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FAQ: Getting Started

FAQ Index
Getting Started

Thank you to Creative Minds Press for providing the content for this FAQ.

What is an FAQ?

Frequently Asked Questions.


I'm new to publishing. How do I get started? (Books to read)

What does ______ mean?

I need to make some basic decisions, but I’m not even sure what questions to ask!

Traditional publishing, subsidy publishing, self-publishing—what's the difference?
What is Traditional Publishing?
What is Subsidy Publishing?
What is Self-publishing?

What are Book Packagers?

Why should a self-publisher incorporate?

What should I name my company?

Is there start-up capital available?

How do I create a budget for my book?

I'm new to publishing. How do I get started?
Read some books before you decide to become a publisher!

The Publishing Game: Get Published in 30 Days and The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days by Fern Reiss
The Self Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter (Considered by many the bible of self-publishing)
The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Tom and Marilyn Ross
Make Money Self-Publishing by Suzanne Thomas

No More Rejections. Get Published Today! By Penny Sanseveiri
Incorporating Your Business for Dummies
Unlocking the Secrets of Publishing by Sylvia Hemmerly
How To Start And Run A Small Book Publishing Company: A Small Business Guide To Self-Publishing And Independent Publishingby Peter I. Hupalo
Business and Legal Forms for Authors and Self-Publishers by Tad Crawford

You can purchase these and other helpful books here.

What does ______ mean?

For a complete list of publishing terms, go to the glossary at Rainwater Press.

I need to make some basic decisions, but I’m not even sure what questions to ask!

The first thing you need to ask yourself before self-publishing: Is this book going to be for friends, family and/or a small market?

If the answer is that you’re sure everyone wants to read your poetry or the memoir of your life, you'll want to limit the number of books you publish. Realistically, it's unlikely that people beyond your friends and family will be interested.

If you've written the Great American novel, be aware that fiction by an unknown is very difficult to sell. American readers are trained to read just that which is on the bestseller list or touted by the various media book clubs. Yes, there have been successes (see the Self-publishing Hall of Fame website)—and you might be the next one. However, you might want to limit your monetary outlay until you have a positive reaction from the marketplace.

If you’ve written a non-fiction, you have a slightly better chance. BUT, make sure that you know the market for which you want to write. If the subject has already been done (and done and done), another book isn't going to go anywhere. Look for a niche. Then fill it. It sounds simple. It's not.

Many people have tested their idea by doing a short-run (POD/digital press). If the market looks favorable, then do a larger run. Others go right to runs of 2500 and more. It's up to your confidence and your pocketbook.

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Traditional publishing, Self-publishing, Subsidy publishing—what's the difference?

What is Traditional publishing?

Traditional publishing is thought by many to be the Holy Grail of authorship. Someone else takes all the risk, you just write the book. It's more complicated than that—and until you hit the big time, it's not all that glamorous.

Industry standard royalty is 8% for paperback, 10% for hardback. Your publisher may have other ideas, or a sliding scale depending on number of books sold. Sometimes you can get an advance—which is money the publisher gives you at contract signing in hopes you will earn it back in sales.

In most situations, you will need an agent to help you find a publisher. To look for an agent who is right for you, look through Writer’s Market, The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days or Literary Marketplace (go to your local library and look at their copy—otherwise it is a very expensive volume for one-time use).

If you aren't familiar with reading a contract—and even if you are—have your friendly lawyer ( one who specializes in Intellectual Property law, which is an esoteric enough field that your family lawyer is not likely to have much experience with it) look it over, just to be safe. You might want to check out intellectual property lawyer Ivan Hoffman’s website [see note] or Lloyd Rich's site to gain a greater understanding of what is involved in a contract.

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What are the Advantages of Traditional Publishing?

You don’t have to worry about the mechanics of producing the book. After some editing, your work on the book is done. You will have to do some marketing, though.

What are the Disadvantages of Traditional Publishing?

You have no control over the product. It’s rare that you are consulted over the cover, the timing of the release or the marketing of the product.
An agent gets 15-20% of all of your checks. Your advance can be as little as a few hundred dollars. Royalties, if you earn any, are paid twice yearly.
In most cases, YOU will still be responsible for marketing the book. Unknown authors are usually not assigned any marketing dollars. They reserve that for the blockbusters.

We are hearing that in some rare instances, publishers have demanded the author pay back their advance when their book failed to earn that amount (despite having spent it (and more) marketing the book).

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What is Subsidy publishing?

Subsidy publishing—which is sometimes mistakenly called POD (Print on Demand) and sometimes even a "self-publishing company" (which they are most assuredly not)—is when you pay for the printing and developmental costs of your book, but the company puts the book under the banner of their publishing company.

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What are the advantages of subsidy publishing?

