Starting a small publishing company

Elvis Elvis

Many writers who choose to go indie look into starting a small publishing company. If you are intent on putting your own work out there and you aren’t interested in just a hobby, or attracting an agent, but you want to make some money doing it, then you might consider starting your own small publishing company, or more accurately, starting your own micro-press. This is a big step.

It’s not right for everybody. It’s not even right for most people. But, if it’s right for you, you probably already know it. If you’ve toyed with this option on and off for awhile, and the absolute only reason you haven’t already done it is because of the “stigma” of doing it, then it might be time to re-evaluate whether or not “stigma” (mostly in the eyes of other writers), is really something that should stop you from doing what you want to do.

Some Caveats

I don’t want to be flippant about this. This is the path I’ve chosen, but I don’t want to be all “la dee dah” about it. This is a business decision, and like every business, it involves risk. Further, this is a very tough business, especially if you’re publishing fiction. It’s still tough if you’re publishing nonfiction, but it’s so tough in fiction, that I can think of only one or two books on self publishing that even “go there” with regards to fiction.

Nevertheless, with barriers lowering, new distribution channels and opportunities, and savvy internet marketing, I do believe that there is opportunity there for those who can successfully capitalize on it. The same opportunity that exists for any small press.

What you need first

Is a crash course in basic business management. If you don’t understand small business or any of the principles of managing one, that’s your first step. There are plenty of books out there on basic business management, as well as websites and discussion forums. Too many people self publish their book with a goal toward profit, without learning anything about small business management in general, or small publishing in particular. If you think you can publish your book and then walk into Barnes and Noble and they’ll put it on the shelves, you haven’t done your research. Research first.

Starting a small publishing company

If you find you want to hobby publish, that’s okay. If you find you want to just do some podcasts and free ebooks while you try to find an agent or another small publisher, that’s great. But if you want to start your own small publishing business to publish your books, you need to go in with both eyes open.

Calculated Risk

Starting a business is always a risk. Starting a business in a competitive field is a bigger risk, but before you start, be sure that you’re making a calculated risk, and not just a mindless gamble. Don’t start your business until you have some idea who your market is and how you might reach them. Read everything you can get your hands on on small publishing and self publishing. There are many different schools of thought on it. This site will obviously be more weighted toward what makes sense to me.

On this site, you won’t find a lot of encouragement to do offset print runs before you know for SURE you have a market to sustain that kind of investment. I support POD technology as a viable starting point for a small publisher. But that doesn’t mean my way is “the way.” There is no “the way.” There is what works for some people and what works for other people, and you have to get in there and figure out what works for you, and be willing to work and tweak until you get there.


If you choose to start your own small imprint to publish your work, you’re going to be investing a lot of time, that’s a given. It takes time for the learning curve and time to build a business, especially in a competitive field. Every business has a learning curve, and publishing is no different. Even if you hire out for many phases of the process, you’ll still need to know enough about quality work in a given discipline, to know if you’re getting your money’s worth and if what you’re getting will help your cause or hurt it. Hiring an inexpensive interior layout artist or cover artist to save money, doesn’t save you money if the work is shoddy.

There is an escalating scale of money you can spend on this endeavor. Spending more money is not necessarily wiser. Overspending makes it take longer before you turn a profit, and can eat up all your needed cash reserves. Which is one reason I’m not really a big proponent of offset print runs.

Yes, large publishers use offset print runs, but a micropress should not feel compelled to follow their business model just to “look serious.” You can look serious all the way to the poor house if you spend enough money on it.