Starting an Online Book Publishing Company

There are tens or hundreds of thousands of online publishing companies around the world today which were started for the purpose of attracting visitors to their websites to sell them something other than books. Some of the content they publish is of very low quality, even stolen or automatically generated by computer software. However, there are also a large number of top-notch writers and professionals who would have been working as trade authors or part-time journalists ten years ago, but who are now publishing online and retaining ownership of their work.

Publishing online before going to paper provides book publishers, especially those who are just starting out, and important competitive advantage. The online draft of the book will draw feedback which can help you tweak the contents for the market, and it can also tell you, before you invest in going to paper, whether or not the market you expected is really there. What's more, whether or not you decide to go to paper with a particular book, the visitors to your website may be interested in other titles or products that you can sell or market for others.

You don't need to obtain an ISBN block before you start publishing books online, but you will need to periodically register a copyright for your website if you want to be in a stronger position should infringements occur. You don't need any fancy software either, but I do recommend publishing your drafts as HTML pages, not as PDF's or through blogging software. The advantage of plain HTML is it allows you to manually link the chapters into a logical cluster and seems to be favored by the search engines in the rankings.

Don't get caught up worrying about the "company" part of starting an online publishing company before you have anything to sell. I'm not aware of any legal requirements you must fulfill before you start publishing online. The government doesn't consider it a business until you start earning or losing money that has to be accounted for on taxes. Some of the most successful online publishing companies started out as hobby sites that provided both the credentials and the platform from which the author began to publish books. That was certainly the case with my own publishing history, starting online, moving to self publishing, then authoring for the trades, and finally returning to self publishing.

The neat thing about online publishing is it's a relatively level playing field. While the search engines rank sites in accordance with both their content and their authority ranking, which takes time to build, you'll get some traffic from the start just based on the uniqueness of your writing. It doesn't work that way in paper publishing, especially in non-niche subjects where the key words in the title won't help you due to the mass of competing titles. The internet is more like an infinitely large bookstore with a billion or more people browsing the shelves. Sure, the big trade publishers and the big authority sites may have tens or hundreds of thousands of titles on the virtual shelves, but with a billion browsers, you can still draw your share of interest.

Finally, keep in mind that starting a paper book publishing company will cost you a few hundred dollars just for the ISBN block and costs will rise rapidly as you prepare your first book for publication. Starting an online publishing company costs you a few dollars a year to register a domain name and a few dollars a month to pay for hosting. Mistakes on paper cost money and can only be corrected by reprinting. Mistakes online take seconds to fix and the electrons don't cost a dime. Given my druthers (thank you, Huck Finn for pronouncing I'd rather as a single word) I'll always start with electrons:-)

1 comment:

Simphiwe Langa said...

Thank you so much for the insight.. Really helpful.