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.

Small Business Deals

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: 24 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.

Publishing Company

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. Conduct In-Depth Market Research

Expanding your knowledge of the chosen niche is crucial. Dive deep into understanding the current trends, popular genres, and emerging authors within your niche. Also, research your audience’s reading habits, preferred platforms (eBooks, print, audiobooks), and spending patterns. This information will guide your acquisitions and marketing strategies.

5. 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.

6. 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.

Publishing Company

7. 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.

8. Establish a Strong Online Presence

In addition to selecting a physical location, focus on building a strong online presence. This involves setting up social media profiles, engaging with readers and writers online, and perhaps starting a blog related to your niche.

An active online presence can significantly enhance your visibility and accessibility in the digital age.

9. 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.

10. 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.

Business StructureDescription
Limited Liability Company (LLC)A popular and simple business form chosen by many publishers. It offers liability protection, separating personal and business assets. Setting up an LLC involves some paperwork filed with the state. It protects personal assets from lawsuits.
Sole ProprietorshipAnother common choice among publishers. It is the simplest form of business with no formal registration required. However, it does not provide liability protection, and personal assets are at risk in case of lawsuits or debts.
CorporationForming a corporation may provide pass-through tax benefits, allowing profits and losses to pass directly to shareholders. Consulting an accountant is recommended for detailed information on which legal entity suits the business best.

11. 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.

12. Get Your Employer Identification Number and Employ Staff

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

Publishing Company

13. Buy ISBN’S

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

ISBNs are not just identifiers but are crucial for the distribution and sales tracking of your books. Understand how they function in different markets and platforms. Consider bulk purchasing ISBNs as it is more cost-effective and allows for future scaling of your publishing projects.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. 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.)

18. Develop an Author-Focused Approach

Develop a strategy that is focused on the authors you sign. This includes offering fair contracts, supporting their creative process, and providing marketing assistance. Building a reputation as an author-friendly publisher can attract more talented writers to your company.

19. Publish Books

The next step is the publish your books. Also consider publishing in various formats like print, eBooks, and audiobooks. This diversification can help you reach a wider audience and cater to different reader preferences. Collaborate with professionals for audiobook production and eBook formatting to ensure quality.

20. 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.

A successful marketing strategy should include online marketing, collaborations with book bloggers and influencers, and participation in book fairs and literary festivals. Also, consider using email marketing and creating promotional materials like book trailers.

Publishing Company

21. Launch Your New Business

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

22. Grow Your Business

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

23. Foster Relationships with Bookstores and Distributors

Establishing good relationships with bookstores, both independent and chains, as well as distributors, is crucial for the visibility of your books. Work on creating a distribution network that can effectively place your books in front of your target audience.

24. Be a Successful Owner of Your Own Company

Achieving success as a publishing company owner involves more than just launching the business; it requires ongoing dedication, adaptability, and strategic planning. Here are key aspects to focus on:

  • Continual Learning and Adaptation: The publishing industry is dynamic, with new trends and technologies emerging regularly. Stay informed about the latest industry developments, from digital publishing innovations to shifts in reader preferences. Attend workshops, webinars, and industry conferences to keep your knowledge up-to-date.
  • Build Strong Industry Networks: Networking is vital in the publishing world. Cultivate relationships with other publishers, authors, literary agents, book distributors, and marketing professionals. These connections can lead to partnerships, collaborative projects, and insights into successful publishing strategies.
  • Focus on Quality: Your reputation as a publishing company will largely depend on the quality of the books you publish. Ensure that every book you publish has been thoroughly edited, has a professional cover design, and meets industry standards. Quality should always be prioritized over quantity to build a strong brand reputation.
  • Effective Financial Management: Keep a close eye on your finances. Regularly review your budget, manage cash flow efficiently, and reinvest profits wisely to grow your business. Utilizing accounting software and possibly hiring a financial advisor can help keep your company’s finances in order.
  • Customer and Author Satisfaction: Prioritize the satisfaction of your authors and customers. Listen to their feedback and respond to their needs. Happy authors are more likely to stay with your publishing house and recommend it to others, and satisfied readers can turn into loyal customers.
  • Marketing and Visibility: Develop innovative marketing strategies to promote your books and brand. Utilize social media, email marketing, book tours, and author events to increase visibility. Building a strong online presence and engaging directly with your audience can significantly impact your success.
  • Diversification: Don’t hesitate to explore new genres, publishing formats, or business models. This could include branching into audiobooks, eBooks, or even starting a series of webinars or podcasts related to publishing or the genres you specialize in.
  • Responsiveness to Market Changes: Be agile and responsive to changes in the market. Whether it’s adapting to new consumer behaviors or exploring emerging markets, staying flexible can help you navigate challenges and seize opportunities as they arise.
  • Invest in Your Team: If you have employees, invest in their development and well-being. A motivated, skilled, and happy team can significantly contribute to the success of your business.
  • Balance Passion with Pragmatism: While passion for books and publishing is crucial, it’s equally important to be pragmatic in your business decisions. Balancing your love for publishing with practical business acumen is key to long-term success.

By focusing on these aspects, you can build a successful and sustainable publishing company that not only thrives in the competitive market but also contributes positively to the literary world.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a publishing company?

A publishing company is responsible for acquiring, editing, and managing content to be printed. It covers various projects such as books, magazines, textbooks, and manuals. The company oversees the distribution and marketing of the final product.

How can I start my own publishing company?

To start your own publishing company, follow these crucial steps:

1) Name and register your business.

2) Create a publishing imprint and logo.

3) Choose a niche and target market.

4) Develop a business plan.

5) Set up a business bank account.

6) Select a location.

7) Obtain licenses, permits, and fees.

8) Choose a business structure.

What are the benefits of forming an LLC?

Forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC) offers liability protection, separating personal and business assets. If you face legal issues, your personal assets will be protected from lawsuits. An LLC provides more liability protection compared to other business structures.

Should I purchase accounting software?

Yes, investing in accounting software like Zoho or Quickbooks will help you keep track of business expenses and income separately from personal income. These platforms offer a comprehensive suite of associated business services for better organization.

How do I get an ISBN for my books?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. You can purchase ISBNs through official ISBN agencies. Each book requires a unique 13-digit ISBN that serves as the barcode. Register your books on Amazon using your publishing account to track sales and feedback.

How do I market my publishing business?

Successful marketing requires genuine enthusiasm for your work. Involve authors in online events, Q&A sessions, and support local writing programs and book clubs. Attend writers’ conferences for effective book marketing. Stay aware of industry trends and competitors’ actions to avoid common publishing mistakes.

How do I grow my publishing business?

To grow your publishing business, stay proactive in the industry, keep an eye on trends, and continue to publish diverse and appealing content. Support local writing programs, attend writers’ conferences, and continuously improve your marketing strategies. Keep learning from experiences and remain open to new opportunities.

What’s the key to becoming a successful owner?

Never stop striving for success. Stay agile and adaptable in a dynamic publishing landscape. Monitor competition, identify growth areas, and expand your presence in the market. Continuously evolve and innovate your publishing approach to cater to changing reader preferences and market demands.

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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