If you’re a self-published author, you may be wondering whether you could start a publishing company of your own.
It’s not crazy. And you wouldn’t be the first.
And what they’ve learned can help you get started.
So, if you want to learn how to become a publisher in your own right, keep reading.
- How to Become a Publisher
- What Does a Book Publisher Do?
- Should You Become a Publisher?
- Career Requirements to Become a Publisher
- How to Start a Publishing Company
- Benefits of Starting a Publishing Company
How to Become a Publisher
Becoming a publisher takes more than picking a name and buying ISBN numbers.
There’s a whole process.
And before you get started, do yourself a huge favor, and make sure you’re ready to take this step.
After all, you don’t have to own a business to be a serious author.
But if you’d like to create a business around your books (and other products and services related to them), it’s worth looking into the benefits and costs of starting a publishing company.
What Does a Book Publisher Do?
If you’re planning to run a book publishing company of your own, prepare to be busy. Whether you do as much as you can by yourself (to cut costs) or you hire professionals (or contract with them) to lighten your load, the list of responsibilities is a long one.
Knowing what you’ll have on your plate as the owner of a book publishing company will help you prepare adequately for the challenges ahead.
So, what exactly does a book publisher do?
- Scout for publishing projects that fit your company’s mission
- Select which books to publish and when
- Contract for and oversee (or perform) professional cover design
- Contract for (or perform) professional editing and/or formatting
- Plan content for end pages, back cover blurbs, and other marketing copy
- Determine how many copies to print
- Create and implement a marketing plan for each book
- Oversee legal creation and protection of your business
- Perform (or contract for) bookkeeping and tax preparation
- Plan for your company’s continuation (if it outlasts you).
Should You Become a Publisher?
Ask yourself the following questions to help you decide:
- Do you earn more than $2,000 a month in book sales?
- Do you write in health or technical areas that could put you at greater risk of litigation?
- Do you want to publish other people’s books, as well as your own?
- Are you selling more than just books — e.g., courses, physical products, etc?
- Do you earn more than enough to provide professional covers for your books, as well as thorough editing and professional formatting?
If your answer to all these questions is a firm “No,” starting a publishing company of your own might be more costly than beneficial.
The quality of your covers might seem trivial, as long as you can create something decent enough to get started.
But with the cost of starting a business, every scrap of marketing — including your book covers — must look professional and on-brand.
Unless your book designer cred goes beyond your the compliments of supportive friends and family, we recommend finding a designer who can give your books the marketing edge they’ll need.
The more you know about the benefits and costs involved in starting a publishing business, the easier it will be to decide whether or not it’s the right move for you at this point (or at any point).
Career Requirements to Become a Publisher
If you’re asking, “What degree do I need to be a book publisher?” there’s good news. You don’t actually need to have one.
But if you want to prepare yourself to run a book publishing business, it can’t hurt to get a four-year degree (B.A.) in one of the following areas:
- English (or the language in which you’re publishing)
- Creative Writing
- Business Administration
- Accounting or Bookkeeping
If your book business will have a narrow focus (science textbooks or “living science” biographies, for example), a degree in that subject could also be helpful. The first three or four options, though, might give you an edge when looking for internship opportunities.
The basic career requirements for becoming a publisher in your own right are a working knowledge of English (or the language in which you’re publishing), business administration, and bookkeeping. You also need to know the publishing business inside and out. And some work experience in a book publishing company can help with that.
The best publisher education comes from working in the field — either with an established publishing company or as an author collaborating with others to create, publish, and market high-quality books.
An internship is an excellent way to gain practical experience in the publishing industry. You can learn about them either through your college’s career center or on company websites.
You can also pursue a Master’s degree (M.A.) in Publishing to show your commitment to the industry and to stand out among those who stopped at a Bachelor’s.
Your book publisher salary is another topic altogether, and it’s difficult to pin down, especially since there are different kinds of book publishers out there. In general, though, your salary will depend on the following:
- How much it costs to set up your company as an LLC
- How many books your company publishes each year
- How much it costs to create, publish, and market those books
- How many copies you sell, and how much you earn per sale
- How many people you have working for you (contract designers, editors, etc.), and what you pay them
- How much you spend on creation, publication, and marketing tools and materials
- How much you pay for your office rental or Registered Agent
- Other expenses related to your book publishing business
How to Start a Publishing Company
Once you’ve decided to start a publishing company of your own, dive in with the following steps.
Get Familiar with the Publishing Process
If you’re going to publish books, you need to know everything there is to know about the book publishing process — from editing to designing your book’s interior and cover to setting it up for both ebook and print publication.
The particulars of the actual publication process can vary from one platform to another (e.g. Amazon’s KDP Print vs. Ingram Spark), but the basics remain largely the same.
Get well-acquainted with the process for your chosen publication platforms (Amazon, Draft2Digital, Rakuten, etc.). And stay on top of new developments.
Choose a Business Name
Choose a name that fits your business and makes it obvious what you’re about. You might use your name and add the word “Publishing” to keep it simple.
Or you might swap out your name for something that better fits your brand or that rolls off the tongue more easily.
Brainstorm a list of at least 20 options. Don’t censor yourself. Some of them will be terrible. But those terrible ones might get your mind working on an idea you love.
Once you narrow your selection down to three, check them out to see if any have already been trademarked by someone else.
Finally, don’t add the word “corporation” or “inc.” to the end of your company name unless you’re planning to set your business up as a corporation.
An LLC is actually a better option to start with, but you can learn more on the IRS website to help you decide.
Choose Your Location
States issue articles of organization for LLCs, so you’ll need to choose the state in which to register your new business.
