Becoming a Publisher

During my post on my decision to go indie, I mentioned that I had also decided to create a publishing company, Red Bucket Publishing.

I’m going to discuss this decision and some of the hoops I’ve found while working on this the past few days.

First off, I’m in Ontario, Canada. My initial decision was whether I go all out and incorporate a new company or whether I just register a Sole-proprietorship in Ontario.

Had to give this some thought.

Incorporation

Incorporating a business means that, as far as the federal government is concerned, it is a separate and “living” organisation. This means you need to file taxes for the company itself. It also means that any judgements of liability rest mostly on the company’s shoulders. On another note, when it comes to dealing with suppliers & such, being incorporated can add a bit more weight to your credibility.

However, the incorporation process is more involved. Most people will suggest you have a lawyer walk you through it (although, you can do the whole process online yourself if you wish). Since the corporation is a separate entity, regardless of income, you must charge, and remit to the government, taxes.  It also means that should you end your business, there’s more paperwork to file to cancel the whole thing.

I incorporated a business years ago. The business never went anywhere and I found the constant additional obligation of the corporation a bit of a strain.

Sole Proprietorship

The simpler, cheaper, choice. For $60, you can register a business online with the Ontario government. This allows you to operate under the business name, but all the income is declared on your own taxes. It also means that so long as you keep below a $30,000 a year income level, you do not have to charge your customers taxes.

You do not gain the same level of cred with a sole-proprietorship that you do with incorporation. You also don’t have the same legal rights and protection for your company name.

In the end, I decided to go with a sole-proprietorship. It was cheaper and for now, since I don’t know how big this thing will get, easier to manage.

The other thing I realized is that dealing with the suppliers I am, they really don’t care a bit whether I’m incorporated or not. Library and Archives Canada has no care whether you are a sole or inc. All they care is what you are publishing. Lightning Source? Same thing. In fact, Lightning Source is meant for indies and small presses as opposed to big corporations.

For now, Red Bucket Publishing is a sole-proprietorship. But, if the business gets large enough, I will give serious consideration to incorporating. Incorporation does provide some legal shields that being a sole does not. Also, if the money really comes in, I don’t know if I want my personal taxes taking that kind of a hit. Being an incorporated business does allow some tax perks that being an individual does not. But for now, I’ll wait to see if that comes to pass.

Finally, let me say that my decision to start a “publisher” was not born out of necessity. As far as I can tell, there’s no reason you need to do this if you want to self-publish. For me, it was a decision based on who I am and what I want to become. My wife is a photographer. I would one day like to publish her work. I also hope to produce a variety of series and novellas. I wanted a single point of contact for all the works we intend to produce and I didn’t want it to be this website. I’ve also longed to own my own business. Red Bucket Publishing fulfills all those desires.

However, it also means I not only have to market myself, my latest writing, but it also means I need to promote a company as well. More work? Maybe, but I think the rewards in the end will outweigh the extra effort now.

I’m still working on things, but if you want to bookmark for future reference, or just see the work-in-progress, you can head over to redbucketpublishing.com

So fellow indies, what do you think? Do you have your own publisher imprint?

Getting ISBNs in Canada

Self-publishers have it good in Canada. We can get our ISBNs for free.

If you’re unfamiliar, ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is a unique number used to identify your book. Most places that you will publish, be it physical or Ebook, will require you to provide an ISBN for your work. As I understand it, some companies will allow you to pay an additional fee and they will provide you with an ISBN.

In Canada, the process is rather simple.

Go to http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/ciss-ssci/index-e.html and click on Join CISS on the left hand side. There’s a form you need to fill in that asks about your publisher information as well as one of your current or upcoming publications. Once you’ve submitted that form, you wait. They say it can take up to ten days, but I think I waited for three.

An email arrives with your username and a temporary password. You login to their site, and fill out some more paperwork. The process is simple and can be done all online. If you need an ISBN, you just login, provide information about the book and within seconds, you have an ISBN.

If you’re using a service like Lightning Source, you will need at least one ISBN in order to complete the signup process on their website. The great thing with the Canadian system is that since it is all online, you can complete information for your first book before it’s published, yet you can go back and edit that information at any time. This means you can obtain an ISBN for signups, but go back and edit it when you know actual details like book size, weight & page count.

As I said, an easy and painless process in Canada. Dear readers, how are things done in your part of the world?

