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Q: How do I start a book publishing company? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: How do I start a book publishing company?
Category: Business and Money > Small Businesses
Asked by: bentbrains-ga
List Price: $16.00
Posted: 19 Jul 2002 18:25 PDT
Expires: 18 Aug 2002 18:25 PDT
Question ID: 43054
I want to start an independent book publishing company specalizing in
fiction. I plan to print, promote and distribute novels (not a
self-publishing company or vanity press but a bonafide small publisher
who publishes other writers' work). Supplied I can locate the talent
(i.e. the writers and their manuscripts) what steps do I need to make
to be successful? What legal mumbo-jumbo steps do I need to take? How
do I learn the best ways to go about printing runs, promotion and 
distrubution? Thanks.

Clarification of Question by bentbrains-ga on 20 Jul 2002 07:17 PDT
To answer your question:
I don't want to print or assemble in-house simply because I don't have
the caliber equipment to produce the quality end product. I'm sure
I'll need to command the promotion but I'm looking for the best
avenues on selecting binding, paper stock, page setup. The only DIY I
want to do is selecting the writing, artwork for the cover and
promotion. Thanks.
Subject: Re: How do I start a book publishing company?
Answered By: journalist-ga on 20 Jul 2002 08:15 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Greetings!  To start a book publishing company in general, you will
need to know basic business facts.  A great place online to get an
idea of the many areas involved in owning your own business may be
found at Thinking Like An Entrepreneur.  The site features many
lengthy excerpts from a book of the same name by Peter I. Hupalo. 
Interestingly, there is a link on their main page to a "coming soon"
title - How To Start And Run A Small Book Publishing Company: A Small
Business Guide To Self Publishing And Independent Publishing.

On the book publishing link page, it states the book will be released
in July 2002.  The information included is stated as:

Inventory Accounting In The Book Trade
Just-In-Time Inventory Management
Turn-Key Fulfillment Solutions
Tax Deductible Costs In Publishing
The Basics Of Sales And Use Tax
Profitable Book Pricing
Standard Terms In The Book Industry
Working With Distributors And Wholesalers
Cover Design And Book Layout
Book Promotion And Marketing
How To Select Profitable Authors To Publish
The Printing Process
The Power Of A Strong Backlist
How To Value A Copyright
And Much More!

I also checked for other books concerning book publishing and located
one at Amazon titled Make Money Self-Publishing : Learn How from
Fourteen Successful Small Publishers by Suzanne P. Thomas.  In it, 14
micro-publishers are queried concerning their success.  I viewed much
of the text and it seemed quite comprehensive and it included both
self-publishing and publishing the work of other writers.  I believe
it would be a good reference tool.  The book was listed at $19.95 at
Amazon.  Below I included the Amazon link to the sample pages from the
book which also includes the index.

I searched for who owned the domain and it was the author, so you may
want to contact him to see when the book will be out:

HCM Publishing
 P.O. box 18093
 West Saint Paul, MN 55118


 Administrative Contact:
    Hupalo, Peter
    P.O. box 18093
    West Saint Paul, MN 55118

There is also an association of American Publishers and I think it
would behoove you to join that organization for networking and
learning more about the industry from people already involved in it.
They offer conferences and much news about the industry.

As far as legal mumbo-jumbo, it would depend in which state you
resided as to what would be needed to set up a corporation but many
people now use an LLC, a limited liability corporation.  You can find
out about that by visiting a lawyer.  Information on starting a small
business with some legal info is located at

I hope this information is of assistance in your quest.  Should you
need more clarification, please ask.


"how to start a small book publishing company" key phrase on Google

Thinking Like An Entrepreneur

How To Start And Run A Small Book Publishing Company...[coming soon]

WhoIs - domain name owner search

Make Money Self-Publishing : Learn How from Fourteen Successful Small
Publishers by Suzanne P. Thomas

sample text from Make Money Self-Publishing : Learn How from Fourteen
Successful Small Publishers by Suzanne P. Thomas [index is present
there, too]

Association of American Publishers (AAP)

AAP links in book publishing

Publishers Weekly (from AAP links)

"starting an LLC" search phrase at Google

Questions about starting an LLC

Clarification of Answer by journalist-ga on 20 Jul 2002 08:27 PDT
Greetings again!  As far as working with publishing runs, I would
suggest contacting a company like Instant which is a
print-on-demand company (but the more you print, the lesse the cost). 
I have personally viewed a sample of their trade paperback product and
found it to be very high quality for a very reasonable investment.

