Starting a book publishing business is fairly straightforward. However, to start a publishing business you need more than a computer, software and the ability to edit copy. Assess your entrepreneurial abilities. Determine whether you have business and financial skills and the entrepreneurial mindset to run your own business.
Decide what you are going to offer your clients
There are numerous services to choose from in both print and electronic formats. Publishing includes many stages such as copy editing, graphic design, production, marketing, selling and distribution. As a publisher, you can work in a number of mediums – newspapers, magazines, books, software, music publishing, and the fast changing world of electronic media.
Types of Publishing
Within the world of print there are different kinds of publishing:
1. Consumer publishing:
This is related with publishing books for general consumers. These are the books that you see and buy in bookshops.
2. Trade publishing:
Also know as business-to-business publishing, This type of publishing is targeted to specific industries.
3. Educational Publishing:
Books and guides that schools, colleges and universities require.
4. Independent Publishing:
Independent publishers publish all types of books, catalogues, brochures and magazines. They also deal with authors and writers in specialised fields who produce publications that have a narrower appeal .These options often include “print on demand” and even “eBook” formats.
Find a niche
You have to ensure that you have researched the market and have found a niche in the market for your enterprise.
Write a business plan
You have to sit down and write a business plan. It is something that has to be done as it maps out your business and puts the process of starting the business into action. When you are preparing the plan, keep in mind that the competition among publishers is cut-throat. In addition, you have to make sure that the business model you put together ensures that it can stand competition from big publishing houses.
What must a business plan include?
A business plan conveys your vision to possible investors. A good business plan must include key components:
- Executive summary
- Business description
- Marketing plan
- Competitive analysis
- Operations and management plan
- Financial plan
Choose a business entity
The next thing to do is to choose a business entity, which can be a sole proprietorship, closed corporation or private company. When you have decided on the entity and selected a name for the business register your business with Cipro.
Set a price for your services
In order to make money you have to charge for your time, your expertise, and your supplies.
Hardware and software
Select a software program in which to lay out your books. Microsoft Word, WordPerfect or Microsoft Publisher work well. If you are working within the electronic media, you would need to select suitable software and hardware to support the electronic media of choice.
A good marketing plan
The publishing business is all about marketing. Clients don’t come knocking on your door just because you say you’re open for business. You have to go out and bring them in whether it’s through cold calling, advertising, networking, or sending out press releases.
Tie up good contracts
Companies negotiate and enter into contracts fairly frequently in the course of business. Small business need to negotiate the best terms for their business and create a well-drafted agreement that will avoid any dispute or potential litigation. It is important to go to a negotiation having done your research. Know relevant law, facts, and figures.
Publishing is changing
The publishing world is changing fast. Authors around the world can now self-publish a Kindle version of their books. A Kindle is an electronic book reader. This digital text platform enables writers to publish without a publisher simply by up loading a PDF, text, Word or HTML version of their book. Authors then set their own price for the book and get paid 35% of the sales.
These are the steps to take when starting a publishing company or for that matter any company:
- Reserve a company name with the registrar of companies
- Lodge formation documentation with Cipro – register the business entity of choice
- Open a business bank account
- Register with the local receiver of revenue
- Register with the department of labour
- Register with the Commissioner according to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act.
Audit Bureau of Circulations of South Africa (ABC)
Besides registering your company as a business entity, registering with SARS and for VAT, any printed newspaper or magazine that you intend to publish should be registered with The Audit Bureau of Circulations of South Africa (ABC).
Is joining the ABC useful?
There is a very good reason why you should join the Audit Bureau. The primary function of this Section 21 Company is to provide accurate and comparable circulation figures to help advertisers, marketers and publishers in the buying and selling of advertising and promotional material regarding your publication.
How to join
Prospective members may only apply for membership once they have published at least one issue. The registration process isn’t difficult. All that is required is that the application form is completed and the non-refundable administration fee is paid.
After the fee is received an ABC auditor will e-mail an auditability questionnaire which must be completed. Once the ABC auditor is satisfied with all the information, The ABC will send you a letter granting you provisional membership and when your initial certificate is required to be submitted to the ABC.
South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF)
SANEF was founded in 1996 and is a voluntary organisation representing senior journalists, editors and journalism trainers, from all areas of the media industry. They promote quality and ethics of journalism and defend and promote media freedom and independence. Membership forms can be downloaded.
The World Association of Newspaper Publishing (WAN)
Need advice or inspiration? WAN is an “idea forum” for publishing companies and suppliers to the publishing industry. WAN’s website supplies conference information, recent publications and newsletters.
Starting a Magazine
How to start an electronic magazine or “ezine”?
Once you have decided on a topic, you need to establish who the target market is. It is very important not to make the target market too broad or too narrow.
Research your competition
You can do this by doing a Google search and look at how many “ezine’s” there are on the topic you are interested in. Try to work out how to be different or how you can offer more value. It’s important to understand the competition as well as who advertises on various ezines. You need to decide how often you are going to publish the ezine and if it will be emailed automatically to your subscribers. Monthly is a good starting point.
Plan the ezine
Prepare a dummy copy. Decide whether or not you are going to write the ezine yourself, or if you are going to employ freelance writers to help you. Also, unlike traditional authors, “zinesters” are free from editors or publishers that would regulate the content of their work. Remember if you are employing staff you have to pay them. So, it would probably better if you do it all yourself until the ezine is generating income.
Register the business and the domain name. Design a template with a masthead.
Join a matching making service
You are now ready to sign up with an organization like “Ezeine” or “Zinester” who are what could be described as a “matching service”. Their function is to connect your ezine with a suitable mailing database and to bring real-world experts and ezine publishers together.
