How to Become Your Own Publisher

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Are you nervous about self-publishing because of the stigma attached to that label or are you spooked about getting ripped off by vanity presses?

There are many options out there when it comes to publishing your own book, including sending your manuscript to a literary agent and letting her market it to traditional publishers, working directly with a traditional publisher, or working with a self-publishing company. However, there is one more route that you can take when looking at publishing your book, and that involves becoming your own publisher. Why would you want to take that route?

Why You Should Become Your Own Publisher

Becoming your own publisher takes the self out of self-publishing. You’re publishing books yourself; therefore, you are a publisher. And not only can you publish your own books, but you can also publish other authors’ books. As time goes on and you get more and more authors into your publishing house, you might even consider hiring editors, book designers, etc. In essence, you’re starting a business wherein you provide a service for the author and consequently earn (usually) half of his royalty (i.e., profit) in return.

However, for the purposes of this post, we’re just going to talk about you, the author (or future author) of a manuscript you want to publish. Sure, you could go the usual route and query traditional publishers, hoping to get noticed and published and then working your butt off for a puny royalty, shaky publishing rights and little marketing control.

Given these drawbacks to traditional publishing, you might consider the self-publishing route; however, depending on the self-publisher, you could end up paying a lot of money for your book and still not get much of a royalty split. Even the reputable self-publishers will take about 50% of your book profits as payment for publishing your book.

Therefore, with printing, book design and editing services available online and oftentimes for very low fees, why not just start your own publishing business and cut out the middleman?

A Step-By-Step Plan to Publishing Your Book as Your Own Publisher 

1. Pick a publisher name and incorporate

Publishing houses have names like Random House, HarperCollins, Bantam Books, etc. You’ll need to find a publishing name you can live with, so choose carefully. Don’t use your last name, especially if you plan to also publish your own books. Some people use the street name of where they reside; for example, author Edward Dunphy of the science humor webcomic Lab Bratz uses his home’s street name as the name of his publishing company, Velvet Leaf Publishing.

Next, incorporate your publishing business as an LLC. Incorporating is critical because it protects you, the business owner, from losing your personal assets if your printer, graphic designer, or even some disgruntled author decides to sue you. Plus, in the publishing world, when you need all the credibility you can get, paying a $100 or so to incorporate is money well spent. Click here for more information on why you should form an LLC.

2. Buy a block of ISBNs

The International Standard Barcode Number (ISBN) is a 13 digit number that identifies a book as well as different versions of that book (e.g., edition, audiobook, ebook). Most booksellers and distributors require an ISBN before they will list a book. Libraries also use ISBNs to locate book titles. In other words, you need to buy an ISBN.

R.R. Bowker is the registered agent that sells ISBNs in blocks of 1, 10, 100, or 1,000.  As a publisher, you should deal with the agency directly when purchasing ISBNs because publisher information is contained in the ISBN. Therefore, if you go through a third party when buying ISBNs, those ISBNs will be assigned to a different publisher instead of to your own publishing company.

You may purchase a single ISBN and just assign it to your book upon its publication. However, it’s better to just buy a block of 10 ISBNs for $250. Not only does the price per ISBN go down significantly with a block purchase, but having several ISBNs enables you to create different versions of your book without shelling out another $125 for a single ISBN.

3. Obtain a Library of Congress Control Number

Libraries around the world often use the Library of Congress (LoC) Control Number or LCCN to locate a book that’s been published in the U.S. Since the LCCN costs nothing to obtain, it is recommended that you get and assign one to every book you publish. Unlike the ISBN, you will not need multiple LCCNs for different book versions.

As a small time publisher with fewer than three published authors under your belt, you will need to go through the LoC’s Preassigned Control Number Program to obtain your LCCN. A PCN account will first need to be created and approved, at which point you can apply for your LCCN. This LCCN can then be added to your book’s copyright page. And speaking of which…

4. Copyright your book

If you want to protect your book from being re-published as someone else’s “original” material, you’ll need to copyright it. You also can’t sue anybody for copyright infringement of your book unless you first register that book with the U.S. Copyright Office (assuming you live in the U.S.). An electronic copyright filing for a book is just $35.

5. Print your book

There are many book printers out there and, as a new publisher, you are going to be best served by a printer that is linked to Ingram Content Group, a large, U.S.-based distributor of books, music and other media. Currently, Ingram distributes to over 38,000 retailers, libraries, schools in 195 countries. Luckily, Lightning Source, the printer I recommended in last week’s blog post of self-publishing, is a subsidiary of Ingram.

If you’d rather stick with just one distribution channel such as Amazon, you could print your book through Booksurge, which is a subsidiary of Amazon. The main benefit to setting Amazon as an exclusive distributor is that you get a higher profit margin on your book.  And because Amazon has no rights to the book, you can switch your distributor at any time.

Now that you have your book published, what’s next?

Market your book.

Create a website for your publishing company as well as your book(s). Work the social network circuit and post your business as well as its product(s) on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Talk with other small publishers and find out how they are promoting their products and through which channels. Try different marketing strategies; for example, offer 100 copies of your book for free in exchange for a review on Amazon, Facebook, etc.

How to market a book could fill the space of yet another book, so I won’t go into its entirety here. I will say, however, that as a publisher, it will become your job to market your book(s) and (perhaps eventually) the books of others. The better a marketer you are, the more those books will sell. The more books that sell, the higher your royalty payments will become.

Photo credit by kvanhorn

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