Do you enjoy writing books, and would you like to start a publishing company to sell them? Then this article is just right for you. Because here you will find out all the important steps that you have to take. We also show you here which legal things have to be observed.
What do you need a publisher for?
A publisher is a media company. This company reproduces and distributes works of literature, among other things. So if you’re writing a book and don’t want to deal with the other paperwork as well, a publisher is the best option for you. A publisher will take care of the following tasks for you:
- Contractual rights of withdrawal of the author
- Consequences of a publisher’s bankruptcy
- other tasks
How do you get from the author to the publisher?
If you are successful with your first book, there will usually be more books to follow. Because of the publishing costs, the idea of founding a publishing house may well arise. However, to become a publisher, you have to pay attention to many things, which we show you in this article. However, if you want to take this step, you should note that you will often have to make economic decisions that can harm your projects.
What requirements have to be met if you want to set up your own publishing house?
If you want to start a publishing company, entrepreneurial knowledge is essential. You should also have a basic knowledge of books and bring enthusiasm and motivation with you. A bookseller degree is a great advantage, but not a must. However, if you know the basics of the book trade because of your training, you have one pointless that you need to acquire knowledge about.
Furthermore, sufficient capital meaningful. Because without capital, a company cannot be founded and managed. In addition, you have to familiarize yourself fully with some laws. These are:
- Publishing law
- Copyright Act
- Book Price Fixing Act
In the course of this article, we will show you what these individual laws contain. Last but not least, you have to think about the entry in the commercial register, the business registration and the registration with the IHK.
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Entry in the commercial register
If you found a publisher as a registered businessman, UG or GmbH, you are obliged to have yourself entered in the commercial register. In this register, all registered traders are listed in a public directory. In addition, the registered traders are assigned to a registered court responsible for them.
To run a publishing house, you need a trade license. You can get this from your responsible trade office. In general, your identity card is required when registering a business. But you also need other documents, which depend on your type of company. You can inquire about this directly at the trade office.
Once you have all the documents, an employee from the trade office will check them, enter all the data in the system and print out the trade registration and the fee notification for you. The costs vary depending on the region, but you can also ask the trade office. On average, you pay around 26 euros.
Membership in the IHK (Chamber of Commerce and Industry) is compulsory for publishers. Therefore this membership exists automatically as soon as the trade office has registered your publisher. You will automatically receive a letter from the IHK. Here you will also find the necessary information about membership. The costs for the IHK are based on the type and scope of your company (this is the base amount) and the trade income (an allocation is calculated here). In the following, we show you three examples:
- As a first-time founder, you are exempt from paying contributions for the first two years. This applies to the basic amount and the contribution. In the two following years, you only pay the basic amount.
- If you are a small business owner who is not registered in the commercial register and your business income is not higher than 5,200 euros per year, you do not pay any membership fees. If your trade income is between EUR 5,200.01 and EUR 25,000, you will pay around EUR 40. Depending on how the trade income increases, the contribution for the IHK also increases.
- As a registered businessman with a trade income of fewer than 25,000 euros, you contribute around 180 euros.
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What are the guidelines in publishing if you want to start a publishing company?
We have shown you which laws you have to observe and which registrations are pending. But there is a lot more than you have to consider if you want to start a publishing company. Below are some guidelines to keep in mind and what they mean.
What is publishing law about?
Publishing law is about the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute works of literature or music. This is stipulated in § 8 VerlG (publishing law). The right to publish is considered part of the rights of use under copyright law. The author grants a publisher the right to publish a work. This means that the author and the publisher conclude a publishing contract.
What is copyright?
On the one hand, copyright includes the officially recognized claim to personal property. On the other hand, copyright stipulates who is allowed to use this property and how.
What do ISBN and ISSN numbers mean?
The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a short and unique identifier. In addition, this number is unique and makes every book unmistakable.
Why do you need an imprint?
According to the state press law, you need an imprint for every print product. This means that this requirement also applies to books. You must provide the following information in your imprint:
- Name and full address of the publisher
- Company name
- Place of printing
- Name of the author with copyright reference
- corresponding edition
What is title protection all about?
Title protection applies in Germany. That means every book title has to be unique. If you publish a book that disregards this title protection, it may lead to high fines. There is a very simple way to check whether your title has already been taken. Go to the German National Library website and enter your desired title. If you don’t get any results, you can misplace the book.
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Why do you need deposit copies for the DNB (German National Library)?
Publishers are generally obliged to send two copies of their publishing works to the DNB at their own expense.
What is the VLB (Directory of Available Books)?
It always makes sense to register your books in the VLB. Because booksellers like to see which books they want to order next here, if they come across your book, you’re more likely to sell them.
What is fixed book price all about?
Since 2002 every publisher has been obliged to sell its books at a fixed price. Therefore you can often find the price directly on the envelope or in the imprint. You can only reduce the books when a set deadline has expired.
What is the EAN code?
To be able to sell your book in retail stores, you need a 13-digit EAN code. The EAN code is a European article number that contains information about the price of the book. You can apply for this number via GS1 Germany GmbH.
What is the right legal form if you want to start a publishing house?
There are different legal forms that you can choose when founding a publishing house. We’ll show you what options you have here. But you have to decide on a legal form alone. First, there is the form of the sole proprietorship. If you want to set up a publisher but do not want any other owners to share in the company, the form is the right one.
