Home » Small Presses, The Business of Writing » The Author as Publisher, Author as Fraud

The Author as Publisher, Author as Fraud

5 June 2012

Photo Credit: Amy Gizienski

From author and frequent visitor Bridget McKenna:

So, should independent author-publishers have their own publishing imprints?
I wondered about this when I was first dippng my toes in the indie waters this time last year, so I asked a couple of experienced people I respected whether they thought it was necessary and beneficial, and they said absolutely yes. I created my publishing company, Ravenscourt Press, and got on with the business of publishing some books. It did not then occur to me that in the minds of many people I was doing something wrong.

A discussion elsewhere in the indie community a while back brought up the question of whether or not indie publishers should form their own publishing imprint. The blog author was not especially in favor of it and asked for opinions. As the commenters began to chime in, the idea of creating a publishing entity for self-published books was labeled “not right”, “criminal”, “fake”, “duping the reader”, “dishonest”, “deception”, and “morally questionable” just in the first handful of comments.

. . . .

After my comment, other author-publishers chimed in on the pro side: 

“There is nothing wrong with creating your own business whether it’s books, dresses, or gift items. A product is a product no matter what it’s form is. And I don’t understand this concept of morality that comes into it. You’re either in business or you’re not.”

“I’m just not understanding why being up front about approaching selling books as a business (separate from the craft of writing them) would be perceived as a lie. Your readers want a good book. If you’re giving them that, how many of them do you suppose are really invested in whether or not you have a publishing identity separate from your name?”

“It’s a one-person press, sure, but a press nonetheless. And frankly, anyone who’s willing to do all the work themselves (often many of us around family and day job obligations) should be proud to call themselves both an indie and a press.”

. . . .

I publish my books under an imprintand anyone who cares to do the research can pretty quickly discern that I’m the only author Ravenscourt Press publishes. I make no attempt to hide it. I’m proud of the books I publish or I wouldn’t be doing this.

I love my books, and I love my very, very small publishing company. I love making sure each new publication is as good as I can make it with the help of a good editor, and I love finding and being found by readers. I did it New York’s way; it was thrilling to have all the trappings of literary legitimacy as we defined it then. We have new definitions now, and a new world of publishing opportunity to explore.

In the interest of full disclosure, there was a time when I would have argued against what I’m doing with my publishing business for pretty much the same reasons other people object to it now. But the game has changed, and self-publishing, as well as an opportunity writers have never had before in quite this way, is a business.

Link to the rest at Points of View

Passive Guy’s view on this is colored by interaction with some small publishers who appear to operate their businesses with all the sophistication of a lemonade stand and whose contracts include at least one grammatical error per paragraph.

In PG’s evanescently humble opinion, the idea that an author owning a publisher for purposes of self-publishing is some sort of misrepresentation is crazy. The fact that Cold Gray Walls Publishing is owned by an ex-con instead of an author has no impact on the quality of the books published. Just like agents, nobody licenses publishers and nobody regulates them for quality.

On a more serious note, there may be some good business reasons for having an entity as the publisher of record for your indie books. For one thing, it may ease the process of estate planning. Having a separate bank account for the publisher into which all publishing income goes and out of which all publishing expenses are paid makes record-keeping for purposes of taxes a little simpler as well.

An indie author is a small business and having a publishing imprint is a little more businesslike.

Small Presses, The Business of Writing

52 Comments to “The Author as Publisher, Author as Fraud”

  1. I think this is another one of those things that writers worry about but readers do not.

    • Right. As Thomas E noted, unless it’s a well-known genre publisher the reader probably doesn’t even notice the publisher’s name. Certainly the fact that the book was published by (e.g.) Random House has never influenced a purchasing decision on my part.

    • Absolutely agree. Same concept as “the only people who care about who has published your book are others in the industry.” Again, it comes down to NOT FORGETTING that it’s all about the readers, not us. And the readers want to be entertained and/or informed. How that happens is really of no concern. Same with music.

