7 min 28 sec

Australian Designer Starts Publishing Company, Hires Herself

A freelance designer creates a publishing company to produce and collaborate on books for female creatives.
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What It's About

A graphic designer finds a new way to stretch her creative muscles.

Business Model
Skills Required
Writing & Publishing
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Tess offered this advice for picking a book distributor:  

"One, pick a distributor that specializes in the types of titles your book falls under. That way your book will end up in places where your customers shop. Two, look at the commissions they offer. Especially if your margins are tight. And three, look at their location. Books at Manic has a distribution center local to her, so if they needed more books she can easily drop them off."

Fun Fact

The printing costs for her first book—Conversations with Creative Women—was about $6,000. Tess ran a pre-order campaign (focused primarily on her email subscriber list), which sold enough copies to cover that initial outlay. She also secured a feature on The Design Files (now a huge blog in Australia and a direct link to creative women, her target market). She does pre-sale campaigns for all her titles.

Notes from Chris

Episode 441

In 2010, Tess McCabe from Melbourne, Australia was in a creative rut. As a freelance graphic designer, she wasn’t attracting the kind of work she loved, book design and layout work. It was a classic chicken-and-egg scenario. Her portfolio didn’t have much book design and layout work. But she couldn’t get that type of work because she hadn’t done much of it.

  So like many stories on Side Hustle School, Tess got creative. She approached the one person she was absolutely sure would hire her…herself! Tess founded Creative Minds Publishing, where she publishes books for smart-working creatives.

So why a publishing company? It all started long ago, when she joined a community called Creative Women’s Circle. They host events around Australia featuring female creatives who speak about their career paths, business lessons learned, and advice for others.

When the founder decided to shut down the group, Tess said, "Hey, wait—I’ll run it." Before taking over the group, events were either free or low cost. As its new leader, she saw a need for its members to be able to find local creatives, like photographers or stylists. She created a searchable database so that members could search for professionals. To fund this feature, Tess added a paid membership option.

She also wanted to bring the essence of Creative Women's Circle's in-person events to people who were unable to attend. A book seemed like a natural extension. That’s how Creative Minds Publishing came to be.

It was a win-win for Tess. She'd have book design and layout experience to add to her portfolio. And she'd reach creatives who couldn't attend their offline events.

She makes around $24,000 each year selling books through her website and bookstores, with around $10k-15k in expenses. Expenses depend on if books are first-run or reprints or if she has to make royalty payments.

So did creating a publishing company increase the amount of book design and layout work she gets? These days about half of her freelance graphic design projects are book and publication design work. Many more clients are now aware of her work through her books. You could say her schedule is all booked up.


  • Creative Minds Publishing: If you're interested in learning more about Tess and the work that she's doing, learn more on her website!
  • Creative Women's Circle: The women's organization that led to Tess launching her publishing company
  • Books at Manic: The book distributor who handles wholesale inquiries from libraries and retailers for her

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"Ensure you’ve identified a community or audience for your book, and build it before you publish. It will give you the head start you need to justify the amount of work and expense you’ll invest in a book project."
—Tess McCabe #SideHustleSchool

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