Saturday, November 7, 2009

Month Two: Getting legitimate

76So I had a project I knew I could sell via a web site I owned, and now I had a bid for the project that allowed me to price the book the way I wanted.

But I didn't even have a business name.

I looked around at other publishing company names. Some were clear about what they published by using the subject matter in the title. Others were clever phrases or literary references. But when I thought about what made sense, what wouldn't cause me to get pigeonholed, and also would make sure my name was easy to find in search engines, I knew I wanted to use a proper noun. You know: Knopf; Little, Brown; Harper Collins; Whitman.

I also knew that many publishers opted to use their own name. I didn't find this wise. Sure, you didn't need a DBA filing or a separate bank account, but it was the mark of a self-publisher, and not a positive mark. When I would walk through the stalls at a book festival, even as a young person who knew nothing of publishing, I always noticed a company called "Lucy DoesIt Press" and all the books were by Lucy DoesIt. And generally Lucy herself was sitting there. I didn't want to be Lucy.

Because all my initial books would be on the same topic, I chose a title that went along with it, that wouldn't be obvious in and of itself, but would work well for anyone who wanted to know where the name came from. I also Googled it to see what sort of competing listings might be out there. There's no use choosing a name that is shared by a famous sports player or actor. Your site will be buried in the listings when people try to find you.

And so I chose Casey Shay Press. I could see a baseball player with the name, but overall, it worked. And the story behind it was perfect. Currently, even if you only type in "Casey Shay," four of the first 10 listings are mine. Good enough.

So here were the next steps:

I chose my business structure. I already owned a Sole Proprietorship, but I wanted for this one a separation between my name and my business. Unless you know me first, and I tell you this company is mine, it's very hard to figure out who owns Casey Shay Press just by web surfing. That's what I wanted.

I looked at the Corporation, and the S-Corp. I might have done one of those but the Limited Liability Corporation seemed the right fit as the best balance between paperwork and ease of filing a tax return.

In Texas, I had to go down to the secretary of state's office and file the forms and pay a $300 fee. I knew that in some states I had to create an Operating Agreement, and this was a step that was highly advised, so I looked around for samples to personalize. After doing this for a couple of days, copying and pasting and not understanding half of what the text was about, I went ahead and bought one from MedLawPlus. It was very easy to personalize that one and didn't cost much at all.

Of course, when I showed up at the Secretary of State office with it, the clerk immediately passed it back to me. "We don't need this," she said. Great. Already running an inefficient operation.

And then...I got rejected. I had referred to the Operating Agreement on the forms, and since they weren't there, they kicked it back.

By this time I was actively accepting the bid and signing paperwork, and felt a little frantic about getting the backend paperwork done. I was, let's say, a little angry. But I mailed in the corrected version and about a week later, had my shiny new company legally formed in the State of Texas.

Next steps:

  1. Filed for a Federal Tax ID number (also known as an EIN, or Employer Identification Number). This was given to me instantly online by filing here. You need it for bank accounts, credit apps, distributors, everything. Get one even if you don't have employees.
  2. Filed for a Texas state sales tax permit. This took a couple weeks to come in, but it wasn't critical to have right away, as I wasn't selling anything yet.
  3. Opened a bank account. I chose the same bank as my other accounts, for simplicity. They just needed my letter from the state and my Federal ID number.

I owned a publishing company. And I had my first vendor who would contract my book to a printer in Hong Kong.

It was time to finish the project and format it correctly. And to figure out how to pay for it.


Links from this post:

MedLawPlus was the most affordable and easy way to get the legal forms for starting my LLC (they have legal forms for EVERYTHING). While I didn't end up needing an Operating Agreement to file in Texas, many states do require it, and investors, including banks, also want to see it. It shows you actually know what you're doing as you start your business, and what will happen if you go bankrupt, or die, and who owns the company, its assets, and its liabilities.

Google. Seems obvious, eh? But do not neglect this step when you're naming your business. If you are going to get buried in web results, find a different name.

Forming your LLC in Texas like I did? Here are the Secretary of State Forms. They do not cash your check if they reject you. And don't forget to apply for a Texas sales tax permit.

Get your company's Federal ID Number. You need it for everything, even if you don't have employees.

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