light to sell as many books as your heart desires! And, since we did it this way, you won’t have to work so hard at keeping track of every little purchase/sale/expense. It’s all recorded for you in your new bank account as well as your payment portal. Rest easy and get back to writing! 😎
On The Road To Success
Whew! You did it. I know this section is dense, but I believe it necessary to take that full plunge into self-publishing-dom. You’re in a great position to start making money, to keep more of that money, and to not stress so much about what taxes you may or may not owe. Now, let’s move on to something only marginally less stressful in Part 8: Choosing a Printer.