Answers on the Self-Pub Business Setup course

I found myself being asked a number of questions I’d already answered, so I’m going to post abbreviated versions of the questions, and my answers, here so people can find them.

The questions have helped me get a much clearer vision of what the course has to be—as well as allowing me to understand the limitations I will have to impose in order to create it.

  • Will the course be free?


  • I don’t see a segment on copyright and obtaining an ISBN and library of Congress number for your book.

    In the US, you already own copyright the instant you create your work. You can choose to buy ISBNs, (and I’ve done so), but if you use CreateSpace, you can get a free ISBN for your print book, and the only site that requires you to use them for ebooks is Apple, which I no longer am using or recommend (at least not if your time has value to you).

    You get legitimate ISBNs at Bowkers: Here’s the link.

    But what you need to know on ISBNs, Library of Congress numbers, and considerably more you can find out here:

  • Will you be covering promotion?

    Yes. It appears to be the biggest item on the course wish list.

  • Is this material covered in (HTTS, HTRYN, HTWAS…)?

    No. Nor will it be. My writing courses are designed to be universal—they are built around foundational principles of writing that apply to ALL genres, to ALL forms of fiction, and are designed to be useful to every sort of writer, from massive planners to pure pantsers.

    The Business Setup course will not be universal.

    This course will require that you use specific software—most free, a couple of items purchased. Everything I use will work for both Windows and Mac users, and I will take you through step-by-step walkthroughs in which you will first learn how to, and then actually DO, the following:

      PROVISIONAL Course Objectives (Subject to addition if I come across things within the scope of the course that I forgot to mention).

    1. USE Scrivener ($45 if you don’t already own it) to create an ebook template, format your book, create separate versions for print, Mobi, epub, and PDF for your own store AND for Amazon, Kobo, B&N (if available to you) and your own eStore.
    2. CREATE a professional-quality book, and include site-appropriate self-promotional materials IN your books to help sell your future books as well as existing ones.
    3. LOCATE and PURCHASE an appropriate royalty-free image for your cover art. (under $5)
    4. CREATE a quality cover in both e-book (for ALL ebook versions) and wrap-around print format (designed to work on CreateSpace), install the cover art into each version of your ebook, using GIMP (free) as your image editor.

      This is the ONE place where the course diverges from what I actually use. I use Adobe Fireworks, but that’s $300 all by itself, and my objective is to keep your one-time business setup expenses right at $100 for everything.

    5. PURCHASE a website and domain name if you don’t already have one. You may choose your own host, but I will recommend mine because of its excellent security and customer service. My host also includes your chosen domain name for free when you sign up. The domain is unentailed (YOU own it, not the host), so that you may take it with you if you later transfer to a different host. HOWEVER, a website is NOT a one-time purchase, but an ongoing expense. It is the ONLY mandatory recurring expense you will incur in setting up your business.

      It is NOT the only RECOMMENDED one (more on that in the self-promotion bits).

    6. INSTALL WordPress (free) on your own website if you don’t already have it, and learn how to use its basic features.
    7. SET UP a free, highly configurable WordPress theme that allows you to configure your website to include a blog, pages for teaser chapters and other reader goodies, and your shop.
    8. SET UP necessary Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, Legal Page, Affiliate Legal Page, and other required pages (DISCLAIMER: I can show you how to set up your pages, and where to find information on what you need, but you are wholly responsible for making sure you have the correct pages for your business and location.)
    9. INSTALL your estore plugin INTO your WordPress theme and build a working shop from which you can sell products and receive Payment through PayPal. (Other payment options are also available.
    10. CREATE a sidebar shopping cart, a bookstore front page, an individual product page, your download, and at least one neat freebie—a free “sample chapters” PDF with links back to your site and shop.
    11. SETUP and LINK your CREATESPACE book to your website to allow readers to purchase the print version.
    12. CREATE discount coupons for both the ebooks and print version of your work that you sell from your site.
    13. OPTIONAL: Purchase and install software for an affiliate program. (This purchase is ABOVE the $100 setup cost for required software.)
    14. SETUP pages for and run your affiliate program, including creating Affiliate Links
    15. WRITE quality self-promotion content for your weblog and site pages.
    16. ACQUIRE MAILING LIST and AUTORESPONDER service, and insert working signup forms on your site.

      Aside from natural traffic from search engines to your site, a mailing list is the core self-promotional part of your business. Better than Facebook, better than Twitter (this I know absolutely), probably better than Goodreads.

      If you hope to have a viable business, rather than operating on luck alone, you’re going to have to have one. BUT in this instance, I’m going to simply teach principle of mailing list and autoresponder creation and management. Why?

      Because I use Aweber, which is superb. But Aweber is neither free, nor cheap. The minimum monthly outlay is $20. So I’ll show you what to do, and explain what to look for in an email provider, and give you a raw list of providers, for which I can offer no data beyond links.

