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Do I need a Chamber of Commerce registration to publish my own book?

Published at 
30 September 2022

When I decided to publish my own book, this was one of the first questions I asked myself. Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion about it and when you visit forums one will say yes and the other no. So on to the official sources, the Chamber of Commerce. In this post I will go over the criteria that are set to be seen as an entrepreneur and whether you (and I) need a Chamber of Commerce registration. 

NOTE - this information is based on the law and regulations in the Netherlands.

Criteria for being an entrepreneur for the Chamber of Commerce 

To register with the Chamber of Commerce, it sets several criteria to find whether you have to register or not. So let's go through them for self-publishing books. 

Criteria 1: Do you supply a product or service? 

Yes, your book (or possibly books) is a product. 

I myself plan to publish several books so I deliver several products. 

Criteria 2: You ask more for this than the cost price: a (commercial) price or hourly rate that earns you money? 

This one is trickier, considering you're investing a lot of hours into your book, including writing, text revisions to improve it, cover, illustrations, and much more. Those costs can be high and you can't get them covered by selling 1 or 10 books. Incidentally, publishers also do not recover those costs with low sales. 

However, if you sell a lot of books, after a certain number your cost price is 100% and everything after that is a profit (apart from any printing costs). So in that sense the answer is yes. 

If you only ask for reimbursement of expenses (i.e. the costs you incurred to produce the book), the answer here may be no. 

Although my costs are quite low because I can do a lot myself, I still have to sell at least 140 paperbacks or 235 ebooks at the prices I have in mind. This is relatively low and hopefully I will succeed. But because this threshold is so low, this question can be answered with 'yes'. 

Criteria 3: You do business with people other than just friends or family and you also compete with entrepreneurs who sell the same or equivalent services or products. 

This is the most important question for a writer to see if you should register yourself. If you are going to publish your book on platforms such as Amazon, Google Play Books, Apple Books, your own website, the library, the bookstore or other avenues, then it will be accessible to the world. So your answer here is yes. Even if it is only one of these ways, for example only your own website. The answer would be yes. 

I plan to publish my book on multiple platforms. So my answer for this question is yes. 

So far I have answered all the questions with 'yes' and should therefore register with the Chamber of Commerce, but… 

Criteria for being seen as an entrepreneur for the tax authorities 

The fact that you are seen as an entrepreneur by the Chamber of Commerce does not immediately mean that the tax authorities see you as an entrepreneur. This may mean that you do not have to register. 

Criteria 4: Do you invest money and/or time in starting or growing your company? 

Another fun question that I had to figure out. In short, if you want to start publishing multiple books, this is most likely a yes. With more books on the market, you grow and invest time in your business. 

However, pay close attention to criteria 3, if all these books are only going to friends and family, then it's no. 

In the case of one book and you promote it through all kinds of social media channels or you are going to use ads on Facebook. In that case, you invest time (and money) in your business to sell as much as possible. So yes. 

If you are going to make other products from your book that contains illustrations, for example coloring pages, t-shirts, mugs, etc. and if you sell them, you are also investing in your company and the answer is yes. 

In short, if you put effort into sales, especially outside your friends and family circles, the answer is yes. Although I have not fully developed my marketing plan at the time of writing this, I am investing money and time in my business. It's more about when am I going to start using ads than whether I'm going to do it. So my answer is yes. 

Criteria 5: Do you regularly work in your own company and is it not a one-off job? 

If you plan to write several books, this is an easy yes. With only one book and no plan to write more, this is a no. 

Since I plan to publish more than one book, this is a yes for me. 

Criteria 6: Are you going to work for more than 1 client? 

In this case, there is no question of a client. We deliver a product to those who want it. Whether you can see yourself as a client is a question. But there are an awful lot of parties that sell a product that can really be seen as a company. 

For me the answer here is no.

Criteria 7: Do you decide when and how you do your work? 

When publishing your own book, you have control over your working hours and activities. So this is a yes. 

The criteria that is not mentioned 

This is something that is not directly mentioned in pages about whether you have to register on the official bodies websites, but more one that you have to dig deeper for. 

Suppose you arrive at 'no, I do not have to register in my situation' with the above 7 criteria, you only sell it to friends and family whereby the costs are mainly covered. You only publish one book and you leave it at that. 

But! Your family and friends show it to their friends and family and so you sell a few more, suddenly making a profit. 

Still no problem, you can declare this on your tax return under 'income from other work'. Up to € 8,750, you do not pay tax on this. (Note that this is a total amount for all additional income you may have combined.) 

But what if that profit becomes quite high annually and therefore exceeds €8,750? 

When it becomes clear that you earn quite a bit of income from the sale of your book, even if this wasn’t your intention, you should still register with the Chamber of Commerce. You are now participating in economic traffic, as the man from the Chamber of Commerce told me over the phone. 

So are you an entrepreneur? 

If you have a no to the first 3 criteria, then you are not an entrepreneur and you do not have to register. Criteria 4 to 7 are more difficult, but if you have answered no several times, it is most likely not necessary. 

BUT in that case contact the tax authorities to make sure. Explain your complete situation, using the criteria points.
Oh, the operator I spoke to advised me to follow the route of 'entrepreneur', even if you are not (yet) it is an entrepreneurial question. 

Since I am going to publish my book on multiple platforms, plan to promote it, hope to make a profit from it in the long run, plan to publish several books and determine my time completely myself, I need a Chamber of Commerce registration. On to the next step, which legal form should I choose? 

I write as a hobby, do I need a Chamber of Commerce? 

Of course you don't need the Chamber of Commerce for the writing itself, if you are going to publish it it is important to check the above criteria. If you answer yes to many of the questions, then you most likely need a Chamber of Commerce registration. 

When in doubt, you can always call the Chamber of Commerce

Isn't a writer a liberal profession then? 

Yes and no. It's a gray area. A freelance professional is someone who has a required level of education or a unique personal skill. There must be a relationship of trust with the customer, the activities that this person carries out must be of public interest and there must be a best efforts obligation. 

So it depends on what you write. Writing a fiction book is not of public interest. A non-fiction book about how medication should be formulated by pharmacists that can be used in universities can potentially be of public interest and you have a relationship of trust with the reader (who assumes that you know how to compose the medication). 

If you are unsure about your book, consult the Chamber of Commerce.

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