How to Start an Online Publishing Business: A Comprehensive Guide

How to Start an Online Publishing Business: A Comprehensive Guide
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So you want to publish books and make a business out of it? You've come to the right place.

No, you don’t have to… 

  • Register with the official business department for online publishing houses (there’s no such thing)
  • Get your parents or government to give you permission (you don’t need ANYONE’s permission at all)
  • Write 50 books, hire 100 employees, or set up one million landing pages (you can fly solo and keep it simple forever if that’s what you want) 
  • Do any of the above just to start an online publishing business

If you’ve always dreamed of living your best life now instead of 10 years from now, an online publishing business can do that for you. You can even make money right from the comfort of your favorite couch with a laptop, an idea, hard work, and maybe even a beverage of your choice. Our beginner’s guide to online publishing will walk you through everything you need to know to get started.

Note: Our free webinar shows you exactly how to start a publishing company with actionable advice you can use to get started making money online ASAP. We also reveal secrets about the publishing world that the well-established publishing houses don't want you to know.

How to Start a Publishing Company: The Planning Stage

Starting your own publishing company requires careful planning and preparation. In this section, we'll cover the key steps you need to take in the early stages to give your publishing company the best shot at bringing you the passive income you desire.

Create a Business Plan

The first step in any entrepreneurial journey is to create a business plan. A business plan is a roadmap that outlines your business goals, strategies, and financial projections. It will help you identify your target market, set realistic goals, and develop a plan of action to achieve those goals.

It may sound complicated, but you don't need a formal education or business degree from an Ivy League in New York to figure it out.

When creating your business plan, consider the following elements:

  • Mission statement: Define the purpose of your business and the values that guide it.
  • Target audience: Identify your ideal reader and understand their needs and preferences.
  • Genre: Choose the genre(s) you want to publish in and research the market demand for those genres.
  • Marketing strategies: Develop a marketing plan to promote your books and reach your target audience.
  • Financial projections: Estimate your startup costs, revenue, and expenses to create a realistic budget. Compare the fees for working with a publisher and the self-publishing costs.

Your business plan may change over time, and that's okay! All you're tasked with at this stage is creating the simplest business plan to set the foundation for your own book publishing company.

Choose Your Genre

When selecting a genre to write and specialize in, consider your interests, expertise, and market demand. Research the top-selling genres and sub-genres to identify gaps in the market that you can fill with your own books.

Some popular genres for self-publishers include:

  • Romance
  • Mystery/thriller
  • Science fiction/fantasy
  • Non-fiction (self-help, memoirs, etc.)

Keep in mind that you don't have to limit yourself to only publishing books in one genre. Many successful self-publishers publish in multiple genres to reach a wider audience, and Amazon even allows authors to publish books under multiple pen names to keep each series compartmentalized.

Several published authors in our student community have a mix of all of the above, and their royalty checks continue to grow each month. It's your own business, which means you get to make the rules.

Identify Your Audience

To identify your target audience and the readers most likely to gain value from your book, study the demographics, interests, and reading habits of your ideal reader. This will help you create books that resonate with your audience and develop marketing strategies that reach them.

Consider the following factors when identifying your audience:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Education level
  • Income
  • Reading habits
  • Preferences (e.g. format, length, style)

Building a loyal following of readers is a life hack for a small publishing company because it practically guarantees future sales.

Setting Up Your Publishing Company

Once the planning is done, it's time to take action. In this section, we'll cover the key steps you need to take to get your business up and running.

Choose a Business Structure

One of the first decisions you'll need to make is choosing a business structure. There are two common business structures for self-publishers: a sole proprietorship or a limited liability company (LLC).

A sole proprietorship is the simplest business form and what most small publishing companies tend to start out as because it's easy to set up and doesn't require any formal paperwork. However, it doesn't provide any liability protection for your personal assets either.

An LLC, on the other hand, provides limited liability protection for your personal assets in case you ever experience any legal trouble. It requires more paperwork and fees to set up, but more liability protection is usually worth the extra effort for the peace of mind that comes with it.

Register Your Business

Once you've chosen a business structure, you'll need to register your business with your state. This typically involves filing paperwork and paying a fee.

The exact requirements for registering your business will vary depending on your state and business structure. You may also need to obtain a business license or permit, depending on your location and the type of business you're starting.

Then comes the fun part. You get to choose a name for your very own publishing company!

