This post is for my fellow self-publishing tycoons and literary architects considering whether to set up a "self-publishing company", blending aspects of self- and traditional publishing. I’ll cover some of the pros and cons as well as some of the how-to aspects.
Sad Disclaimer: This is not legal or financial advice. Consider consulting your accountant and/or lawyer before making decisions or taking action.
WHY START A COMPANY?
There are a variety of reasons to consider starting your own business around publishing. Here are a few factors that influenced me to do so.
Building a Brand
Vanity (Yes, I admit it)
Limited Liability: I chose to start a limited liability company (LLC) because it gives me a little bit of legal protection in case someone sues me. I’d like to keep my home. While there are other structures, this one gave me a balance of protection and ease of use.
Documents: Sorting out the legal documents can be daunting, so setting up a company may not be for everyone. Fortunately, I had experience as an entrepreneur before I fell sick, so I was lucky there. Some founders use inexpensive online services like Rocket Lawyer or LegalZoom.
Registration: Registration in Colorado for me was pretty straightforward and simple, but systems are different from state to state and country to country. There are services that I could have used to help me.
Trademarks: While not straightforward, I use Atomx Publishing to copyright my books. I also trademarked my self-publishing company's name and logo for added protection.
Terms & Conditions: Websites should have Terms & Conditions. I use my company’s name for my website.
You may love or loath the idea of designing a logo and coming up with a color scheme for your company. But, if you’re going to go through the effort of setting the company, at least put thirty minutes into it, even if all you do is just a single letter, like my “A” for Atomix Publishing. You can always stick with black and white to keep your look “classic.” Protecting your brand by filing your trademark with the government requires a little work, but I didn’t find it very challenging.
You can also set up branded emails like email@example.com with G Suite or Microsoft 365 for about US$70 per year. I did NOT pay for a branded email.
I find it important to separate my publishing expenses to keep track of them. Here are the things I considered.
Sad disclaimer: This is not financial advice.
Tax ID: In the US, an employer identification number (EIN) is a nine-digit number assigned by the IRS to identify taxpayers who are required to file certain business tax returns.
Bank Account: I created a separate bank account (with my EIN) for all of my expenses and income. The bank gave me US$100 to start it. As long as I avoid overdraft fees, it’ll be more than worth it.
Royalties: With the account, I can easily track my monthly income from sales in one easy place, which I need for filing taxes.
Expenses: The account also helps track my deductible expenses. This includes,
My Computer ($$$$)
Graphic Design ($$)
Author Copies of Books ($$)
Pens and Notepads ($)
I have dreams of one day running my own indie publishing house. The way industry trends are going, it looks less likely, but if it ever comes to fruition, I can use the same business practices to help others publish.
Q1: Do I need a literary agent to establish and run my own self-publishing company?
A: No, self-publishing companies operate independently of literary agents.
Q2: Can I publish works from other authors under my self-publishing company?
A: Yes, many self-publishers also publish other authors work, often helping their friends and families,
Q3: What legal considerations are crucial when setting up a self-publishing company?
A: You’ll need to think about business structure (I chose LLC), business registration (I registered in Colorado), copyright and trademark protection, and compliance with publishing contracts.
Q4: How do I attract authors to submit manuscripts to my publishing company?
A: Cultivate a strong online presence, showcase successful published works, and offer fair royalty structures to attract authors. Networking within the writing community is also beneficial.
Q5: How can I effectively market my self-publishing company?
A: The cool thing is that you don’t need to market your company if you are just serving yourself as an author. If you choose to expand later, you can always start marketing then.
Q6: Is it necessary to have a physical office for my self-publishing company?
A: No, a physical office is not mandatory. Many self-publishing companies operate virtually. You may need a physical mailing address to register your company. A professional website and online presence are useful for trademarks.
Q7: Can I operate a self-publishing company part-time?
A: Yes, many solopreneurs start part-time. It can be scaled based on your ambitions and long-term goals.
Q8: Are there industry associations for self-publishing companies?
A: Yes, organizations like the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) offer resources, networking opportunities, and support for independent publishers.
Q10: How can I ensure financial success with my self-publishing company?
A: In short, you can’t. All you can do is make sure you don’t spend more than you make. Even then, it is possible for some people to offset other income with deducted expenses, making a loss less painful.
Ultimately, the tradeoff is this: Do you want your own publishing company enough to spend the time and money to make it a reality? Is it worth filing the startup paperwork and submitting yearly reports? Can you handle more complexity in your taxes? For most, it isn’t worth it. For me, it is.
Remember, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. If you want to go forward with creating your own company, please continue to do research on the subject before you pull the trigger.
As always, I appreciate your support of self-publishing and indie authors. In the name of putting myself out there, here are a few of my works.