Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Domain Name

For years I've had my own domain name: frap.org. Frap has languished in the 1990s style-wise and I'm going to redo it in WordPress eventually, but frap is a dog-related website and was never intended as an author site, so it's time to buy the vanity website which I always avoided. ellenclary.com has been available for a long time, so I wasn't terribly worried about it. Until.... Eek! Someone now owns it. I should have bought it years ago (kick self).

So I grabbed ellenclary.org just to "park" it while I decided what to do.
I did some checking and someone in Korea owns ellenclary.com. Did some Irish person move to Korea? I have no idea.

Later one I also parked ellenclarywrites.com since that's the business name.

If I give the domain registrar $69, they will reach out to the owner to try to negotiate a price. I decide to think about it. (There are a lot of domain name registrars so mine isn't any more useful that anyone else's.)

Two to three weeks pass, and I'm talking with my sales person at the domain name registrar asking about the soon to be available .author extension. He told me that generally the new domain extensions are more money though it would be clear that it's an author website. That said, everyone automatically assumes .com.

I think some more. One thing I am new at is thinking in terms of what is a business expense. Because of my family, I do have some funding (not a ton, but some) for my writing business and things having to do with my author website are clearly business expenses. Suddenly, the $69 doesn't seem as large as it once was. I tell the sales guy to go ahead and start the domain broker process to negotiate for ellenclary.com.

All the $69 does is pay the broker to go start a conversation with the owner. The owner could very easily say no, though the domain is not "doing" anything right now. It's not a website. Actually buying the domain name could be expensive, but it's not like ellenclary.com is a hot business catch phrase, so it can't be that much money. It's up to my registrar to negotiate for as low a price as possible though it is fair to think this could easily be a few hundred dollars. I highly doubt it will be in the thousands.

After a few days, the broker asked me to set a start and max bids for ellenclary.com. Of course, I wanted a min bid of $1, but I didn't want to insult them, so I chose a starting bid of $10. The maximum bid I set at $200. 

I will update this as things proceed.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Getting The Business License

It's my understanding that to get the IRS to take you seriously as a writer you should establish yourself as a business.

After doing some checking, I learned that if I have my name in the business, I don't need to file for a "Fictitious Business Name." Given that I had no interest in being anonymous, I was quite happy to skip that step, so I decided on the completely unoriginal name of: Ellen Clary Writes.

Then it was off to my city's website to figure out how to get a business license. And it's right at this point where "your mileage may vary." If you don't live within a city then you may not need a business license at all though you should check with your county. For tax reasons, you do want some way of saying this pile of money X is for my business and the money spent on it is in support of the business and should be considered business expenses. This is especially important for me because my book isn't coming out till next year, but I have some significant up-front costs.

I do live in a small city and they have a website with business information on it. Their focus is about brick and mortar places like my local taqueria, but they do have a "Writers" category, and they were quick enough to tell me that if I'm working at home I need a "Home Occupancy Permit" first.

This was a lengthy tangent and it required some thought. My city wanted to know just how many square feet of space of my home was dedicated to the business. Guessing is completely ok. I guessed 100 sq ft. which is the size of our office. Then I had to answer a lot of questions about how much parking I would need (zero), and how often deliveries would go in and out. I'm not running the book delivery part if the business out of the house, so I answered zero to many of the questions, but if you are going to be sending or receiving books out from your home you need to tell them. This can be an issue in residential neighborhoods that don't want a lot of delivery trucks. We have enough deliveries in my neighborhood that even if I received the occasional item, it wouldn't be noticed.

After I answered a bunch of questions, I received a total cost estimate for my permit and I got a pending permit number that I took a screen shot of. It's very important that you know how to take screenshots for reference, as you many not see the same information presented in the same way. For a Mac use Shift-Command-4 and you will get a crosshair icon to sweep out a spot of the screen and it will copy a png of it to your desktop. If you just want a shot of the whole screen, use Shift-Command-3. I then paid for the permit on-line, and it said that it would take approximately a couple of weeks to process.

I chose to wait a week and a half, then I went back to the city's web site and asked for a Sole Proprietorship business license saying I was a writer and gave it the same business name that I have put on the Sole Occupancy Permit. I checked on the status of the permit and it was still listed as "in process," but I could continue applying for the business license as long as I had the permit number. (Remember that screenshot? It came in handy.) 

I completed the license application, and the amount due was much cheaper than the permit which I found funny until I realized that their permit year ends on June 30th and that my rate was highly pro-rated, so I will likely get a notice in a couple of months that I need to renew.

One note on types of businesses. A writer is usually just a Sole Proprietorship, but if you have any liability exposure, you should consider the extra expense of a Limited Liability Corporation. This is stolen from Investopedia (https://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/llc.asp):

limited liability company (LLC) is a corporate structure whereby the members of the company cannot be held personally liable for the company's debts or liabilitiesLimited liability companies are essentially hybrid entities that combine the characteristics of a corporation and a partnership or sole proprietorship.