  2. Starting to seem like drinking from a fire hose.

    Let’s see, I’m maintaining two websites (and designing them), twitter, two Facebook accounts, gearing up to marketing/promotion, trying to carve out time for writing while working an intense day-job. Sometimes, I remember I have a family.

    Now, it looks like there may be incorporation down the road! (I know I don’t have to, but there are many reasons, besides self-publishing, to do so, estate planning, liability (in this world, you never know), etc., just some of them).

    Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of this stuff, actually. But, it is annoying that I am finite.

  3. Not everybody has to do everything, and not everybody has to have this kind of stuff. But speaking as a reader, I’m totally used to glancing at the copyright page and seeing that an author has created some kind of publishing entity for himself.

    So seeing people create a press for themselves isn’t all that surprising, and it’s certainly not misleading.

  4. This reminds me of what Dean Wesley Smith talks about in his Think Like A Publisher. He says when you self publish you are the publisher and should set it up as a small business. When the time comes I will set up a seperate account for the money to go into but I don’t know if I will name myself or not. I did think of a name but we will see when I talk to more people.

  5. Wow, it would never even have occurred to me that someone could consider there to be something wrong with starting an imprint to publish your own work. I suppose that might have something to do with my years of working at an imprint started by a single guy, publishing his own book, a long, long time ago; an imprint that’s currently part of Pearson. Of all the things that mystify me about self-publishing, I think the people who want to dictate ethics are pretty close to the top of the list.

  6. This seems like a pretty crazy argument. Without knowing the facts, I would assume having a publishing side to your writing would be beneficial for Tax reasons. At very least it would make things easier.

    It’s something I’ll be looking at myself this summer, but my initial feeling is I’ll create a publishing company of some kind.

    It’s not about conning the public, but making life easier for yourself.

    People get round up over nothing these days 🙂

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

    • I set myself up with a DBA years ago, more as a way of keeping Diana’s money separate from our household money. I am a writer, writing is my business, therefore, I am accountable for any money I make, whether from an outside source (my publisher and self-publishing both fall into this category. Much as I might like to be, I am not Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Smashwords) or from direct sales. The IRS would be very unhappy with me if I weren’t.

  7. Virginia Woolf published under “Hogarth Press,” so named after the house in London where she and her husband hand-printed the books. She was clearly duping readers about the quality of her work :p

  8. Consider Nerdist Industries. I may have the details of this wrong, but here’s my perception of it:

    Chris Hardwick created the twitter name Nerdist. he started a podcast, called it the Nerdist Podcast. He referred to Nerdist Industries in early days, as a way of talking about the entity, rather than him, but it was him. The website became more than just him writing, others contributed. The thing is, the podcast blossomed, and now Nerdist is the umbrella that has a series of podcasts, most not hosted by him, a YouTube channel with lots of shows hosted by others, etc.

    So while it may feel self serving to have an author sound like a company, or published by one, it’s a good strategy, should things develop. Who knows, maybe each author will pick up other authors, too. Compilations of short stories by various authors that you are editing? Maybe the connection to a strong online presence? That all can be in there.

  9. 1) Someone who is self-publishing is a publisher
    2) Readers almost never choose to buy a book on the basis of which publisher printed it (the exception are famous genre presses)
    3) There is nothing illegal in setting up a business entity to print your own books.
    4) It is a business decision.

  10. When I went to Lightning Source to print my book, Impossible Charlie, they asked for my DBA. They only deal with publishers. LSI is a real printer, not vanity. The price is the price of printing the books.
    I said DashingBooks. DashingBooks is my publisher.
    You can call yourself any name you like if there is no intention to defraud.

