How To Start A Publishing Company

Here’s everything you’ll need to know when starting your publishing company!

Starting a publishing house can be a tricky task in today’s competitive market, particularly with the shift to digital publication. However, in many ways this has created more opportunities for publishers than ever before, allowing businesses to be more flexible, more creative and cheaper to run. Here’s an outline of what you’ll need to know before starting your own publishing business.

Research & Distill

Whether publishing is your main job or a side hustle, you’ll need to have a thorough understanding of the industry before you get started. Publishers’ backgrounds are varied, with some coming from a business perspective and some branching out from the writing world.

For this reason, we’ll cover everything you need to succeed, regardless of your prior knowledge. This guide will cover the most important aspects of the business, how to make decisions and some of the potential pitfalls to avoid so you’ll be prepared.

One of the first things for a new business owner to think about is what type of company they want. Sole proprietorships and limited liability companies (LLCs) are only a couple of the options out there. Each has its own advantages depending on what’s important to you. Is maintaining maximum control over your business a top priority for you, or having a safety net to fall back on in case it all goes wrong. LLCs are popular for this reason, as they limit their owners’ personal liability for any losses made by the company.

Once you’ve decided on this, you’ll have a few other things to think about. What will you be publishing? Will you be working in print, digital or both? Will you want an actual premises for your company, or are you happy to keep it virtual? We’d advise that you don’t use your residential address for the company, and that you always create a separate business account with your bank. Finally, you’ll want to create a memorable name, logo and website for your business as soon as possible – after all, domain names get snapped up quickly!

Important Documents

As with any other business, there will be paperwork to consider. You’ll need valid documents to establish your firm properly and understand everything involved. Speak to a certified accountant to find out which type of company suits you best, establish a business plan and consider the legal implications. There is a lot to consider, so planning ahead is key.

Get Online

In today’s world, having an online presence is an essential part of life for most businesses. Having a website not only gets the word out, but also helps you interact with clients and lets potential clients communicate with you directly. Customers can also leave reviews, gaining you trust with a wider network of people.

From your perspective, having a website will let you monitor sales and interest in the material you’re publishing. By monitoring website traffic, you’ll be able to assess the health of your company overall and whether or not you’re meeting your objectives. You can also see where improvements need to be made.

Having an online library will help customers find and buy books, magazines and other materials with ease. Having the option to buy directly from your website will boost profits, as it will attract customers who may not otherwise have bought the material without you needing to make a cut.

With sites like Squarespace and Wix, bursting onto the scene, it is now easier than ever to make a website yourself, as these platforms allow you to design using drag and drop features rather than coding. However, for more complicated website designs, we suggest hiring a professional. It really depends on what you want out of yours.

If you choose to create your website yourself, the process isn’t actually as daunting as it may appear. There are plenty of hosting services who have targeted their services to people with no technical knowledge. We recommend BlueHost which offers a one-click WordPress installation tool and a 60 percent discount on hosting, and a free domain name.

For added interaction with your customers and beyond, why not set up a blog? These are great tools if you have the time, as they add interest and a personal touch to your site. 

Create A Marketing Plan

Whether you’re new to the industry, from a relevant sector or have prior business knowledge in a different one, marketing is essential. Luckily, a competitive market means there are also plenty of options for advertising.

In addition to your website, you could also use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Gone are the days where these were simply chatrooms for teens; today they are powerful marketing tools that help businesses spread the word. Staying active on social media and your websites may mean a lot of work, so be realistic about your output, and whether you have the staff to maintain it. If you have the budget to hire someone to keep these channels updated, you’re likely to attract more clients.

Set Objectives and KPIs

A KPI (key performance indicator) is a tool that you may use to track your company’s progress. For example, you may wish to keep track of how many books you sell or how much traffic your website receives. These details might give you an indication of how interested customers are in your website and product.

KPIs are invaluable when it comes to setting attainable goals, which in turn help you monitor the success of your business. Keep a keen eye on your data initially, so that any teething problems can be sorted out as early as possible. For example, if you set a goal to sell 1,000 novels per month and your sales only come to 500, you’ll know you need to make an adjustment. Of course, you may exceed your own expectations – it’s fantastic to see that your sales figures are higher than expected, but make sure you can do this consistently before deciding to make any changes. Remember that fluctuations are part and parcel of having your own business.

Money Matters

Keeping on top of your finances is arguably the most important part of your business. After all, no matter the quality of your work, you’ll still need to ensure the company is financially solvent if you won’t be able to continue trading.

Your start-up costs are a key factor in this, and vary hugely. Depending on the company you’re starting, you may need to think about renting a premises, hiring staff, investing in equipment and supplies and more. For virtual companies who only publish online, these costs are significantly reduced. Either way, you’ll need to factor in fees for business papers, domain names and authors.