I write fiction, so I am not in danger of libeling anyone, but if you write non-fiction, or even close to it, you should give this one very careful consideration. The most famous current example, is the estate of the late Chris Kyle (who wrote American Sniper). They were successfully sued by Jesse Ventura for libel. The ending final settlement is confidential, but Ventura did get something out of Kyle's estate. (https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/dec/5/jesse-ventura-settles-american-sniper-lawsuit-take/) Now Kyle's estate does have some financial backing, but it's not something that most writers can or want to rely on, so if you write about real people having an LLC is probably worth the money.

Anyway, after about three weeks (long enough to forget about it.) I received in the mail my official business license that I'm actually supposed to post in the room somewhere. Yahoo. Now I need to talk to my tax person which is something I should have already done.







Thursday, March 22, 2018

Setting up The Writing Business Bank Account

Before I could even pay my first bill to the publisher, I had to set up a business account.

So first thing was off to Google to find free business checking. I went with Capital One (Spark), and later chose to setup Wave accounting that is also free.

Now the series of dominos begins.
I had to connect my checking account to the business account. For that to happen, you give then your bank account information and they make two "micro" deposits (meaning under 10 cents) to it over the next two days. You then log back into your business account, and tell them what the deposits were. Then you can authorize a funds transfer to that account (for example, your business seed money) which typically takes 2-3 days to clear.

In the meantime, they have ordered a debit card for you that is on its way and should show up within a week or so.

They did offer to accept a check deposit via my phone, but I declined to do that. I happen to also have a Capital One savings account, so I was able to transfer enough money to order paper checks.

Once all that has happened you are good to go. Go forth and spend your seed money. Next for me is the business license.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Costs of Hybrid Publishing

It's a little early to be talking about publishing costs, but I'm laying out budgeting now, so here is a preliminary take on it.

Hybrid Publishing is not cheap. You are choosing to share the publishing costs with the publisher in order to get easier access to the publishing process, and to use the power of their distribution network. There are places that they can get your book that are extraordinarily difficult for a self-published author to achieve. Also, they will design a quality layout and cover which is a very good thing as many self-published books have a certain look about them.

There are three cost factors to book publishing (four, if you count an audiobook). 
The editing, design, and distribution of your book. 
The printing costs of your book. 
The publicity, marketing for your book.
The less and less optional audiobook.

Estimated costs in dollars
5900 (not an estimate) - Proofreading, design, distribution (and more). Copy-editng is an additional cost that is running around 70/hour (https://shewritespress.com/editorial-services/). This is steep, and I have my own copy-editor, so I don't have experience using the publisher's copy-editors. The 5900 is split into two payments.

1000-2000 - Offset printing costs for 500-1000 books.

5000, or 10,000, or 15,000 - Publicity, can go much higher. This is a per book cost
5000 is if you just want publicity for one book and don't see yourself writing more in the future.
10,000 is the middle road that many authors intending to write more than one book take.
15,000 is the put me on every radio and TV show you can find.

2200 - Audio costs for a finished 100,000 word book. Price is based on 200/hour for 11 hours. Generally you can estimate 150 words per minute for outloud reading. Or you can work out a royalty sharing arrangement with your reader.

So 13,000 to 20,000 and up. The audiobook can be done later to spread costs out.

Now before you faint, or go running off to peruse Amazon's self-publishing guidelines, keep in mind that this is an investment. If your book is well-written, and has an audience there there is a good chance you can make some or all of your investment back. Obviously, there is no guarantee at all, but there are those who have done so. 

I had resolved to contact 200 agents in pursuit of a traditional publishing deal. I think I had gotten as far as 25 agents, when my family's estate closed, and it turned out there was a little bit of money left for the kids. After considering it for a little while, I realized that there's nothing my mother would treasure more than to be able to brag about there being an author in the family - even if she had no interest in actually reading the book.

So I decided to stop pounding my head against the traditional publishing wall.
Which also means that I will be getting a higher percentage of the book sales.

There are other ways to raise the money to fund hybrid-publishing, such as crowd-funding. Brooke Warner of She Writes Press goes into the options in her book Greenlight Your Book. 
https://www.amazon.com/Green-Light-Your-Book-Writers-Publishing/dp/1631528025/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1521270828&sr=1-1&keywords=greenlight+your+book

There are other smaller costs. I had to start a sole proprietorship business, which means buying a business license from my city. I also have to buy some software, so I can communicate with my publisher. My tax accountant will be charging me more. There will also be untold amounts of postage costs as I fully intend to send my book to every single dog agility trial or herding trial raffle as advertising. I might be able to talk the publicists into this, but I don't know yet.

I have signed with Spark Press who is closely associated with She Writes Press (both operations are managed by Brooke), but has  more of a genre focus (sci-fi, mystery, thriller, ...), where SWP has more memoir and literary fiction. My book is alternative reality / science fiction and I would feel less lost at Spark. Spark is smaller with 10 writers per season, where SWP has 40 writers per season and there are two seasons per year. (Spring and Fall I believe.)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

They Said Yes!

