Tips for Starting a Publishing Business

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

One thing many indie authors must come to terms with is that they’re not just publishing a book; they’re starting an author business. It is one thing to say you want to publish a book and become a published author but another to actually do it. And with advancements in technology and resources, many people can publish a book, but it takes a bit extra to start your own book publishing business, even more for it to be a successful one.

Traditionally, starting a small publishing business was a huge investment. Industrial printing presses weren't cheap and finding editors, marketers, and distributors was no small feat. Thankfully, the digital age has made it possible to manage your book publishing business more easily and affordably, and many authors are starting companies to self-publish their own books. Some are taking it even further to publish the works of other authors as well.

Here's what you need to get your publisher business going.

Take IngramSpark's FREE Online Self-Publishing Course on How to Self-Publish

An Understanding of Why You Publish

First, you should decide why you're publishing in the first place. Not everyone gets to the point where they want to turn their publication into a full-fledged business. Some have one book which they print for themselves and themselves alone to display proudly on their mantel or the bookshelves of family members, and IngramSpark is perfect for those instances because you’ll receive a quality book you can be proud of for a very reasonable price.

But if you want to open that one-off book up to wider distribution to see which retailers or libraries may carry it or if your story strikes a chord with an audience beyond your immediate family, IngramSpark is here for that too, and can easily open your book up for distribution with the click of a few buttons and no extra charge.

And if you decide to start your own imprint and publish several books written by you or by others, our platform helps you easily manage your titles, their book distribution, your sales reporting, and compensation all in one place.

Publish on Demand® for an Easier Way to Publish Books

The first thing you'll need is a plan for printing and book distribution. Publishers who utilize offset book publishing usually print several hundred copies at once, cross their fingers, and hope for the best. Meanwhile, unsold copies gather in your garage, taking up storage space.

Print-on-demand technology stores all title information in an online database. When it comes time to print the book, all you have to do is order the number of copies you need and print and ship that number only. With publish on demand®, you don't need to worry about storing books anywhere, and you also get to save money by only printing copies that sell.

The print-on-demand business model is a model that works for independent authors when it comes to saving money and interpreting demand.

Read more about the benefits of print-on-demand book publishing.

Make Sure You Have Lots of Color, Trim, and Cover Options

Choose a platform that has a lot of options for printing and binding. Depending on the type of book you'll be publishing, you may want color and finishing options. If you're publishing several different kinds of books (children's books, fiction, textbooks, etc.) by various authors, a platform with a variety of trim sizes will be essential to your success.

Choose a Business Name/Publishing Imprint

Your publishing imprint might not carry the power and weight associated with Penguin Random House or HarperCollins, but it does say something about the author brand you're building. Whether or not you plan to register your imprint as an actual business has little effect on what you should (or shouldn't) name it.

  • Consider the genre in which you write. When Little, Brown and Company started a new imprint for thrillers, they chose the name Mulholland Books, which references Mulholland Drive in California because of its notorious twists and turns.
  • Ask yourself what values you want your author brand to convey. If your romance novels have a Christian theme, you might steer toward values of chastity, Christianity, and faithfulness, and stay away from something overt like "Let's Do It! Books". You might also consider the mission of your book and your author business. Is your book educational or escapist? Do you plan to write a book series? If you write nonfiction, informative books, you might want to incorporate words that refer to learning; Little School Books, History Ridge Publications, etc.
  • Optimize your imprint's searchability. If your last name is difficult to spell, don't use it in your imprint; readers will have a hard time locating you when they try to Google your publishing imprint. Stay away from confusing words and phrases, and make your business name/imprint easy to remember.
  • Be original and make sure the name you choose is available. You cannot use the same imprint as anyone else. Your business name should be completely original and not play on the name of another imprint. In other words, HarleQueen and HarleKing are much too close to Harlequin, so probably best just to steer clear and check the availability of the business name you want to use beforehand.

Remember, the name you choose as your publishing imprint will convey your author brand so choose wisely.

Choose a Logo for Your Publisher Imprint

Your imprint logo won't be as recognizable as the penguin on the spine of Penguin classics or the recognizable house of the Random House imprints, but you should still consider it the face of your author brand. Like your author business name, your logo should reflect the values you want to convey. Choose colors that match or complement your author website and keep it simple. Remember, the logo needs to fit on the spine of your books yet still be able to communicate your author brand at a glance, so best not to choose something too intricate. Like your business name, your logo must be completely original; you cannot use an image you don't own. Consider hiring a professional book designer to create an imprint logo for you. That way, you'll be sure not to infringe on anyone's copyrighted image or use one that you shouldn't.