Their site also offers a calculator for determining the price per book
(these are real printed books, not ebooks) where you enter various
aspects of the book (size, number of pages, number of copies, color or
B&W cover, etc) and it calculates the cost.  They will also send you a
free sample on request.  A bit about their services:

" is unique in that we are both a digital and
offset publishing company. Depending on the size of your order, 25 to
25,000 books, the digital file you send will either be directed to our
direct image machines or our offset plate file, saving our customers
hundreds of dollars on large book orders.  Our custom POD (print on
demand) software is a print driver that lets your computer talk to our
printers.  The free software ensures that your book is printed exactly
as you specify."

Instant Publisher

Click on "Pricing" in the right column to use their cost calculator.

I hope this information is helpful as well.  Again, should you need
clarification, please request it, and good luck in your venture.

Request for Answer Clarification by bentbrains-ga on 20 Jul 2002 12:23 PDT
this is a very good answer but I have a question as far as the "legal
mumbo-jumbo" goes, I am curious what the contract between author and
(me) publishing house is generally like. Is there a standard contract?
What things like royalties, rights and payments are involved. Thanks!

Clarification of Answer by journalist-ga on 21 Jul 2002 08:07 PDT
Greetings again, and thank you for honoring me with a five-star rating
on my research for your query.  I am delighted the information was of
assistance and am happy to assist you further.

Regarding contracts between authors and publishers, they vary
according to what the publisher wants to initially offer the author. 
For instance, if you were gathering stories to make a short fiction
collection, the contract might contain provisions for a small royalty
payment but an author might also only be paid a one-time honorarium
with no royalties to follow.  The "Chicken Soup" books (at last check)
offered an author $300 per story - period.  It was a one-time payment
for first North American rights.  First NA rights granted by an author
say to the publisher "You are getting the first crack at this story -
I guarantee it hasn't been published anywhere else."

Another collection, the Chocolate series edited by Kay Allenbaugh,
pays $100 as an honararium - in this, the author agrees 1) it's a
fresh unpublished story and 2) I won't sell it to Chicken Soup or a
similar collection but I have the right to publish it in a collection
of my own stories at anytime with no reverse compensation.  The
Chocolate contract is a very simple one-page document.  So, for short
story collections, the contracts can be relatively simple. [To
clarify, I didn't find the above info online - as a freelance writer,
I have had dealings with both in the past so the info comes from
personal experience.]

For a book contract, here is a sample (this is online courtesy of
Donham books which states "Please note: For the purposes of protecting
our intellectual property on the internet, this contract is NOT full
and complete. Any contract issued can be construed as a sample
contract only. Other clauses can be added or deleted according to the
individual needs of the author, in consultation with the Editor at
Domhan Books/individual parties' legal representatives."):


THIS AGREEMENT is made this ___ day of ___, 20__ , between ___
("Author"), a resident at ___ and Domhan Books, with a place of
business at 9511 SHORE ROAD, SUITE 514 BROOKLYN, NY 11209 USA

Publisher and Author hereby agree as follows:


1. Author grants to Publisher for the term of three years (including
any renewal or extensions thereof) the right to print, publish, sell,
and display (herein "publish") or to cause to be published a work of
[non]fiction titled ___ (the "Work") worldwide.


Author shall register copyright in the Work in the United States of
America and in other countries as may be covered by this Agreement in
his/her own name. Author shall, upon Publisher's request, do all acts
necessary to effect and protect the copyright and renewals or
extensions thereof.


3. Author shall deliver to Publisher a complete manuscript of the
Work, reasonably acceptable in form and content to Publisher and
suitable for use by the printer ("Complete Manuscript"), consisting of
approximately _____ words or their equivalent, on paper and on
diskette containing the text of the Work conforming to the technical
specifications set forth by the Publisher.


4. If permission from others is required for publication of any
material contained in the Work or for exercise of any of the rights
conferred by this Agreement, Author shall obtain and deliver such
permission to Publisher at Author's own expense, in a form acceptable
to Publisher, on or before the date of manufacture of copies of the
Work. Unless otherwise agreed to by Publisher in writing, or where
evidently inapplicable (as, for example, the license of artwork with
respect to the exercise of audio rights) such permissions shall cover
all territories, markets and editions covered by this Agreement.
Publisher shall have the right to obtain any such permissions which
Author fails to furnish and to charge the reasonable cost thereof to



6. (a) Publisher shall publish and commence distribution of the Work
at its own expense not later than one year after acceptance of the
Complete Manuscript (including related materials) in conformity with
the specifications of the Pulblisher. Publisher may publish the Work
under any imprint of Publisher.


