The Author’s Guide to Starting a Publishing Company

If you have decided to self-publish your book, then you have-by default-decided to start a publishing company. So not only do you need to know the process of physically publishing your book, but you also need to know how to set up and manage your new publishing company.

But cheer up, it is not nearly as difficult as you may think.

Before I go any further, I have to put out my disclaimer that I am not a lawyer or accountant so I cannot offer any legal or financial advice about setting up a publishing company. However, I can share some insights that will help simplify your process.

I don’t want to assume anything about your current situation and your goals, so I have divided this post into easy to follow steps based on the three most likely scenarios that fit your situation:

  • You want to use your publication to launch a new business or non-profit,
  • You want to use your publication to promote an existing business or non-profit, or
  • You want to use your publication as a professional way to share a message that is independent of your other activities.

Keep in mind that as far as the IRS is concerned, your business starts the moment you sign a contract, sell a book or begin spending money in pursuit of starting or running your business. So when you follow the steps outlined below, that will “formally” start your business, but don’t forget to credit any book writing or publishing related expenses to your start up costs.

Scroll down through the different sections to find the scenario that best matches your goals.

You Want to Launch a New Business or Non-Profit with Your Book

A book can be a great way to launch a new business or non-profit organization because:

  1. Books force you to articulate your message and think through different situations that most new founders tend to overlook.
  2. Books quickly help you build credibility and set you apart from competition.
  3. Books make a bigger impact on potential investors and clients than a business plan or a business card.
  4. Books make it easier for you to attract media attention for your message because it can help establish you as an expert.
  5. Books make it easier for you to train new employees and volunteers because the information in the book can be remixed into training videos and manuals that represent your message and culture.
  6. Books generate passive income that creates cash flow for you while you focus on providing your service or products to clients.
  7. Books can help you give excellent customer service to existing clients by providing a resource they can keep on hand.

The key thing to remember when you start your publishing company is that you do not need to start a company that is separate from the business or non-profit you plan to start. Your publication(s) can serve as merely a department in your larger organization.

So when you self-publish your book, your business or non-profit will be officially listed as the publisher.

How to Setup Your New Business or Non-Profit as Your Book Publisher

Step #1: Start your business or non-profit. 

The  Small Business Administration recommends that you use the following steps to start your business. Please note that each step features a link to more details on their website.

  1. Write a Business Plan
  2. Get Business Assistance and Training
  3. Choose a Business Location
  4. Finance Your Business (This includes setting up a separate business account.)
  5. Determine Your Legal Structure for Your Business
  6. Register a Business Name (“Doing Business As”)
  7. Get an Employer Identification Number
  8. Register for State & Local Taxes
  9. Obtain Business Licenses and Permits
  10. Understand Employer Responsibilities

If your business falls under any of the following categories, you can learn more by following these links:

If you are starting a non-profit,  GrantSpace’s tips and resources to help you start a non-profit recommends the following steps. Please note that each link includes re

  1. Research local organizations (non-profit, for-profit and government agencies) to see if they are already providing a similar service in your community. Resources that can help you complete this research include: Guidestar, 211 Call Centers, and an Internet search using your city name and keywords that describe the service you want to offer, such as “women shelter Atlanta”.
  2. If there is a need that is not being filled, spend time developing the essential ingredients of a non-profit:
    • a vital mission,
    • high-quality, responsive, and unique programs and services,
    • reliable and diverse revenue streams,
    • clear lines of accountability, and
    • adequate facilities.
  3. Follow the non-profit start-up steps for your state to become a registered non-profit.

Step #2: List your business or non-profit as the publisher of record. 

When you:

  • buy your book ISBN (I recommend buying the pack of 10 to cover at least your print and e-book editions and any future editions. You can skip the other package offers.),
  • register with Bowker Books-in-Print for free book marketing opportunities,
  • print the publisher information inside the book, and
  • register your book with distributors

use your business or non-profit’s name and contact information to represent your book’s publisher.

