How to Start an Academic Publishing Company

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This write-up delves into how to start an academic publishing company. In today’s complex and fast-paced academic landscape, the role of academic publishing companies has never been more vital. Academic publishers provide critical platforms for researchers and scholars to share their work with peers and contribute to growing knowledge.

From influential university presses to innovative open access publishers, academic publishers facilitate the dissemination of discoveries and perspectives that push disciplines forward.

Whether you are an experienced editor looking to branch out independently or a researcher seeking new opportunities in your niche, this writing will equip you with practical insights on turning your vision into reality, covering the following:

  • Defining academic publishing and assessing the motivations behind starting a company
  • Creating a strategic business plan and assembling a skilled team
  • Implementing robust peer-review and quality control measures
  • Effectively marketing your company and titles to readers
  • Upholding rigorous ethical standards
  • Achieving sustainability through thoughtful financial planning

By the end, you will understand the opportunities and challenges of running an academic publishing business. Whether your goal is to fill a niche, give voice to underrepresented scholars, or spread influential ideas, this guide will equip you with the knowledge needed to turn your publishing dreams into reality. Let’s get started!

What is an Academic Publisher?

An academic publishing company or publisher facilitates the dissemination of scholarly research and ideas by producing and distributing academic journals, books, and other media. At its core, an academic publisher provides authors with a platform to share their work with the academic community and beyond.

Role in the Academic Community

Academic publishers play a vital role in scholarly communication by managing peer review, producing publications, and enabling research discovery. They provide an essential quality stamp by evaluating submissions and determining what meets the standards to be published.

Top academic publishers distribute work globally, giving authors exposure and advancing their field. Publishers also preserve and archive academic output, contributing to the accumulation of knowledge.

Types of Academic Publishers

There are several models of academic publishing:

  • Traditional publishers: For-profit companies like Elsevier, Wiley, and Springer Nature that produce subscription-based and open access journals.
  • University presses: Prominent university presses include Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press.
  • Scholarly societies: Nonprofit publishers that focus on a specific discipline, like the American Chemical Society.
  • Open access publishers: Publishers like PLOS and Biomed Central that make content freely available online.
  • Self-publishing platforms: Services like Preprints and SSRN that allow authors to upload work directly.

Benefits and Challenges of Starting an Academic Publisher

The main benefits are the ability to shape scholarly communication, generate revenue, and make a meaningful impact. However, significant challenges include high startup costs, building prestige and an author base, managing operations, and ensuring sustainability.

Academic publishing can be rewarding for those passionate about disseminating research but requires thorough planning and execution. The following section will explore the motivations behind starting an academic publishing company.

Reasons for Starting an Academic Publishing Company

Starting an academic publishing company allows you to pursue a passion for scholarly communication and make a positive impact within your field. For researchers and academics dissatisfied with the current landscape of academic publishing, launching a new company provides an opportunity to reshape the industry according to their values and vision.

Pursuing Your Passion

A deep passion for a particular subject area or field of research drives many founders of academic publishing companies. Starting a niche publisher focused on an underserved discipline allows you to provide an outlet for authors working in that specialty.

You can cultivate a publication venue aligned with the needs and interests of that community. For example, a professor frustrated by the lack of open access journals in her field might launch an open access publisher to advance open scholarship in that area.

Improving Scholarly Communication

Academic publishing companies have immense power to accelerate or impede the dissemination of research. A new publishing venture allows you to experiment with innovations in scholarly communication, whether that involves open peer review, data-sharing mandates, or multimedia formats.

You can challenge the status quo by pioneering more ethical, transparent publishing practices. Many scholarly publishers are motivated by the prospect of improving academic publishing to serve researchers and society better.

Financial Rewards

Building a successful academic publishing company can also lead to financial rewards, providing you with an entrepreneurial opportunity in the scholarly communication industry. Revenue streams may include author fees, subscriptions, advertising, print sales, and more.

The majority of the world’s largest publishers are academic publishers. Some made insane profits to the point that academic publishing is labeled “a greedy industry.”

Nonetheless, launching a financially viable publishing business requires careful planning and management. You must identify a sustainable business model tailored to your company’s strengths and audience.

Career Opportunities

Founding an academic publishing company creates new career possibilities for yourself and others. As a publisher and leader, you can shape your organization’s and field’s direction.

Running a publishing company also provides a career for editors, proofreaders, marketers, technologists, and other professionals. Building a reputable publisher takes hard work but can be immensely fulfilling for those seeking leadership and entrepreneurship opportunities.

In summary, starting an academic publishing company allows you to pursue scholarly passions, advance the industry, tap financial rewards, and create career opportunities for researchers seeking greater control and impact. Launching your publishing venture can be an exciting and inspiring journey.