Signing authors can be costly, so be prepared to not only pay them for the book but also to spend money advertising enough copies to recoup your costs. To begin with, opening a business account is a wise decision. This can assist in keeping your business expenses and funds separate from your funds. On the other hand, some people prefer to raise money for their business in other ways, such as asking family and friends, taking out bank loans, or using crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.

Get In The Zone

Owning your own company is a very different feeling to working for someone else, so you’ll need a way of thinking that works. Not only will you potentially have left the comfort of a steady job, you’ll also have many other factors to think about than before, and at first, a less reliable source of income.

However, if your business is successful, the rewards can easily outweigh the challenges. You’ll be able to exercise more creativity without looking to anyone else for approval, as well as enjoying the feeling that your successes are a result of your own ingenuity.

To make the process smoother, try to enjoy the high periods while using any times when business is slow to make improvements. Pay attention to minor details, and any areas where things could be more efficient. You’d be surprised at how changing something minor, like the front page of a website, can influence your sales figures.

Learning to be adaptable and finding solutions for any scenario you encounter is where true growth occurs. You’ll eventually figure out what to do when various problems arise.

Other Things To Consider

Legal Requirements

It’s critical to understand all the rules when setting up a company, to ensure that your business stays on the right side of the law. Having a thorough understanding of this as well as enlisting the help of a professional can keep your business thriving.

The good news is that there are a plethora of publishing legal tools available to assist you in developing a solid understanding of how to handle other people’s work. There are also numerous tools for self-publishing and ensuring that all of your paperwork is organized and ready to go.

You’ll also want to be aware of any frequent issues that can arise, particularly in the beginning, so you can avoid them happening to you and correct them as quickly as possible. Obtaining the rights to an author’s work and adhering to copyright regulations are essential if you’re looking to maintain your company’s reputation.

Bookkeeping & Accounting

As discussed, keeping an eye on your finances may not be the most exciting part of the job if you’re a publisher, but it is vital. Try making use of the myriad tools on the market, especially if your background isn’t in business.

If you are business-savvy, programs like Quickbooks or Xero should set you off to a good start. These options are for people who already have some financial understanding and want to make overall money management easier and more streamlined. You’ll also need to maintain a count of author payments, payroll, and any other costs the business may incur.

Alternatively, if money matters really aren’t your forte, you may want to hire a professional to do the job for you. You can hire a freelancer with minimal effort from sites like Upwork, which should help free up your time and set your mind at ease. A freelance accountant can not only help you with the legwork, but also provide advice that will help you make better financial decisions.

Hiring Employees

No matter which way you look at it, there are some employees you’re going to need in-house. Hiring employees comes with its own rules and regulations, and you’ll want to make sure you know all about them to make sure your hiring process is legal. These rules can vary according to where you live, and the type of role you’re advertising.

The regulations for full-time employees differ from hiring freelancers, or even part time staff. As a result, you’ll need to understand hiring procedures, mandatory breaks, and the types of hours you may ask an employee to work.

Publishing Agreements

Before taking on any new writers, agreements must be signed between the client and the publishing house. These agreements specify payment terms and conditions, what the job entails and intellectual property ownership.

This agreement should clarify client expectations and reduce the likelihood of legal problems (typically, the company becomes the owner of the copyright associated with the written work).

Business insurance

Regardless of the sector, any business needs a license. Insurance is also a must, and having both in place will ensure that your company can operate safely and legally. This will also give you peace of mind, as the business will be protected.

There are many options on the market when it comes to insurance, so you’ll need to assess your needs before making a purchase. Looking at general insurance coverage is a good start, and then you can begin to narrow down the specifics.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance is another important insurance product that many businesses require. If your company employs people, your state will likely require you to carry workers’ compensation insurance.

Set up your business phone system

As with your bank accounts, getting a separate phone number for your business is an essential step in keeping your private life and professional life separate. Your requirements may also be different for your business line – for example, you may want to be able to transfer to different departments, or record calls for training and monitoring.


Although entrepreneurship may be a challenge, if you step into it with a firm plan, prior knowledge and an excellent frame of mind, the rewards can certainly outweigh the costs. The guide above is intended to help you with every step of the journey, although bear in mind it is only in general terms and everyone’s needs will be different.

Finally, stick with those who will offer helpful advice and stay away from the naysayers. Moreover, remember the old saying, “Good things come to those who wait,” so make sure you persevere with a positive and practical approach.

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Katrina Haggarty

Katrina Haggarty

Katrina is our Head of Content and has 13+ years of experience in content strategy development and marketing within B2B, AV, and financial service markets.

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