So, you want to become a indie publisher, and you wrote me for advice.
Err. Yes. You won’t like my advice. It’s not much, so not to waste too much of your time.
I’m terrible at publishing.
My best advice is to not do what Paolo does and do what Kevin Crawford does. He does it much better, and the first issue of his free magazine has a guide on Kickstarting stuff.
For the basic of the business, contact your local small business office, and most importantly pay your taxes. The last thing you want is a letter from a tax authority. The second last is IP infringement. Do not ever try your luck at either. Ever. Get good law and tax advice instead. Also, absolutely do pay people if you agreed that you would pay them.
For printing, go POD. It will also take care of shipping. Doing otherwise is incredibly time consuming and risky. Unless you do silly volumes, forget about printing stuff yourself.
For trademarks, make a logotype that works. I believe the Eye of God (I did not give it that name, it had it for centuries before I was born) and the Lost Pages name do more for traction that anything I’ve ever written.
For publishing. I publish only stuff I love. I should publish instead stuff that goes well with my other games. Or with other games.
Love does not make you follow good business practices. Love makes you mad.
I do this because I’m in love, and would not recommend it. I got incredibly lucky falling in love with the work of Roger, Brendan, Chris, Eric, Patrick, Mike. And also with the other people I’m working with. No names because jinx.
I have no other good advice except, if you do it for fun, don’t, because it’s not fun.
Incredibly thrilling, boring, hard work, yes. Fun, not.
I do it my way because I’m stubborn as a goat and failing again and again does not break my will. Doing it as I do means falling in love with the most uncaring partner you can find, dark triad level bullshit. You will cry. You will be up at night. You will regret doing it. You will cry.
Publishing won’t hug you or kiss you to sleep nor sent you wistful, panging, moving love letters. End of story.
Extra content: related advice! This is useless because you are not me, so treat it as a cautionary tale instead.
If you want to make books like I do, you have to seriously love paper. Learn bookbinding, printmaking, layout by studying them and fail them by making stuff that is harder than what you can do. Repeat the study-fail until you are satisfied with your form. It won’t last long. Develop an aesthetic, and then appease it until you want to develop a new aesthetic. Redo the layout for a book five times until it feels right. Pick at most one strange font, use it sparingly and do the rest with reliable workhorse fonts.
When you complete something, put it out. Even if it’s free. Even if it sucks. Especially if it sucks.
If you want to write what I do, I recommend chucking out from your mind all fantasy written after Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata. Instead, read other stuff. Read religion. Read magic. Read politics. Read metalworking, horticulture, travel books, history, art, cooking, design, computer science, military architecture, illicit book trade.
Read and play a lot of games and learn what makes you click.
Learn that what makes you click is not what makes other people click.
Struggle forever between the two: art is baking your cake, but sharing the cake is obviously a bigger pleasure.Cake is delicious.
After you do this, you will find that you did not forget the fantasy. Not all of it, at least. For example I forgot Tolkien, and a bunch of other stuff. What’s left, is there to stay, and will be your bedrock. In my case it’s Calvino and Pratchett and Borges and Benni and Dunsany and the Arabian Nights and the history of Caliph Vathek. I got lucky, as it could have been Tolkien.