There is more to it than just editing, formatting and putting a work out there.
A publisher has to have time and resources to sift through all of the slush that will be sent and find what the publisher not only believes will sell, but have the know how to market it. Editing, cover art, distribution, contracts, tracking sales, inventory, royalties, etc. all takes time and effort.
It is one thing to self publish. Then you're only impacting your work. If you're a publisher, authors are expecting you to do more than make a work available. That's why the publisher gets a cut of the profits. Bringing a writer's work to print and allowing it to flounder in obsurity and not get the support (be it proper editing, cover art, reviews, distribution, etc. that it deserves) sets one up to shatter a hopeful writer's dreams.
The best thing to do, I believe, would be to work for a publisher and learn the ropes before going out on ones own. You're very correct in that it is easier now than ever to start a new publishing house. But it isn't easier than ever to be a successful one.
Or - ask someone who's already done it to mentor you. I know a few people like us who've done it themselves - Fablecroft is the best I know - and as they're just normal people with a huge interest, who've somehow been successful - they may be willing to give enough guidance.
Don't forget proof reading and formatting. There are, by all accounts, a lot of steps involved in taking a manuscript and making it publishable, and then making it actually sell. But I agree with Starconstant - technology may make the process easier, but success is still dependant on how much work you put in, who you know, what you know, and how good you are at selling the book, marketting it, and finding distributors.
I think time is the most crucial element if you're starting a new publishing house. The less you know and the fewer connections you have, the more time you are going to need. If you are resourceful (and technology has certainly helped in this aspect), you can figure everything out. But you have to be on top of everything, and that is a lot as TW pointed out. And some parts, like marketing, are continuous.
Thanks Chilari. I did try to post an introduction, but when I submitted it, I got a pop up message that I was not quite able to finish before it disappeared. Something about welcome and 5 posts is all I was able to get from it in the second it was visiable. So, I thought there would be a delay of some sort before my introduction was posted and didn't want to submit another for fear of a double introduction...
Anyway, I'm going to suggest my friend and publisher respond on this thread since basically he is in the infancy of starting his own small publishing house, in a sense. I'll let him explain since I really couldn't do it justice.
Does your friend want to start a publishing house to publish his/her own book, as K.L. Brady did, or a real publishing house to publish other people's books?
According to Brady, the administrative sides of opening an imprint are a piece of cake. Running a real publishing house, however, is a different ball game altogether...
first let me apologize for not promptly jumping into this forum when Aiden first asked. I really wanted to, but between my regular day job and finishing my attic, I just could find the time. So, please accept my humble apology if this thread has become stale. Now, let me back up a little and give you some background as to why I twisted Aiden's arm into letting me e-publish his book, Rogue's Honor. I've known Aiden a long time, and I read the earliest versions of Rogue's Honor in chapter installments when he was first crafting the story over 15 years ago. I recall countless sessions during which Aiden would fleshout the specifics until I knew the storyline as well as he did, and yet as he started churning out the actual chapters I devoured them, always wanting the next one sooner than he could transcribe his scribblings to electronic form. I won't go into why Aiden never submitted his manuscript to publishers or even agents, but after reading some articles about e-publishing I finally just threw down the gauntlet and said, "Aiden, you and I have both read published crap not nearly half as good as your book. If you're not going to pursue publication, let me e-publish it for you and see what happens. What do you have to lose?" I had to show him some articles about e-publication success stories, all of which down-played the chances of similar success while still highlighting the ease with which a writer good expose their work to readers. To me, publishing Rogue's Honor was never about making any money, it was about putting a good book (one the I believed in) on the market where anyone could buy it.
But as I learned more about the process of e-publishing, I became more intrigued with the whole business. There are so many writers trying to scratch out their own niche in the market and so many obstacles in their way to just getting published let alone the challenges of getting recognition or turning a profit. Indeed, there are so many so called publishers who are out there just to take money from starry-eyed writers, without any interst in the writer whatsoever. Their contracts ensure the publisher gets money whether or not the product sales, and if the product does sale, these same publishers take most of the sales as well as the upfront money the writer put down. I'm still working out the finer details, but I believe I can provide a fair and benefitial service to independent writers seeking e-publication without charging a large fee for producing the publication files or taking a cut of any sales they generate. I'm also confident that while currently I have very little marketing impact to offer, this too will increase as the collective base of writers I represent grows and I begin to network with likeminded publishers and reviewers. Clearly, my business model will not be that of a traditional publisher. On the contrary, I believe the model of the future should look very different than that of the current publishing models. I still have much to learn, but I am learning every day.
Several big notable authors have turned down MAJOR advances to go it on their own, there was one a few months ago who turned down US $500k to self publish using his own publishing company. NYT bestseller Steve Alten has also been publishing under his own "label" for a few years. I don't remember if it's Forge or Tsunami though.
The list of authors doing this is growing. I'm not advocating for a first time author to go it alone but once an author has the skill it is certainly possible using outside labor for covers, formatting and editing to do it quite successfully.
Results will vary and the weaker ones will die off and the ones with good business models who take care of the authors will survive.
As mentioned: time. Once you start publishing (and it becomes known that you are), you will be receiving hundreds of manuscripts a month… possibly thousands, if you really become established. (Or if the trend toward internet publication continues to grow and attract all the marginal "authors" who'd never submit to a currently-established market.) At which point you have to become the guy you hate: the one who reads the first paragraph–maybe: assuming you get past the cover letter–and tosses the thing away, because you don't have the time to waste to see if it gets better in the second. Or else get someone to do that for you. (If you think you're hearing evil laughter at this point, yes, that's my voice. I'm good with being brutal.)
Knowledge of the physical process–formatting it appropriately, so that it actually shows up the way you want it to when someone else tries to read/download it–is a must, but that can be acquired easily enough. Then finding out how to place it with intermediary services (Amazon, etc.) so that it actually shows up when someone looks for it… which, I imagine, is largely little more than a process of asking the service in question what you need to do, and then doing it. Assuming they reply to your queries, at least. That's speculation, though: I can't claim any knowledge in this area.
I dreamed of doing this before I interned with a publishing company and realized how much work it is. I sifted through about 100 manuscripts, most of which I only read the first 10 pages or so before I put it down. I'm generally a pretty hard person to impress, so it was an interesting experience. I had hate mail, blogs written about how stupid of an editor I was, etc. It's a pretty thankless job and not as cool as you'd think. It was fun in some ways, but after carefully constructing each rejection letter it started to become annoying. Especially when the writer would never write back and say thanks for not sending a form letter. Some did, but most didn't.
I wouldn't mind doing it in the future when I'm more patient, have more time, and more money. But for a 30 year old with way too many hobbies, I'll pass for the time being.