1. Speck
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    Speck Member

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    Getting Started In The Publishing Business?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Speck, May 24, 2008.

    I was wondering how a person goes about becoming a publisher. I was also curious as to how I might get into editing as well. I'm not sure if this is the right place for this, I'm very, very sorry if it isn't.

    Can someone answer both of these questions?:

    1: How can I become a publisher? I always thought it would be fun to start my own magazine, and I'd be willing to do the hard work...but how would I go about it?

    2: Let's say I took the editing route instead, how would I go about that?

    Any advice would be very helpful.

    Thanks.
     
  2. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    1. Establish a "company". Apply for a business license ($120 in my area), establish bank account ($6000 initial deposit for me), apply for "Resale Permit" ($100 - this invloves collection of sales tax in California and allows me to pay printers on a wholesale basis, instead of retail), set up stationery, accounting and adequate work space for book storage, handling and shipping.

    2. Register publishing company with the Library of Congress and Bowkers (free). Purchase book/periodicals ISBN numbers ($245 for 10 to get you started).

    3. Book cover: Purchase book-cover layout and design software...$250 - one time expense. Hire graphic artist for cover artwork $900-1300 minimum per book.

    4. Editing: I hired a local independent editor with 15 yrs experience in the publishing industry. ($400-900 per book) Eventually, you will need to become a competent editor yourself or hire an inhouse editor for ?????/year.

    5. Printing & binding: I shopped all over the USA and Canada for print/binding contracts. When I got my best quote, I took it to a local printer and they were willing to match the price so I am actively involved in the page lay-out and print editing process. Print cost for 1,000 books, $3,400. Binding cost for perfect binding, $800. These costs are for perfect binding and extra paper cost to add more "white space" on the pages...makes for easier/better reading. Shipping is free because I managed to find the local printer.

    Up to this point, we're talking about creating a physical book. Now, we need to talk about developing sales. Do the math yourself.

    You'll have to set the price for your books. The market will pretty much do that for you. Traditional book stores take 40% of the face price of the book and book brokers get 10%...so you have to pay your expenses (including the author's initial payment) and make a profit on 50% of the face value of your books. Plus, traditional book stores often require you to buy back unsold copies so you have to set up a reserve account/accounting for that eventuality.

    Now, for marketing and distribution

    You'll need a website: $2000 initial cost with ecommerce capability and professional management. Less than $100 per month thereafter for hosting.

    The site should allow you to allocate a webpage dedicated to each new book (this could cost $300/page with your website manager, plus fees for additional graphic art, if needed)

    Book reviews: Some reviews can be obtained for free but most are a cost item...obviously, the more influential the reviewer, the more you'll pay. These reviews create professional "testimonials" that influence potential readers to take the leap of faith and try out an author they haven't previously "read".

    Traditional marketing: Every business needs advertising. Trade journals, target audiences, general media, book expos, mailers, etc. These necessities cost money. It could be as little as a hundred bucks for an email (yes, SPAM!) campaign or several thousand for a display booth at one of the industry trade shows ($2000+).

    Contracts: You will have contracts with authors, printers, binders, graphic artists, book stores, book brokers, advertising, employees, independent contractors (editing, etc.)...ALL contracts should be reviewed by your business attorney if they are dealing with significant risk or large sums of money. Good attorneys are not cheap...but "cheap" attorneys can be very expensive.

    This is a brief overview of the basic for setting up a "real" publishing company. The good news/bad news for such a start up is this: there are literally thousands of aspiring authors that will be happy to deluge you with query letters and manuscripts...that's the good news. The bad news? The vast majority of those submissions are not commercially viable. You, or your PAID "readers", will invest thousands of hours searching. And, if you do finally discover one little diamond among the lumps of coal, you'll be out of pocket over $10,000+ (author advance, editing, layout, printing/binding, reviews, advertising, storage, distribution, reserve fund) BEFORE you sell the first book. And, that 10K figure is for EACH book you decide to promote...10 books=$100,000 initial outlay.

    Capitalization is the biggest issue. All the things addressed above are achievable IF you have sufficient funds to operate for a few years until your traditional publishing company makes a profit on a regular basis. If you get lucky with a "Hunt for Red October", and only paid the author an advance of $5000 (that's what Clancy got), then your company could get happy real fast!

    Good luck.

    ps You asked about a magazine but the process is about the same, only there is a lot more layout and graphics cost. Printing costs are higher too with all the color print. The income of a magazine does not come from copy sales; it comes from advertisers who will be difficult to find initially. The quantity of advertisers and advertising revenue are linked directly to circulation. Its one of those "cart and horse" problems. You must build the circulation WITHOUT the income stream, in order to ATTRACT the advertisers who generate the income stream. Again, this falls under the concept of adequate initial capitalization.
     
  3. Speck
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    Speck Member

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    Wow, talk about costly. Those prices nearly made me cry. = P

    But I guess those are pretty affordable in comparison to what they could be. How did you manage to come up with the funds?