Key Steps to Starting an Academic Publishing Company

Starting your own academic publishing company is an exciting endeavor that requires careful planning and preparation. Here are some critical steps to get you started:

Identify Your Niche in the Academic Publishing Industry

Take time to understand the needs and pain points of your potential customers. Conduct market research to identify gaps or underserved niches and the business model that can fit into this niches. From there, zoom into a specific product range, e.g., books, journals, digital content, etc., and later, the specific genres or audiences your products will serve. For example, you may want to focus on a specific academic discipline, region, or publishing format (open access, multimedia, etc.). Defining your target audience and niche will help guide your mission and business strategy.

Develop a Business Plan

Your business plan is the roadmap for your company’s growth and sustainability. Outline your mission and values, short and long-term goals, startup costs and financing needs, and strategies for content acquisition, production, marketing, and revenue generation. Having a solid plan is key to securing funding and partnerships.

Establish Partnerships and Collaborations with Authors, Researchers, and Institutions

Build relationships with potential content providers like scholars, professional societies, universities, and research centers. Offer competitive author services and be selective about the quality and fit of content. Consider revenue-sharing models or sponsorships. Partnerships will provide a pipeline for new publications while lending credibility to your press.

Building a Team and Infrastructure

Building a successful academic publishing company requires assembling a talented team with diverse skills and expertise. Here are some of the key roles to consider when structuring your team:


Editors are at the heart of any publishing operation. You will need acquisitions editors to solicit and evaluate manuscripts, managing editors to oversee workflows and schedules, and copy editors to polish manuscripts for publication. Look for editors with experience in your niche and excellent communication skills.


Strong visual design is critical for branding your publications and enhancing their look and feel. Hire talented graphic designers and UX/UI specialists to craft visually appealing websites, journals, and marketing materials.

Marketing Specialists

Dedicated marketing staff can promote your brand, connect with authors, and increase readership. Seek professionals skilled in social media, email campaigns, and search engine optimization.

In addition to in-house staff, build a flexible network of freelancers who can plug gaps across editing, typesetting, design, tech, and marketing. You can find specialized consultants through online platforms like Upwork.

Setting Up Infrastructure

To support your team’s work, invest in robust systems and infrastructure:

  • User-friendly content management system to organize manuscripts and publishing workflows
  • Online submission and peer review platform to handle author submissions
  • Professional layout and publishing software to produce polished publications
  • Website and branding assets that reflect your vision and values

By laying this solid operational foundation and bringing together the right mix of talented professionals, you will be well on your way to building a thriving academic publishing company.

Peer review is the cornerstone of quality control in academic publishing. It provides credibility by ensuring that experts in the field have thoroughly evaluated published research. For a new academic publishing company, implementing a rigorous peer review process is essential for establishing trust and a reputation for publishing high-quality work.

The Importance of Peer Review

Peer review serves several vital functions:

  • It acts as a filter to ensure that only high-quality scholarly articles get published
  • It provides constructive feedback to authors to improve their work
  • It detects errors, omissions, and ethical issues in manuscripts
  • It gives credibility to published research

Without peer review, there would be no way to assess the validity and impact of new research effectively. Rigorous peer review is what separates academic publishing from less selective publishing models. For a new company, adhering to high peer review standards demonstrates a commitment to quality.

Peer Review Models

There are a few standard models of peer review:

  • Single-blind – Reviewers know the author’s identity, but authors don’t know the reviewers’ identity
  • Double-blind – Both authors and reviewers are anonymous
  • Open peer review – Reviewers and authors know each other’s identity, and reviews may be published alongside the paper

Each model has advantages and disadvantages to consider. Double-blind review is considered the gold standard for reducing bias, but single-blind is more common in many fields. Open peer review increases transparency but may discourage critical feedback.

Recruiting Peer Reviewers

Building a reliable network of peer reviewers is crucial but challenging. Consider recruiting through:

  • Chief editors, editorial board members, and their professional connections
  • Speaking at conferences to connect with researchers
  • Researcher databases like Publons and ReviewerCredits
  • Social media outreach to target specific research communities

Make sure to recruit reviewers with appropriate expertise and experience for each manuscript. Provide clear reviewer guidelines and feedback forms to facilitate high-quality, constructive reviews.

Managing peer reviewers by sending friendly reminders about deadlines, acknowledging their contributions, and addressing concerns can help retain your reviewer network. Rigorous peer review takes effort but is vital for any respectable academic publisher.

Marketing and Promoting Your Publishing Company

An effective marketing strategy is crucial for getting your new academic publishing company. Here are some proven tactics to help spread the word about your business:

Leverage Social Media

Create accounts on major social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Share content relevant to your niche, engage with other users in your field and run targeted ads. Use hashtags related to academic publishing to join larger conversations. Social media is a great way to build brand awareness.

Send Targeted Email Newsletters

Collect email addresses from site visitors and conference attendees. Send regular newsletters with publication announcements, featured articles, and other valuable updates. Segment your list based on interests and engagement. Email newsletters help nurture relationships with potential authors.