Back on Jan 14, 2018, I submitted a book publishing proposal to She Writes Press. "Proposal" is the wrong term. A proposal is what a non-fiction writer sends to a publisher before the book is actually written. Fiction writers don't have such luxury. They have to have completed the book and then submit the first 20 pages double spaced. Plus, they asked for a summary and a bio. I instead had a "pitch" that I had been sending to agents, so I sent that instead. They told me expect to wait 4-6 weeks and I did my level best to stop worrying about it which I was partially successful, except for the week counting every so often. Well today I heard back and they said Yes! An unconditional yes which completely shocked me. 

They have three tiers.
  Level I - Looks great, let's do this
  Level 2 - It needs some copy editing
  Level 3 - Your story needs work

I had hired my friend Diane to copy edit the first 50 pages, but even with that, I was still expecting Level 2 or 3. No. They said it was ready to go. OMG. Really?

Trouble is that we have to copy-edit pages 50 to the end, so the real work is still in front on us, but I am on Cloud 9+. They wrote up a nice assessment (in a much better style than I could manage myself) that said how intrigued with the story they were and looked forward to hearing more.

The other big thing is that I need to start a business for my writing. Ulp. I have no idea how to do that, so I'm going to be nagging family members on how to do this. She Writes Press co-founder Brooke Warner's book Green Light Your Book discusses this, so I have to spend more quality time with it, and with an 80 page PDF that they send to the Tier 1 and 2 folks.

Once again, I feel like a kid in adult shoes.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Technology on Wheels Sort-of (AKA My Effing Prius)

I'm an IT professional and I love putting advanced tech into my fictional world.
But the frustration with technology transfers easily from world to world.

I may make my living from tech, but that doesn't mean that life with my Toyota Prius is smooth at all. We actually have a very rocky relationship. It's a family car, so I don't drive it all the time which makes me always a step behind the smart-ass thing. It's devilishly skilled at getting under my skin without even trying.

I was making an evening run to Walgreens to pick up medicine for my dog. While not in a huge hurry, I was definitely on a mission. I pull into the lot and park without issue. I don't know if you have had experience with Priuses or other cars like it, but you can lock it by pressing a spot on the door handle IF you have done all the [to borrow from the sexist named game of Mother-May-I] tasks that make it happy. So out of the car I go, close the door, press the magic spot on the door handle and I get a BEEEP. The You've-Done-Something-Wrong beep. Oh, I forgot to turn off the car so I open the door and press the Off button, close the door, and BEEEP. "What?" Open the door and the console says something on the order of "You forgot your key dummy."

With the Prius you don't insert a key it just has to be in the car... somewhere... I dig the key out of my purse that was on the seat. Ok. Good to go. Close the door and BEEEP. Argh! I am now trying not to just yell "I Hate This Car." and kick it repeatedly.

I open the door again and the dashboard says "You forgot to turn the car off idiot." (I had inadvertently turned it back on again during this dance.) Telling said car just what I think of it, I smash the off button, semi-slam the door. lock it, and try not to storm into the store.

Not a Prius fan, but it's pure inspiration as a writer.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Preparing to Submit [a writing sample]

The title was sounding far more suggestive than the topic deserved. I'm preparing to submit the first 20 pages of my book to She Writes Press.

I've submitted pitches to agent before but this is a little different. They don't ask for a pitch or any sort of introduction. Having gone to the trouble of writing such an intro and pitch, I feel kind of exposed without one. So I wrote them asking if there was a way I could send them the pitch first.

Also, I have to understand that these really are traditional book publishing folks. They want to see the first 20 pages in a normal font like Georgia or Times and it has to be double-spaced. Both of this things make me cringe. I just loath serifed fonts even though there is no shortage of research saying that they really are easier to read. And double-spaced means that they are only reading 10 pages of my work, not 20.

So I did the prep and of course it's not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I chose Times New Roman which is a very compact font and even with double-spacing there is a lot of the story in the proposal.

Now do a wait for an answer to my question or not? I picked a holiday weekend to send the question and it's unlikely I'll be patient enough to wait.

But let's hear it for last minute snags to slow down the impulsiveness. I need to have page numbers turned on. I use Google Docs and they're already on there, but I downloaded it as an Open Office word document, so I have to learn enough about Open Office to figure out how to turn them on.

Not too terrible. I had to Insert: Footer->Default.
Then click in the footer and Insert->Fields->Page Number.
I also chose to center it.

Of course, things were going too smoothly. Even with those changes it doesn't save them. I repeated the whole thing and when I reopen the document the page numbers are gone again.

Ok maybe it's time to update Open Office since I've been putting that off for a long time.
So I download the newer version, futz with my security preferences to allow me to install it, and then I realize that when I resaved it with the page numbers it had changed it from the ".docx" format to an ".odt" file, so I was actually looking at the old file. I resaved the ".odt" as a ".doc" and the page numbers are there.

Now I get to figure out when to submit it. Time for the dog's nighttime walk while I consider.

[later] 
I should have guessed. On the submission page they give you a chance to submit a pitch, a cover letter, and a bio.

And they will accept .doc or .pdf. I'm much more comfortable about pdf because it works in a consistent way for the most part, so I'm going to re-download it as pdf. Of course, the page numbers disappear but the viewer shows them.

They use a service called "submittable" that I see that I've used before since they recognize me, but I don't remember what it was.

Ok, I did it. I'm trying not to worry about it.