Over the past few months, we’ve talked about what it means to be an ‘indie’ author and why some writers choose this path. Today we’ll discuss how to turn your writing into a business by starting your own publishing company. While today’s publishing platforms don’t require you to start a business in order to publish your work, doing so offers many advantages—maximizing tax write-offs, controlling and protecting your work, shielding your personal assets in the event of a lawsuit, conveying professionalism, and, of course, the pride of running your own business.
Indie Navigator founder Mary Shafer believes that starting a publishing company can create plenty of value for self-publishing authors, whether you’re about to publish your first book or you’ve been at this for a while. “Creating a publishing company does two main things: it establishes you as a serious indie publisher who may or may not handle the work of other authors, rather than simply a self-published author. It sends the message that you take the business end of publishing seriously, even if you only publish your own work. Second, it gives your products a professional quality that makes them a lot more attractive to book buyers, librarians, and other parties who may be interested in buying or licensing rights to your work. Plus, it makes your company a lot more attractive to buyers should you ever decide to retire. ‘Sun City Press’ is a lot more impressive-sounding and easy to market as an imprint than ‘Joe Schmoe Books.’”
While I don’t claim to be a tax or legal expert, going through the process of starting my own publishing company a few years ago taught me valuable lessons that should make the experience easier for you.
Begin with the end in mind.
Before you launch your publishing venture, think about what you want to build. A clear vision at the beginning will help you create the right foundation to support your goals. It will also help you answer many of the questions that will come up later in the process. Before you fill out any forms or file any paperwork, consider the following:
- Are you launching this publishing company by yourself or with a partner?
- Do you plan to publish your own work or will you publish other authors as well?
- Will you produce and sell only books and book-like products (such as audiobooks) or do you plan to offer other products (such as merchandise, courses, or podcasts) or services (such as editing, ghostwriting, consulting, or speaking)?
- Will your publishing company specialize in one genre (such as business books or historical fiction) or will you publish a variety of genres?
- What income level do you realistically expect to achieve within three to five years?
- What do you hope your business will look like in five years? Ten years?
- What skills do you possess that would be an asset to your publishing company? What activities will you need help with?
Your answers to these questions can impact everything from the name of your company and the business structure you choose to how you handle bookkeeping and set up your website. For example, knowing upfront that you hope to offer products and services beyond books might steer you away from a self-limiting name like “ABC Books.” Imagine how different your bookkeeping or website needs might be if you’re planning to publish your own work at a rate of one book per year versus publishing several authors with multiple products.