Attend Academic Conferences

Conferences provide opportunities to network face-to-face with researchers, professors, and university administrators. Bring business cards, brochures, and other promotional materials. Consider hosting a booth or sponsoring a conference event. You can also propose panels related to issues in academic publishing.

Publish Guest Posts

Contact academic blogs and online magazines focused on higher education, research, or your niche. Offer to write guest posts to get exposure to their audiences. Make sure to link back to your website. Guest posting raises awareness and positions you as an expert.

Partner with Campus Groups

Build relationships with student journals, research centers, and other campus groups involved in publishing. Explore co-hosting events or cross-promoting content. Campus partnerships lead to student submissions and word-of-mouth promotion.

Starting an academic publishing company

You can build an audience and promote your academic publishing company with persistence and creativity. Developing your brand and connecting with key players will help you acquire authors and establish credibility.

Ethical Considerations in Academic Publishing

As an academic publisher, upholding the highest ethical standards throughout publication is crucial. This ensures the integrity and credibility of the research you disseminate. Here are some key ethical considerations for academic publishers:

Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism remains a persistent issue in academic publishing. As a publisher, you must have robust plagiarism checks during peer review. Use plagiarism detection software to screen submissions and verify that authors have properly cited sources. Ensure your journal’s author guidelines prohibit plagiarism and outline consequences for violations.

Managing Conflicts of Interest

Conflicts of interest can arise when authors, reviewers, or editors have competing interests that may influence their judgment. Require all parties to disclose any potential conflicts of interest. Have a plan to manage conflicts appropriately, such as excluding reviewers or asking authors to address concerns during peer review.

Deterring Data Fabrication

Unfortunately, data fabrication still occurs, often in an attempt to achieve more compelling results. Require authors to make raw data available for examination during peer review. Scrutinize papers that report anomalous or overly perfect data. Encourage peer reviewers to voice any concerns about potential data manipulation.

Ensuring Transparency

Make your peer review process as transparent as possible. Consider posting reviewer comments and author responses alongside published papers. Report detailed statistics on acceptance rates and turnaround times. Clearly state your journal’s policies and procedures on your website.

Upholding Guidelines and Standards

Follow established ethical codes like the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines. Join respected industry organizations that promote best practices. Ensure your policies reflect the latest standards on authorship, consent, and data sharing. Update procedures regularly to address emerging concerns.

By making ethics central to all operations, academic publishers can uphold the integrity of scholarly communication. Robust policies and vigilant oversight are key to avoiding misconduct and protecting the scholarly record.

Financial Management and Sustainability

Running an academic publishing company requires careful financial planning and budgeting. Here are some tips for managing the finances of your startup publisher:

Develop a Business Plan

Create a comprehensive business plan that outlines your publishing company’s objectives, target market projected revenues and expenses, and funding requirements. This will help you identify all the costs of launching and operating the business.

Understand Your Revenue Streams

Academic publishers make money through article processing charges, subscriptions, advertising, reprints, etc, whereas traditional publishers generate income through various means. Consider the pros and cons of different models like open access vs. subscription journals. Diversify your income sources to reduce risk.

Manage Your Expenses

Significant costs will include labor, technology, marketing, and overhead. Look for ways to control expenses, such as leveraging freelancers, using open-source software, and keeping the team lean. Track spending closely.

Price Products and Services Strategically

Set fair prices for your services, like Article Processing Charges and subscriptions. Research competitors and industry standards. Offer discounts and flexible payment plans when possible.

Explore Funding and Financing

Consider small business loans, angel investments, and grants to fund startup costs and operations. Crowdfunding is another option. Manage cash flow carefully in the early stages.

Focus on Sustainability

Reinvest profits to improve services and fuel growth. But also build up cash reserves in case of emergencies. Sustainability takes time, so focus on quality over quantity in the beginning.

With careful financial management, your academic publishing company can thrive and make a difference in scholarly communication.


We have explored how to start an academic publishing company, a journey that can be incredibly rewarding but also requires careful planning and hard work. This guide covered all the key steps involved, from identifying your niche and developing a business plan to building your team and establishing quality control processes.

Here are some of the main takeaways:

  • Determine your target audience and specialty area within academic publishing to differentiate yourself.
  • Create a solid business plan and financial model to set your company up for sustainability.
  • Assemble a skilled team for editing, design, marketing, and operations.
  • Implement rigorous peer review and ethical practices to ensure publication quality and integrity.
  • Promote your brand through conferences, social media, and other networking opportunities.
  • Manage expenses wisely while diversifying revenue streams.

Starting an academic publishing company is undoubtedly achievable with dedication and strategic planning. It allows you to shape scholarly communication based on your values while potentially reaping financial rewards.

If you feel inspired to become an academic publisher, take that first step. Do thorough research, create a business plan, and connect with experts who can provide guidance. With passion and persistence, you can make your dream a reality.

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