Going it Alone or Call me “Indie”

So I’ve given it a great deal of thought, and I’m finally ready to say for certain that I am going to self-publish.

Almost every indie writer has a blog post where they justify their decision to skip the traditional publishing model. I suppose this my post. But instead of belaboring the point, I’ll sum it up in two words, three syllables; Control Freak.

After all the work to write a book, if someone were to decide the title or cover design of my book for me, I think I might explode. To me, a book is artistry. Not just the words, but the design, the cover, the layout, even the font used. These things are elements of a book’s creation and I want my hand in all of it.

There’s other reasons as well, many that merit little mention. But the overall deciding factor here is that I want to call the shots. If this series succeeds or fails, I want it to rest firmly on my shoulders.

Yeah, I was the kid in school who hated group projects too.

Simply put, I believe in this series. I think it can do well. I want to be there for every step to see that it does.

So where do I go from here?

My first step was to create my own imprint. I wanted to publish my works under a publisher name. I suppose that’s vain, but to me it was just one more step in the creative process. Not only am I creating an identity as an author, now I get to forge an identity as a publisher.

To that end, I present to you Red Bucket Publishing. No logo yet, no live website yet, just a registered domain and a Paypal account. More will come, just as I will officially announce the name of my series and book one specifically in the next few days (remember, The Veil was just the working title).

I’m looking into Print-On-Demand companies to do physical copies, and I want to learn how to format ebooks myself (told you I wanted to be in on every level of creation).

As I go along in this process, I’ll post the things I learn. My writing journey is growing from just writing the books to also include publishing the books. I can’t explain how much that excites me.

So wish me luck. If you have any wisdom to impart, please do so. This is going to be a huge learning experience for me and I’ll need all the advice I can get.

Should Self-Pubbed Authors Refer to Themselves as “Indie?”

I’ve seen the odd snarky comment on Twitter about this, so I thought I’d weigh in.

Should Authors that choose the route of self-publication refer to themselves as “Indie Authors or Writers?” Seems a number of people are bothered by this. Their argument seems to rely on the fact that it is the small press publishing houses that are “indie” and not the authors themselves.

I call bulls*!#.

Let’s look at the two areas of artistic expression where indie is considered, by many, to be a badge of honour; the film and music industry.

What makes a band or filmmaker indie? Well, they aren’t paid to create their work. Instead, they invest in the tools to create it and then find a way to put it out to the world for consumption. Perhaps that’s a simplified view, but really, what else is there? They are creating work that isn’t being done with the blessing and bankroll of a major corporation. They take all the financial risks themselves and, if they’re lucky, reap the benefits.

So what makes them any different from a self-pubbed author?

Did the indie band build their own instruments? Did they build the software they used to record and edit the music? Did they create the infrastructure of iTunes that they used to market and sell their music? No, they didn’t do any of those things. They used their money to buy existing, proven, equipment and then used an existing means of publication.

Did the indie filmmaker build his cameras? Did he create the film and projectors used to show the movie? No, he outsourced all of those things.

If we apply the “publisher is the indie” aspect to the film makers and bands, then shouldn’t iTunes or the company that created the DVDs be considered the indie ones?

The fact is, in today’s ebook world, an author can write their book and create the epub file themselves. In fact, they can do everything up to the point where they have Amazon or iBookstore or the like sell the product. In the sense of the ebook, the author has done everything. The online etailers are just the store where they sell their product.

And if an author decides to create a paper and ink version of their book, they are still involved in the whole process, and in the end, they still pay for the service. They take the financial risk upon themselves to produce the book. No one pays them for it. There is no security that they will ever recoup the money they have invested. In essence, they have outsourced the printing, the same way the indie film maker outsources DVD production, the same way the indie band outsources CD production.

In truth, there is no difference between the financial risk, effort, and love of craft between the indie filmmaker, band, or author. They all create works of art and they all take financial risk to get their work out to the world. Just because they use a company to outsource a service doesn’t strip them of their indie status. After all, they are still the ones paying for it.

I mean, should Compaq get partial credit for my novel because I used one of their laptops to write it? Should Scrivener be considered the indie author because I used their software?

In the end, the reason writers are being questioned as to whether they are indie is because self-publishing still has such a bad rep. It’ll take years of amazing self-pubbed authors to wash that stain away. When that happens, being in complete control of your creative content will be seen as a badge of honour, as opposed to being a hack who couldn’t get a book deal.