You Want to Use Your Book to Promote Your Existing Business or Non-Profit

A book can be a great way to promote the message of an existing business or non-profit organization because:

  1. Books allow you to articulate the message behind your business or organization better than any other promotional tool.
  2. Books quickly help you build credibility and set you apart from competition.
  3. Books make a bigger impact on potential investors and clients than a business plan or a business card.
  4. Books make it easier for you to attract media attention for your message because it can help establish you as an expert.
  5. Books make it easier for you to train new employees and volunteers because the information in the book can be remixed into training videos and manuals that represent your message and culture.
  6. Books generate passive income that creates cash flow for you while you focus on providing your service or products to clients.
  7. Books can help you give excellent customer service to existing clients by providing a resource they can keep on hand.

The key thing to remember when you use an existing business or non-profit to publish your book is that you do not need to start an independent publishing company to reach your goal if the book’s message is related to your existing organization.

How to Setup Your Existing Business or Non-Profit as Your Book Publisher

Step #1: List your business or non-profit as the publisher of record. 

When you:

  • buy your book ISBN (I recommend buying the pack of 10 to cover at least your print and e-book editions and any future editions. You can skip the other package offers.),
  • register with Bowker Books-in-Print for free book marketing opportunities,
  • print the publisher information inside the book, and
  • register your book with distributors

use your business or non-profit’s name and contact information to represent your book’s publisher.

(Note: If your business is a service provider, check with your local SBA office to find out if you need to register for a retail license to sell products and other requirements for tax payments.)

You Want to Use Your Book to Promote a Message that Is Independent of Your Other Activities

Creating an independent book publishing company can be a great idea because:

  1. It looks more professional to have an independent publishing company than to simply have your name listed as the publisher.
  2. Separating your publication related expenses from your personal expenses makes it easier to write off your publication-related expenses.
  3. Depending on the type of publishing company you create, it can protect your personal assets from lawsuits related to your publication.
  4. You can set up a separate mailing address and phone number for your publishing company to make it easier to separate your business matters from your personal life.
  5. You can use your independent publishing company to publish books by other people to generate more income.

The key thing to remember about setting up an independent publishing company is that the company needs to have its own bank account and all income and expenses need to be tracked to reduce stress at tax time. Lawyers, accountants and accounting software are your two biggest allies.

How to Setup an Independent Publishing Company

Please note that these steps assume that you already created a publishing plan before you wrote your book and that you already have a platform and marketing plan in place.

Step #1: Choose a Business Location

You do not need to rent office space for your new publishing company if your primary goal for it is to be the publisher behind your new book. However, you will need to have an official address and phone number for it to help you complete the rest of the process of establishing your company.

You can do this quickly by renting a mailbox at your local UPS store and setting up a free phone number that routes calls to your personal home or cell phone through Google Voice. If you do not have a local UPS Store or you know of a cheaper local alternative for a mailbox, go for it. You can use your own number for your publishing company, but it would be wise to create a separate number so you can have a custom voicemail message for your business. It is also wise because it prevents you from needing to publish your personal number on the Internet and on your business materials for the world to see and as your business grows, you can have an assistant answer the separate phone number.

If you haven’t already created a business email account as part of your platform, this is a great time to create one in your publisher’s name. I recommend using Gmail for your business communications.

Step #2: Determine Your Legal Structure for Your Publishing Company

In general, if you plan to simply use it to publish your books, accountant Carol Topps recommends sees no problem with you keeping your company as a sole proprietor. However, if you plan to use the publishing company to publish other people’s books or offer services to others, then consider forming an LLC.

If you are not sure whether you want to offer services to others, you can always start your business as a sole proprietor now so you can publish the book you have been working on and then later on become an LLC before offering services to others.

Step #3: Register a Business Name (“Doing Business As”)

This will be the name of your publishing company. If you choose your name as the publishing company name, it will show that you are a one-person company and makes it clear that you are a self-publisher. So consider how the name will look on business cards, on letterhead, on the spine of your book or even as a website address. Once you pick a name, make sure you register it with the right office for your state.

