How to Start a Publishing Company



how to start a publishing company

Publishing and printing are related, but separate businesses.

A printing business completes the publishing business’s work. The publisher sends a product to the printer, as a job-ready to be printed in multiple copies.

Do you have a passion for reading and writing? Do you have any experience in editing documents? Those traits are important, but above all, you should have real skills in marketing.

Got it? Then you might be ready to run your own publishing company.

What is a Publishing Company?

A printer prints. A publisher does everything that leads up to printing.



You may think of books, fiction, and nonfiction, as projects for a publishing company. People who own publishing companies may also work on magazines, textbooks, manuals, and similar projects.

No matter what the project, the publishing company acquires the manuscript, edits it, and manages the process to get it ready to be printed. That includes layout and cover. The publishing company also oversees distribution and marketing for the project.

How to Start Your Own Publishing Company: 20 Crucial Steps

Many self-publishing authors stepped into the publishing industry to publish their own books. For self-published authors, creating their own publishing company gave the self-publish venture an added measure of credibility.

If you’re not a writer, when you start as a small publishing company you can seek those new writers and help them publish their own work.



Today’s publishing world is a mix of the self-published author who decided to start a publishing company and their own business, to a person skilled at acquiring, editing, and marketing who decided to start publishing books.

1. Name Your Business and Register

Choosing a business name is a key part of the process. Although the process may vary from state to state, typically you begin with your Secretary of State. Make sure your business name is not already taken. You can use your own name.

2. Create a Publishing Imprint and Logo

The publishing imprint can be the same as your business name, as long as the business name lends itself to a unique logo. Your imprint and logo should reflect the types of projects you complete.

3. Choose a Publishing Niche and Market

Books or magazines, manuals or newspapers? Fiction or nonfiction book publishing company? Children’s books? Religious? Indie publishing? Self-help?



To keep the passion a publisher needs, choose a niche. Many small publishing companies start with a niche, then branch out. They may choose to “hybridize” by mixing POD (ordering copies as orders come, called Print on Demand) with digital publishing (allowing people to order copies to be read online).

4. Create a Business Plan

Generally speaking, all businesses new and established need a business plan, especially small businesses. And that small business plan should not be etched in stone; it should be a plan that can evolve.

As a new publishing company, you should develop a Mission Statement that reflects your reason for joining the publishing industry.

5. Set Up a Business Bank Account

You need a business account in your company name that’s separate from your personal account. You should also have a dedicated business credit card and business cards. Keep personal finances separate.



6. Choose Your Location

In the digital age, this is less important than it was just 10-20 years ago. The hotbed of publishing was and is New York City.

But book publishers can locate anywhere in the US. If you hire editors and proofreaders, they can work from home.

Needed equipment includes high-capacity computers, publishing software, CD writer, a great backup system, and anti-virus programs.

7. Sort out Licenses, Permits, and Fees

After you register your business name, you’ll need an EIN (Employer Identification Number). Licenses and permits needed may vary from state to state, but to sell books you’ll need an EIN.



The EIN is used to get your sales tax license, which you’ll need to properly report your book sales. You’ll need that to pay state and federal taxes.

If you hire subcontractors, such as editors, you’ll need the EIN to file the 1099’s you send them.

8. Choose a Business Structure

Many publishers choose the simplest business form, the limited liability company or LLC. It’s a step up from the sole proprietorship (also a popular choice with publishers).

Forming an LLC involves some paperwork, filed with your state, but it’s worth the extra trouble. Here’s an example:



“Newbie Book Company” is publishing a series of short stories by an author. As part of the editing process, the publisher asks the writer if any of the stories have been previously published. The writer says that the stories have not been published.

But one of them has been published. Although the original publisher is a small magazine, that entity files a lawsuit. Turns out the magazine, according to the contract, purchased “all rights” when it bought the story. “All rights” means that the magazine owns exclusive rights to reuse or republish the story (as compared to “first rights”). The magazine sues to collect damages from the company’s assets.

If you’ve set up your publishing company as an LLC, your personal assets will be protected from lawsuits. The LLC offers more liability protection than other business structures do.

Forming a corporation may afford you with pass-through tax benefits. For more information on which legal entity to choose, you should consult an accountant.



9. Purchase Accounting Software

A number of companies, such as Zoho, offer accounting software. Another favorite accounting system is Quickbooks. That makes it easy to keep track of business expenses and income, separate from personal income for your publishing house.

Zoho adds a comprehensive platform of associated businesses services such as Zoho Expense, Invoice, One, Bookings, and more. These are integrated under the Zoho umbrella for a unified product.

10. Get Your Employer Identification Number and Employ Staff

As mentioned earlier, many new publishers employ subcontractors such as editors and proofreaders.

11. Buy ISBN’S

That stands for International Standard Book Number. It’s a 13-digit number that’s the bar code for a book.



12. Get Your Business Taxes in Order

Consult an accountant to determine which business structure may afford you the best tax benefits, or tax breaks.

You’ll need to pay federal, state, and local taxes on employee wages.

You’ll need to pay sales taxes.

13. Create a Professional Website and Email ID

Once you’ve chosen a business name, develop your website and register your domain name. Create an email address that includes your domain name. This will help you establish an online presence.



14. Set Up a Publishing Account on Amazon

When you’ve published a project, load information about that, including sales numbers and feedback, to your Amazon publishing account. Include the credentials for your business.

If you’re very fortunate, Amazon may acquire the rights to the project and pay royalties. Amazon currently has 16 imprints. When it comes to digital content, Amazon is one of the best places to sell ebooks online.

To get selected by Amazon, you’ll need to first establish solid sales and reviews for your project.

15. Sign Up Authors

You’ll need to develop a contract for authors. Will you offer advances? How percentage of royalties will you pay?

You can add your listing to author publications – where authors go to get connected with publishers. For example, an annual publication called Writer’s Digest lists all book and magazine publishers, by category (such as outdoor, romance, etc.)

16. Publish Books

Shop your project with various printers.

17. Market Your Business

You don’t need a formal education to be a great marketer. You need a genuine enthusiasm for your work.

Involve your authors with online events, such as Q and A sessions and more.

18. Launch Your New Business

Announce your new venture wherever you can – local and regional publications, trade publications, and more.

19. Grow Your Business

Support local writing programs and book clubs. Attend writers’ conferences as part of your book marketing.

20. Be a Successful Owner of Your Own Company

Don’t rest on your laurels.

Now You Know How to Start a Publishing Company: Start Setting Up Your New Business

How do you get from starting your own publishing business to owning an established publishing company?

Keep your eye on trends in the industry. Know what the competition is doing and what they are publishing, and above all avoid publishing mistakes.

Image: Depositphotos


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Lisa Price Lisa Price is a freelance writer living in Barnesville, Pennsylvania. She has a B.A. in English with a minor in journalism from Shippensburg State College (Pennsylvania). She has worked as a trucking company dock supervisor, newspaper circulation district manager, radio station commercial writer, assistant manager of a veterinary pharmaceutical warehouse and newspaper reporter.

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