So, there is a bit of a delay between our last post and this one. We apologize for that, but [INSERT LAME EXCUSE HERE]. Hopefully, you can understand and sympathize. Anyway….
If you recall from an earlier post waaaaaaaaay long ago, we promised to reprint our series of articles called “The Journey.” For those who are not familiar – when Chris and I began our illustrious careers as writers, we had a syndicated internet column called “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys” where we babbled on about comic books and the world of entertainment in general. “The Journey” is a series of articles detailing some of our exploits into the world of micro-press publishing. We thought it might be interesting to reprint them. So, here is the second installment. Let us know what you think!
Now that Chris and I decided to take the big step into self-publishing, it’s time to begin. Okay. Where?
When beginning a journey such as this (and from what we’ve heard it’s a long, arduous, nasty, pain-staking journey), we felt it was important to define our goals in great detail. What did we want from this? Of course, fame, fortune, and hot groupies topped the list, but we decided to keep our goals a little more realistic and attainable. After a little soul searching, again at the local bar, we decided that we simply wanted to publish something. Anything. Even if it was just one comic book, that would be enough.
Once we figured out that our primary goal is to one day walk into the local comic shop and see our creation on the shelf, we brought it up to Gabe and Jac (still pronounced Jake). Gabe is a seemingly mellow person, and he has successfully fooled all whom believe that. The reality is his mind works like a bag of microwave popcorn, without the bag. When Chris and I met with Gabe, we told him our plan and asked if he wanted to be a part of it. He froze for a split second, many free flying kernels suspended in mid-pop, contemplating the words he just heard. Then the microwave restarted and the popping commenced, until **ding** when he said, “Yeah. Sounds cool. Let’s do it!” Jac, on the other hand, is a husband and father of three, but he said he was in. Then the four of us sat down for our first meeting.
Of course, the very first thing on the agenda was choosing a company name. We needed a group identity, a super hero team name if you will, before we could continue. One of us remembered that during one of my profanity-laden tirades about receiving another rejection letter from Epic a week prior, I said something like, “If they are the House of Ideas, then we are the Fortress of Ideas.” Thus, Fortress Publishing was born, and we were born from it.
With the most important task behind us, we went over what we needed to start this company and conjure up an estimate of how much cash would be necessary to get what we didn’t have. Since we’re men, it was our reflex to throw out the instructions and start building; any left over parts be damned! We fought hard against that reflex and decided to go with the standard checklist. Beer. Check. Little voice that said, “Guys, you shouldn’t do this because you don’t know what you’re doing and you’ll drive yourselves more insane.” Check. More beer to drown out the little voice. Check. Okay, all the primary tools were accounted for, time to move on.
Falling back to our goal of “just produce something, anything” we decided we should shelve the idea of offices, limos, and company jets for the short term. That meant we’ll all just be working from our homes, using our own computers. Since we didn’t want to use anyone’s house or phone as the business address or phone number, we decided to rent a mailbox and simply get a dedicated cell phone. Each would cost us less than $150/year. Check. We don’t know much about the industry, but we did know that the software packages of choice are currently PhotoShop, Illustrator, Quark, and a couple others. Between the four of us, we had those. Check. Of course, we’d need our own website. Those don’t cost much, but to actually have someone set it up for you, does. However, we know enough people willing to do that for a case of beer, so we’re good to go. No matter the micro or macro economic climate of this ever-changing world, the beer barter system is alive and well. Check. That left business set-up, accounting, advertising, and inventory costs.
Before we could get into the business set-up and accounting, we needed to figure out which business entity we wanted from the choices of sole-proprietorship, General Partnership, Limited Partnership, C Corporation, S Corporation, LLP, or LLC. Seeing how many choices we had, we almost ran screaming. However, we were able to immediately drop a few from the list. A sole-proprietorship is exactly how it sounds — one, and only one, person owns the company. It’s very easy to set up and very flexible in terms of finances (it’s easy to put in and take out money), but that one person bears the responsibility and liability for the company. A partnership is like it sounds also; a group of people pool their resources to form a company. It’s also pretty easy to set up (although, a written partnership agreement should be made and signed by all partners) and is financially flexible. But just like the sole-proprietorship, all the partners are held personally responsible for the company. A General Partnership means all the partners actively participate and make decisions, while a Limited Partnership means only one person actively makes decisions. A corporation is its own separate entity, a living breathing whole other person in the eyes of the law, with shareholders, board of directors, officers, the whole nine.
After looking at our organizational options, we, like possibly some of you right now, slipped into a partially catatonic, Homer Simpson state where a stream of drool flowed from our chins as we dreamed about doughnuts. Glorious doughnuts. So, we crossed a few off the list. Sole Proprietorship didn’t work for us – we all wanted to actively participate since we were all going to be contributing money. That kind of made crossing off Limited Partnership easy as well as an LLP (Limited Liability Partnership – a limited partnership with less legal liabilities). A C Corporation has great liability protection, but it seemed a bit extreme since it’s difficult to put money in and take money out, so that got scratched too.
We were then left with General Partnership, S Corporation and LLC (Limited Liability Company). Every once in a while, when we’re sober, we’ve been known to be reasonably intelligent, so we decided that we would do more research before next meeting about the three remaining organizational structures.
Next on the agenda was accounting. Since I’m an accountant, we decided I’d do the accounting. For those of you who may be contemplating starting your own business, fear not, accounting for a small business is much like balancing your own checkbook, except you have to categorize your expenses. There are some tricky things, though, so I do recommend you at least talk to a public accountant. However, they are pretty expensive, so keep your questions concise and learn how to do the bookkeeping yourself. Mmmmm, glorious doughnuts.
Finally, we talked about inventory. Since printing was another topic we knew nothing about, we knew we had to do some heavy, in-depth research. And that is a whole separate story…
Next Issue: “To Arms!”