I’ve had a long love affair with book publishing. At this point I can’t quite put my finger on when it began, but growing up in a printer’s family probably didn’t hurt.
When I first moved back to New York City after my youthful travels, I started planning a series of cookbooks based on public domain works that I was going to sell through classified ads. Don’t ask me where I got this idea, but looking back, it’s probably better that I never got very far with it.
But eventually life and opportunities lined up with what my work made possible, and I published my first book in 1986. By that time it was more feasible to start publishing, since I was working for a book publisher, and had spent years in New York’s graphic design industry.
So, yes, I knew how to make a book, what goes into it, who you need to help.
I’ve told the story elsewhere about publishing that book and what came of it, so I’ll try not to repeat myself.
But one of the other results came a couple of years later when Jill and I started our own publishing company, based on our experience with that book.
Making the Leap from Author to Publisher
There’s an astonishingly huge difference between publishing your own book, and taking on other authors and trying to make a profitable business out of publishing their books.
As the indie publishing field matures, we’re starting to see more authors attempt this leap. Others are forming publishing cooperatives, and still others are acting on plans to create small presses.
These are all positive and expected evolutionary changes, as simple organisms develop into more complex ones, creating new opportunities for all concerned.
But even in the era of the 72-hour ebook (“Write it on Day 1! Prep it on Day 2! Publish it on Day 3!”) there’s a whole lot involved in making this transition from author to publisher.
So if you’re one of those authors who has caught the “publishing bug,” if you think you can take your success to the next level, here’s some guidance from someone who’s been up on the shore.
My Top 7 Tips for Going from Author to Publisher
- Get help—Although many authors do just fine as self-publishers by doing virtually everything themselves, it’s rarely a good idea to run a publishing company without help. What kind? Start with an author’s assistant or virtual assistant (VA). Pretty soon you will have many administrative chores that take up valuable time, and which could just as easily be done by your assistant. And you’ll be glad every time you launch a book that you’ve got help with the crushing weight of tasks that pile up around your launch. You can also have your assistant filter your email inbox, do basic research, and a myriad of other things that will help you in your publishing venture. Take this seriously.
Get organized in your business—While it’s fine for many authors who are experimenting with self-publishing to treat it as a hobby, if you’re serious about being a publisher, you’ll need to get some good advice from a CPA or other tax or legal professional about the best way to establish your company, whether you should be a sole proprietor, a partnership, a Subchapter S corporation, a limited liability partnership, etc. You’ll also want to make sure you’ve got adequate bookkeeping systems in place because you’re going to be responsible both to yourself and to any authors you publish for accurate and timely reporting.
Get serious about branding—When you turn from a self-publisher into a publishing company, your author brand will only help sell your own books. It makes sense to put some serious attention into the branding of your publishing enterprise. What kinds of books will you publish? Who are your readers? Even a small amount of market research and reflecting on what you find will help you establish your publishing or imprint name, your overall approach to your market, even how your publisher website should look and act.
Get other authors—I can tell you from personal experience that, about 10 minutes after you hang your “Book Publishing Company” sign, your mailbox will start to fill with submissions from authors looking for a publishing contract. This has both positive and negative effects. On one hand you’ll be meeting authors you likely never heard of before, and getting a more accurate idea of what kind of books will be available to you. On the other hand, you’ll be spending time looking through and rejecting manuscripts (aren’t you glad you hired that assistant now?). You are likely to do much better by making up a list of authors whose works will fit in with your own, your editorial philosophy, and which will appeal to your core audience without the need for explanation. Finding authors with a following and a positive sales record will go a long way to helping your fledgling enterprise take flight.
Learn contracts—Yep, there’s no way to get around it. Include in this tip “learn math” if you have a challenge in that area. It’s absolutely vital that every author you publish has a publishing agreement (contract) before you go into editing or production. You, as the publisher, must understand these contracts and their implications. For this reason I recommend you find an attorney you can communicate with and who understands something about intellectual property. They will be important in helping you set the proper foundations so your company can continue to grow.
Learn rights—It’s astonishing how many authors—even published authors—have no understanding of rights, or the fact that their contract is basically a rights license. Understanding these rights, how they can be manipulated, separated, and sold will give you a huge head start on maximizing the income you receive from both your own and other authors’ work. Every savvy publisher knows this, and develops publishing plans that exploit these rights, and you should too.
Keep writing—Now it’s possible that you’ll get so wrapped up in publishing, dealing with authors, and producing and marketing your books that something will get lost in the process. Don’t let your own writing get lost. I made this mistake myself, because the publishing company we started was based on my own self-published book, which continued to be our best seller when I started publishing other authors. But I stopped writing the follow-up books I had planned, and that was a mistake. So keep in mind you started this because you’re a writer with something to say. Don’t let the busy-ness of the publishing business take that away from you. Keep writing.
It’s really an exciting time to be an author, and I know that many of you just want to keep writing and not worry so much about stuff like marketing, business plans, book launches and all the rest of it.
But the unparalleled opportunities open to writers today, from the incredible publishing platform of the internet itself to the rapidly changing world of books, make many dreams possible. Education is more readily and fairly available, social media allows us to participate in the mother of all networks, and readers see eager to keep reading quality books.
Turning yourself into a publisher won’t be easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding in many ways. And if you can create a self-sustaining publishing business, you’ll have made yourself a media mogul. Congratulations!
Have you thought about making the leap? Already done it? What has your experience been like?
Looking for Help?
Do you need to find editors, designers, or other people to help you get your book produced, published, and promoted with professional results? Grab a copy of my new book, it has over 850 curated and verified links to the people and companies you’re looking for.
Hey, we’ve already done the hard work for you. It will save you hours of looking and lots of frustration with its 33 easy-to-follow categories. Details are here: The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide.
The response to this book has been incredible, because it fills a real need. Here’s what I mean:
“Most authors are excited about the promise of self-publishing—until they actually try to do it. Then they quickly realize they will need a team of professionals to prepare, publish, and promote their book. And that’s where they get stuck. They don’t have the connections. That’s where The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide is a life-saver. This is the missing link that will enable authors to capitalize on the self-publishing revolution and become captains of their own literary destiny. I highly recommend it.”
—Michael Hyatt, New York Times Bestselling Author and former CEO, Thomas Nelson Publishers
“An essential reference to the best publishing resources for every self published author. Highly recommended!”
—Mark Coker, Smashwords founder
“Independent authors need a team to help create a fantastic finished product, and finding the right people can be a challenge when you first start out. This book will help authors to locate professionals to edit, publish and market their work – helping them to stand out in the crowded marketplace.”
—Joanna Penn, TheCreativePenn
“Joel Friedlander is the Neil DeGrasse Tyson of self-publishing.”
—David Henry Sterry, bestselling author of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published & cofounder of The Book Doctors
Save yourself hours of research, frustration, and uncertainty. Click here to get your copy today.