So You Want to Start a Press

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So You Want to Start a Press

We’ve learned a lot at BDP here in our 8 months of operation, so I thought I’d share some of our insights with those of you who might be dreaming of starting their own small press. One thing is for sure–there are more good books than publishers, so if you can’t find an established publisher who shares your vision, why not do it yourself?

Here are a few thoughts…

1. Offset printing isn’t worth it in general, unless you’re starting with a big start-up budget. Warehousing, returns, and distribution will all cut severely into your profits. Finding a distributor when you’re not established is also very difficult; most require you to have already published 3-10 titles (so what happens to your first 3-10 authors?!)
2. Print-on-demand is often, but not always worth it. This feature is “transparent” to users–that is, if your POD title is listed on Amazon, customers don’t know it’s POD. The quality of POD books is increasing rapidly, and full-color, glossy, etc. are now all available. Some books, though, are better off e-only (this is a whole other discussion!)
3. Do not skimp on any aspect of the book: editing, formatting, design, and publicity. This probably means having different people who do each part. These may be your colleagues/recruits, or paid professionals. Beware of cut-rate jobs by people who won’t do things right. A macro-edit is NOT a copyedit, for one thing. Just because you know InDesign, doesn’t mean you can make nice covers, for another.
4. Avoid cheapo e-book formatters like the PLAGUE. You will get lots of spam from people who claim to be able to turn your pdf into a beautiful epub. They are lying. (Most of these messages are clearly spam).
5. Give yourself enough time between acceptance/finalization of the manuscript and publication. A manuscript is not a book. Publicity will need to begin 4-5 months before publication, so you’ll need a ‘nice’–almost perfect–version by then. Don’t try to rush into production; your book will have errors.
6. Don’t trust your friends/family/dog to do design for you unless you know that they’re objectively good, and don’t hire anyone you’re afraid to criticize.
7. If your list includes one of your own books, beware that the publishing effort will take a lot of time away from it (Yes, that’s why *101 Physics Problems* is not coming out this Fall!)
8. Sign up with as many e-distributors as you can to get your book out there: Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc. It will take a while to establish contracts with all of these (except Amazon), so start early!
9. Buy at least 100 ISBNs to start. They go quickly.
10. Register your ISBNs at Bowker by hand. There *should* be an automatic feed from LSI to Bowker, but this doesn’t always work.
11. If you do print, include Library of Congress cataloging information. This really helps librarians.

This is all that occurs to me off the bat, but it’s more than enough to get started. Happy publishing!

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