So writers, proclaim yourself indie. Get outside the box. Write amazing, crazy stuff that no publishing house would touch and get it out there into the world. There will be people who will love you for it!

To Self-Publish or not Self-Publish?

It’s funny how much changes in the matter of a year.

This time last year, the Apple iPad had yet to be released. We all wondered just how revolutionary a product it would be.

Initially, people seemed underwhelmed. But if you followed bookish type people on Twitter, you started to see an increasing ripple of excitement. Maybe a healthy dose of fear and uncertainty as well.

While products like Kindle and Sony’s eReader had been out for some time, this was the first time a product was released that was capable not only of being an ebook reader but also of being able to display colour media. For some, this created intense excitement. Some of the products released to date have taken true advantage of the iPad’s abilities. Has anyone seen the official Bram Stoker Family edition of Dracula? Or War of the Worlds? How about Alice in Wonderland?

In the darker days of self-publishing, writers went to horrible expense to get their product into the hands of the public. And most of the time when they did, it was substandard in its print quality.

Not only that, but there was the stigma of being self-published. It was seen as an act of desperation to get a substandard product that wouldn’t be published by any sane Publishing House into the public arena.

But the current eReader products, including iPad, seem to be quickly changing that. And funny enough, the major product category at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was, yup, you guessed it, tablets.

As a self-publisher, you now have multiple options for releasing your product to the public, and most of them at a very low cost (ok, if you’re willing to work at it, you can do it yourself for only the cost of your time).

There is Amazon, Kobo, iBook Store, Smashwords, & so many others. You can produce the book in several formats and sell it through your own website. In short, you now have access to a marketplace of thousands (millions?) of people as opposed to those you can hand a copy from the trunk of your car.

In this new paradigm of self-publishing, it is seen more as a choice of control as opposed to being a substandard product. Numerous authors are moving to ebooks as a method of being able to create their own artwork and pocket a larger percentage of the product’s sales.

In the modern publishing market, authors are largely left to their own devices to market their books. This is the message that comes across time and again when speaking to those in the industry. So as an author, if you’re going to have to have a huge platform online and in bookstores to promote your work for sale, why see only two or three percent of the sales as opposed to seventy to one-hundred percent?

I think what appeals to me the most about self-publishing is that I control every aspect of the book. In traditional publishing, you put all this work into crafting the words, just to have someone else decide on the font, cover art, bio, author pic, etc. As someone who is very visual, I think I would completely lose my mind if I had no say in my cover.

There is something immensely satisfying in the idea of creating the words, creating the images, choosing all physical aspects of the work and then seeing it out into the world for release. Every sale is like a victory of the hard work of the author.

But there’s an ego thing with being traditionally published. Being able to walk into a bookstore and see my book on the shelves (without me having gone in there previously with self-pubbed copies) is very appealing and a form of validation that I’ll have to do serious soul searching to decide if I can live without.

So what do you think? Is self-publishing rising from the less reputable position it’s held for years? What would your choice be?

iPad the key to future self publishers?

Today sees the release of the iPad in the United States.  For those of us in Canada and many other parts of the world, we still need to wait a couple of weeks before we see this shiny new device.  Naturally, everyone is waiting to see just what success the iPad will be.  With the power of Apple behind it, I have little doubt that the iPad will be a winner.  Will it be a champ?  We’ll see.  I don’t think we’re talking iPod or iPhone type domination, so I don’t think laptops should be shaking yet.

That said, if I was really interested in getting an Ebook reader, I think I’d rather spend the extra $200 and get an iPad.  Afterall, with full colour internet connectivity, the ability to use Apple’s Pages software to write and run the millions of iPhone apps, well, that’s pretty awesome.

For writers, the iPad’s success could mean a whole new way of getting our work into the hands of consumers.  While self-publishing has had a somewhat sketchy reputation in the past, the iPad allows for products to look professional, yet be produced at virtually no cost to the author.

This link, that I was pointed to by someone on Twitter (sorry, no credit cause I forget who, I opened it in Safari) gives some ideas on How to Get Your Novel on the iPad.

Giving it some thought, this could open a whole new area for freelance book cover designers as well.  I mean, having a great cover graphic would go a long way to help sell the product.

I’d much prefer to be published by an actual publisher, though I suppose that’s more a pride thing.  At least this exists as a possible back-up plan!