“So Let’s Put on a Show!”

I’ve talked with some family members about starting an indie publishing house. With the publishing field as chaotic as it is right now, this is actually an excellent business to get into. The big five traditional houses are crumbling, and as swell as it is to self-publish most authors just want to write their books and get paid. Plus, everybody likes it when somebody looks at your work and decides they like it enough to take a risk on it. The indies bridge the gap.

So, like Judy Garland of old, let’s put on a show! Of course, unlike Judy Garland, there are certain practical realities to face. I’ll be graduated from college with a computer science degree (oh yeah, not teaching anymore, by the way – guess you can say that’s a big deal, huh?), so I’ll be handling the technical side, and I know somebody who is willing to team up and handle finances, and a fellow writer/english major who’d be happy to join in as an editor.

This is a nice start, but three people does not a publishing house make. I would need several more editors – at least two or three. And I’d need a cover artist, preferably a couple of illustrators, though one would be fine to start. Where would I be getting these people? Who knows? I suppose I’d have to look around.

So, let’s say we have this core of three. After this, at minimum, and off the top of my head only, three more people would have to be added and somehow either payed for or convinced to join in the endeavor.

But that leads to the big issue: Money.

I’m going to be really, really generous and say we’d need 12,000 dollars start up capital. This is very low, and we’d probably need more, but let’s think positive for now. Our authors would need at least, and keep in mind that this is a very low number, a five hundred dollar advance per book. We’d probably need to pay more than that, but again, let’s think positive for now. Let’s say we start off the year putting out two books a month. The other 6,000 is for formatting, paying employees, all that jazz. The resources to really do this properly wouldn’t be easy.

Where are we getting this money? My first thought was “Take out a loan!” My second thought was, “Yeah, no.” Besides the fact that that should get your debt meters screeching, why would a bank give us a loan? The very idea is ridiculous.

No, all three of us start up guys would need to have steady jobs, and be able to save up money. But this leads to the big catch-22: If we have stable enough jobs that we are able to both support ourselves and pay off our student loans (which will be a massively expensive affair), why would we quit them to start a publishing company? There’s a reason most people don’t start their own business. To do it, you need to risk EVERYTHING. If it’s really your dream and you’re really willing to take that risk, great. But, truthfully, most people wouldn’t be willing to take that risk, and why would they? Bird in the hand and all that.

And alas, we’re back to square one: Judy Garland saying “Let’s put on a show!” Sorry, Judy, it just ain’t that easy.

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5 Responses to “So Let’s Put on a Show!”

  1. That’s not even getting into all the legal issues you’ll have to tackle. It’s enough to drive a man to suicide…

    Anyway, it would probably be smarter to have your core three work on putting out a book/story/collection/whatever as the first works of the publishing house, then use the funds from the sales of that to build up the seed money for expansion later.

    • That’s probably what would happen. We core three are going to sit down and make up a business plan at one point. Don’t expect anything for several years.

      • Yep. Best to plan out than rush in. (though you then have to be careful that you don’t get stuck in perpetual planning, you’ll have to pull the trigger at some point)

      • Zippy says:

        There are all sorts of different ways that different people succeed — which is to say, there is no one right way to be an entrepreneur. However, my own experience as an entrepreneur suggests an approach that is almost the opposite of what I think is being proposed here — though it sort of depends on what you mean by ‘planning’.

        Any good entrepreneur will combine a strategic vision with relentless tactical action. That is, he has a ‘visionary’ picture of where the world is going and where he sees himself and his venture participating in it.

        He then spends his limited time and resources relentlessly doing the very highest priority items which add maximum value to his venture.

        Almost all of the effort spent in the ‘middle space’ — making business plans, etc — is entirely useless, except to the extent that it supports the strategic vision and the principle of prioritizing value-added effort. That is, you might need a business plan to sell your strategic vision to investors and potential collaborators, and you might need one to help you clarify your own strategic vision. But I guarantee you that what you actually end up doing, if you succeed, will at best end up looking almost, but not quite, entirely unlike your business plan.

        You can email me if you want to chat further, though I’m going to be slow to respond for a few weeks; but in general, in between the impulse to plan and the impulse to act there is no contest. Act. All the planning in the world is pointless without action, and plans always radically change anyway.

    • Zippy,

      Thanks for the advice. I’m currently still in school and just switched my major to something very, very far outside of my comfort zone, so it’s hard for me to work on big stuff like this *right* now.

      Probably the first thing we will do after setting up the website is putting out a call for several anthologies.

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