What Is a Publishing House?
A publishing house is a company that looks for marketable manuscripts that they could turn into books. This company transacts with the authors and their agents; once they arrive at an agreement, the process begins with the author refining their work in accordance with the publishing house’s standards.
Furthermore, a publishing house is responsible for ensuring that the entire manuscript undergoes the appropriate content evaluation, editing, proofreading, and polishing stages. It is also responsible for making the book cover aesthetically appealing and the book pages visually pleasant. After all the stages of book development have been completed, a publishing house promotes and sells the books. The copyright ownership of the books belongs to the publishing house and the author receives royalties depending on the market sales of their books.
There are many reasons you should start your own publishing company. Business owners see it as an expense, but when you break down the cost, creating a publishing company may be one of the best decisions you can make to improve your business. If you’re looking at how to start a publishing company or want to know more about it, then this article is for you
If you are a self-published author or even a writer thinking of publishing a book, you’ve probably done some digging into the various ways to get your work noticed in the publishing world. It can be a lot of work, even to self-publish. One way to reduce the work in the long run, and help other writers, is to start your own publishing company.
Once you have written a book and look into traditional publishing companies, you will notice that the process includes giving up a lot of creative control on the story you have spent so much time writing and put so much of yourself into. If you begin your own publishing business, you get to keep that creative control.
You can also help other writers in your genre or lane by selecting their works to publish. Having your own small publishing company attached to the books you write can also lend you some weight when it comes to book sales. It doesn’t matter that it’s your own company.
Bookstores and vendors who sometimes discriminate against self-publishing authors may be more likely to sell your books in their stores if there is a publishing company attached to those books. Starting your own business gives you these perks and many more.
Once you have decided to take the leap and start a publishing company, there are steps you can follow to make that dream a reality. This article will help you identify most of those steps and can help get you on the path to breaking into the publishing industry.
Starting a Publishing Company
The first steps are often the most difficult. As I mentioned earlier, there are many reasons to consider starting your own publishing company, but getting started is often the most difficult part, as with many things. There are many moving parts to begining any sort of business, but when you are a writer and are also working on your own books, starting a publishing business can feel overwhelming. The first step, as with most things, is figuring out what your goals are.
Set Your Goals
Setting your goals is so important. Do you want to focus on publishing your own work, or do you want to cater solely to other writers? Do you want to go it alone or look for partners to share in the responsibility of the business? These and many other questions need to be considered and answered before you strike out and start your company.
Generally speaking, the way to success is often through making connections, asking the right questions, and doing research to prepare for most problems that may come your way. Networking will go a long way in getting you the contacts you need so that you can absorb as much information as possible.
Talk to other book publishers, editors, printers, writers, and agents. Develop a target market and get as much insight as possible about all facets involved in starting a publishing company. Keep notes, and don’t be afraid to ask any questions, no matter how silly the question may seem to you. Everyone started somewhere, and no one was born an expert.
Create Your Business Name and Start Making Decisions
Choosing a business name is an important decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. A company name needs to stand apart from others so that it doesn’t get confused with other publishers, but it shouldn’t be so long and out there that no one will remember it or take it seriously.
You can consider using your own name to publish books or choose a company name that is short and punchy. Look at other publishing companies as examples, and ask or research other writers who have started their own publishing companies. Please choose carefully, because once you have an established publishing company, it’s never a good idea to change the name.
How Involved Will You Be?
Do you want to start a publishing company that will enable writers to self-publish, or will you offer services to be involved in the editing process of books as well? Will you be publishing books as a business online, or will you also offer a print-on-demand option? Developing a business plan that will address and answer these questions is very important.
Who Will You Publish?
Another thing to consider when you are thinking about starting your own publishing company is what sort of books you want to publish. Do you want to feature a certain genre, or do you want to cater to all writers?
Deciding what you will publish may seem like a silly thing to spend time thinking about, but consider the following:
- Do you want to have a publishing business known as the place that all fantasy writers should try first? Which focuses your business on a specific target clientele.
- Or do you want to start a publishing company that will consider everything from children’s books to erotica? While you don’t want to limit the field too much, keeping your publishing options completely open may also cause problems.
Choose Your Business Structure
When you decide to start a publishing company, choosing a business structure is one of the most critical decisions. What type of business do you want your own publishing company to be? Below are the three most popular options for the legal entity of a small business.
It means exactly what it sounds like. A partnership means that you are going into business with another person or possibly several other people. There are many ways that this can be done, but one of the main reasons is so that no one person is stuck with all of the business expenses, liability, and risk.
You can have active or silent partners and investors, meaning that you can choose to have partners that help you run the business actively or they are passive and usually only provide capital. Silent partners still get a say because they invest with you, but they essentially let the active partner take over and make most decisions.
Partnerships are beneficial in some businesses because it means you have help both financially and creatively, and you stand to lose less when other people are involved, putting less risk solely on your shoulders.
Drawbacks of a partnership include the fact that when someone else puts money into your idea for a small business, you lose some of the control, and you have to consult with your partner or partners before making big decisions. You may have to compromise on things you are passionate about.
When starting your own publishing company, Sole Proprietorship is the answer if you’re looking for the simplest business form. It also comes with the most risk. Small businesses that are a sole proprietorship mean that the business owner puts up his own money, or secures a loan himself in his own name, to run the business alone.
Deciding on this business form means that you get control of all decisions, but you also assume all of the financial and legal risks. Taking this route usually means that the person starting the business is financially stable enough to survive if the company goes bust and loses his investment. Be honest with yourself about your credit and your financial situation when considering this option.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
A limited liability company is the most popular route to take when starting a small business. This structure offers more liability protection but still comes with a lot of creative and business control.