    17. WRITE quality self-promotion content for your mailing list and autoresponder.
    18. LEARN what I’ve found out about Twitter and Facebook, and determine how or if you want to use them.
    19. I have no data yet on Goodreads. I just joined a few weeks ago, I found the time to do some minimal setup on my account, but I have not yet reviewed or recommended any books. This is one area of the course that will be modified once I have something to go on.

  • If I decide to pursue commercial publishing, but later want to self-publish, what rights should I keep?

    This one’s a freebie. Hang on like hell on steroids to e-rights. If the bastards have e-rights, having the ebooks up on one site means your book is still in print, and nothing will ever revert to you again, nor will you see another dime from that work

    Voice of pissed-off experience here, remembering contracts from ages ago where editors and agents were all saying, “Oh, e-rights aren’t important,” and idiot me believing them.

  • When will this be available?

    I’m in the brainstorming process.

    If I can get a small group of folks together to spend every day for a week with me as we actually build their sites, I could probably offer the open-enrollment version pretty soon.

    I’d have to do the prep checklists and probably the initial workshop in my evening “off” hours, because I have existing commitments to finishing Create A World Clinic, the How To Write A Series Extension, and the HTTS Walkthrough.

    But now that Margaret’s completed drip and we have it working, I’ll be able to start doing a few live projects like this one, then adding them to the shop.

    I don’t know when yet, though. First I need to be able to clearly see WHAT. 😀

  • I want to do this, but why can’t I use (insert free weblog service here)?

    The issue here is simple. You can’t set up a store on Blogger. In general, terms of service on the free blogging sites forbid you using them for commercial purposes, which ALSO means you’d be in violation for promoting your books with sales links from those sites.

    If you’re going to have a business, it’s going to take some money to start. Not a lot. But some.

    Bare minimum, you’re going to have to own your own website. That’s $7.95 a month or thereabouts, depending on where you go. Most places, you get a significant discount if you prepay by the year. Figure $80-ish dollars.Wordpress is free.

    The estore software I use is a one-time purchase of $50, free upgrades for life, EXCELLENT customer service and support), and set up correctly, it’s easy for customers to use.

    Scrivener (writing, editing, formatting AND publishing software) is $45. One-time purchase, most upgrades are free, EXCELLENT customer service and support.

    Kindle charges, but only when you sell.

    B&N charges, but only when you sell.

    Kobo charges, but only when you sell.

    And PayPal charges, but only when you sell. If you pass a certain monetary threshhold, you have to upgrade your account and pay a monthly fee—but if that happens, you’re making enough money through them that the $20 bucks or so is worth it.

    I know there are a lot of by-the-month rent-a-shops you can hook into, but the way I build, you OWN everything with no monthly outlay but the website. Writing is NOT a business where you want to speculate on whether you’ll make enough every month to pay credit card merchant fees, monthly paid cart service fees, and other things.

    When you are living on your fiction OWNING rather than RENTING will save you during lean months. Your business with MY set up will keep your monthly expenses for the ENTIRE business to under $8/month without an email provider, and under $28/month with Aweber.

  • Would you share the name of your estore software provider? I would appreciate the opportunity to check them out.

    Tips & Tricks eStore

  • Why aren’t you including (X SOFTWARE) in your course?

    I wouldn’t be able to teach this, because I don’t USE (X SOFTWARE)

    I use exactly what I’m teaching you to use (with the image editor and mailing list/autoresponder service already noted out).

    I use what I use because it is is a on-time expense (and a small one at that) and because after testing numerous other alternatives, from free to >$1000 price tags, the solutions I offer are the ones I have found that work best for a writer sustaining herself on a self-publishing writing income, cause the fewest headaches, offer the smoothest workflow, and produce the desired results.

    I’m not going to be teaching what’s possible. I’m going to be teaching what I know works. The difference is immense.

    The purpose of this course is not going to be to teach writers how to theoretically build a business at some time in their futures.

    The purpose of this course is for writers to HAVE their own complete, working business on graduation day.


P.S. For others who might consider doing so, please understand that posting your affiliate link for a product you recommend on a site you don’t owe is both ungodly rude and a form of spam.

ANY site owner decides the content of his own site, and I removed and marked as spam the post from the person who did it in my previous post. — HOLLY

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17 responses to “Answers on the Self-Pub Business Setup course”

  1. Joanna Avatar

    Hi Holly.

    I know you’re terribly busy with all your projects, but I was just wondering if there are still plans on a ‘self-pub course’in the future. It sounds really exiting.


    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      It’ll probably happen as a series of workshops. The problem with self-publishing right now is that everything changes every couple of months. The field is becoming more professional, presentation is becoming more important, pricing is all over the map…

      I have some promises to keep first, and those classes and books are next in line. THEN self-publishing.

  2. Coral Avatar

    Sounds awesome, can’t wait! I know you’ll give us more than our money’s worth.

