Tag Archives: indie publishing

My site has moved to my full name, Sally Jane Driscoll (sallyjanedriscoll.com). Hey, that’s here!

Consider this a special thank you for coming along.

It will take time to set up this new site to be as useful as possible, but I’m looking forward to growing my internet presence.

My old blog was a wonderful learning experience. I appreciate each one of you who took the time to stop by, read and participate.

In closing, all I can say is—

Mule, make tracks!

Some failure, some success. Surprisingly, more success

Time to look back at my original real and fantasy goals. Some that I thought would be easy still seem impossible but, to my surprise, some of my fantasy goals are going strong. Some are turning out better than I’d anticipated, like the one on the left.

1) Real goal: Health: sleep (lights out at 10:30 p.m.), move (get up from desk every hour, spend at least 20 minutes outside morning or evening, gardening, walking or looking at forest).

Fail! I do get outside to water the garden, which counts as exercise since I haul the water in 5-gallon plastic buckets, but sleeping seems like a lost cause. If I want to do more, I have to sleep less. After I stop work, I go to work. If anything’s going to get done, that’s the way it has to be.

Some things to keep in mind: As long as I hold to a modified primal/paleo diet (modified to include unsweetened soymilk, which seems to do me good) and eat almost no grain, sugar or dairy, my strength holds up so I can maintain a strenuous schedule. I’m chafing right now because I found a new CrossFit gym ten minutes from home, and I yearn to try a stand-up paddleboard. My budget’s holding me back more than my lack of sleep.

2) Real goal: Work my job only 8 a.m.-5 p.m., 1 hour for lunch, no evening or weekend work. Fantasy goal: Maintain the quality of my science editing and other job obligations while meeting my deadlines and not stressing out. Continue reading

Transitioning From a Hobby to a Business

Guest Post by Nina Darnowsky Lieberman of Soapmarked.com

This guest post is a followup to my November 21st post, Soap? Nope: Looks Like Indie Publishing to Me, which drew some parallels between the new, wide-open world of indie publishing and the surge in farmers’ markets throughout the U.S. Independent product creators/entrepreneurs face some of the same practical problems as self-publishing authors. Both must learn to take themselves seriously, perhaps for the first time. What are some concerns that come up when you change focus from being a hobbyist to being a professional?


Many people get into making bath and body products because they enjoy making things. As hobbyists, we tend to be very generous. We make soap or lotion, knit socks or bake cookies because we enjoy doing it. And naturally we then have an abundance of that wonderful thing we made. We enjoy giving our friends and family that good thing we made, in many cases because it is superior to what they can purchase elsewhere. It’s made by us, we watch the quality, we tailor the item for that person’s tastes.

But then, we get to the point where we have experimented so much and still like making our wee soapies. We’ve probably spent quite a bit to get to this point and may think hey, why not try selling some? It seems like an easy way to recoup some of that money.

Here we commonly hit a stumbling point. Being used to giving away our labor and materials for free as gifts for people we know, it can be hard (in our own minds) to justify the true retail cost of our soaps. There are some magical figure-out-how-much-each-one-costs-and-multiply-by-x, but x seems a lot to us. So we make up a number that seems reasonable and stick to it because we feel guilty for charging what our product is actually worth. This guilt is something I’m still getting over myself, and feel bad sometimes for charging the sales tax (it doesn’t mean I don’t do it; I still owe the state that money and am legally obligated to charge it!!).

I have to look at my products and see that yes, if I were on the other side of the deal I’d pay that much for them… and in many cases at retail stores am getting much less value for my money than my customers are. Not that I’m saying retail items are bad; just that a larger store has larger buying power and so can get their materials for less than I do. So one of their $6 soaps in comparison to one of mine has more profit built into it. Yes, they have larger overheads, but they also have waaaaaaay larger sales volume than me!

Keeping careful track of your expenses is a MUST if you’re turning yourself from a hobbyist into a business. Detail is key. I know how much each ounce of each item costs from each supplier. I know how much I use in each recipe and what the yield of that recipe is, so I then know how much the bars cost. Don’t forget to factor in your time for the labor.There’s a myriad of little details you need to know. Say the materials for one bar of your super special banana bar cost $0.48. That’s not much, right? So you could sell it for $2.00 and make a profit… right?

Nope. Don’t forget about packaging. Oh yeah, that’s another $0.12 per bar. And it takes time to design the label, don’t forget that. Then there’s the wrapping the bar, more of your labor. Researching where to sell it can take a while. Don’t forget about the supplies you need to sell at a market, your own canopy is a great thing to have, and tables, and tablecloths, and then little baskets for displays, or trays, or do you want to invest in wood display boxes? Well, that’s another $100. Then of course there’s your booth or table fee for being a vendor, anywhere from $10 to $200. So that little bar of soap needs to make you enough profit to pay for itself, pay for the labor you put into making it, pay for materials to make the next bar, pay to send your cat to college….