  11. I think this shows that we need to rethink the whole notion of “publisher” as an organization structure.

    Why do publishers exist? The purpose of a publisher is to bring books to the marketplace. In olden times (i.e. 20 years ago), the marketplace for books was a network of physical locations where readers would come to find and buy books from around the world. Mostly these were specialty shops, but there were “book racks” in other retail outlets, airports, etc. In the old way, size mattered. Publishers needed a lot of infrastructure to take a manuscript, ready it for publication, and make it available in the myriad of places where readers congregated to buy books. There was a huge supply chain and distribution network to be managed, not mention the risk involved in bringing products to market with totally unpredictable sales. There were clear economies of scale and significant barriers to entry into the “big boys club” of publishing.

    If you look at the world today, it is substantially different for everyone, except the biggest selling authors (Patterson, King, et. al.). For any other author’s book, the single biggest marketplace is Amazon. You don’t need anyone’s help to get access to that marketplace. So, why are you even talking about a “publisher”? For the most excellent reason that tradtional publishers got good at doing a whole bunch of other things in the service of bringing a book to market. You don’t need them for their raison d’être, but you need someone (even if it is you) to do all the other stuff they did.

    Unless the benefit of having your book distributed in bookstores outweighs the costs of being traditionally published, you don’t need a publisher. You need “not a publisher”. We don’t have a name for “not a publisher” yet, but somebody is going to figure how to efficiently deliver “not a publisher” services. “Not a publisher” removes the friction from self-publishing. Through “not a publisher”, writers have access to editing services (the whole gamut from developmental editing to proofreading), push button formatting and distribution of ebooks and POD, sophisticated marketing, branding, cross-promotion and upselling, community engagement, and data analytics. All in an internet-friendly, decentralized, low cost pay-as-you-go package that lets the writer maintain control of their work and career.

    And, yes, if somebody else doesn’t do this, I’m going to do it myself. This could all be done with no capital investment (all the cool kids use the cloud today) and very simple software. All it really takes is an understanding that:

    1. Most books have a very simple logical structure
    2. Content can be separate from presentation (markup and formatting)
    3. The internet is the perfect place to create a distributed marketplace for freelancers
    4. Internet communities are built on reputation and recommendation
    5. Books are projects, quality matters and you also need to know the goal (fame, fortune, inner peace, whatever) to optimize the results.

    • Mostly agree, except for:
      “This could all be done with no capital investment” and the (seeming to me) implied idea that the internet is all you need.

      On the first point, to effectively use internet resources, it is difficult not to pay somewhere along the line. Sure, you can get free web authoring, free hosting, free social media: but the services are limited compared to what is offered for fees. This makes total sense, of course, because people want to make money on the internet, and they will charge for the best things. And if you do it yourself, it will require a lot more time, and, well, time is money, so that is a cost. Depending on the value of your time, that cost can be high.

      The second disagreement I’d have is that the internet is sufficient *in general* for success. A lot of people have been successful via the internet, and we read about them. Many, many more have tried and failed, and we never read about them. Increasingly, people are analyzing the $ numbers of “social media” and finding them lacking: you can generate a lot of hits, get a lot of eyes, but the conversion to sales is not what the hype would have it.

      But these are footnotes. Most of what you said is true. Everything is changing, the core of that change in how stories are communicated between writers and readers. In ten years, barring something totalitarian, there will be an economy around “publishing” that people five years ago would never have imagined (I had one publishing blogger freak on me when I politely mentioned this). Some people would have imagined it, of course: there are always those way ahead of their time.

      • Just to clarify, I meant without capital investment, not without operating expenses. The distinction is important on a number of levels. If you host your services on either Amazon’s cloud or Microsoft’s cloud, they will give pretty decent amount of free computing hours of the virtual equivalent of an underpowered server. This is often ideal for a slow rollout or beta program. Moreover, it lets you predict how much computing power you are likely to need at scale, which helps you know how to price your services. Moveover, cloud computing can really lower the cost of supporting the vast array of different hardware, software, and connection speeds that will be the inevitable result of working with a wide range of different, mostly non-technical folks.

        I didn’t intend to give the impression that existence of the internet is sufficient for success at anything. I was trying to say that it is a necessary enabling technology. I’m not an internet triumphalist. The internet didn’t change everything, but it sure allowed some folks to change a lot of very important things.

