How to Start a Canadian Publishing Company

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If your idea of a good time on the job is spending your days reading the manuscripts of neophytes while searching for the few innovative voices capable of turning your firm into a world-class literary house, a publishing business is definitely in your future. Whether you live in Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal or Ottawa, and regardless of whether you'll open your business to intellectual property conceived by only Canadians or from outsiders, you'll enjoy knowing that this generation's literary map will have been enhanced thanks to your ability to find and sign great writers for your Canadian imprint.

If your plan is to attract only Canadian writers, consider a name that's reflective of the nation. Consider incorporating your business, copywriting the name of your publishing house or taking other legal steps to validate your enterprise.

Decide between becoming a general publisher or a specialist. If you've decided to handle only properties written by Canadians, you can still refine your client list by identifying the types of manuscripts you're most interested in representing. You might want to specialize in nonfiction or keep your list to nothing but romance, science fiction, horror or kids' books. Remember: If you try to be all things to all people, your business might suffer an identity crisis.

Know the market you've selected by making frequent trips to Internet sites, libraries and bookstores to see what people are reading. Get acquainted with demographics, learn about Canadian distributors and find printing presses that specialize in book production. You'll also need to find warehouse space to store inventory, although Publish on Demand technology eliminates the need for warehousing books. Always stay abreast of competitor book introductions.

Join the Canadian Publishers' Council. This trade association has been around since 1910. CPC membership is composed of companies operating in Canada as well as U.S.-owned Canadian companies. There are no restrictions on genre or form (books, CDs, Web). The Council tracks statistics to keep tabs on trends, royalties, titles and sales coming from Canadian works. Once you join, you'll have a permanent window on the Canadian publishing landscape.

Understand Canada's copyright laws. This complex set of guidelines and restrictions serves as a guide for all publishers seeking to negotiate exclusive contracts with authors around the world. Since the establishment of NAFTA, Canada's copyright law has been amended, so read the latest version carefully before you begin to seek out writers for your list.

Investigate local or provincial restrictions on book publishing before you set up shop to gain a competitive advantage. For instance, all learning materials, textbooks and other aids used in Ontario school systems must be written and printed by Canadian publishers. It's the law. Similar situations could give your new publishing business a distinct edge, so don't miss out on such opportunities.

Put into place a business model to guide your company. Include a business plan, standard contracts, local or provincial business licensing, a marketing strategy, warehousing, legal oversight and an ISBN number acquisition component. Purchase software to help you scan for plagiarized content when manuscripts begin to flow in. Draft rejection letter templates. Contact Writer's Market and similar publications to have your company's name added to guides produced to showcase Canadian publishers.

Search for authors. Create a public relations campaign to promote the launch of your company. Send press kits to the Canadian media (particularly those reporting book news) to get your name out. Visit writing classes at colleges to talk about your venture and volunteer to speak at Canadian writer's conferences to reach potential clients. No formal office can be required to launch your business, but as you can see, you'll have your work cut out for you if you decide to plant your roots in this exciting field.

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About the Author

Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.

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