So you’ve written a spectacular book and are ready to share it with the world. Rock on! DIY Publishing is all about taking the reins of your career and not waiting for permission to share your art.
Hold on for just a moment though. As tempting as it is to hit that shiny Publish button, there’s two important things you need to consider first: Privacy and Branding.
Everyone hopes to one day be a best selling author (at least, I think every author hopes for that…). But we all know fame comes with a price. And best selling author or not, when you publish a novel you become, to some degree, a public figure. Your name, your likeness, your work all exist to some extent beyond your control. So, it’s important to create a separation between public you and private you.
Which is not to suggest you should be inauthentic in your blogging or social media or interactions with readers and fans. That authenticity is an important part of the next step – Branding. Privacy is all about business.
Author Privacy checklist
Set up a business
Setting up a dba or LLC in most states is relatively inexpensive and there are several benefits. (Your state website probably has information on setting something up.)
First, it creates a separate entity for the business of publishing your work. It serves as your public front for contracts, taxes, financial interactions, etc. And the bigger your business becomes, the more important it is, even for traditionally published authors.
Second, having a publishing company lends your books credibility. You’re basically creating your own publishing company for your work and having that company name – on your title page, on Goodreads, on ISBN information – is the professional stamp on your book.
Third, having a business entity to handle all of your business accounts and transactions reinforces that separation between your private finances and your business. Which is probably not that big of a deal if you sell a hundred copies of your books a year. But if your books take off – you become a hybrid author by being traditionally published – if you write 17 books that all do just ok and sales rack up – it’s a lot more complicated to change everything over to a business entity when you need one rather than get off to a nice clean start.
After you’ve registered your company, get an EIN for tax purposes and other accounts (in the US – I’m not sure what the equivalent is in other countries). An EIN (or Employee ID Number) is free and you can get one online.
Set up your business email
A business email gives your company a level of professionalism (firstname.lastname@example.org is fine for your mom – not so much for your company). It also creates a way for people to contact you apart from your personal email.
Open a bank account for your business
This ties into both having a separate entity for the business of your writing and keeping good financial records. Open a business checking account. Set up direct deposit from your distribution channels to the business account so you have clean accounting of where the money came from. And you have an account to use for your business expenses apart from your personal expenses. Not only does it make things simpler, it gives you a clear picture of how profitable your business is, which is different than how much you earn in sales.
Spark by CapitalOne offers free business checking accounts. I looked around a lot and most other banks charge fees or have minimum balances. If you’re just getting started you want something that isn’t going to cost you more money than you’re making. (You’ll need that EIN you registered for in step one.)
Or if you’d rather have a personal account than a business account, CapitalOne360 offers free personal checking and savings accounts.
Get a PO Box
When you upload your manuscript you’re going to need to provide your address several times.
When people request a review copy and you mail it with a return address.
When readers want to send you something fun or you need to provide an address for different business transactions.
You don’t want everyone to know where you live.
Especially if you become a best selling author.
Maybe it takes 2 years and maybe it takes 25 but if you’ve been cavalier about your address and then one of your books takes off and suddenly you have thousands of readers who all want to know more about you and you’ve been throwing your home address everywhere… you want to enjoy your writing, enjoy your popularity and still feel safe.
Signatures and Security
Come up with your “author” autograph and make sure it’s different than your signature on legal documents, checks and credit card authorizations.
Also, keep the answers to security questions for your accounts private. In fact, come up with easily remembered lies. It’s too easy to search for your mother’s maiden name, or your high school mascot. If the answer isn’t actually the truth it creates an additional layer of security.
Though the reasons you might use a nom de plume have changed in the era of digital publishing now is a good time to consider it and decide which is best for you. If nothing else, it’s one more way to create a separation between your public life and your private life.
Also, think about protecting your family when you consider what you’re posting online. Many authors avoid using the names of their spouses and children, don’t post pictures of their children online, avoid references to their hometown in twitter or instagram posts. It’s mostly basic internet safety, taken up one level with the expectation that one day, people will want to know as much as possible about you. Which is cool, hopefully one day.