Most authors choose to register in the states where they live and work. But, depending on the tax laws for your state, registering in a different state might save you money. Or it might not.
Choose a Place of Business
If you’re running this business from home (because renting office space is expensive), and you want to keep your home address private, you can do one of the following:
- Get a UPS mailbox, and have your mail forwarded to your USPS mailbox.
- Use a Registered Agent. Just about every state has them. They act as your business office, and their service usually includes the setup of your LLC. There’s usually a fee involved, but it costs considerably less than renting a physical office space.
- Set up a Virtual Office. This is a professional office that gives you a mailing address, collects and forwards your mail, and can also be your Registered Agent. Most will even give you a 1-800 number.
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Get Listed with Bowker Books as a Publishing Company.
Bowker Books is the place to go for independent ISBN numbers and barcodes for the books you publish.
Once you register with Bowker, when you publish your books, the ISBN numbers you purchase for them will be linked to your company name.
If they’re linked on Bowker, they’ll be linked on Amazon and other platforms when you add them to your book’s KDP setup.
Bowker will also have your books in their directory, which makes them more accessible to the book industry and more appealing to book stores and libraries.
Research the Best Printing Options.
If you’ll be creating any printed media, you’ll need to connect with printers who will do the work you need done at a price you can afford.
The following options have become popular among indie authors and publishers:
- Amazon’s KDP and KDP Print
- Ingram Spark
- Book Baby Book Printing Service
- Publishing XPress
- DiggyPod (minimum 24 copies)
- the book patch
Scout for Publishing Projects
This is essential if you’re looking to publish the work of authors other than yourself to diversify your offerings.
Think of how you might get a hold of authors you’d like to work with:
- Go to writer conferences
- Contact agencies/agents
- Reach out to indie authors whose work fits your company’s vision.
Benefits of Starting a Publishing Company
Legal Protection of Personal Assets
It’s an unfortunate reality that some folks will use the legal system to bully others.
But with a publishing business, if someone sues you on behalf of your work or your business, the law protects you and your personal assets, even if your company loses the case.
In these cases, it’s always good to know a trustworthy legal professional — namely one that specializes in business law. Find one as soon as you can when starting your business.
Management of Intellectual Property
You have complete control over your intellectual property and how you use it. You might repackage a book as an online course. Or you might take a larger work and break it down into smaller, more focused e-books with links to additional online resources.
No one gets to tell you, “Nope. It’s our property, now, so we get to repackage it however we want in order to maximize our profits.”
You decide what to do with your work and with the profits you gain by it.
Continuity of Business
With a well-written operating agreement, your business could last far longer than you do, providing revenue and assets for future business owners.
A well-managed LLC can manage your copyrights even after you’re gone. So, if one of your goals is to leave a well-organized legacy for your family or business associates, this could be one of your best investments.
Saving Money and Creating Wealth
A good accountant can help you save even more, so your business can become a tool for building wealth and saving for retirement. The savings don’t stop with tax breaks and write-offs.
The separation of personal income from business income makes bookkeeping much easier and helps you avoid stressful tax audits (or make them less of a nightmare, at least).
Elevation to CEO/Founder Status
Not only will you be able to identify yourself as a business owner — as the founder and CEO of a publishing company — your author mindset will shift to that of a business owner.
You’ll still be in the book business. But you’ll be repackaging content to reach different customers. And maybe you’ll co-author some projects with authors you respect and admire.
Or maybe you’ll work together with a new author to turn their book into a bestseller with a related product line.
Whatever vision you choose for your publishing company, taking on the title of a business owner will change you in ways you won’t realize until you make that shift.
Publishing Work from Other Authors
If you’ve always wanted to help other authors with the publication and marketing of their books, having your own publishing company makes you more attractive as a professional collaborator.
Since you can write off many of your business expenses, you have an advantage when it comes to financing services like professional cover design, formatting, and comprehensive editing — as well as book marketing.
If your company will manage co-authored projects, keeping track of royalties and dividends owed can be a headache all its own. Fortunately, Kinga Jentetics and the PublishDrive Abacus team has you covered.
Check out their video to see how their program streamlines the entire accounting process for co-authored projects.
Access to More than One Amazon KDP Account
As a business owner, you get to open a second KDP account — just for your publishing company. So, while you might continue publishing some books under your own name, you can also publish books using your company’s KDP account.
This might not sound like a big deal. But it comes in handy when you’d like to keep some of your books separate from the ones you publish under your business name (for branding purposes).
The Cons of Starting a Publishing Business
You knew there would be caveats, right? Of course, you did.
The first one likely to come to mind is the cost. While the total cost of starting and running a publishing company can range from $50 to $800 a year, the average author turned publisher pays around $200 to $500 a year in fees.
Next, the work of setting up your LLC and keeping it organized can be a monumental challenge. Fortunately, trailblazers like Joe Solari of indieauthoralchemy.com have made the process less overwhelming.
So, aside from your own independent research, take advantage of the knowledge and hard-earned wisdom gained by those who’ve gone before you.
It could mean the difference between a successful business that outlasts you and one that becomes a depressing statistic.
Starting a new publishing business isn’t something you want to jump into. But if you’ve got your writing business to a good place, maybe it’s time to consider your options.
If you have more questions about starting a business, the following links could help answer them:
- “6 Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up Your Corporation or LLC”
- “The Details Behind Starting an LLC For Your Small Business” (by Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com)
- “Nuts and Bolts: Nitty Gritty Details, Incorporating, and Taxes” (Grasshopper Resources)
You’re here because you love books, just as we do. Maybe the same inner voice that led you to write your first book is now leading you to this.
Or maybe it’s inviting you to learn more before leading you in a different direction.
In either case, it can’t hurt to do some research.