The indie publishing market allows for several ways of getting your book(s) to market. One of the more popular ways of distributing your book is to do so as your own publisher. But, is this the right choice for you? Throughout this post, I’ll discuss apparent misconceptions and the various steps to become a publisher, plus the pros and cons of doing so.
“I’VE GOT MY LOGO AND PUBLISHER NAME. I’M A PUBLISHER.”
This statement is the biggest misconception when it comes to creating your own publishing firm. Becoming a publisher means becoming a legal business entity. What the above statement refers to is a publishing imprint, not necessarily a publisher. To distribute your books appropriately, you’ll still need to connect with a publisher or other distributor like Amazon KDP or Ingram. If you distribute this way, their markings will also be included with the metadata of your distributed book, making them the publisher of record.
“I’LL SAVE SO MUCH MONEY BY BEING A PUBLISHER.”
On the surface, this statement will always appear true, but the devil is in the details. Should you choose to start your own publishing firm, you could find yourself paying significantly more in taxes and fees than you would by signing on with an established indie publisher. A perfect example of this is purchasing ISBNs. Take a look at the price ranges when purchasing an ISBN. Until you purchase ISBNs in bulk, just the purchase of one will cost roughly the same as it would to have your book distributed by an indie publisher. They have the means to purchase a large quantity of ISBNs so when you pay them to distribute, you’re not only paying for the ISBN, but for the management of your account including royalty distribution.
“THE ONLY WAY I’LL GET 100% OF MY ROYALTIES IS BY PUBLISHING ON MY OWN.”
In some cases, that’s correct. It’s all about finding the right publishing partner. There’s been a change in the industry and authors are now holding indie publishing firms more accountable for their actions. This includes how royalties are paid out. Like others, AnewPress doesn’t keep even one cent of your earned royalties.
Creating a Publishing Firm
Creating your own publishing firm, like any business, is a daunting task. We know—we’ve done it. There are several steps in creating any business but there are specifics involved in publishing that shouldn’t go unmentioned.
- Create the business entity: This doesn’t just mean creating the name and the logo. Creating a business means determining what type of company you’d like to be. Many choose the easiest and create an LLC which is absolutely acceptable, but before determining what type of organization is right for you, take a look at the various types of structures available (S Corporation, C Corporation, etc.) and ensure you choose the one that will be your individual best fit.
- Determine your market: Unless you’re attempting to become a serve-all indie publisher (not recommended unless you have a sales and production team behind you) you’ll want to ensure that your brand not only matches the books that you are selling but markets to the right author base. Are you a science fiction publisher? Poetry? Ensure it’s known should anyone come across your content.
- Secure a bank of ISBNs: As mentioned above, ISBNs are cheaper the more you purchase at one time. If you plan on publishing more than one of your own books, purchase at least triple the number of ISBNs you think you’ll need. This will help keep your costs down should you decide to create additional book types or future revised editions. If you are creating a publishing firm to serve not only your titles, but other authors’ as well, it’s important to evaluate and project how many books you plan to publish in one month, six months, and one year. This way, you’ll have the ability to secure the right amount of ISBNs at the right price. Don’t worry if you purchase too many; ISBNs never expire and Bowker will never re-assign them to another publisher.
- Note: Regardless of what you hear from other companies, Bowker is the ONLY legitimate seller of ISBNs. Never purchase ISBNs from anywhere else.
- Secure a method of distribution & fulfillment: There are several different ways to get your books into the market. The majority of indie publishers choose the most convenient way and set up a publisher’s account with either Ingram/Lightning Source or Createspace. These print-on-demand (POD) distribution systems are fast and efficient but lack the returnability factor that gets publishers’ books into brick and mortar stores. If that’s a sticking point for you, then POD may not be the best scenario. In this case, you’ll need to source a printer and connect directly with the channels where you think your book will sell most. Always connect first with Amazon. Let’s face it, they have a monopoly on book distribution. If your book isn’t on Amazon, you’ll miss out on many potential sales. Then, work from small to large. Mom & Pop bookstores are much more likely to purchase small publisher’s books before a giant like Barnes & Noble, but gain traction in that smaller arena first and you’ll have less of an issue connecting with the bigger industry leaders.
There are certainly more small steps when creating this or any organization, but use the above as a general roadmap and, as always, research, research, research.
When starting any new business there are always pros and cons. In publishing, those cons can sometimes, unfortunately, outweigh the pros.
- Complete autonomy over your brand. You make the decisions, you keep all of the revenue made from the sales of your book.
- Allowing other like-minded authors to publish under a group that speaks to their brand, creating a larger network and a better foothold in the publishing market.
- You can offer services. As we never recommend keeping royalties from those published under your firm’s imprint, there’s always a need for author services to ensure a quality finished product. Offering these author services is an excellent way to earn a bit of extra income.
- You’re one step closer to the industry leaders. While you’ll still have to do the footwork to get to them, creating a publishing group gives that extra bit of “oomph” when selling to distributors, as they see that you are putting the work into making your book successful.
- Complete autonomy over your brand. Yes, I said that was a pro, but there are pitfalls involved in this. If you’re creative enough and nimble enough to roll with the punches you’ll do just fine. If you think your creativity ends at the last sentence of your book though, at least consider consulting with a publisher services provider or marketing group that can assist you in staying ahead of the curve.
- Cost. Again, at first look, it appears that doing it alone will save you time and money. But remember, your company will need to pay yearly taxes as well as any and all fees associated with distribution and account management while your book(s) are in the market. Don’t forget, time is also money. Running a business takes a huge chunk of time out of your day.
- Customer relations. Remember, as the publisher, your clients are not only those that publish their books using your imprint, but also those that purchase the physical books. Was there an issue with the print of the book? Did an author you published misquote someone or, worse, offend a social media influencer? The blame will ultimately fall on you and again, that’s valuable time you could be using on something less… awful.
I’m sure you noticed that while I said the cons can outweigh the pros, I included fewer cons. This blog post is not meant to deter you from making your dream a reality. If you are determined and you work hard, becoming your own publisher can be one of the best experiences of your life. Trust me, we’re living the dream right now. Just be sure that you do the research and learn everything about this industry that you can. Then, make your own pro and con list. Do the pros actually outweigh the cons? If so, blaze forward! You’re going to make an excellent publisher.