Set a Budget

You’re most likely already aware that as an independent publisher you'll be investing money in your book for services including editing, design, printing, shipping, and purchasing ISBNs. However, you should simultaneously be creating a sales and book marketing plan that enables you to earn that money back. Your book marketing strategy should be in full swing as you work to bring your book to market so you avoid digging a financial hole. Publishing a book and setting it for distribution will sell some books organically, but it takes more than that to sell a substantial amount of books. As the owner of an author business consider the marketing you'll need to do to get the word out about your book and help you recoup your investment when you begin the publishing journey, not after your book has already been published.

Buy Your ISBNs

You'll need to acquire an ISBN or several if you plan to publish multiple books. The International Book Standard Number is a 13-digit code used to identify several bits of information about a unique book. It also lists you as the official publisher, if you purchase the ISBNs yourself, which is important if you're a publishing company.

An ISBN is your ticket to selling books through multiple retailers. So how do you get an ISBN? You can buy one ISBN, or many, through your country's ISBN provider. In the United States, it's Bowker; in the UK, it's Nielsen; in the AU, it's Thorpe-Bowker.

United States IngramSpark Publishers Receive a Special Discount on single ISBNs from Bowker. Log In to Your IngramSpark Account to Purchase from Your Dashboard. 

Market Your Books

If you're publishing books, you’ll need to learn how to market them, too, whether they’re books you’ve authored or books by authors you’re publishing under your imprint. If you want to attract authors to your publishing imprint, offer them supplemental book marketing. Every book needs marketing, and while many authors take marketing into their own hands, you'll have an edge over the competition if you pitch in.

Marketing doesn't have to be expensive: most readers these days find new books through online channels. Engage readers on social media like Twitter and Facebook, get book reviews, and work with bloggers or start your own publishing blog to promote your books. There are also several guerrilla book marketing tips you can try.

Hire Help

Although you might have some professional skills in book editing, design, website creation, publicity, and marketing, it's a monumental task to do it all. Should you decide to take it all on, be sure to do some research in order to find the best DIY tools available to help you do things the right way, but don't be shy about hiring the kind of help you need to give your author business its best chance for success.

You may want to plan for a team of book editors and book designers. Don't worry about spending thousands to employ an in-house team: there are plenty of professionals who offer freelance services. It's a good idea to work with several freelancers in developmental editing and copyediting, design, book production, and other fields.

Sharing Your Publishing Skills

It’s thrilling for us to meet people who, after being successfully traditionally, indie, or self-published, realize that they know enough to pass along their publishing knowledge to other authors. These publishing experts rise up to create publishing businesses of their own that cater to the novice author. This is a great trend as more experienced individuals come forward to help their fellows succeed in the book publishing industry to share a love of literature.

Learning From Others

As you create your author business, and even if you go on to establish a successful publisher business, be sure to realize that there’s always more to learn and additional information to gain from the industry and those participating in it. Book publishing is a moving and changing industry, and the best businesses are paying attention and adapting right along with it.

Bookstores and libraries have started offering programs to help indie authors succeed, offering local community events, lectures, and writing programs within the store or library that can result in the actual publication of an author’s book via IngramSpark. It's an excellent way to build up a local publishing community, combining your local independent bookstore, local library, and local indie authors. Ask your neighborhood bookseller or librarian if they offer author programming. If not, suggest things you and your other author friends would be interested in learning from them and contributing to the community. Beyond your local community, there are conferences and associations you can join to receive current info on publishing trends and network with your fellow publishers. You can also subscribe to the IngramSpark blog or podcast or take one of our free online publishing courses to stay up to date.

There is a lot of help for first-time authors but be wise in how you spend your money. A company that offers you a number of printed copies without distribution attached isn’t going to get you success in the publishing marketplace. Take the time to learn how to get a book distribution deal and from legitimate publishing experts. Attend conferences or join credible publishing associations to help point you in the right direction. And remember that you, too, can become a seasoned and successful publisher with the opportunity down the road to create a business that can help other authors. It happens every day.

Although starting your business can be fun and exciting, it's also a lot of work. But with a little guidance and determination, it’s well within your grasp to make it happen and make it a success.


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IngramSpark Staff

IngramSpark® is an award-winning independent publishing platform, offering indie authors and publishers the ability to create, manage, and globally distribute print and ebooks.