    And not to go too far off subject, but, you own a publishing company yourself? Can I ask the name?
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    salty's covered the publishing field more than adequately, so i'll stick to your question about editing...

    depends on what king of 'editing' you mean... editing is done by an editor... but there are editors and there are editors... some work for publishers and are called 'acquisition' editors... they check out all the submitted material and decide which ones are worth considering and which aren't... they must have a demonstrated knowledge of what's marketable and what ain't, but they don't have to be all that great about the other kind of 'editing'...

    that other kind of 'editor' goes over mss with a fine-toothed comb and a fine-tuned grasp of writing skills, to find/correct all the errors and note all the places that need revision...

    if you possess those skills, you have to decide which kind you want to be... the first requires you to get a job with a publishing house, which usually requires a masters in english lit or similar degree, and is low-paid, mostly boring work generally done by just-finished college grads...

    same goes for the second... but that can also be done free-lance, though to do that requires the additional ability to sell yourself and your services successfully and give good value for your fees... it also requires the outlay of some advertising money... and there's such a glut of competition with everyone and his/her cousin trying to do this on the net, that the odds are heavily against you ever making a living at it...

    if you don't have either skill set, don't think of becoming an editor till you do...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  5. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    You could start small if you wanted to (not a bad idea) and progress from there. The UK's Babylon Books company (a publisher of books on the music industry, bands etc), started out by banging out 'cottage industry' style fanzines which were actually photocopied and distributed to local newsagents around the Manchester and London area.

    Interestingly, Steve Morrissey (the singer who used to be the frontman with The Smiths) was one of the writers for some of these fanzine type mags. Prior to finding fame, he was always writing in to a newspaper I used to work for years ago (The Manchester Evening News), and was clearly a frustrated journalist! He was a huge fan of the band, The New York Dolls, and so was happy to write stuff for Babylon's photocopied fanzine on that band. People of that ilk, if you can recruit them, might consider working for very little money on a personal venture of that nature, which would keep costs down.

    Of course we are talking many years ago when all this happened (pre internet and pre cheap printing from personal computers), so to create a similar venture these days has both advantages and disadvantages. A big plus point is the ease with which simple page layout software can be used to produce something, you don't actually need Quark XPress or InDesign (the industry standard page layout programs), there are cheaper and even free alternatives which will initially suffice.

    A big minus point is that, like every other printed publication, it battles with more immediate mediums such as the internet.

    Another problem is design and layout. Because it is relatively easy to have a go at designing a page layout, many people think it requires no, or little skill. Nothing could be further from the truth, so if you are considering trying that, then some skills in that department would not go amiss. Having said that, there are books you can get which will teach you the basics, but as with anything, some skills only come with practice.

    The reason I know this is because I did that exact job for several years and do in fact train people sometimes on that very set of skills. You can equate that to writing in some ways; because pretty much everyone can write to some extent (even if it is only a shopping list), it fools a lot of people into thinking they can write creatively with little or no experience, which of course they cannot.

    Eventually, when funds do start to come in from a venture such as that (if successful), it will allow you to think bigger. Which is what happened with Babylon Books.

    With regard to editing. This again is something which people make the mistake of thinking is somehow easy, or possibly easier than writing. It is neither. An editor has to know writing, and a great command of the English language (and possibly a smattering of other languages too) is vital. But an editor also has to know how to chop down or expand the writing he works on, all whilst improving it and having it target the intended audience. In short, it combines several skill sets and demands a lot from all of them.

    As an editor, you are where the buck stops, any mistakes are your fault, and you will certainly get the blame for them, there is no room for error whatsoever. And the reason I know that, is because I used to do that job as well, and I also train people in it too from time to time!

    So, of the two, perhaps starting a (limited in ambition) magazine might be the most viable choice, but make sure that you are aware of the combination of skills required in order to do it, even on something as small as a village newsletter. Initially, you'll have to be the editor, the writer, the photographer, the designer, the printer, the distributor, the marketing manager and the advertising rep. And you'll have to source stories and do it regularly too.

    If you believe you can do it, then that's half the battle. So don't let me put you off, but don't be under any illusions about what you are taking on.

    Al
     
  6. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I completely agree with Al about starting with a limited version of a publishing company and building from there. My original response is for a full blown commercial firm. BTW - if you do decide to start small, beware "re-sellers" of ISBN numbers...you can now purchase a single ISBN number instead of 10, 100 or 1000, directly from the U.S. ISBN Agency. Here is the link:

    U.S. ISBN Agency

    www.isbn.org/standards/home/index.asp
     
  7. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    This company will become active as soon as we get the first book back from the printer. We will not be accepting manuscripts for traditional publishing, nor will we offer POD or vanity press to the general public. This company began as a shell for my own self-publishing but one of my longtime clients asked us to publish technical manuals for one of his top scientists and we have agreed.
     
  8. RIPPA MATE
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    RIPPA MATE Contributing Member

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    @ NaCl,

    $10,000 for each book...