  3. Elise M Stone Avatar

    One thing that should be brought up as far as operating your own store on your website is legal requirements. I checked into this last year and decided I would never sell books on my website unless I moved outside city limits.
    Not only would I need a city business license and to file quarterly sales tax returns, the zoning department would need to come out and inspect my place of business (a spare bedroom) and make sure it complied with city regulations! With HOA regs against certain kinds of businesses, I don’t want to open up that whole can of worms. No one seemed to want to understand I was just pushing around electrons and dollars.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Yes, the regulations that connect to the area you live in can vary wildly. Something people need to check on—always.

  4. Megan Avatar

    This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! I’ve read magazine articles, websites, and tons of books on the various bits and pieces, but I get so frustrated because none of those sources put it all together, and especially not specifically for a writer. I absolutely can’t wait for this course – and I’m going to start writing a few short stories so that I can get the most out of it ASAP!! (Too many exclamation points in this note, but I can’t express enough how confusing, difficult, and frustrating it is for a new author to figure out this stuff on her own. Holly is once again selling her invaluable knowledge for way below its worth.)

  5. Elle Clouse Avatar

    I am very interested in this course. I haven’t made up my mind about whether to try a small press publisher or self publish. I really like the idea of being in complete control of my work.

  6. Jen of Hens Avatar
    Jen of Hens

    Just a WABWM post – 652 words today – plugging along.

  7. Carol Flynt Avatar
    Carol Flynt

    I’d be interested in this course with the caveat that I’m already set up in a complex system (I’m married to a technical guru) and I’d have to check to make sure I could actually participate.

  8. Gabby Avatar

    “Because I use Aweber, which is superb. But Aweber is neither free, nor cheap. The minimum monthly outlay is $20. So I’ll show you what to do, and explain what to look for in an email provider, and give you a raw list of providers, for which I can offer no data beyond links.”

    For software that you use but is expensive, (aweber and fireworks) I was wondering if you would consider including lessons on those as well? Then people could decide whether they want to go with the extra expense or not. It would be a great shortcut to using professional tools.

    Anyway the course sounds fantastic! I have to hurry up and get myself in a place to take the course. 🙂

  9. Julian Adorney Avatar
    Julian Adorney

    I would definitely buy this course. Even if I go the traditional publishing route for now, there’s enough useful information on marketing and creating a website to make it worthwhile IMO.

  10. Starr Avatar

    Hey Holly, I’m working on Professional Plot Outline Mini-Course. But I’m stuck on the Lesson 2 part, first I did the point & pick from the plot list. (What exactly does this mean? “Rivalry of Superior and Inferior” It’s sorta got me stumped.)

    You also mention pages in Plot Clinic (Which I don’t have.)
    So I don’t know what to pick from page 31 (You picked Cliffhanger.) or page 21. (You chose Tool 1: Question & tossed 4 questions into the mess.)

    I guess I could go with Cliffhanger for the exercise, but where can I find out the other types? I wanted to go through this first to see if it will help me. I don’t even know what other Tools there are that might work better. But I’ll try it as you have it…

    I like you’re writing style & humor, but I’m not really able to buy a lot right now. So I’m going to do the best I can with this.

    Thanks for offering kindle versions at Amazon.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Those “plot lists” are really conflict lists. Rivalry of Superior and Inferior could be:
      Boss vs. Employee
      Priest vs. Nun
      Bully vs. Little Kid
      King vs. Peasant

      …and so on.

      For now, just use Cliffhanger. You can find the other types in the Create A Plot Clinic, but it sounds like you just want to stick with the quick-start demo course for now.


      1. Starr Avatar

        I finally broke down and bought some of your other course books. lol
        Then as I was going through the brainstorming process I realized that The “conflict” of superior vs inferior could also be a choice for the main character. The Forbidden Love (I despise writing romance… >:[ ) Then the supernatural angle with the “choice” could be a challenging & interesting exercise.
        (I’ll let you know if something comes of it.)
        But love the way you went with only the work & play part & built up the character. That’s similar to how my process goes – things just start to fall into place as I go along.
        But I think I’m going to go for more of a Mix up and Life & Death for my exercise. Plus I think I’ll go with Tool 2 along with 1. I’ll add a few red herrings to keep it interesting.
        Personally, I like this way of doing an outline. I’ve tried so often to do it the “ridged” way. It was always too restricting, since I think I was following the 3 act method. I really like the flexibility & the humor, I can relate better to your style.
        Thanks for writing helpful, yet fun writing courses.

  11. Jen of Hens Avatar
    Jen of Hens

    Holly – sounds like you have a winner.

    815 words for me today.

  12. Michelle Avatar

    Holly, which web host do you recommend? I’m ready to get things rolling on my website, but I’m not sure which host to choose.

    1. Holly Avatar

      I use They DON’T use C-Panel, which improves their security significantly, you get enough space and bandwidth to create a big site with excellent responsiveness and uptime, and their customer service is superb.

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