Expert authors and writers are able to post their articles to be featured within the site. They offer searchable databases of hundreds of thousands of quality original articles for ezine publishers hungry for fresh content to find articles that they can use for inclusion within online publication
Publishing online can be lucrative
Online publishing for profit is one of the fastest growing areas on the web. An online publication will generate revenue in a similar way to a printed magazine – by selling advertisements and selling subscriptions for the online magazine or “ezine” as they are often referred to.
As it is paperless, you save a huge amount on printing costs. It is easy to collect payments when operating an online publication. After choosing an electronic payment service such as PayPal or Google Checkout, you are set to go. They are easy to use and to set up.
What are the pros and cons of launching a printed magazine vs. an online ezine?
Unit sales mean that the publication is sold at a price per issue. If you sell 1 000 copies at R10 a unit through retail outlets you will make R10 000 in revenue. You increase the revenue stream further by selling subscriptions at a cheaper rate.
Bear in mind though that your may pay up to 50% of revenue generated through unit sales to your distributor. The other big revenue stream is advertising which generates most of the money required to produce a publication. You need a large amount of revenue to fund a printed magazine as printing and paper costs are high, as are staff and contributor bills.
Advantages of launching an online magazine
- An online magazine includes functionality that is impossible to deliver in print. This will give you an immediate and sustainable advantage over your print competitors because you can stream audio and video. It is simple and cheap to produce professional audio and video clips that can be streamed from the website.
- Discussion forums provide tools that build a community that in turn creates loyalty, and loyalty creates strong recurring revenues. Digital opportunities such as podcasts, e-books, reports and software can be part of your daily content that will encourage people to subscribe, or they can be sold as an extra revenue stream.
- Other wonderful option is user created content that encourages users to provide content and other contributions. This can be comments about articles, ratings and forums. These are all excellent ways to get to know and understand users.
Disadvantages of launching an online magazine
- It is extremely important however to bear in mind that when you launch an online publication you will quite literally have millions of competitors.
- Publishers find it very difficult to generate revenue from charging a subscription fee. Most websites that charge fees give away the majority of their content for free.
- If you wish to generate revenue from selling banner ads and sponsorships you will need to build significant traffic – hundreds of thousands of page impressions per month may just enable you to break even.
- It will take a lot of time and energy split between marketing and optimisation activities to just achieve those hundreds of thousands of page impressions.
- Running a successful online ezine will require that you are not only a masterful publisher who is able to provide good content, but you will also need to have the technical savvy when it comes to online business.
- Building an effective website can be done on the cheap if you have enough know-how, however ignorance of the industry and poor planning can result in high costs and an ineffective site.
How to find authors/photographers to write and photograph content?
First consider what type of writer and/or photographer you are looking for and providing a brief of what you want to achieve on websites that cater for freelance writers and photographers.
Then look for talent on these sites:
- Post an advertisement in Bizcommunity – in the recruitment section of the site.
- Freelancentral is a good place to find freelancers. The site features comprehensive portfolios, posted on line, which include writers, photographers and designers looking for work.
- You can contact The Write Company, a Johannesburg based company, who teach and train writers, journalists and PR writers. They would have a database that may be of help.
Buying syndictaed content
When looking to buy syndicated articles, where you source stories, would depend largely on the subject matter of the publication you intend to publish. The are a lot a websites which offer free use of articles; however, it is very important to check and understand their terms and conditions. Articlesource offer a variety of articles covering a comprehensive range of topics from business to health matters.
Publishing a Book
How to self-publish a book
Publishing online costs very little while printing a book requires a lot of capital investment.
The traditional route
If you would like a book to appear on the shelves of local bookstores, it is best to send your manuscript to a traditional publisher. If they deem the book good enough to publish, they will take care of everything on your behalf. Local publishing houses include Penguin Books, Van Schaik Publishers and Macmillan, South Africa.
The Publishers Association of South Africa will be able to offer more information with regard to traditional publishing; however, it recommends contacting local digital publisher Crink, which deals extensively with the self-publishing market.
There are various companies in South Africa that provide self-publishing options both online and as a printed book. One of South Africa’s better known online publishers is Crink. “Crink is a digital publishing space, where authors can publish, sell, market and distribute their work in an online customised environment.
The best part is that you can interact and engage with the reading public on your own terms. You control your own content in an online community of authors and buyers,” advises Mari Beukes, online editor for Crink. “Crink offers a second alternative where the author hires a publishing consultant to get the book published and distributed through online platforms and in retail outlets. The fees are charged according to the scope and depth of the book,” continues Beukes. “We also offer various marketing packages designed to increase sales.”
Another local self-publishing company that you can contact is Just Done Productions – Publishing, which offers a service that allows authors to publish their work without having to speculate about its commercial viability.
Another company option is New Voices Publishing, which offers technology that gives the author the opportunity of getting their work published through alternative methods using Print-On-Demand (POD) technology. POD takes care of layout, typesetting, design and can publish a book in under six weeks.
The benefit of digital ready-to-publish files for books and covers is being able to print when the demand is there and not warehousing masses of books that may or may not sell.
For more information on local self-publishers go to:
- New Voices
- Just Done
For traditional publishing visit:
- Publish SA
- Penguin Books
- Pan Macmillan
For more information
Contact the Publishing Association of South Africa (PASA) who promote and protect the rights and responsibilities of the independent publishing sector in South Africa. They will be able to help with regard to further legal steps you need to take, depending on the kind of publications you intend to publish.