A Business Bank Account and Money Decisions
One of the most important things you’ll learn when researching how to start a publishing company is that money plays a massive role in operating a publishing company. Making the right decisions with finances is of the utmost importance when running any business. Still, when it’s a publishing company, and the income can vary depending upon book sales and book marketing, money matters a lot.
A Business Bank Account
A business bank account is necessary when beginning your own business, no matter what the business is. You want to keep your personal assets and the company’s assets completely separate. This keeps everything much more organized and will make things infinitely more manageable when you file taxes during tax season.
Tax Breaks and Filing Taxes
Tax season is stressful enough for everyone anyway, but when you own a business, it can be a nightmare if you don’t have all of your ducks in a row and your money separated the way it should be. Not keeping your assets and finances separate can affect everything, especially your tax benefits.
You can write off a lot of business expenses on your taxes if you have separate accounts and keep track of all expenses for your business. Keep your personal income, personal assets, and personal finances separate from everything having to do with your business. Tax benefits are easier to decipher when your business and personal bank accounts are entirely independent.
Setting up an accounting system, purchasing and learning accounting software, and hiring an accountant at tax time always help keep your finances running smoothly and keep red tape from getting in your way.
Small publishing companies that cannot afford to hire accountants on staff can benefit immensely from having software that will enable them to do their financial bookkeeping and accounting on a computer, where it is secure and easily accessed.
Sales Tax License and Employer Identification Number
To start a business, you will have to register your business for state and federal taxes. This means that you have to apply for and obtain an employer identification number or EIN. These things will allow you to run your business legitimately and enable business expenses to be eligible for tax benefits with no significant issues.
An EIN can be applied by mail or online and helps legitimize it from a tax and legal standpoint. This step cannot be skipped, especially once you start hiring employees, even if they are freelancers or contract workers.
These are the things that will take you from simply self-publishing or helping other authors through the process of self-publishing to owning and operating a legitimate business.
Developing an Online Presence
Networking, setting up, and establishing an online presence are essential steps to take once all of the formal and official aspects of the business have been set up. You will need things like a logo, a website, and social media platforms to get your business out there and let authors know that you offer publishing services.
Your logo is what you will become known for. Most avid readers and writers can identify the Viking and Scribner logos without having to see the name. This logo needs to appear on your letterhead, website, social media, business cards, etc.; everywhere you can stick that logo, you should. But don’t get ahead of yourself and start buying business cards and letterhead straight away. Those items are not needed to start a business, even though those are the first things people spend money on. Capital can be better be utilized in hiring a better designer for the website or logo instead.
Keep It Simple and Memorable
The logo for your business should be simple and easily identifiable. Look at other logos in publishing and think about what makes them unique or identifiable. It should be something that people will associate with you and your business, and it needs to be plastered everywhere you can get it.
Logo visibility is the name of the game when it comes to brand identification. You don’t have to see the name “McDonald’s” to identify those yellow arches or see “Starbucks” to know that green mermaid is where you can go to get coffee.
It is doubtful that you will be able to do all of the work of a publishing company by yourself. You will need help. Depending upon whether you intend to offer services in editing, marketing, and design, you may need several different roles fulfilled in your company.
If you plan to run a company that does no more than help an author with self-publishing, you still may need some help. One person can only mentor or push through so many books at once, and stretching yourself too thin means that the quality of your work is bound to suffer. Don’t decide to go it alone just because you are reluctant to hire employees.
One avenue that is a great option when starting a publishing company is to hire freelancers. Put ads online offering entry-level positions or even seeking seasoned editors, cover designers and artists, and any other positions you need covered.
You can hire exclusively or on a project-to-project contract basis, or even on a timed contract. Just be sure that contract workers pay, services, and hours are kept track of so that things don’t get messy at tax time. Contract workers that receive straight pay without taxes taken out will have to be issued a 1099 at tax time.
Once you’ve got everything else handled, it’s time to present yourself to the world as a legitimate publishing company. Marketing is your next step.
Contact book vendors and book stores and let them know that you have just started a company. Ask if they would consider selling your company’s books in their stores. Book signings and promotions of the authors that you published help you to market the books your company publishes, as well. You can hire a marketing team or marketing manager for this role, or you can do it yourself using your own experience.
Work Directly with Vendors
Orchestrating small book tours in which the authors also plug your publishing company can benefit both the author and your company. This can be done with your own books as well. Be sure to let readers know why you started your company at these promotional appearances, what you are passionate about, and what you hope to contribute to the literary world by owning and running your business.
You can also hold seminars and give talks on podcasts, the news, and other forms of media, talking about your experiences and being a guide on how to start a publishing company, now that you have gone through the process.
Is It Worth All the Work?
There is no disputing that starting a business can be a scary prospect, and it is a lot of hard work, no matter what sort of business it is. So it often begs the question: Is it worth it?
Each person has to answer that question for themselves, but it might do you well to consider that as a writer, owning your own business as a publisher means never having to search for an agent again. It means never having to chop out the parts of your book that mean the most to you just because a traditional publishing house editor tells you that they think it will sell better.
It means never having to give up the book cover design you envisioned for your book simply because you’re not a well-known author, so you have less say, and your demands and wants aren’t important.
It’s also a perk when you need a new laptop to be able to write it off as a tax deduction. It’s a perk to deal with book vendors directly so that you don’t have to go through an agent or publishing house middle man to negotiate book tours, promotions, and where on the shelf they plan to stock your work.
Also, consider that owning your own business means that you can be the help you needed when you were starting out. Other authors will be able to come to you and find a place to publish, market, and grow their careers, and you’ll have a hand in that.
You could start a company and end up publishing the books of the next Tolkien or Hemingway. It may not be worth the risk to some, but it opens up many possibilities they otherwise would never have been offered to others.