How to Start Your Own Publishing Company

When people think of self-publishing these days, they usually call to mind the services of a vanity press. But several authors are starting their own small publishing houses to get their books out to the market.

There are many reasons for this. Some want better control over the price and placement of their book, some feel they can make more money in the long run, and some feel that the traditional publishing world as it stands is not right for them.

Whatever your reason, starting your own self-publishing company can be a worthwhile enterprise, and can even garner a following for your books. If you’re thinking of starting your own publishing company, here are some steps to assist you.

Find Out About Your State’s Laws on Starting a Small Business

A publishing company is essentially a small business, so it requires many of the same rules to get it started. Each individual state in the U.S. has their own set of rules on how to start up a small business, and the government also offers advice through the Small Business Administration. The first step is to find out exactly what you need for your state’s location. Some states require a business license, while others require bank account numbers and more.

Check With a Tax Consultant

While the taxes for a publishing company do not need to be complicated, it’s always best to check with a tax professional on how to organize your company (sole proprietor, limited partnership, etc.) ,and also how to keep track of the taxes you’ll owe for federal and state. Even if your income is derived mainly from an online business, a tax consultant can help you determine what you might need to pay.

Choose a Name

Choose a name that is different from your own, as it will help you distinguish yourself as a serious publisher, rather than just an author who wants to sell books. The distinction is important, because you will be competing side-by-side with the larger publishing organizations.

Dan Poynter, who is known as the “father of self-publishing,” because he started his own company in 1973, chose the name Para Publishing, because it reflected his first love, which is hang gliding. Many of his books are also about para-sailing. The name helps build credibility for him.

Another reason to choose a name different from your own is because self-published books still have a perception as being lower in quality than traditionally published books. You’ll combat that perception by using a name that doesn’t call attention to the fact that your own company published the work.

Purchase ISBNs

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is a 13 digital number that indentifies your book or ebook. Distributors, libraries, and online retail sites all use ISBNs. There are over 160 agencies throughout the world that sell ISBNs. In the United States, Bowker is the official agency to obtain a block of them. The cost for a single ISBN is $125, or $275 for a block of ten. There are also discounts for larger blocks ($995 for 100 ISBNs, and $1,750 for 1000 ISBNs.) Most smaller publishers purchase the block of ten for $275.

A separate ISBN is assigned to each format and edition of your book. For example, if you have a paperback book, a hardcover, and an ebook version of your work, you would need three different ISBNs.

Choose a Printer and Distributor

Today, most self-publishers choose a print-on-demand (POD) approach for their books, as opposed to using a local printing house. Which method might be right for you depends on your purpose with each book. POD means you will likely pay more per book to have it published, but you will not have to invest a large sum up front in order to do a print run. For example, with POD you can print ten books to keep on hand, and those might cost you $2 each to get them printed. With a traditional print run, however, you may pay a much lower cost per book (say, $1 each) if you order a large (5,000 or more) run. With a traditional printer, the more you print, the lower the cost per book. A list of major book printers for small publishers is listed on the Bowker site.

The advantage with POD for a small publisher is that you only need to pay for a small amount of books, as few as just one copy. The digital copy of your book stays on file with the POD company, and when you need another copy (or copies), then you simply order what you need. This saves on upfront and storage costs.

Most smaller publishers today use POD for the reasons outlined above. There are two main companies that deal with POD publishing and distribution. The books printed with them are of high quality, and using them automatically gets your book listed on the larger online outlets. These two companies are Lightning Source and TextStream. With either company you upload a digital copy of your book (usually in Word or PDF format), a cover image, pricing information, retailer discount, and author royalty information. The books then get loaded on their system and are available through their distribution channels (which often include Barnes and,, Powell’s, and more). Publishing this way can be cost-effective (about $100 per book to start out) and an easy way to get a book quickly to market.


  1. says

    Thanks for the great article. I will be publishing my second book in July. I have a LLC for my ministry. The book that I’m ready to publish is in-line with the cause of my LLC. Can’t I self-print and call the publication as a part of my LLC? Or do I need to get another LLC for my publishing? Please advise.



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