I am about to self publish for the first time. Is it common to create a registered company when you self publish? I like the idea of separating my book revenue from my regular revenue and having my own bank account just for any book revenue as well as website or book-related expenses. Has anyone else done this when self publishing?

  • Heya! We discourage multiple-part questions; they kind of mess up the Q&A format we work in. Instead, you can split this into three separate posts, one for each question - and hopefully get answers for them all :) I'm closing for the moment, until you can edit and create the different posts. Let me know here in the comments if you're having any difficulty. – Standback Feb 22 '16 at 20:33

I've self-published three books. Yes, I created a company for this.

I don't know where you live. The legal steps to create a new business are a lot more involved in some places than others.

Here in Michigan, United States, all I needed to do was fill out a form and file it with the county clerk, pay a modest fee, I think it was $50, something like that, and my business was registered for five years. Then I have to renew it every five years. Basically that just says that I'm allowed to do business under the company name.

My business is also registered with the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress as a publishing company. I used the business name on my last two books for the imprint, i.e. the title page says "Published by" my business and the logo on the spine is my logo.

When I lived in Ohio I created a business -- not related to writing, but that's not the point -- and there was a little more paperwork and a little more cost, but still in the same ballpark.

I'm talking here about creating a sole proprietorship. That is, the business is just a name. Legally, your money and the business's money are the same. When you do your taxes the business income is added in to your personal income, etc. If you want to create a corporation or a limited liability company, that's more work.


In response to your comment about using a pseudonym:

The following is excerpted from the instructions for filling out the form to register a copyright:

What Is a “Work Made for Hire”? A “work made for hire” is defined as (1) “a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment”; or (2) “a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the works shall be considered a work made for hire.” If you have checked “Yes” to indicate that the work was “made for hire,” you must give the full legal name of the employer (or other person for whom the work was prepared). You may also include the name of the employee along with the name of the employer (for example: “Elster Publishing Co., employer for hire of John Ferguson”).

“Anonymous” or “Pseudonymous” Work: An author’s contribution to a work is “anonymous” if that author is not identified on the copies or phonorecords of the work. An author’s contribution to a work is “pseudonymous” if that author is identified on the copies or phonorecords under a fictitious name. If the work is “anonymous” you may: (1) leave the line blank; or (2) state “anonymous” on the line; or (3) reveal the author’s identity. If the work is “pseudonymous” you may: (1) leave the line blank; or (2) give the pseudonym and identify it as such (for example: “Huntley Haverstock, pseudonym”); or (3) reveal the author’s name, making clear which is the real name and which is the pseudonym (for example, “Judith Barton, whose pseudonym is Madeline Elster”). However, the citizenship or domicile of the author must be given in all cases.

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  • Thanks so much, Jay! This is what I want to do. I'm living in Vancouver, BC and it's pretty simple too. Did you open a separate bank account for your business or just keep your own? My issue as that I am using a pen name. I will register the copyright with the US copyright office shortly, but when I come to publish the book, I don't want to write my own real name as the owner of the copyright as I want to remain anonymous, but I think that I can use the business name instead, i.e. (c) Business name. Has that been your experience? Thanks for your feedback! – MoniqueH Feb 23 '16 at 22:22
  • I do have a separate checking account for the business. And a business credit card. (With a $20,000 credit limit for a business that has sales of maybe a thousand or two a year! Joke's on the bank!) RE pseudonums: see my update above. – Jay Feb 24 '16 at 4:46
  • Thank you very much, Jay! I don't know if I can pick your brain again, but I am also wondering about what to write on first page of the actual book. Usually there is a copyright mention. Let's say my pseudonym is Mila Haven. Would you happen to know if I can put (c) Milan Haven, or do I have to put (c) Mila Haven (pseudonym), or is it better to put that the copyright as belonging to the registered company I will create. E.g. (c) Mila Haven Publishing. Sorry to ask. I have spent so long trying to research this point and have heard different opinions and am going round in circles! – MoniqueH Feb 24 '16 at 5:31
  • In the book, put "(c) 2015 by Mila Haven" (or whatever year and name). Then on your registration form you check the box for "pseudonym", and then either give the author as simply "Mila Haven", or as "Mila Haven, pseudonym for Monique Huber" (or whatever your real name is). Note that if you reveal your real name in the copyright registration, that makes it easier to sue if someone steals your work, etc, but it then becomes public record -- copyright registrations are open to the public. If you're using a pseudonym just because you think it's a "better sounding" name for the sort of book ... – Jay Feb 24 '16 at 17:14
  • ... you're writing, maybe you don't care if someone learns your real name. But if you're using a pseudonym because you don't want your hordes of screaming fans to harass you at home, your co-workers to know you're writing explicit pornography, or whatever, then don't put your real name in the copyright registrration. – Jay Feb 24 '16 at 17:16

I self-published a non-fiction work, not a novel, but much of your questions apply to both.

  1. I did not create a separate company, but it might not be a bad idea if you plan to make a real business out of this (which is a good mindset to adopt). In my case it wouldn't have been worth it, but that's a reflection of my being insufficiently committed to the process to self-publish successfully.

  2. Kindle is a common place to start because it has a large audience, and potentially doesn't cost anything. If you're only interested in ePublishing that's a bit of a different question than if you want to self-publish physical books.

  3. Dan Poynter's "Self Publishing Manual" is oriented towards non-fiction, but it's an excellent overview of the business of self-publishing by someone who actually did it successfully.

My own personal advice is to self-publish if-and-only-if you are a gifted and dedicated salesperson, fully prepared to treat your book as a product that you will have to market and sell entirely by yourself.

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  • Thank you for your feedback Chris! I will check out Dan's book. – MoniqueH Feb 23 '16 at 7:13

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