Publishing

Starting Your Publishing Business

It’s been a wild and crazy two months. April saw Tom and I traveling from New York City to home, and then to Toronto. Then home again and off to Washington, D.C. After that, two days at home and then on a plane to Austin, TX, where we met Michael Drew, the founder of this blog.

That trip was outstanding, not only because we got to shake hands with Michael, but because it helped clarify and confirm the fact that self-publishing isn’t just a means to an end – a way to get a book printed. It’s a business—one that authors need to invest in with time, energy, and money. If you choose to self-publish your book, be aware that you are actually going into business for yourself.

Putting fingers to keyboard is just the beginning. One step beyond the beginning is when you hire the professionals to help create the book – the editor, someone who knows page design, the cover designer, and the person creating the index. Your next step is to chose your method of publishing: You might choose POD; you might decide to create your own publishing imprint; or you might just print several thousand books at once, to carry in the trunk of your car and sell at seminars or events. All these tasks are imperative to your new business’s success.

Not many new authors are aware of how much work is involved in being your own CEO. Since the old-fashioned way of being published involves writing and sending content off to an editor at a big publishing house, you don’t have to worry about the page layout, or what font to use, or whether or not you have widows and orphans in your writing (a widow is a last paragraph line carried to the top of the next page, rather than staying with the paragraph it belongs with, an orphan is the first line of a paragraph stuck at the bottom of a page, rather than starting on the opposite page, where it belongs – sometimes, these terms also refer to single words left hanging on a line). When working with Random House or Simon and Schuster, you write, they edit; you compose, they make changes at will; you create, they question. The work involved is not even half of the work of running your own business, which is what self- publishing is all about.

Being your own boss, running your own business does have its advantages. This story of a self-published book that made it big and got picked up by a mainstream publishing house (while giving the author a contract for book two) is one of the true success stories. Do read the entire post – there’s a caveat at the end; hint: It cost the author five figures of her own money. But we can assume she’s happy. She got the big boys to pick up and publish her work.

A site called Green Tentacles has a great post on the publishing business, both from the viewpoint of going traditional and from the viewpoint of being self-published. I especially like this paragraph, “Some self-published authors are very hands-on, handling their own press releases, registrations (ISBN, copyright, UPC bar code, etc), fulfillment, and distribution. Other self-publishers contract third parties for such services, to varying degrees.” The site goes on to note the pitfalls of being in business for yourself, as a self-published author. We’ve discussed those before: not being taken seriously because the world still looks down on us; being lumped with vanity presses, those printers who publish anything for a price; and having to do all your own PR. I especially like this line of advice, “There’s no secret. Just hard work.”

Therefore, if you’re really ready to do the work, if you want to maintain control over your work (choosing your own cover, your own page design, your own font, and how your index should appear), you should self-publish. Consider your options (print on demand is just one, and it allows for very short print runs, instead of boxes and boxes of books in your basement or garage), do your research, and open the door to your new business.

To get a better feel for how to start your publishing business, you might check out Writing World. This article, Basics of Self-Publishing, outlines what I’m talking about quite nicely. The writer gets to the nitty-gritty by starting with, Choose a company name, followed by, Register your name. All in all, she offers nine bits of good advice and a link to a business section on her site, which has a multitude of other links for more outstanding business advice.

Is there success in becoming a business owner by choosing to self-publish? There is if you have the right focus, if you recognize where you need to hire help and where you have the skills necessary to carry out the tasks on your own. Don’t forget the investment of time, money, and dedication. Without all three, you risk failure. With all three, you are on the path to success.

As Michael Gerber, author of the E-Myth says, “In E-Myth terms, a writer is a technician. A technician doesn’t create a business, an entrepreneur does. A writer must develop the entrepreneurial ability to see more than simply what they’re writing about.”

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