Publishing: Great Mistake #1, Operating in Isolation

I’ve got this…

It all started with a book club. Not for readers, but for writers. Every so often, hardly regularly enough to call it scheduled, we would meet to discuss our writing projects and give each other feedback and encouragement.

Then I got the brilliant idea. No, more than that. It was like a fuse that ignited a slow burning fire that became a long burning passion to become a publisher. Just like that, without any rhyme or reason, I was convinced it was possible and I didn’t care what it would take to accomplish.

Where to begin?

Researching how to start a publishing company was a late night, weekend sort of thing for me. My life was (and still is) extremely full and busy. I wasn’t sure where to look or how to go about it. I bought some books, spent time at the library, did Google searches, and spent lots and lots of time going around in circles. 

Things like business licenses, how to do the books, printing companies, ISBNs, software, webhosting, P.O. boxes, opening accounts of all kinds. Then you have contracts, payments, copyrights, and taxes—all this can be discovered. It takes time, but the info is out there. 

There were no online classes or college courses for starting a publishing company that I could find in those days and the few conferences made for publishers were far away, expensive, and with panel descriptions that made me feel lost. I wasn’t ready for them yet. I knew too little.

I spent two or three years at this, coming up with a business plan, writing bylaws, putting together legal paperwork, a mission statement, a vision statement, and a startup budget. And I saved money.

I found myself going it alone. Who wants to come along for the ride with someone who is wandering the fields gathering wildflowers for several years hoping to build a bouquet suitable for a publishing company? Ok. That’s a really lame analogy, which is why I’m keeping it, because the way I did this was lame too.

What about other publisher startups out there?

They weren’t blogging or writing or podcasting as far as I could tell. Today I did a quick search on “How to start a publishing company” and found some great resources instantly, (like this one for example). But that was not the case ten years ago. It felt sort of like people-in-the-know were being secretive on purpose to keep ignorant newbies outside the gate. It’s more likely no one noticed or cared that I was out there searching for a way in. 

But I’ve always enjoyed finding my own way and that was part of the fun, even though I got discouraged many times and had to put the whole thing on the shelf for months at a time. 

Like the time when I was trying to figure out how to get Adobe Distiller and nobody anywhere in the entire WORLD could explain to me that it was part of Acrobat!! It took me TWO YEARS to track down that information and that includes unsuccessful conversations with Adobe salespeople.

The antidote

There is one thing I could have done differently, if I had only known, that might have shaved a few years off the timeline for me. 

Talk to other authors. 

Finding authors to talk to seemed impossible to me. Why? I have no idea. It was years before I tried, and I’m glad I figured it out because I have benefited so much from being in community with other authors. 

Of course I don’t regret the mistakes. 

I’ve got the bouquet now and each wildflower is a memory.

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