From a 17 Year Old Author on Self Publishing



Vanessa Van Petten, author of You’re Grounded!, wrote and independently published her own book when she was only 17. In this blog post she shares eight steps to self publishing a book.

How and Why to Self-Publish Your Book

by Vanessa Van Petten

My Quick Story: I finished writing the book almost completely when I was 17 and did not even think about publishing it until it was all done.  When I thought I would publish it, I contacted a few literary agents that my family knew, who explained to me the steps and issues below, and I made the decision to not even try to get into a traditional publishing house (see why below).  I hired an independent editor I found online and contacted a few different companies to self-publish.  I chose iUniverse and have been very happy with them.  I now have a literary agent at Endeavor Talent Agency and we are working on a few new book proposals and possibly getting my first book, “You’re Grounded!” re-published with a traditional house because my sales have gone so well.

Read the rest of Vanessa’s article here.

It’s a short description, but enough to get you started if you have a book idea.

I self published my first book, Homeschool Co-ops How to Start Them , Run Them and Not Burn Out using Aventine Press, a print on demand publisher. Check them out.


My book, Business Tips and Taxes for Writers, contains more helpful information for authors and self publishers.

Carol Topp, CPA is the author of the Micro Business for Teens.



Is the Term “Micro Business” Demeaning?




The New York Times Small Business section opened a discussion:

Is the Term ‘Small Business’ Demeaning?

Do you consider yourself a small-business owner? Or does that phrase make you cringe? Often, the terms entrepreneur and small-business owner are used interchangeably — but that’s not quite right either. Clearly, not all entrepreneurs are small-business owners and not all small-business owners are entrepreneurs. Still, there has to be some way to distinguish big businesses from, uh, … not big businesses.

Is there a better term? Does anyone have a suggestion?

Here are some of the comments:

Does it really matter what people call as long you are getting satisfaction from what you are doing and you are convinced that you are making a significant contribution to the economy?

When people ask me what I do, I do not say I own a small business, I say I own my own business. Nobody really cares if you own a small or big biz, they only care what you can do for them on a personal level.

the term small business is not demeaning; I think many people would rather be self-employed. I think society would be better off if there were more small business owners.

Entrepreneur in French has 2 meanings:1) It means being “un chef d’entreprise” or the head of a business. 2) It defines somebody who undertakes. From the verb Entreprendre.So all business owners are Entrepreneurs both by being business owners and undertakers.

I also agree the term is just way too broad. I suggest a new name for really small businesses (say, self-employed or freelancers up to 5 or 10 employees) be referred to as micro businesses.

I really like that last comment about micro businesses!

No way is the term micro business demeaning!

Most people admire you when tell them that you started and run a micro business.  They will probably ask you how you did it. Be sure to send them to send them here!


My book, Running a Micro Business, has more tips on running a micro business

Carol Topp, CPA is the author of the Micro Business for Teens







Never Say These Things to Your Customer




Adapted for teenage micro business owners from:

15 Things Retailers Should Never Say

Negative Customer Service Phrases to Avoid

By Shari Waters, for

Shari has a great list of 15 things to never say to a customer.  Most apply to a retail business, like a store in a mall, so I pared down her list to those that most apply to teenage micro business owners.

1. I Don’t Know

Customers don’t expect retailers to know everything, but when it comes to answering a product question or other inquiry, they do expect the salesperson to be confident enough in their knowledge of the business to provide an answer.

Better: “That’s a good question. Let me find out for you.”

3. Calm Down

There may not be a more infuriating phrase in customer service than this one. If a customer has reached a boiling point and is ranting away, the best thing to say is nothing. Let the customer finish. Once he or she has gotten everything out, they will begin to feel better and may be more receptive to a solution.

Better: “I apologize.”

8. I Can’t Do That

This is another negative customer service phrase that should be banned from all store staff.

Better: “What I can do is ___.”

14. I’m Busy Right Now

Have you ever said, or heard, the following? “If it weren’t for customers, I could get some work done.” If you are in retail, chances are you’ve at least thought it. The truth is, without customers retailers wouldn’t have a job.

Better: “I’d be happy to help you.”



My book, Running a Micro Business, has more tips on serving your customers.


Carol Topp, CPA is the author of the Micro Business for Teens




10 Commandments of Customer Service

Jordan Budd, business owner of OBX Seafood

Jordan Budd, business owner of OBX Seafood

I love these customer service tips and I have edited them a bit for teenager’s running a micro business (that’s why there’s not 10!).

The Ten Commandments of Great Customer Service

From Susan A. Friedmann, for

Know who is boss. You are in business to service customer needs, and you can only do that if you know what it is your customers want. When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know what they want and how you can provide good service.

Be a good listener. Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel.

Identify and anticipate needs.
Customers don’t buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs. Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs.

Make customers feel important and appreciated.
Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. People value sincerity. It creates good feeling and trust. Thank them every time you get a chance.