  12. I have to admit that it took me a while to catch on to the fact that authors were publishing under their own micro-press imprint rather than their name. Prior to this revelation I often thought, “Oh look; this guy is published by Ravenscourt Press, that sounds impressive. No I’ve not heard of it before, but there are a lot of small publishing firms I am not aware of. He must be good to have found formal publication.” I felt silly once I found out.

    Still, I never considered it to be fraud. In addition to being an author I build custom furniture. I do business as a woodworking company, not under my own name. To me it’s the same thing. As you point out, if you’re going to write as a business, run it as a business. An author can certainly market their name as a brand, but printers like Lightning Source are kinda funny about allowing the same name as author and publisher.

  13. I think it shows that the author is serious about publishing their works. If someone has done the research and gone through the process of creating a DBA (Doing Business As) then it looks to me that they intend to be around for the long term.

    I do think that an author should not also publish other authors under an imprint they created for themselves. I remember seeing some critical comments about Ridan Publishing when they were just starting to look for additional authors in addition to Michael J. Sullivan.

    Dean Wesley Smith’s post “Think Like a Publisher 2012. Chapter 1: The Early Decisions” at http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=6757 talks about this very subject.


    • I don’t give a tinker’s dam for such criticism. Ridan does a good job, and seeing that name on science fiction makes me more inclined to buy it.

      • Your right they do good work. The criticism I mentioned was a couple years old.


  14. One of the pros of branding your book with your own imprint is that media organizations that have policies against reviewing self-published works will take them seriously and review them.

    • It was this very thing that some of the “anti” commenters objected to, Abel: the idea that having an imprint would be tantamount to deceiving reviewers into thinking you didn’t publish the book yourself. One commenter was an indie-only reviewer who did not review books with a publisher imprint.

      • It’s a sensible business decision, for crying out loud. I’ve worked freelance on and off for years, and separating profit and expenses from your home life and work life is made a whole lot easier if your work life is MYPUBLISHINGCOMPANY and you private life is your name.

        On my plate for the month of July: Fill out the DBA paperwork, create separate bank accounts and Amazon, etc. accounts for the DBA, and have everything ready for publishing the novel in August. How is it fraudulent to claim that I am a publishing company when, in fact, I am?

        Another ridiculous argument against self-publishers.

        • I’m used to arguments against self-publishers, Meryl, and I wouldn’t have bothered to blog about this experience if it had been the usual anti-indie blah blah. But the people commenting against the idea of indie imprints were themselves self-publishers. That’s what made it weird enough to write the article.

      • It’s only deception if you hide that from the public. I don’t hide it nor do other self-published authors I know. If media organizations can’t do basic research into the books they review, who’s fault is that? If anything it shows how pointless their self-publishing rules are.

  15. My house is a front: A one stage denial that I’m not the guy who writes homo/lesbian/light-hard BDSM/hetro/etc. smut and sometimes alien and were-porn. I also write scifi, fantasy, thrillers and much more. I also use my real name for some of it. However, all 6 people are me, but when friends ask, and they do, I tell them that ABC lives in ABC and I’ve never met them.

    That said, it ties my brands together and I have fans that cross over from erotica to scifi. We are one person and if someone liked ABC then they will probably like DEF. Pooling fans is quite a good way to extend an overall brand – and sales.

    • I do the same thing. I have different pen-names for the different genres that I write in, but they are all published by the same imprint.
      I set up my imprint as a DBA because up to a few years all the self-publishing experts said you MUST. You needed to be a publishing company to get ISBNs and a lightening source account for instance. Now eBook companies like SmashWords and AMazon have rendered all that moot. I don’t even bother using the ISBNs I bought. But I still stick my Publishing Imprint at the front of my ebooks.

  16. I created an imprint for some of my self-published titles, and will probably release all my future titles using it.

    I don’t find the use of a “private” imprint by an author any more dubious than the use of a pen name by an author.

