Getting Started as a New Publisher
Starting a publishing house is a major adventure. A mission statement and business plan, backed by research, provide the vital steps to getting started.
Research should include both internal and external components:
- Self-assessment: Write down what you want to publish and why. List the skill set and financial resources you will bring to the company. Define the financial and time risks for you, your family, and your friends.
- Industry knowledge: Learn everything you can about other houses that publish books in the same category. Conduct interviews with publishers, designers, printers, bookstores, and writers. Research typical writer, editorial development, and production costs. Determine average prices of books in the field, the average number of books sold per title, and typical profit margins. Listen for both optimism and frustration points among professionals.
Use your research and industry knowledge to write a statement that defines and schedules the new company's editorial, production, marketing, and business goals. The mission statement will include:
- Subject area and audience: Define the category in which you want to publish. Describe some of the titles or book proposals under consideration. Define factors that will make your publishing approach different than competitors'.
- Acquisitions: Describe the ways or sources with which you will acquire your first titles. Name the authors already willing to work with you and those you want to acquire.
- Style: Describe the format and design quality of the books to be published. How will the look contribute to your competitive advantage? Will you use outside designers or create your own design?
- Marketing: To which audiences do you aim to sell? Describe the various sales channels through which the books will be marketed and promoted. Will your marketing be different or distinct from that of your competitors?
- Vision: Describe ways in which you expect the business to grow editorially and financially. What are your goals for one, three, and five years from now?
A business plan balances the company's investment, operation and book production costs against projected sales and profit margins. Use your research and mission statement to develop a plan that common the following:
- A financial assessment of resources, including capital investment, equipment, and human resources
- A week-to-week and month-to-month schedule of development objectives
- A month-to-month budget including projected office overhead, book production and sales costs
- A monthly profit-and-loss budget based on projected sales for each title
Revisit the mission statement and business plan frequently. The statement is a guide that will keep you on course and rule out counter-productive diversions. Consult the business plan budgets on a weekly and monthly basis. Keeping within budget and measuring actual book sales and margins will enable you to make financially sound decisions and keep your business in the black.