Deductions are also key. Here, more careful record keeping is in order. Do you plan to have a home office? You’ll need to have the space qualify. What about storage of your bulk materials–you do plan to buy in bulk, right? You can sometimes count that space as part of your home office deduction. And mileage, don’t forget mileage. It’s now July 8, and so far this year I’ve driven over 500 miles for markets, to buy supplies, etc. That’s another deduction, and with the way gas prices are going it could be more for 2011 than it was for 2010, which was around $0.50 per mile. For me so far, that’s a pretty hefty deduction. Add mortgage insurance, mortgage interest, and utilities multiplied by the percent of my house that qualifies as a home office and the deductions just keep adding up when tax time rolls around.

Don’t forget your equipment! All those molds and spoons and cool containers can be claimed differently than your raw materials in some areas. Of course, you use them over a period of time, so in some countries you can claim depreciation on them and even spread the aggregate you spent on them into deductions over more than one year in some cases. No, I’m not an accountant but that’s another expense you need to look into.

And please please do not forget to look into whatever business licenses you will need in your area to stay legit. You reallllllllly do NOT want to pay any fines for selling items without charging applicable sales tax, or even inadvertently selling illegally because you needed a license and didn’t have one but were selling away merrily without a care.

Don’t even get me started on insurance! In some areas it may be part of your homeowner’s (or renter’s?) insurance but don’t assume it is. You don’t want to lose your house because of a lawsuit which you didn’t have the insurance to cover.

A business bank account is not a must just yet when you’re very small, but will become one as you grow. Some states may require you to have one. And what happens when you receive a check made out to the name of your business and not you directly? I guess you could just not collect on that money, but being a former banker, I like cashing checks and getting the money from them!

Banks are going to require a DBA (Doing Business As) name from you in many cases, though in some states (a small number) you won’t need a DBA name to open a bank account in the name of your business if you include your last name in your business name, or in some cases your full name in your business name, i.e. Mary Smith’s House of Waxy Buildup or Smith’s Floor Removal Service. I don’t really want to call my business Nina Consuela de Nada Santa Cruz’s house of Soapy things (names have been changed to protect the innocent) and for now am being naughty and using my personal sole bank account as my main business account. Yes, I am advocating using a business account… but for now, I don’t take checks 🙂

And just a word of warning about picking your bank: if you are a sole prop and have a business account with a bank, if you are overdrawn and owe the bank money on the personal side, they can and will take money from your sole prop account to cover the owed funds. They have the right to do this any time… read your banking disclosures. It’s called the right to offset. If you’re a different type of business, like an LLC or a Corporation, they can’t since the funds are owned by the business and not you as a person.

Also, some banks will charge for processing cash in or out of your account. Usually it’s any amount above x in cash per statement cycle (look for the date your statement was cut; it won’t necessarily be the same date the next month but should be the same business day–confirm with your bank if you’re not sure exactly when it cuts). Yes, they can charge you for depositing cash into your own account. Many banks do this to discourage people from bringing in large amounts of cash that will tie up their employees in processing it. Again, check the account disclosures and make sure you understand them. It all comes down to what they give you in writing.

This is all overwhelming. After all, you just wanted to sign up for the local market day or craft fair and bring in a little income, right? Not if you’re going to be a business.

There are a lot of things I haven’t even touched on here, like using social media for promotion…. And there’s the hours and hours spent designing the website, and researching new recipes. Researching new suppliers, testing new recipes, testing new ideas…. You’ve got to love it or it’ll drive you mad in the end.

This post first appeared here on July 8, 2011.

Thanks, Nina!

Soap? Nope: Looks Like Indie Publishing to Me

Blanco, Texas: Market Day, Nov. 19, 2011

Farmers’ markets–those little local carnivals of fresh bread, brown eggs and dewy lettuce–are surging. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. jumped from more than 6,000 in 2010 to more than 7,000 in 2011. That’s a 17% increase.

A new business model is emerging. People are changing their identity from being primarily employees of others, and primarily consumers of the products that keep the international trade world afloat. They’re reshaping their economic soul to become creators of products.

Have you been to a farmer’s market lately? The variety and creativity of the products are amazing. Like the variety and creativity of the ebook market.

People are trading with each other. Taking matters into their own hands to reach customers directly. Not only setting up on the courthouse lawn, but using personal contacts and the Internet to make a living.

This is also just like what’s happening in publishing.

For example, here’s this “author’s” site:

Try to see it as your indie author’s blog home page or Amazon page. There’s the name. The logline. The URL. An overview of the “books.”

Maybe it’s interesting, so you check it out more closely.

Look at all those “same but different” soaps. This author writes a series.

What’s that on the left?

Two more series. Obviously romantica. Hmm, seems like one series is mini-romantica. YA? How nouveau. Do you think this author is spreading herself too thin?

Jehosophat! What’s she doing? Not just single title soaps and liquid soaps, she’s gone and written hand-dyed wool and silk as well! Not to mention the knitted caps.

For traditional marketing purposes, she’d have to get a second name. Maybe “Yarnmarked.” Do you think anyone would guess she’s the same writer?

It’s a good thing she’s got this indie market.

It’s a good thing for us all.

Thank you, Soapmarked.com!

By S.J. Driscoll