When you begin to self-publish your own books, one of the many questions that you will be asked by whichever distribution platform you use (e.g. CreateSpace, KDP, Ingram Spark, Lightning Source) is the name of your publisher. Considering the following points will help you decide how to answer that question, to which there are no absolute right or wrong answers. However, you need to find an answer that is right for you.
Self-published Authors = Author Publishers
As a self-published author, you have by definition assumed the responsibilities and the role of the publisher. Whether you do absolutely every task yourself involved in your books' production, or whether you delegate specific tasks that fall outside your skill set, the buck stops with you. So, first answer – the publisher is undoubtedly you.
Does that mean you simply insert your author name in the “Name of Publisher” box? Not necessarily. You may also choose a publishing imprint name, to make your book sound more as if it has been published by a company rather than an individual.
Some self-published authors feel that putting anything other than their own name (e.g. “Publisher: Debbie Young”) feels like cheating – as if you are in denial of your self-published status. Many indie authors are proud to flourish their self-published status that way, and see it as a positive statement.
Others think using an imprint adds credibility and weight in the marketplace. Committing to an imprint might also encourage you to take your writing more seriously as a business enterprise. When I started to self-publish my own books, I named myself as publisher, but as I started to work in other genres, and to help friends self-publish their own books via my distribution platform dashboards, it felt the right time to up my game and create an imprint.
How to Choose an Imprint
A lot of authors have good fun choosing an imprint that is meaningful to you. Glynis Smy, for example, named hers Anastasia Publishing Europe after the street in which she lived in Cyprus. Sandra Danby chose Beulah Press after the cottage in which she was born. Mine is Hawkesbury Press, named after the village in which I've lived for 24 years, which often features in my blog, and which is home to my newly-founded Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. I quickly knocked up a very basic logo using free www.canva.com software:
I wanted it to be very simple, neutral and type-based, because I write and publish across a range of genres, and I wanted it to be suitable for everything. Even so, I had fun adapting the logo into the cover design of my latest paperback:
Others with more patience, time and skill than me have come up with much more striking images that are also very genre-specific. I love Jennifer Foehner Wells' tentacles, for example, which in itself would make me want to pick up her books:
Choosing and using a publishing imprint doesn't mean that you have to start trading as a formal company. In the UK, for example, you can use any name you choose, but count as a self-employed individual for tax purposes, provided that you state on your website and elsewhere that you are “trading as Hawkesbury Press” or whatever. (In the US, the term “doing business as” equates to “trading as”.) Incidentally, I'm also trading as Off The Shelf Book Promotions, which covers my book promotion consultancy services and provides a separate brand.
If going down the imprint route, make sure no-one else is already using your chosen name. Obviously that takes only moments with Google or whatever search engine you prefer. Searching for the trading name + .com is also a good idea, as it would be very irritating to choose a name only to find you can't buy the most obvious URL associated with it. But that's just the starting point – in some countries, you will be required legally to register your chosen name.
You must also steer clear of soundalike names, if you want to risk being accused of trying to do business by false pretenses. If you call yourself Random Penguin, for example, don't be surprised if you upset Penguin Random House lawyers.
You may or may not also decide to set up a website to give your imprint an online home, which readers might expect to be able to find. I'm in the throes of setting up a Hawkesbury Press one (www.hawkesburypress.com), but it's not high on my agenda, nor do I plan to spend much time developing it. I just want to establish a presence online in case anyone goes looking for it.
Take Local Legal Advice
A recent discussion on this subject on the ALLi Facebook forum made it clear that whichever country you are in, you should check your local legislation, because different taxation and administration requirements will apply in different countries. In some nations, you may need to register your company name before using it, or even trademark it. However, you should also be wary of anyone who approaches you out of the blue offering registration or trademarking or patenting services of your chosen imprint – sadly, there are scammers out there who prey upon start-ups who are not aware of the rules.
Whether or not you choose to create your own imprint, please do make sure you nominate someone as publisher, whether your chosen “trading as” name or your own given name. If not, on Amazon, at least, the default is to mark Amazon itself as your publisher, either as Amazon Digital Services (Kindle books) or CreateSpace (print books). These designations not only shout “self-published”, which is fine, but also, arguably and less acceptably, “amateurish”.
Copyright Remains With The Author
Finally, whether or not you publish under an imprint, always use your own name when stating the copyright holder of your work. The originator of the work owns the copyright, not a company name or trading-as imprint.
For a more legal overview with specific reference to US law, read ALLi Advisor Helen Sedwick's post on whether to use an imprint name here and how to claim your imprint name here. Please consult local regulations wherever you live and work to ensure you are operating legally in your own country.Should self-publishers use a publishing imprint? Do's and don'ts by @DebbieYoungBN Click To Tweet
OVER TO YOU
Please feel free to add your own advice or experience via the comments box. If you have an imprint that you're especially proud of and would love to share, don't hesitate to provide a link.