Having your own publishing house is a decision you need to make
In today’s version of the publishing industry, you need one regardless. Even if you sell all your books to the big six, you’ll need a way to market yourself and help your book sales. This is much like the fact that all artists need a studio name. You need a professional interface with the world.
On the practical side, you need to think about how you are going to handle your sales. You should do this very early on in the process. For some reason, one of the more difficult areas for an author is to get a hold of the business aspect of writing. If you only have one book of memoirs you are going to give as gifts to your family, then maybe you do not be concerned about these things.
But even then you need to consider the benefits of having a business. Legitimate business expenses to deduct from your business income may include all or part of:
- your computer
- writing supplies
- research materials
- editing & proofing expenses
- design expenses for covers, book layouts, and a lot more
- travel expenses for research
- and much more
The time to find out about these things is not after you collect a lot of money and have a huge tax bill. It’s often impossible to do these things retroactively. You need to know what is legal and what is not. The time to do it is before the tax bill becomes an issue.
You’ll need a business account to collect and disperse money
If you are just starting out, I recommend a PayPal business account. It is free (they collect fees from sales) and it will let you collect income, make payments, and all the other things you need to do as a publisher. Several suppliers prefer PayPal and some require PayPal for royalty payments.
If you use your personal banking accounts and credit cards, the bookkeeping issues can be extensive. You need to keep completely separate records for your business activities.
You must start up a business to handle all the legalities. A sole proprietorship is usually free in most states and takes almost no time to set up. Internationally the laws vary wildly. In the US, you may use a dba with your sole proprietorship. You can set it up as a subsidiary of your corporate identity or of a 501(3)c if you are a non-profit. The corporate benefits of something like this are debatable—but you need to decide. I recommend a sole proprietorship to start. You can easily incorporate later if necessary.
Picking a good name
Regardless of your personal legal necessities dealing with your local governments, you need a name to use. This is not the Big Idea—that great phrase that everyone will remember forever and always associate positively with you, the author. But if you can do that—wonderful. What you need a name that makes sense to you, which you are proud of, that people recognize as your business.
More than that, you need a name which can be trademarked, which does not infringe on any other publisher, person, or company. The best advice is to use your own name, if possible. After all, as an author you are selling yourself, your ideas, and your communication skills. If you have an unusual name, this is an easy and simple way to go. However, if your last name is John and you write about evening entertainments you might need to be creative.
You need a logo, business card, letterhead, invoice, and all the normal accoutrement of any real business. As you know, InDesign is the preferred tool for designing these things as well. Maybe, like me, publishing is just part of what you do. Regardless, you need some legal method of dealing with the IRS [or whatever tax authority exists in your country], if nothing else.
To be recognized by the industry as a publisher
This is more complex. The best description of this process I have seen is a posting in The Book Designer. Joel has laid it out for us and he is good.
You will need to buy a minimal block of ISBN#s for a few hundred dollars and then go to Bowker (where you bought the ISBNs) and register your company name at BowkerLink. That’s all free, once you have bought your block of numbers. But you will need an official name, a real address, a bank account number, and probably a business phone and email accounts. In fact, you’ll probably need a good domain name for your business. How far you go with this is up to you. The real issue is simple: how much time do you want to spend versus how much do you need to spend on business matters.
Things you need to do which do not require money [but may require money to do well]. As you will see, these are all tied together.
- You definitely need a good email address. It’s hard to convince anyone you are serious with a gmail account. So, you’ll probably need online access that provides you with a way to use your domain name. This is all tied in with the need to pick a good name.
- You must become involved in your marketing. This requires consistency. Another reason for a good name, a goo domain name, and a good email address.
- You probably need a blog. A free one will work, but to be serious, you’ll probably need a domain name. I recommend that you choose online access with a company that offers WordPress.
- The need for a Website may be past. WordPress enables you to use a blog for your Website and solves many of your Website issues.
Just remember the first rule of building your publishing business. Be professional. But there is one final, very important piece of advice [just my opinion, understand].
Do not borrow money to build the business!
There’s nothing wrong with this, and it is the worldly way of things. But I am talking to believers, primarily. The operative scripture is: Owe no one anything except love. [Romans 13:8] This is all difficult enough without adding financial woes. Suck it up! Be patient! Pay as you go.