Know how to apologize.
When something goes wrong, apologize. It’s easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done.

Give more than expected. Since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition. Consider the following:
  • What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere?
  • What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don’t buy?
  • What can you give customers that is totally unexpected?


My book, Running a Micro Business, has more tips on serving your customers.


Carol Topp, CPA is the author of the Micro Business for Teens




Why a Business Might Fail (but yours won’t!)



Meredith Curtis discusses why a business might fail. She offers straight talk that some people may not like, but she speaks from more than 10 years of experience in running her own small business and backs up her observations with several verses from the Bible.
Three things cause businesses to fail.

Lack of Self-Government

“Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28 NIV).

A business owner without self-control will not be able to run her business effectively. Self-government is simply the ability to run your own life well, control your emotions, manage your time, manage your money, maintain healthy relationships, and follow through with personal plans and goals.Without the ability to manage yourself, you will not be able to manage a business.

Lack of Scheduling

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 NIV).

Hard work is required to get a business off the ground. Hours and hours of work must be scheduled into your life without taking away from the priorities of family, church, and time with the Lord. If you cannot prioritize and schedule your life, you might let important things in your life and new business fall through the cracks.

Lack of Administrative Abilities

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3-4 NIV).

Bookkeeping, accounting, record keeping, and other administrative tasks have always bored me, but I realize their importance in a successful business. You not only risk trouble with the Internal Revenue Service  (IRS) and other government agencies, but you can find your self in trouble with customers, employees, and vendors if you are not careful.


How about you?  Are you self controlled, in control of your schedule, and able to handle administrative tasks? You may not be perfect in all those areas, but running a micro business can be a great way to learn those skills!

The lessons you learn by running a micro business will help you  later whether you open another, larger business or work for an employer. So, don’t be afraid to start if you lack some of the skills mentioned.

My Micro Business for Teens books will get you started running a micro business and learning important skills while your still a teenager. Just think how much father ahead you’ll be in 5 years!




Carol Topp, CPA is the author of the Micro Business for Teens books.



Micro business workshops in Cincinnati and St Louis


I’ll be speaking about starting a micro business at homeschool conventions on back-to-back weekends,

MBizIdeas2016In Cincinnati at Great Homeschool Conventions Friday April 1, 2016.



StartMicro2016In St Louis at Greater St Louis Home School Expo April 8 and 9, 2016.


I hope to meet several of you there!

Can’t make either location? Listen to one of my podcasts on starting and running a micro business.

Here’s a few podcast episodes

Here is a list of podcast episodes:

Carol Topp

Would the Micro Business for Teens books be helpful for adults?


I was just wondering if this curriculum could be used as a starting point for an adult who is interested in starting a micro business? Also, could the tax information be used as well?

Dear Alicia,

Yes, the Micro Business for Teens books are frequently read by adults. One adult who has owned micro businesses in the past told me she learned something new.


The Money and Taxes book book will be helpful to adults as well. It covers creating important financial statements, cash flow, how to increase your profit, sales tax, hiring and paying workers.

The chapter on taxes applies to adults and teenagers, because the tax code is the same for teenagers and adults, so it should be helpful to you.


Carol Topp, CPA

More on Starting a Micro Business Podcast #55



There’s lots to learn about starting a running a micro business, so join Carol Topp, host of the Dollars and Sense podcast.

In this podcast, Carol shares information on creating a mini business plan and pitfalls to avoid to help you launch successfully.
Carol also took time to answer questions from the audience on taxes.

Listen here

Learn more about starting a running a micro business at

To learn more about taxes that teenagers might need to pay visit

Carol mentions a YouTube video that features 6 teenagers and their micro businesses

Sale on Micro Business for Teens books


In celebration of my 50th podcast episode, I’m offering a sale on my Micro Business for Teens books.


I rarely offer sales on my Micro Business books, so grab your copies today. The sale runs only through the month of September 2015.

(The price will be reflected at checkout through my website)

My 50th podcast episode is 30+ Micro Business Ideas


Listen as I share more than 30 micro business ideas a teenager (or a parent ) can start quickly and easily.

More podcast episodes on starting and running a micro business

All my Micro Business for Teens books

Starting a Micro Business video (an hour long public television program on YouTube)

Podcast episodes for micro business owners



I’m pleased to announce my 50th episode of my podcast, The Dollars and Sense Show will be airing later this week. I’ve been podcasting for 2 years and have gathered quite a collection of podcasts about starting and running a micro business.

To celebrate the 50th podcast episode I’ve put my Micro Business for Teens books on sale. 25% off during the month of September.

Here’s a sampling of podcasts. Click on the title and you can listen to each podcast. All have show notes and many have handouts too.



Here’s a list of all my podcasts related to micro businesses

Here’s the link to all 50 of my podcast episodes.

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