You have a lot of freedom here, and no minimum capital is required. However, you are solely liable for your private assets if something goes wrong. You should pay attention to this in any case. If you want more security, the GmbH is an alternative. Because here you are only liable up to the amount of your deposit. However, it would help if you had a start-up capital of 25,000 euros.
If you want to start a publishing house with several people, a simple variant is the GbR. All founders are liable for their own business or private assets. The UG, on the other hand, is similar to the GmbH. However, you don’t need start-up capital here.
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What costs do you have to expect if you want to start a publishing house?
In principle, the costs cannot be precisely foreseen. Because it all depends on how you set up your publishing house. Which advertising media do you want to use, or how high will your shop costs be? So that you have an overview of which costs you should budget, we have a list for you below with the most important points:
Capital for the initial phase, such as:
- Setup or remodeling
- own cost of living
Capital for the purchase of goods and related powers, such as:
- Procurement costs
Bureaucracy and consulting costs during the start-up phase
Operating costs such as:
- Shop rent
- electricity costs
- heating costs
- storage costs
Insurance and Taxes
Cash reserves for any bottlenecks
Successfully founding a publisher: What else do you have to consider?
To found a publishing house successfully; you have to consider a few things. We have explained to you which criteria are important here in the following paragraphs.
Define the product and find a niche
It would help if you considered whether you only want to publish your books or books by other authors. Because then, the next step is to consider whether you only want to publish a certain genre and, if so, which one. These questions must also be answered:
- Which niche do you want to occupy?
- How is the competition?
- Which target group do you know and can you address?
Because if your selection of topics is too broad, it will be difficult for you as a publisher to build a clear profile and reputation. It is beneficial if you are trying to find your own or a low-competitive niche.
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Find company names
Before you think about a company name, you first have to determine the legal form. Because this is decisive, how you can or are allowed to call your company. For example, in sole proprietorships, your name must always be part of the company name. If you are founding a GmbH or OHG, the legal form abbreviation must always be appended to your company name.
Here we have a checklist for you of what you have to consider when choosing a name:
- Check proper name requirement
- Clarify trade-specific regulations
- Determine purpose, corporate governance and legal form
- Composition of the name (personal name, material name or fantasy name)
- Pronunciation and readability
- Alignment with the target group
- Brand potential
- Business areas
- international company name
- Business partner
- commercial register
- Business register
- Trademark register
- Domain check
Marketing and advertising material
It would help if you dealt with the marketing method before founding your publishing house. The book trade’s marketing and publishing service can help you here because the MBV provides a lot of information for successful marketing in the publishing industry. For example, which methods make the most sense for advertising.
tip: Marketing via social media platforms is always helpful. But even better are social reading platforms such as reading juries or lovely books.
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Clarify personnel issues in advance
At the beginning of your publishing house, you might still be able to do all the work on your own. But in the long run, you have to worry about the staff. Because if your company is successful, you can no longer manage production, logistics and sales on your own. Therefore, you must keep an eye on the workload and clarify the personnel issue at an early stage.
Find creative partners
If you want to start a publishing company, it is helpful to have creative partners around you. These can be:
- Graphic artist
- possibly translator
Tip: If you are starting, it is helpful to work with freelancers. Because they are usually more flexible to use and cheaper, if you have established yourself with your company and have an eye on your finances, you can permanently employ your creative partners.
What are the opportunities and risks of founding a publishing house?
The opportunities and risks of founding a publishing house are important aspects that you should deal with. For example, you should take a close look at the official figures on the development of the book trade because the number of newly published and sold books has declined in recent years. However, the genre plays a role here. E-books, on the other hand, have an increase in publishing and selling.
It is also important that you do not base yourself solely on your taste when choosing which books you want to publish. Please pay attention to the target group and their size. The production of the books also plays a role. Better to produce a smaller edition first and see if there is a market for the book. If the request is large, you can always reproduce it.
The last and most important point is: When choosing your sales partners, make sure that they don’t have to familiarize themselves with a market from scratch. Established partners are the better choice here.
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Where can you get support if you want to start a publishing house?
Support is never wrong. After all, how should you know every little detail about founding the publishing house? For example, you can get help from the German book trade association. Over 1,850 publishers are organized here that use the service. The IHK (Chamber of Commerce and Industry) provides further support.
Self-publishing or starting a regular publisher: which is better?
It depends on whether you only want to publish your books or the books of other authors. Self-publishing is sufficient for your books. But if you also want to publish books by other authors, you should set up a regular publisher.
Founding a publishing house through a service provider: you have to know that!
Another option is to set up a publisher through a service provider. Because here you can benefit from its infrastructure. There are providers through which you set up your publisher and then offer various authors to publish books using a tool provided by the provider in your publisher. These books will then be put on the market without you having to contribute anything.
What is a digital publisher?
A digital publisher is what is known as an online publisher. Here, print editions are completely dispensed with. Instead, it is published purely on the Internet. The advantages here are:
- The books are always available online.
- Printing and operating costs are eliminated.
- You can charge a fee for a download. However, only if it can be seen in the general terms and conditions.
The disadvantage is that not everyone has access to the Internet or wants to do business over the Internet.
Now you know all the important steps you have to take to start a publishing company. You also know the possible legal forms and which guidelines you have to observe. Now it’s up to you to decide if you want to start a publishing company. When making this decision, it is helpful to draw up a business plan to have your ideas and plans in black and white. This is the best way to recognize possible hurdles or mistakes and to react or decide accordingly.