7. (a) Author warrants and represents that:

Author is the sole author and proprietor of the Work. 
Author has the full power and authority to make this Agreement and to
grant the rights granted hereunder, and has not previously assigned,
transferred or otherwise encumbered the same.
The Work is not in the public domain. 
The Work does not infringe any statutory or common law copyright. 
The Work does not invade the right of privacy of any third party, or
contain any matter that is libelous or otherwise in contravention of
the right of any third party; and, if the Work is not a Work of
fiction, all statements in the Work asserted as facts are true or
based upon reasonable research for accuracy.
The Work contains no matter which is obscene or matter the publication
or sale whereof otherwise violates any federal or state statute or
regulation, nor is it in any other manner unlawful.
The Work contains no recipe, formula, or instruction injurious to the


8. (a) Final decision as to format, copy editing style, illustration,
style of printing and binding, title, cover presentation, trade name,
trademark, logo, imprint or other identification, date of publication,
retail price and all other matters of sale, distribution, advertising
and promotion of the Work, shall be determined by Publisher, in fair
consultation with Author. It is understood that certain features of
the book, such as trim size and CMYK process, are stipulated by the
contract Publisher holds with its printer and distributor, and as such
cannot be considered negotiable.


9. (a) Publisher shall maintain a reasonable print inventory of the
Work, and will pay the requisite annual fees for maintenance of the
Work in a readily-accessible print on demand database for a minimum of
three years from publication.


10. (a) Publisher shall pay to Author royalties based upon the cash
received by Publisher from the sale or other exploitation of the Work,
net of freight, taxes, returns and credits ("Net Sales"), and less
such reserve for returns as is determined pursuant to Paragraph 13(c),
as follows:

(i) If published as a trade hardcover edition, _____ of Net Sales,
subject to the exceptions set forth in subparagraph (v) below;

(ii) If published as a library-bound edition, _____ of Net Sales,
subject to the exceptions set forth in subparagraph (v) below;

(iii) If published as a trade paperback edition, _____ of Net Sales,
subject to the exceptions set forth in subparagraph (v) below;

(iv) If published as a mass market paperback edition, _____ of Net
Sales, subject to the exceptions set forth in subparagraph (v) below;

(v) If published as a large print edition, , _____ of Net Sales,
subject to the exceptions set forth in subparagraph (v) below;

(vi)on copies sold in bulk to book clubs, _____ of Net Sales in excess
of the cost of print, paper, binding and freight borne by Publisher;

(vii) _____ of the net electronic book sales in all formats currently
in existence, and which have yet to be invented

(Net Sales from the sale or license of the rights enumerated below
shall be shared by Author and Publisher in the percentages indicated:

To Author To Publisher

(1) Digest, abridgement, condensation, _____ _____ 


(2) First serialization _____ _____

(3) Book clubs or similar organizations _____ _____ 

(4) Reprint (including microfilm) edition _____ _____

(5) Second serialization and syndication _____ _____

(6) Use or adaptation of the Work or any 

portion thereof, as a basis for:

photographic, video, audio, 

digital or any other form or

method of performance _____ _____





12. (a) Publisher shall render semi-annual reports of the sale of the
Work during April and October of each year.

Author is granted the right to have Domhan Books’ accounts in relation
to their work audited at his/her own expense. If an error of more than
10% shall be found, then audit shall be at Domhan Books' expense.


13. Should Author desire copies of the Work for personal use, they
shall be supplied at a ___ discount from the retail list price.
Shipping and handling will be included.


14. Author shall grant Domhan Books the courtesy of a 'first look' at
his/her next full-length work.


15. Any written notice hereunder to be effective shall be delivered by
hand, by facsimile (if a record of successful transmission is
electronically generated), by overnight courier service, or by
certified mail to the address of the other party first above set
forth. A copy of all notices to Publisher shall be directed to the
attention of the CEO of Publisher. Either party may change its address
by written notice to the other.


16. (a) This Agreement shall be construed, interpreted and governed
according to the laws of the State of New York applicable to
agreements made and to be fully performed therein, and the parties
agree that in any action or proceeding arising under or relating to
this Agreement, they shall be subject to the jurisdiction of the
federal and state courts sitting in or for the County of New York, New
York and the County of _____

(b) This Agreement shall be binding upon the heirs, successors,
personal representatives and the foregoing respective assigns of
Publisher and Author; and references to Publisher and Author shall
include such heirs, successors, personal representatives and such


17. Captions are for reference only and shall not be deemed part of
this Agreement.


18. No act or failure to act by either party shall be deemed a
material breach of this Agreement unless that party shall fail to cure
the same within 30 (thirty) days after receipt of written notice
thereof from the other, setting forth specific details.