Step #4: Get an Employer Identification Number

Even if you choose to run your company as a sole proprietor, it will be wise to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)  so that you won’t have to use your personal social security number when you create your business account.

If you have chosen to form an LLC, you will definitely need a EIN.

Step #5: Register for State & Local Taxes

When you are an employee, your employer takes your taxes out of your check for you. When you run your publishing company, you will need to adopt the discipline of saving part of your income so you can pay it towards taxes later. You will learn how much to set aside when you register for state and local taxes and see the tax rates.

(If your company will only sell your books, ask a local accountant if you need to complete this step.)

Step #6: Obtain Business Licenses and Permits

You have worked hard to write and design a great book and prepare a platform and marketing plan that will help you connect your message to the people who need your book the most. When your hard work pays off and income starts rolling in, you don’t want to worry about any fines because you do not have the appropriate business licenses or permits. It shouldn’t take you long to get any business licenses or permits you need for your county and/or city.

(If your company will only sell your books, ask a local accountant if you need to complete this step.)

Step #7: Open a Business Checking Account in Your Publishing Company’s Name

Even if you are operating as a sole proprietor, you will want to create a separate business checking account that is exclusively used for your book expenses. Any money you have set aside to spend on your book and any sales should be deposited into this account. Any expenses should come out of the account.

If your current bank offers business checking accounts, consider opening an account there because you already have a relationship with them. If your current bank does not offer business accounts, review these tips for finding the right bank for your business and start looking for the best bank for you.

Step #8: Set up a basic accounting system for tracking your business income and expenses.

If you want to keep it basic, you can either use the digital or printed version of this accounting spreadsheet created by accountant and author Carol Topp.

If you want to have a more automated system, I highly recommend creating a free account with Wave Accounting software. It can link with your business checking account and any other payment accounts you setup, like PayPal to receive your book royalties, to automatically track your income and expenses. The online software also gives you access to a support staff who can coach you through understanding how to set up the account and use the reporting features that will simplify tax time. It also helps you connect with accountants and give them their own password so they can manage your books for you or use the data to file your taxes.

Quickbooks is the accounting software standard, but Wave is a free and simple alternative that handles everything you need without the Quickbooks price.

Step #9: Create a system for tracking business contacts, tracking business communication and creating reminders and to-do lists.

While you are out there making connections, you will need a way to keep track of your potential partners and any sales leads you create.

If you want to keep track of the information in a binder, you can.

My favorite simple solution is to use your Gmail account to talk about any business related to your book. This way you can simply log in and do a search for a person’s name and find every conversation you have had with them. You can also use your Gmail account to create a business calendar to track any tasks or key deadlines. The Google Calendar is something you will be able to access from almost any smartphone and it can text or email you reminders for things like tax deadlines and other key project deadlines.

My favorite scalable solution is to create a free account with Insightly CRM. You can add new contacts, keep track of all email and phone conversations, manage a task list, add tasks and events to your free Google Calendar and as your business grows you can add access to all this information for a virtual assistant who can help you with logistics. All of this and more is for free.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Whether your new publishing company is independent of your other activities or part of a business or non-profit, starting a self-publishing company is the transitional point from being a creative author to becoming an entrepreneur who sells a book and its message. There are a lot of legal, financial and strategic advantages to starting a self-publishing company, but you only receive those benefits when you commit to learning how to firmly set up and grow your business.

Always remember that success does not simply happen, it requires effort. The good news is that if you have the dedication to plan, write, publish and sell a book, you already have the most important skills you need to make your business grow.

RESOURCES:

  • “Law (In Plain English) for Writers” by Leonard Duboff and Bert Krages, Attorneys at Law
  • “Business Tips and Taxes for Writers (Information in a Nutshell)” by Carol Topp, CPA
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Danielle Fetherson

Danielle helps aspiring authors become published authors. She believes that everyone has at least one book on the inside of them that can make a positive impact on someone else's life. If you have been thinking about writing a book, learn how to start your book today with the free resources at DanielleFetherson.com.

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