You can use your own name, or you might want to get more creative with your publishing company's name. A pen name is also an option but typically requires the filing of a fictitious business name statement or a Doing-Business-As (DBA) name. Either way, you will need to make sure that the potential business name is not already registered with the state. If your idea is already taken, you can use AI name generators to get inspiration.

You may also want to search the internet to make sure a particular domain name is available before you lock in your business name.

Open a Business Bank Account

Unless you're a lawyer or accountant, the idea of personal finances is probably incredibly stressful, boring, or both. But at this stage, you're so close to starting your own publishing business that it doesn't make sense to turn back.

To keep their personal finances separate from their business finances, many entrepreneurs open a business bank account. This will make it easier to track your business income and expenses and will also help you come tax time.

When opening a business bank account, you'll typically need to provide your business name, EIN (a 9-digit Employer Identification Number), and other business information. You may also need to provide a personal identification number, such as a driver's license and other business-related information if you're a sole proprietor.

Creating Your Product

Once the business is established, it's time to get to work creating your products. In this case, your product is a book that you will publish and sell online. Here are the three main steps to creating your book:

Write Your Book

Whether you complete the writing yourself, with the assistance of AI to create your book, or by collaborating with a ghostwriter, this step takes time. Luckily, the self-publishing route is much quicker, cheaper, and easier than the traditional route.

The first book is always the hardest to get out, but once you get into a good flow and work out all the kinks of the process, nothing can hold your publishing company back.

Edit Your Book

A high-quality editing process ensures that your book is free of errors and reads smoothly. Again, AI can be a very valuable tool, or you might consider getting some outside help.

A professional editor can provide valuable feedback on your writing and help you make your book the best it can be.

Design Your Book Cover

The final step in creating your book is designing your cover. Your book cover is the first thing that readers will see, so it is important to make it eye-catching and professional.

Consider hiring a graphic designer to help you with this step. A professional designer can create an original and visually appealing cover that will help your book stand out from the competition.

Throughout this entire process, quality is everything. By taking the time to write, edit, and design your book with high standards in mind, you can ensure that you'll end up with a product that readers will love.

Publishing Your Book

If you've made it this far, you deserve a pat on the back. Many hopeful book publishers give up before even publishing their first book because of self-doubt, imposter syndrome, or a hoard of other excuses. Starting a new publishing company is simple, but it's not always easy. It requires a certain level of tenacity and motivation that not everyone has.

Here's how the successful self-published authors do it:

Choose a Publishing Platform

One of the most popular ways to publish a book these days is through a self-publishing platform. Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a great option for self-publishing. It is easy to publish an Amazon eBook because KDP offers a user-friendly interface and allows you to publish for free. Additionally, KDP offers a variety of tools and resources to help you format and design your book. The platform sets you up with all the tools you need to earn money with Kindle.

Print-On-Demand Technology

Print-on-demand (POD) technology has completely revolutionized the publishing world. POD technology allows books to be printed one at a time, as opposed to traditional printing methods that require a large print run.

Additionally, POD technology allows you to sell your book on online marketplaces like Amazon without having to worry about managing inventory or shipping. When someone orders your book, it is printed and shipped directly to them.

In turn, you save money on upfront printing costs and get to focus on marketing and promoting your book (the final chapter of your publishing company's story).

Multiple Formats

Many new publishing companies make the mistake of only publishing their book in one format. By publishing your book as a paperback, hardcover, eBook, and audiobook, you can ensure your publishing company isn't leaving money on the table each month and maximize your personal income.

Marketing and Sales

Just like in any other industry, marketing and sales in the publishing industry helps get more eyes on your products and connect with readers all over the world. Here are some tips to help you build your brand and sell your book.

Build an Author Website

An author website is an essential tool for promoting your book and building your brand. Your website should be professional, easy to navigate, and visually appealing. Make sure to include a clear description of your book, author bio, and contact information. You should also consider including a blog where you can share updates and insights about your writing process.

To make your website stand out, you may want to consider hiring a professional web designer. They can help you create a custom logo and design that reflects your author brand.

A domain name in the United States will likely end with ".com," but not-for-profit publishers and textbook publishing companies might consider ".org" instead.

Develop a Marketing Strategy

To effectively market your book, you need to have a clear understanding of your target audience. Who are they? What are their interests? Where do they spend their time online? Once you have a solid understanding of your audience, you can create a marketing strategy that speaks directly to them.

Consider using social media to promote your book. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can be powerful tools for building your author brand and connecting with readers, but you may also want to consider running ads on platforms like Amazon and Goodreads to reach a wider audience.

