How do I start an ebook publisher?
May 23, 2012 8:36 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to start an ebook publisher. Do I need to incorporate? Is there some other official...designation...I should be seeking?

I'm gathering the response will be: Ask a lawyer. But I thought I'd see if anyone on here has any info they can share. Thanks.
posted by mekanic to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd like to start an ebook publisher.

Umm... why? You do realize that you're going to be directly competing with both Amazon and Apple, two of the most cutthroat competitors in e-business, yes? And that anyone who wants to can self-publish on the Kindle or iTunes store for what amounts to free?

As far as the legal side of things, that's going to be determined almost entirely by the business side of things. Where are you? What exactly is it that you want to do? How/where are you marketing your products and services? How much revenue are we talking about?

As with all business associations analyses, you need to let your business needs drive your legal organization, not the other way around. There are any number of different ways of doing this legally, but without access to a detailed business plan, knowing which one is best suited to your situation is impossible.

So the response is not just "Ask a lawyer," it's "Figure out what the hell you're doing, then ask a lawyer." The lawyer is mostly there to help you do whatever it is that you need to do, and we don't have any idea what that is.

Tl;dr: forming a business entity is rarely the first step in starting a new business. You need a business plan first.
posted by valkyryn at 8:50 AM on May 23, 2012

I form business entities. IANAL, IANAAccountant.

Like valkyryn says, you're putting the cart before the horse. The type of business entity you want depends on how you prefer to be taxed, how fast you think you'll be growing, how many employees you plan to hire, and so on. If you don't have this planned out, then you need to do that first and then see which sort of entity (sole proprietorship, C-Corp, S-Corp, LLC, etc.) is best for you. Which is also why you want to speak to a lawyer/accountant because the differences can get rather technical and the filings and fees can become incredibly byzantine.
posted by griphus at 8:55 AM on May 23, 2012

Also, please keep in mind that you need to file your entity on both the Federal level (with the IRS) and on the state level. I'm only mentioning this because I've gotten an oddly large amount of phone calls lately from people who registered an EIN with the IRS and thought they now had a recognized entity on the state level. There is zero communication between the IRS and the individual states as far as retrieving an EIN number is concerned. They don't check if the entity exists.
posted by griphus at 9:00 AM on May 23, 2012

You don't need to initially incorporate. (But you do, eventually.)

But if you want to do it cheap and easy, there's services like Incorp that make it easy. You pay a small fee essentially but they do keep you from running afoul of filing deadlines, etc. Your mileage will vary.

(And there are plenty of reasons to become an ebook publisher!)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:07 AM on May 23, 2012

Anyone can publish, it's true. But not everyone can publish what I'm going to publish, which requires a bit more of a background in what it is that I do. It's a small audience with occasional potential to break beyond that audience. You know, publishing.

As far as the details: it'll be very small, probably no more than one book a month, and I have hopes that one day it'll make enough money to support me (and to do more books), but in reality I assume it'll be something that will take up some nights and weekends. I'm doing it because I enjoy doing it; full stop. There will be few upfront costs, besides my time, and I don't really need anyone to do anything. So, "employees" = 1.

I'm not planning on taking on Amazon or Apple. In fact, they have little interest in the kinds of books I'll be doing. There's room for all of us, I think.

What I don't know is how to go about establishing a legal framework within which these activities can be pursued. Or if there necessarily needs to be one.
posted by mekanic at 11:11 AM on May 23, 2012

The main reason to establish some kind of entity (which would typically be an LLC or corporation) is to protect yourself from liability. It's your call whether you need that protection.

If it's just you and you're not planning to involve anyone else as an employee, director, etc., an LLC would probably be the simplest way to go. You could convert to a corporation later. Google "choosing a business entity" for lots of resources on this. (Read multiple ones, especially if you're not going to talk to a lawyer.) Also, check your state's Secretary of State website to see what filings and fees are involved. Keep in mind you will have annual taxes and compliance filings if you form an entity.

If you don't think you need an entity, you may just want to have a D/B/A ("doing business as") certificate. Where I live, this is done at the town level and is usually pretty cheap and easy. Again, some googling should let you know how it's done.

In general, whatever you choose can be changed later. So, if this is very low-key, just for fun, just you, no risk of liability, you may choose not to do anything legally right now, but later when you ramp up you may want to consider forming an entity. If you choose an LLC, you can usually convert to a corporation later on.

IAAL, IANYL, and I think Nolo books are great resources for this sort of thing. I'm sure there's one on starting a business. See if your library has a copy, or consider investing in one.
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:37 AM on May 23, 2012

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