Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Setting Up as a Publisher
Well, except for the glorious memory of the time when the tax authorities discovered we owed them about 7,000 francs (no idea what the dollar equivalent would be, but it's not a huge sum). So I ended up going to the tax office to look through the papers with a friendly public servant, and we found that our accountants had made a small mistake and we did indeed owe 7,000 francs. But at the same time we discovered that the mistake affected our personal tax return and the government owed US about 7,000 francs. The tax official stared at me for a few moments, then grinned. "Well, I suppose we can consider that sorted," he said. We shook hands and I never heard from them again.
But I digress. I am now a Press. I'd read on a couple of self-publishing sites that it's advisable to separate out your publishing income and expenses, so that you don't go and spend all the money you owe the IRS. As if I would, but taking an assumed business name made sense in other ways. Supposing I wanted to publish a friend's work for them? Or wanted to publish, for example, a short story collection from public domain materials because I couldn't find what I wanted elsewhere? This self-publishing business is heady stuff, and it's easy to see how it could become addictive. Mind you, I'm not going to be like the outfit that book blogger Misfit (yes, it's the cat's name, I know but that's how I think of her) came across the other day, with 600,000 titles out on Amazon and a distinct whiff of dubiousness. I'm not disclosing names because there's little an ordinary reader can do about these folks. Just be careful out there.
But I digress AGAIN. Having decided to take an assumed business name, the process was pretty easy. I happened to come across the correct link, but I could easily have found it by googling "assumed business name" plus the name of my county of residence. I ended up on the County Clerk's web page, which helpfully provided pdfs of the application and filing instructions.
I filled in probably the easiest form I've ever seen: it basically asked what business name I was after and what my address was. Then I toddled off to the County Court, which happens to be located not far from where I live, and after the usual security hoopla went straight to the clerk's office, which was practically empty. I handed over my form in duplicate, paid the employee $5, and received a stamped, receipted copy.
Next stop was a local newspaper, where a legal notice had to appear for the next three weeks to complete the process. Again, the office was empty and I had the full attention of a pleasant employee who asked me what my business was and seemed to enjoy having someone new to talk to. I filled in an easy form and handed over $85.
And that was it! One month later, I received a certificate in the mail stating that my assumed business name is now in existence. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Oh, the name? Aspidistra Press. I was looking for a slightly unusual name related to the natural world (Amazon being taken; I remember when they first appeared on the scene and we all thought it was a pretty weird name). So I enlisted Felsted's help when we were driving to get the turducken (our first. Yum.) just before Christmas, and we tossed names around until he came up with Aspidistra. Perfect! If you don't know what an aspidistra is, it's a plant (see pic) commonly used as a houseplant in my favorite literary era, the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Victorians called it the Cast Iron Plant because it survived dark rooms, cigar smoke and careless maids, but if it's mentioned in the early 20th century it's usually in an ironic OMG-those-Victorians sort of way, as in George Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying. With the result that aspidistras are no longer popular, which is proof of the power of words.
Bear in mind that in tax terms, I'm still just an individual self-employed taxpayer as far as any income goes that I may put into the bank account I can now open up in the name of Aspidistra Press. I didn't create any sort of corporate structure, I just gave myself another business name to use besides my own. I think I can get my press its own tax number but I've still got to investigate all that, and I still wouldn't be taxed separately any more than I am by taking an EIN as a freelancer.
So I'm creeping slowly toward getting this book out, only I really need to spend more time WRITING now that my catch-up campaign has been so successful. Watch this space...and if you have any advice for me as a baby publisher, bring it on.