Note: Marketing for your publishing company can get complicated, which is why we walk through it in our webinar. If you're looking for the fastest way to start your own publishing company, this is it.

Sell Your Book

When it comes to selling your book, there are a few key strategies to keep in mind. First, make sure your book is available in multiple formats, including e-book, paperback, and audiobook. This will ensure that you can reach the widest possible audience.

You should also consider offering promotions and discounts to entice readers to buy your book. For example, you could offer a limited-time discount or bundle your book with other titles in your genre.

Finally, make sure to track your sales and profit margins closely. This will help you identify which strategies are working and which ones need to be adjusted. With a solid marketing and sales strategy in place, the sky is the limit for the royalties you can take home each month

Managing Your Own Publishing Company

Starting a self-publishing business requires not only creativity but also a solid understanding of financial management. In this section, we'll discuss the key financial considerations you should keep in mind as you manage your self-publishing business.

Financial Requirements

Budgeting and financial planning are going to be fundamental to keeping your publishing business afloat and maximizing profit. What are you willing to spend on ads? Do you need a virtual assistant to take some things off your plate, like responding to emails?

We know how stressful financial planning can be, which is why we spend an entire module discussing it in our self-publishing course. We even share the exact same budgeting sheets and financial resources our founders still use to this day.

Managing Your Taxes

As a self-publisher, you'll need to manage your taxes carefully. You'll need to keep track of your income and business expenses and report them on your tax return. It's important to keep accurate records and to work with a qualified accountant who can help you navigate the complex tax code so you don't miss out on all the tax benefits available to you as a small business.

You may also need to maintain a business license or other permits to operate your self-publishing business legally. Be sure to research the requirements in your area and comply with all regulations.

Protecting Your Work

As a self-publisher, your work is your livelihood. It's important to take steps to protect your intellectual property and ensure that you receive the royalties you're entitled to.

One way to protect your work is to obtain a copyright. A copyright gives you exclusive rights to your work and allows you to take legal action against anyone who infringes on your rights. You may also want to consider registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office to provide additional legal protection (for audiobooks, this is an Amazon requirement).

In addition, it's important to carefully review the terms of any contracts or agreements you enter into with distributors or retailers. Make sure you understand the royalty rates and payment terms, and don't be afraid to negotiate if necessary.

Expanding Your Business

How do you take an established publishing company and scale it to do even bigger and better things? In this section, we will discuss some ways to expand your business and increase your revenue.

Explore Partnerships

Partnering with other businesses can be a great way to expand your business. You can collaborate with other self-publishers, bookstores, or even online retailers to reach a wider audience. By partnering with other businesses, you can share resources, reduce costs, and increase your exposure. When looking for potential partners, be sure to research their reputation, values, and goals to ensure that you share a common vision.

Many of our students started on their publishing journeys looking to supplement their personal income with an extra $200-300 per month. Less than five years in, and those numbers have grown to $2,000 or even $3,000 per month and more. Watch their self-publishing success stories here.

Reach Multiple Retailers

When thinking of ways for how to increase book sales on Amazon, you can also consider selling your books on your own website to reach multiple retailers. By distributing your books to multiple retailers, you can reach a wider audience and increase your visibility. Some popular retailers include Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. To distribute your books to multiple retailers, you can use a distribution service or work with a distributor.

We recommend sticking to Amazon because it's the most comprehensive platform, and we've unlocked a business model that works time and again.

Get access to our proprietary method by attending our free webinar!

Start Publishing Books Online Today

Starting a self-publishing business can be a rewarding and profitable venture if you're willing to put in the time and effort. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can get your business up and running quickly and efficiently.

Remember that self-publishing is a constantly evolving industry, so it's important to stay up to date with the latest trends and technologies. Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing, and always be willing to adapt your business model to stay ahead of the curve.

Here are a few final tips to keep in mind as you embark on your self-publishing journey:

  • Don't be afraid to invest in yourself and your business. Whether it's hiring a professional editor or investing in marketing and advertising, spending money on your business can pay off in the long run.
  • Build a strong network of professionals and fellow authors. Join writing groups and attend conferences and events to connect with others in the industry.
  • Be patient and persistent. Building a successful self-publishing business takes time and effort, but with hard work and dedication, you can achieve your goals.

If you've made it to the end of this blog post, you owe it to yourself to check out our free webinar and see what self-publishing is all about. It might just be the one decision that changes everything. 

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