I just spent some time searching the web for a listing of publishing companies for sale. I don't know if I phrasing the search queries wrong or if there's just no good central listing of publishers for sale because all I can come up with is single offers and questionable directories. When the descriptions don't include the date the ad was posted, or even a website to visit, I can't imagine why anybody would invest the time to follow-up. I certainly didn't. If anybody knows of a site or broker dealing with small publishing companies, even self publishers who are giving up the business, please drop me an e-mail.
Growing a business through acquisitions is hardly a new idea, it's probably the easiest way in the world to increase your topline and your industry footprint. It's not something I've been thinking about for a long time, but I'm moving soon, and I'm looking for a house or a mixed zoning building (like a store and an apartment) up in New Hampshire for this winter. Talking to a friend, I mentioned that if I don't buy a house, I might put the money into buying a business instead, though I was thinking of a bookstore when I said it. Looking at the options from the standpoint of a businessman, I could add more value to a publishing business than to a bookstore, which one of the main goals of being an entrepreneur.
There's also the fact that I've moved towards publishing other authors and then backed off several times, even went so far once as advertising for manuscripts and drawing up a contract. The problem, then and now, was I realized that I didn't want to take on the overhead of dealing with new authors, some with unrealistic expectations and all with their share of eccentricities:-) However, I've had pretty good luck over the past few years outsourcing jobs I couldn't or wouldn't do to contractors, and I know a couple of reliable, intelligent candidates who think I could hire as part-time managers to deal with the facets of the publishing business I'm not good at.
Since my main strength is in Internet based book marketing, I'd really like to find a small publishing company with some titles that are good and an existing web site that's really, really bad. It's always easiest to pick the low hanging fruit, and I'm not going out of my way to risk money on something that proves a greater challenge than I can handle. But I'm also a believer in comparison shopping, and it's frustrating not being able to find a list of publishers looking to sell their businesses. You'd think that hundreds of small publishers would come up for sale every year just by way of estate sales, or maybe their families just close the business down and forget about it. That would be a shame.
There may not be any value in a storeroom full of books that never sold, inventory is death, but there's always value in content and intellectual property, now that we live in the age of Google. A publishing business that didn't work ten years ago might very well be made to work today, with print-on-demand, Amazon, and the Internet. I'm going to put some more thought into it and do some more research, maybe I'm missing something obvious. In the meantime, I developed a painful case of heartburn writing this, so maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something.