Imprints, Part 1: Common Questions

printing pressDeciding whether to start a publishing imprint is a common roadblock for self-publishing authors. Yes, believe it or not, in addition to publishing their own books, many self-publishing authors also start their own imprints, or publishing companies.

These publishing companies are vastly different from what typically comes to mind when you think of traditional publishing companies such as Random House, Simon & Schuster, and so on. Usually, the companies created by self-publishing authors only publish books written by the creator of the company.

Establishing a publishing imprint is a sign that the author is actually trying to create a business from self-publishing and that the author probably plans to publish more books in the future.

In this three-part series, I will discuss the common reasons why authors create their own imprints and the steps to establishing one. But before we get to the nitty-gritty, I want to address some common questions.

Is it a publishing company or an imprint? I can see why this would cause confusion. When uploading a book to Amazon KDP, there is an optional field for “publisher.” But when setting up a book on CreateSpace, the field asks for your “imprint” if you have purchased your own ISBN; the imprint given must match what is on file with your ISBN. For self-publishing authors who have created their own imprints, the imprint and publisher names are the same. This is different from large publishing companies, such as Random House, that have several imprints. Ballantine Books, Bantam Dell, and ESPN Books are imprints of Random House. When you pick up a book by one of these imprints, the copyright page will say, “Published in the United States by [imprint], a division of Random House.” Note: I will use the word “imprint” throughout this series.

Are self-publishers who create publishing imprints lying to themselves? I mean, they aren’t really publishers, right? According to Bowker, the only official source of ISBNs in the United States and its territories, “A publisher is a person or firm whose business is the publishing of books or other publications to which an ISBN can be assigned, and may include ebook publishers, audio cassette and video producers, software producers, museums, libraries and associations with publishing and digitizing programs.” If a self-publishing author has officially established an imprint and self-published books, then no, they are not lying to themselves. They may not be considered a publisher in the traditional sense, but in the evolving world of publishing, they are  publishers.

Do I really need to register my imprint as a legal entity? Yes. If you operate a business under any name other than your own name, it needs to be a registered entity. The filing of a fictitious name is required by law to connect the name of the business to the business owner. If you do not register your imprint’s name, what’s stopping anyone else from using it?

Coming up in part 2, I will discuss the reasons why a self-publishing author would want to create a publishing imprint.

Photo: Book printing

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