How can I start a digital publishing company?
December 20, 2012 9:33 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have an insights into the digital publishing industry?

With the number of self-published eBooks out there, I think there might be a market for a digital publishing company that handles editing, distribution and publicity. I look at awesome companies like the Pragmatic Bookshelf and No Starch Press and wonder if there's room in the market.

There seems to be very little information out there on running a publishing company, and even less so on one that doesn't do physical media. What problems might I face? Is there an MVP for this type of thing? Perhaps I need to self publish my own work and build a process around that?
posted by swizzle_stik to Work & Money (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You might look closely at companies like Smashwords, which I think is one of the biggest publishers/distributors of self-published eBook authors. They're great on the distribution front, but I don't know how much editing/marketing/publicity they do. Then there are companies like Open Road, which does quite a lot of marketing and publicity, but they're basically just a regular publishing company that doesn't make print editions -- they're not really open to any author off the street who wants to get an eBook published.

Two big eBook publishing conferences are coming up: Digital Book World in January in NY, and Tools of Change, in February in NY.

Both of those conferences have tons of year-round attendant media (newsletters, panels, Linked-In Groups, Twitter feeds, etc) so even if attending the actual conference isn't possible, there might still be useful resources for you in those worlds.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 9:58 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's worth separating out each of editing, distribution, and publicity. At this point almost every publisher distributes through an aggregator or larger publisher: No Starch distributes through O'Reilly, A Book Apart sells direct to consumer but also uses a distributor to get into other ebook channels. PragPub is a rare exception here. I recommend ignoring distribution for now and focus on the acquisition/authoring/editing/formatting process.

I don't think you'd get a lot out of DBW or TOC. They're not priced for individuals and tend towards connecting businesses to other businesses. However, they do often have free satellite events attended by actual humans that are worth checking out if NYC is not far.

To pick one place to get on board, establish a Twitter identity and follow #eprdctn ("ebook production") and @toc at a minimum. Get familiar with the EPUB ebook format at whatever technical level you're comfortable with: Liz Castro's books are a great start. A web developer background will go a long way towards demystifying things.
posted by nev at 10:24 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

These guys are one of the more prominent companies that I know of in this field.
posted by dfriedman at 10:36 AM on December 20, 2012

I should point out that my background is in development, both web and mobile. I'm thinking in terms of technical books, rather than general publishing.
posted by swizzle_stik at 11:06 AM on December 20, 2012

Up until this month, I worked for a software firm that served the publishing industry.

The short answer to your question is that the market is pretty well saturated already and the mechanics of book production are rapidly becoming commoditized. Aside from the platforms already mentioned, Amazon has its own self-publishing arm for Kindle books. It's a crappy deal for authors, but the streamlined pipeline that ends with distribution on Amazon is hard to ignore.

I could go on at length about aspects of this, but you're already pretty far behind the curve on this, and I think you're vastly underestimating how hard the non-technical parts of this (editing, publicity, distribution) are. Selling books is a surprisingly complicated industry. If you've got some specific questions, I'd be happy to give some input if I can.
posted by mkultra at 12:47 PM on December 20, 2012

I'll disagree a little with mkultra. I think there's plenty of room for more and better digital micropublishers. For inspiration on that front there's nothing better than Craig Mod on Subcompact Publishing (originally delivered as a talk at Books in Browsers).

If Craig's vision resonates with yours, swizzle_stik, that field of publishing is still wide open.
posted by nev at 1:54 PM on December 20, 2012

The G+ group you want is APE (Author Publisher Entrepeneur) which is a part of Guy Kawasaki's latest book centering on e-publishing.
posted by jadepearl at 2:18 PM on December 20, 2012

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