Why Today is The Best Time to Start Your Own Publishing Business

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“The most radical and transformative of inventions are often those that
empower others to unleash their creativity; to pursue their dreams.
These innovative, large-scale platforms are not zero-sum—they create
win-win situations and create significant value for developers,
entrepreneurs, customers, authors, and readers.”
 —Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

What do Justin Bieber, The Blair Witch Project, My Big Fat Greek
Wedding, Fifty Shades of Grey, Wool
, and The Martian all have in
common? They all started out as indies.

When Amazon launched the Kindle in 2007 and shortly thereafter opened up
their store to indie novelists, they ushered in a new era of
“author-driven” publishing. Today over 65% of all ebooks sold at Amazon
are from indies. And that number is increasing.

In business terms, what Amazon created with its Kindle Direct Publishing
(KDP) service was a platform that allowed anyone to offer ebooks for
sale on Amazon. This was a huge milestone for the author-driven
publishing movement, because prior to 2007 authors were required to deal
with a “middle man” (a publisher) in order to offer their books for sale
on Amazon. What Amazon did with KDP was to eliminate the middle man and
allow authors to sell directly on Amazon. So the idea that an author
could run his or her own publishing company is a relatively new one. But
it is this idea that has ushered in a new Golden Age of Publishing.

The Publisher’s Business Model

Most of the “Big Five” publishing companies have been around for close
to a century, and their business model is fairly straightforward.

  • Acquire manuscripts from authors (suppliers)
  • Develop manuscript into a salable book (developmental editing)
  • Design, typeset, create packaging (cover design) and blurbs
  • Manufacture the book
  • Distribute book into retailers; sometimes pay for in-store promotion
  • Generate press and reviews; sometimes pay for consumer advertising

Many of these functions are outsourced to freelance editors, cover
designers, and publicists. So here’s a question for you: how difficult
is this business to replicate on a smaller scale? Answer: not difficult
at all. Especially in the author-driven publishing model, where several
of these steps are eliminated or streamlined: ​

The author herself supplies the manuscript, so the need to acquire (and
pay for) manuscripts originated outside the company is eliminated.

Although it is still necessary to professionally edit and design an
ebook, there are no manufacturing, warehousing, or shipping costs.

Direct distribution to major ebook retailers is free.

Author-Driven Publishing Defined

An author-driven publishing house is a professional publishing business
where the author is in charge.

You’re probably familiar with similar terms:

  • Self-publishing
  • Independent publishing
  • DIY publishing

What’s the difference between “author-driven publishing” and
“self/independent/DIY publishing?” The latter suggest that the author is
working alone and doing everything herself, while the author-driven
publisher assembles a small “on-demand” team of experts to help achieve
the company’s business objectives. In this way, the author-driven
publisher is similar to traditional publishers. For example, both
utilize freelance editors and cover designers to create a professional
product. The author-driven publisher also thinks, plans, and operates
just like any other serious, professional enterprise and engages in
activities including:

  • Strategic Planning
  • Financial Planning
  • Research & Development
  • Production
  • Distribution
  • Marketing
  • Customer Service

Don’t let that list scare you. In future articles, we’re going to go from the abstract to
the specific and show how these activities apply to selling books.