  17. I filed a DBA when I first set up my small press. We’d already set up one business (now almost 10 years old), so it seemed like an obvious step to me in making writing a ‘real’ business.

    Not once did it occur to me that anyone would think I was misleading them, simply because I named my business and filed the appropriate paperwork to make it a legal entity. It was all about doing things ‘right’, as far as local business requirements and taxes were concerned, and yes, also presenting a professional ‘face’.

  18. Is there any other sort of business where anyone would even think about questioning the proprietor’s right to register a business name? This is a little ridiculous. 😉

  19. Since I am my brand, I haven’t bothered with a publisher name.

    (I also learned long ago when I started investing that Names Have Ramifications, so I don’t want to open any cans of worms until I’ve looked into what those ramifications are. Plus there will be new ones coming up as Amazon finds automated ways to deal with IP theft.)

  20. If you ask an inventor/entrepreneur if he should start his own company to produce and sell his invention, the answer would be: “How else would I do it?” If you ask writers (self-published/indie,) if they should start their own publishing company, they wonder if they should. They wonder? An enterprise that makes gadgets and a publishing company that produces books are the same thing, a business. Maybe because I started other companies in the past, I never gave a second thought about starting a new company which is in the business of publishing. Chivileri Publishing is in the business of publishing books, Arboregal series, merchandising the art I created for the book, and selling prints of the same art. In the future Chivileri Publishing will produce music and whatever creative idea I will have. Chivileri Publishing is my business arm. Every self-published/indie author should have their own publishing company, because you are an author and a businessperson.

    • Here’s where I agree:

      If you’re making a living (or hope to make a living or making any money at all) you have to treat it like a business.

      However, IMHO, there are two separate business models were talking about, and a writer could choose either, so it’s perfectly reasonable to wonder if you should form a publishing company.

      Artists, freelance craftsmen, carpenters, and others who make a living around their skills rather than “products”, may run their business under their own names, whether they incorporate or not.

      A widget manufacturer has a different business model. That model has a lot of advantages, especially for growth. But I can see perfectly well why an indie author would not consider it to be necessary or an obvious choice.

      This is all new stuff. We are in a situation where there are an infinite number of business models we may want to use. We’re inventing new ones all the time.

      That’s where we need to stop and ponder just how we want to approach this rampaging beast.

      • I think a writer should choose whatever name they want, including their own for their publishing company. However, treating self-publishing like a business brings all the tax benefits that you otherwise don’t have.

  21. I used to work in the music industry, and it’s one of the things I find really strange in comparing publishing to records. In music, it’s commonplace for a band to start their own label to release their music. Sometimes they’ve been offered a major deal, sometimes not. In many cases, a bigger label will agree to distribute the indie label’s music.

    But NO ONE would ever claim that the indie band is somehow a “fraud” because they’ve set up a label rather than release under their own name.

    • That’s a great analogy, Jean. I think it might be a symptom of how little many writers think of their power as creators of content compared to the publishing professionals they’re used to looking up to: agents, editors, and “real” publishers.

    • Writers bought into the myth that you are a fraud if you self-publish. I don’t know if there is any other creative endeavor that gets stigmatized if you take the initiative to go on your own. But, thanks to technology the tide is changing.

  22. I think some of the backlash on this has happened due to some people looking at self-publishing in the old way, as something to be ashamed of and a negative against you, so you have motivation to “hide” it behind a “front” company. The idea is you want people to think there is a whole publishing company that accepted your work and edited it and did a print run on it, when that isn’t the case.

    But that is no longer true. Self-publishing is no longer a negative. Some authors, like myself, intentionally go that route rather than seek out a traditional publisher contract. I have a small press publisher, who puts out a book every month, but beyond that, I publish everything else myself under the name, Ethereal Press. Not to hide the fact I’m self-publishing, but for many of the reasons already stated. It’s a business and needs to be treated like such. When I started my bookkeeping business many years ago, I created a company name, even though I was the only “employee” working for it.