19. Publisher shall not be responsible for loss or damage to any
property of Author in its possession or in the possession of its
contractors, or to anyone to whom delivery is made with Author's
consent. Author shall retain copies of the manuscript (and related
materials) for Author's own protection.


20. This Agreement shall not be subject to change, modification or
discharge in whole or in part except by a writing signed by Author and
by an officer of Publisher.




Print Name___________________

Taxpayer I.D. No.: _____________

Citizen of ___________________



Print Name ___________________



As you can see, the above book contract could be modified to suit the
publisher in various ways.  However, I would strongly urge you to have
your own legal representative in the matter to tailor a contract to
your specifications.  Perhaps join a publishing group and query the
members for the law reps they use or where you could obtain other
contract samples.

I searched Amazon and found two books about writing contracts: 
Negotiating a Book Contract: A Guide for Authors, Agents and Lawyers
by Mark Levine  and  Kirsch's Guide to the Book Contract: For Authors,
Publishers, Editors and Agents by Jonathan Kirsch.  One of these may
prove very helpful and you may be able to view them at your local
library before purchasing them (link to Amazon page is below).

As far as royalties, I found a program called Acumen through a search.
 It appears to be a software program for managing royalties.  I would
say royalties might be somewhat negotiable depending on the author's
track record.  Other rights might come into play in the original
contract as well such as television, movie, etc.

I hope this information proves of further assistance.  Please note the
last link below as it is a checklist for a publishing agreement and
contains a listing of publisher groups near the bottom of that site. 
It has been a pleasure researching this particular question as it
concerns information of interest to me, too !  : )


"book contract sample" search at Google

Donham Books Sample Contract
Appalachian Trails Stories Sample Contract

Amazon link to contract books mentioned above

"book royalties information" on Google search

Acumen Book Royalties Management

article on Royalty Calculations by IVAN HOFFMAN, B.A., J.D.

"first North American rights publishing"

Tansi vs. New York Times (a case concerning online royalties)

"book royalties" Google search

Book contracts, publisher agreements, and author royalties by Morris

"publishing royalties list"

Trade book publishing agreement

Clarification of Answer by journalist-ga on 21 Jul 2002 08:14 PDT
One more suggestion - depending on your finances, you may want to
query a few of the publisher organizations to see if there is an
existing publishing company for sale in the industry. If so, then you
could step in with the other things already in place.  I searched a
variety of phrases including "publishing company for sale" but could
locate no listings for such an enterprise.
bentbrains-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
An incredibly thorough answer that made me feel confident that the
researcher had done the best job possible. Thanks for the help!

Subject: Re: How do I start a book publishing company?
From: alienintelligence-ga on 20 Jul 2002 01:41 PDT
Are you wanting to print "in-house"?
Or are you planning on contracting out
on the  'printing runs, promotion and 

Who will be assembling the books?
Exactly how much of the process do
you want to do yourself (your company)?

Subject: Re: How do I start a book publishing company?
From: alienintelligence-ga on 20 Jul 2002 14:40 PDT
The Mubjo-Jumbo appears in books.

Most books appear to be written to
the writer. That isn't a bad position
for you to start at either. 'Know your
client' ;-)

Same book:

I'm trying to find info on the net. But
you probably don't WANT free legal advice,
since you get what you pay for :-)

still perusing
Subject: Re: How do I start a book publishing company?
From: alienintelligence-ga on 20 Jul 2002 14:43 PDT
Oh yah... promotion? Advertising?
Get someone else to do it. That way
you won't be second guessed if something
were to flop. In your interviewing for
an ad agency, as they are giving you 
ideas, you just might take the best 4
ideas & try to apply them yourself for the
first book. See what worked and didn't
and gauge how difficult/expensive it
was for you. Then you will know if you
want to do it yourself.

Subject: Re: How do I start a book publishing company?
From: morris-ga on 21 Jul 2002 11:11 PDT
Some "been there, done that" advice:

For POD, you want to try Lightning Source. They're owned by Ingram,
the biggest US distributor, so you get the best distribution
availability by default. Beware of playing with discounts - if you
don't give the industry standard 55% discount off cover, you aren't
likely to ever get into stores.

For formatting books in a manner POD houses can publish properly, see
Adobe's guide:

If you want to print for inventory, I can suggest RJcom, a print
broker with a good online pricing engine. A 320 page softcover (4
color) will run you around $3.00 at quantity 1,000, or for a hadcover
with 4 color dust jacket, $6.00.

There's quite a bit about publishing and contracts on the "Cornered
Writers" site at


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