This saves you having to buy a block of ISBNs.
You don't have to form a company/corporation.
Often (but not always), the subsidy press has services to help your product look more professional, like editing and cover design.
Many subsidy presses also have distribution and marketing services you can use (pay for).
You can get the trade leverage of being with a multi-title company that you can’t get as a 1-book publisher.

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What are the disadvantages of subsidy publishing?

Known subsidy presses are not reviewed by the major media outlets.
Even though this is YOUR work, the book has THEIR ISBN identifier. Some might think that the subsidy press is responsible for your hard work and money.
Even if you don't have the subsidy company sell your books through bookstores or wholesalers, they will get the orders because they own the ISBN.
Your costs will be higher than if you published the book yourself. This makes a big difference when you try to sell books through bookstores (see the explanation on discounts).

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What is Self-publishing?

Self-publishing is all about YOU. You assume all the risk—you form a company, you pay for all the expenses, you make all the choices. All the responsibility for success or failure depends on you. The ISBNs are registered to you/your company, you make all the book design decisions and marketing plans.

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What are the advantages of Self-publishing?

If there is a reward, you get it all. See Self-publishing Hall of Fame for other folks who have traveled this road.
You control absolutely everything about the project.

What are the disadvantages of Self-publishing?

It is a lot of work.
It is often confusing to those who are new. Read a lot of books. Ask a lot of questions. Some folks decide not to try and learn how to do all the tasks necessary to produce a fine quality book. That’s where book packagers come in.
It doesn’t just end at producing the book. You’ll need to form a company, learn how to distribute the book (by yourself or by getting a distributor) and learn how to market or else no one will know about your book.

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What are Book Packagers?

Book packagers offer services like editing, cover design and all the little details that go into making a book. Most offer their services "a la carte"—meaning you can pick and chose what you need. Sometimes they put their services in groups—also known as packages.

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Why should a self-publisher incorporate?

If you are selling a product (in this case, books), you should form a company to pay taxes, get a business license and all the other wonderful things federal, state and local area regulators want you to pay for.

Also, one of the aims in self-publishing is to produce a book that is as professional-looking as possible. When was the last time you opened up a book and it said "A Billy-Jo Bubba Production"? Or maybe you can't even find out who published it. If that was the case, you probably got it from a friend... it wasn't on the shelf of a bookstore.

While you may set your business up as a sole proprietorship, the smart move is to have a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) or incorporate (Inc.). Both situations shield you and your personal assets somewhat in case of lawsuits or bankruptcy. You should consult an attorney before making a decision.

One source for accomplishing this is by contacting The Company Corporation
And you can read up on the process by getting the book
Incorporating Your Business for Dummies .
You might also want to read:
How To Start And Run A Small Book Publishing Company: A Small Business Guide To Self-Publishing And Independent Publishing by Peter I. Hupalo.
Here is another very useful resource for those just starting out:
Business and Legal Forms for Authors and Self-Publishers by Tad Crawford.

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What should I name my company?

Try not to name it after yourself. That shouts to the world that you're a self-published person, and your aim should be to create a product so professional looking, no one will ever know if it's self-published or not. So avoid "Joe Blow Publishing" if your name is Joe Blow.

What kind of books are you planning to publish? If it's children's books, think of a "kid friendly" name, like "Bubbles Press" or something. Conversely, Bubbles Press is a horrible name for a company that puts out tomes on financing.

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Hey! This is more expensive than I anticipated! Is there start-up capital available?

If you are entering publishing with the idea of getting rich, it might be a wiser investment to buy a lottery ticket. There's just not a lot of money in publishing: margins (what you actually earn of the cover price after expenses) are very thin, fewer people are reading than ever before, and the big publishers have a huge market share... and they aren't interested in sharing.

There's a very old publishing joke:
How do you make a small fortune in publishing? Start with a
large fortune.

But to answer your question directly: There's not really any venture capital out there looking for a publishing company. Publishing has a very low ROI (Return On Investment), so your bank is unlikely to be thrilled to invest in your company.

You might want to check out Ivan Hoffman’s page on venture funding. [see note]
You can get a home equity loan, but think very carefully about this before you take this step.
You can always try the SBA (Small Business Administration).
Check out C. Hope Clark's Funds For Writers website and discover if you are eligible for a grant.
Family and friends might want to risk investing money in your publishing company. Make sure you have a firm agreement in the form of a contract. Call your lawyer for this.

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How do I create a budget for my book?

You need to look into all the factors that go into the creation of a book: printing, interior design, editing, cover design, bar code and many other factors. For some help in this direction go to the
Gropen Associates webpage.

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Thank you to Creative Minds Press for providing the content for this FAQ.

Ivan Hoffman is not affiliated with and not connected in any way with our company or our web site or otherwise with us.


You need to be a member of APSS - Association of Publishers for Special Sales to add comments!

Comment by M. Lauryn Alexander on December 27, 2012 at 3:55pm

I have read the above information and have found it to be useful. Thank you.

M. Lauryn Alexander

First-Time Author

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