    I think this really reveals where reviewers are going to have to change their tune. They have traditionally wanted to avoid self-published books because they tended to not be well written, and figured automatically dumping them was a time saver for them, despite the fact one reason you’re doing reviews is to find the good stuff for your readers, and to do that, you’ll have to read some crap. But now that there is a lot of good self-published books out there, some by nationally recognized writers who’ve been in the business for a while, are they going to continue to ignore self-published writers? If they do, they will only make themselves less and less relevant to their readers.

    As mental focuses change that self-publishing is a thing to be ashamed of instead of proud of, so too will reviewers start reviewing self-publishing works as equally as traditionally published works, and then this whole debate of whether to have your own self-published imprint will be null and void.

    • Yes! I agree, the issues in setting up a publishing house for the individual self-publishing author is clouded with emotion relating to category. That is, self-published vs. traditionally published. Shame and pride and all of the above.

      To me, this issue is more one of scope — the size and ambitions of your business — than of category.

      There’s nothing wrong with the lemonade stand approach — the boot strap. I have a neighbor who is making good money at her continuous garage sale. If I crocheted a dozen touques for cats and sold them on eBay, I wouldn’t feel obligated to form a company first.

      What we’re talking about here are bootstrap businesses. Bootstapping is something you do in steps and with gradations.

    • i was going to make this comment but you said it for me. the way i read the objection is that it looks like you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re self-pubbing. *shrugs*

  23. Interesting post, Bridget. I never though of NOT filing a DBA because to me, publishing is a business.

  24. Claire Merriam Hoffman

    I agree with Suzan Harden. Writers are in a business and part of being in business is acting like a responsible business person.

    The argument against author owned publishing companies is shortsighted and shows complete ignorance of how US tax laws work and how artists in other fields protect themselves and their earnings.

    As someone who worked for an entertainment business management company for several years here in LA, perhaps I can shed some light on a few things about the importance of DBAs and incorporating.

    Here in LA, every artist in the film, music and fine arts business has a DBA – usually a film company or a label. And usually that DBA is incorporated. They do this because most of them are making money from several income streams and they want to protect the money and keep track of it. The only exceptions to this rule are the salaried employees or people just starting out.

    As a writer, if you are planning to make real money – i.e. more than $500 a year – then you are a business and you need a separate checking account and a DBA. The DBA can be just “Your Name” Inc. But whatever you call it, you need to set it up along with a bank account. This is true if you are self-pubbing or going trad.

    Why does this apply to going trad too? Because once you start making money you will have to pay quarterly taxes and you will want that money in a neat and tidy place so you can save half for taxes and expenses.

    Now if you are really successful – and we all dream of being really successful – then once you make more than $100,000 a year you will need to incorporate or you will be loosing a lot of money. Businesses get a lot more tax breaks than individuals and a smart artist will take advantage of those breaks. Just like any good business person.

    So, whether you call it a publishing company, or you do business under your name, you need to be smart about setting up a business entity.

    And yes, if you want to do all the things that publishers do as an indie writer, like get into bookstores, use lightening source, and use all income streams available to maximize the profit from your book, then you need your own publishing company.

    The choice of how your run your business is yours. But please don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t set up your own publishing company for your books. The person who is talking is just plan ignorant.

    Hope that explained a few things 🙂

    • It may be a little more on the technical side of things, but it might help to explain this more so people don’t get mixed up.

      A DBA (Doing Business As) is usually referring to a sole proprietorship (which is not much different than you by yourself and offers no legal protections)but allows you to have a business name and a separate entity. A DBA is also used for a different business name underneath a corporation, and in that case, would fall under the corporate rules. But usually, an incorporated entity itself isn’t referred to as a DBA.

      Filing as a corporation establishes some liability protections when you get sued, though that can be “pierced.” There is a C-corp and an S-corp, which is more than we’d need to get into here.