    On average, what profit would be received for each book?
     
  9. MumblingSage
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    MumblingSage Contributing Member

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    I think I know what I want to do when I'm out of college...

    Out of curiosity in the editing field: what about copyediting, or exhalted beta-reading, or something like that? Because I've beta-read fairly long stories for friends of mine (and aquaintences, and etc)... I sort of like doing it, the consensus is that I'm doing pretty well at is (not just from friends), and I'm wondering if I could make a casual sideline job of it. If so, what would I have to do to improve my skills, advertise, etc? Any advice?
     
  10. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    One of the best things you can do, is simply to be well read. The more you read, the more you learn, and that doesn't have to mean only reading the classics. You can learn stuff by reading awful trashy novels too, even if it is only, 'for god's sake don't do that' when you read something clumsily written.

    And one of the best ways to get a job of that nature is, oddly enough, not dissimilar to my advice on starting small. See if you can get a job at a local newspaper or magazine, or submit pieces to it, having first studied its style (publication editors love submissions which are already in the right style for their publications, because they can use them without spending time editing them). Anything like that will get your foot in the door, and that's often far more important than a qualification in the real world. By style, I mean the words and forms the publication favours, so, simple things like: 'such-and-such a magazine never capitalises job titles', or, 'such-and-such a newspaper always refers to companies in the singular'. Look out for stuff like that, and emulate it when submitting to that publication on spec. You could even offer to work for nothing for a little while, and trade what they can teach you for your time. That's not as silly as it seems, it's actually how I got my foot in the door, because it showed that I was willing.

    Any experience like that is vital, because the truth is, most employers are well aware that newly qualified graduates couldn't find their ass with both hands in comparison to someone with experience, and so your experience becomes your qualification, rather than this or that degree. A qualification helps and is a nice flag to wave, but genuine real-world experience will help more.

    Another route is through advertising. The advertising industry is notorious for having stupid people in it (I won't go into why, if you want to know, message me!), and so a half-decent writer is like a god in comparison to most people in that field. It's easy to shine when you are surrounded by idiots! You may find it less troublesome to get your foot in the door by taking that route, and any writing job which you can put on your CV is useful when applying for a writing, proof-reading or editing job.

    Al
     
  11. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    That number is for a commercial, traditional publishing company. The start-up cost of $10,000 includes one-time purchases like author advances, reviews, editing, graphic arts, cover layout, printer layout, printing/binding cost, initial distribution, marketing costs, etc. Some of these expenses (like author advances) are the reason my new PC is NOT going to offer services to the general public. I don't want to incur those costs as my company principally exists for self-publishing.

    My personal goal is $4.00 per book as a target maximum "hard cost". The first book will be on the market next month but it has cost me a little over $5 per book for the first 1000. Reprints will run less than $4 per book. Many of the initial costs are amortized into the first printing...editing, graphic art, layout and ISBN costs. Of course, I don't have to pay myself an "advance" like I would for another author.

    The traditional brick&mortar distribution system consumes about 50% of the face price of a book...10% to the book broker and 40% to the bookstore. At $4.00 per book cost, books priced at $10 will earn gross net income of $2 per book. Books sold through non-traditional avenues will be far more profitable. Direct sales through the website will earn about $6/book gross income while other outlets, such as Amazon.com, will produce net revenue around $3-4/book. Obviously, I am going to direct as much marketing effort as possible to promote these alternative market sales where the profit is far greater.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what about it?... what i said is required above for editing in general, applies to all varieties of same... you still need to have a way above average knowledge of the technical side of writing and the ability to sell yourself to clients...

    beta-reading is a newly-coined term, arisen in the internet age, that merely means a kind of 'editing' service... the kind that includes helping the writers improve the work with suggestions re plot holes, continuity, characterization and such, and not just apprising them of typos, grammatical, and other technical errors... and it's usually done for free, not a paid 'profession'...

    when it's done for a fee, it's just one of the 'services' an 'editor' or 'writing consultant' [as i'd dubbed myself, when i did it] offers one's clients and is rarely, if ever, called 'beta-reading'...

    first, make sure you're good enough at wordsmithery/writing that people will pay you to tell them how to fix theirs and not feel cheated when they get your bill... to get to that point, you need to first have the inborn talent and then develop your skills by practicing what you want to 'preach for pay'... and, when you think you're ready, you'd best get an experienced editor to check out your work, before trying to get anyone to pay for it...

    as for advertising, how else can you get clients?... that will involve not only money, but great skill in writing your own adcopy, to beat out all the copious competition you'll find is already out there, if you google for 'editing services'... fyi, i just did and got 4.41 million hits!...

    if you want help developing your editing skills and technique, feel free to email me any time... i've been doing it for decades, never had a paying client complain, and only a rare few of the thousands of free mentees have not cottoned to my methods or been unhappy with the results [the latter because they didn't like being told the truth, not because of how it was arrived at]...

    hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     

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