How to Start a Publishing Company

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There are plenty of reasons that you may be thinking about starting a publishing company — perhaps you yourself are an author, or perhaps you’d simply like to promote and market great content. Read on for essential advice on starting a publishing company.

With all of today’s mediums for reading and consuming written content, it’s no wonder that you might be considering starting a publishing company. Of course, you’ll first need to decide what exactly you’re interested in publishing — books? magazines? zines? and of what category? The choices are endless — maybe you love art and photo books, or poetry, or you’re interested in learning more about the e-book business. You probably already have an idea of this, but it’s important to know all of the details for your business plan — a document that will also detail your financing, company structure, growth plan, and many other factors. Fortunately, we’ve got a free business plan templates available for download.

In 2020, the global revenue of the book publishing industry is projected to reach around 123 billion USD, with the United States, China, and Germany as the industry’s leading markets. If you’re thinking of starting a publishing company, there’s really no better time !

Starting a Publishing Company

As we mentioned, there are loads of different kinds of material you may want to publish. Along with more evident markets like novels, contemporary non-fiction, art, etc., you also have considerable markets for textbooks, trade publications such as scientific journals, and even self-published material if you’re an author yourself. The best advice is to choose the market that you’re already passionate about — if you have special expertise in something, for example, it’s a good jumping-off point for the mainline of your publishing company.

You’ll have to decide whether your enterprise will be a sole proprietorship, an LLC, a partnership, or a corporation. Much of this will depend on factors such as whether you’ll be buying or renting property for a storefront or press for physical books versus operating online from home or a co-working space, for example. You’ll also need to consider if you’re starting a publishing company with partners or alone, and whether you’ll be taking out a substantial loan to start your business. For more information on this point, you can check out our articles on business structures and starting up in the United States, the UK, and France.

Regardless of the structure you choose, you’ll need to register your business with your national tax authority, and of course, choose a name. Choosing an appropriate name for your publishing company is important in creating an initial brand contact for your publishing company and making yourself more eye-catching on the market.

When starting a publishing company, you’ll need to register for an ISBN, or International Standard Book Number. An ISBN is a 13-digit number attached to your publication that’s essential for identifying you as the official publisher of the book, as well as other information like the publication’s language. The price of an ISBN varies, and is also connected to how many titles you plan to publish; there’s a quota under each number, and once you hit this quota you’ll need to apply for another ISBN. You can find your regional ISBN agency in this directory

Get publishing !

The most exciting part of starting a publishing company is, of course, publishing your first work! Once you’ve decided upon what kind of material you’ll publish (and of course, conducted in-depth market research in order to make sure that you really know your market and what they’re looking for in their content!) you’ll need to decide upon a first work or a first few works that you’ll publish. You can put out a call for submissions, or perhaps you already have the material on hand. Whatever the case may be, you’ll need to calculate the costs of promoting the material, graphic design, printing it (how many copies, on what materials) or paying to make it available as an e-book, and paying the author.

Communicating with the Author

You’ll need to be in close communication with the author of the work for several reasons. The work will need to be proofread, edited, designed (layout, or mise en page), either by yourself, an employee, or a freelancer, and you’ll also need to draw up a contract with the author. For this, as well as for other considerations, it’s always a good idea to have a reliable attorney to whom you can turn. The contract with the author should include clauses on intellectual property and ownership rights around the work, the author’s advance and royalties on sales, and the terms, rights, and requirements of the publication. Keep in mind that you’ll probably need to pay your author an advance on their work, and this should also be included in the contract. Make sure that the title of the work as well as its content has not been used and will not cause intellectual property conflict, and keep in mind that you’ll need to consider fact-checking if you decide to publish non-fiction work.


Carefully research the printing company that you intend to work with if you’re printing physical works. The quality of the objects you produce plays a significant part in whether customers are interested in buying your product, and the quality of the materials and the skill of your printer are important factors here. Especially if you’re publishing a magazine, you’ll want to establish a good relationship with your printer, as you’ll be there on a repetitive basis no matter how periodically you decide to publish. You’ll also need to get in contact with bookstores and online retailers who will be interested in selling your work, and you’ll need to take any potential commissions into account when you consider how much profit your endeavor stands to generate.

If you’d like to publish e-books, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is a fantastic option for authors and publishers around the world. You can check out the easy process here, and have your work on the market within just a few days.


Marketing the work will be essential — no one will read it if they haven’t heard about it! Word of mouth is a wonderful tool for publishing companies, but you’ll need to make preliminary efforts to get the word out about your product. Take advantage of tools like social media, and consider making video interviews with your author and following any promotional tours or readings carefully. Making your potential audience feel connected to the work you’re publishing will be important to its success. And while you’re here, you can take a look at our Marketing and Communications sections for useful articles that will help you market your work’s way to booming success. 

Starting a publishing company, or any company really, is not for the faint of heart. However, having the ability to promote and sell great material, all while creating a growing business, is an exceptionally rewarding endeavor. With the numerous options and business schemes available to publishers in 2018, it’s a fantastic time to get involved.

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