      There is also the option of an LLC, which is supposed to offer more liability protections to partnerships and sole proprietorships (but last I heard, the later has not been tested in court) while keeping some of the benefits of the original (like not having to get paid with a paycheck and the resulting 941 taxes, but an owner’s draw instead).

      Both corps and LLCs usually involve money expenditures (last I looked, it was $200 to file one in my state of TX) and yearly “meetings” held to elect officers and an annal franchise tax in most states, whether or not you owe any, and the liability of penalties if you fail to file 941 payments and reports on time, or other tax documents.

      IOW, with those, you’ll have more bookkeeping and expenses to deal with than a DBA/sole proprietorship. But like Claire said, can be helpful tax-wise when you start making more money. But I wouldn’t recommend that until a writer started earning a substantial amount of money. A person should get an accountant at some point there to aid them in making the decision when to do that.

      But starting out, a DBA/sole proprietorship will be all most of us will need. And that can be as simple as filing with your county and/or state as a DBA. In TX, at least, if you just use your name, you don’t even have to do that much unless you want to prevent others from grabbing your name from you. Like my wife’s cleaning business, we just use [her name] Cleaning Service and haven’t bothered filing that with the county. If we started getting employees, we’d look at making it more formally a DBA, maybe even incorporating if it became big enough.

      But there is no sense in dealing with the bookkeeping and potential penalties and cost of starting and maintaining a corporation until you are making decent money off of it to justify it. Until then, I’d just stick with a DBA and file a Schedule C on your income tax returns.

      • Claire Merriam Hoffman

        Don’t know if anyone is still reading this post but wanted to follow up on RL’s comment in case people are interested.

        I agree with RL that A DBA is all anyone needs to start. But as a former bookkeeper – which makes me picky about this stuff – I also think it is smart to have a second bank account. With so many different ways a book brings in money, it is important to have one place that is separate from your daily account. Yes, it is more bookkeeping. But it doesn’t have to be a lot more and it gives you a paper trail that can be easily followed. Quicken and other computer programs and a simple set of files is all you need to keep it organized.

        As for incorporating, I agree with RL too. That is a down the road thing. The good news about financial success is there is always time to set up those entities if you need them. And if you do get in this enviable position I also agree with RL: get some REAL professional advice. That does not mean HR Block. They are nice folks but they don’t have this kind of expertise to help you. If fact if you are making over about $10,000 a year I would have a pro do your taxes. They know the codes and can help you keep from being audited because of a red flag.

        A red flag is a deduction that puts you under scrutiny by the IRS. It may save you money but it may get you audited. According to my old boss – who still does our taxes – writing off you home office is one of those red flags.

        But please don’t take my word on any of this. Talk to a professional. And start getting them to do your taxes. It will cost you a few bucks but it will also save you some headaches at tax time. Plus having someone else do you taxes always protects you from dumb mistakes. Think of it as having a financial copy editor.

        • Claire, as a former (only because currently unemployed) bookkeeper (last job financial officer of a city), I agree with you as well. I didn’t mention a separate bank account because that had already been discussed, and so it was an “assumed” on my part if you’re setting up a business. (Another advantage of a DBA over corp., most banks will let you set up a personal bank account instead of a business one for a DBA of you as an individual, which can save money sometimes).

          There is a way to keep the books separate while using the same bank account, but it is much cleaner and easier to keep things straight with separate bank accounts. Makes it real obvious when you’re taking owner’s draws and gives you a practical measure of whether your “making it” (when cash flow is positive or negative, which could be masked if it is merged with your personal bank account).

          But yes, good point, Claire. It is recommended to have a separate bank account for your business as a DBA. It is required if it is a corp. which is a totally separate legal entity from the person, thus not a DBA, but simply a DB. 🙂

          • Claire Merriam Hoffman

            Thanks for the back up RL. Bookkeepers Rock!

            What are your thoughts about red flags?

  25. “Think of it as having a financial copy editor.”


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