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Should Self-Published Authors Create Their Own Publishing Imprints?

Should Self-Published Authors Create Their Own Publishing Imprints?

Debbie Young headshot

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:

Hawkesbury Press logo


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:

Full cover of paperback showing logo


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:

Blue Bedlam logo

Legal Considerations

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.

Imprint Websites

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


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.


This Post Has 101 Comments
  1. Great article, and very useful!
    I’m just about to publish my first book, and I *thought* I’d done due diligence in looking for an imprint name, and called my imprint “Almuten Press”, and bought the almuten.co.uk domain. Unfortunately, having purchased a block of ISBN numbers from Nielsen, I’ve now discovered that someone in the US is already publishing books in the same field as me under that name.

    Fortunately, I haven’t hit the “publish” button on KDP yet (I’m planning on doing that next week) so it wasn’t too late to change my imprint name in the book to “Almuten Figuris Publications” instead. Anyone reading the book won’t see that the original manuscript said “Almuten Press”. However, as that was the name I put on the form for Nielsen when getting ISBN numbers, can I still use that ISBN number, or do I need to buy a new batch before I publish? I’ve emailed Nielsen, but haven’t heard back yet.

  2. Hello, my question would be as a self-publisher- do I need to go through Library of Congress? I had the first book handled by a publishing company, and I’m uncertain if it had legal copyrights, so was wondering for the second book.

  3. Hello,
    I am so interested in this conversation, especially because I am getting out my first self-published book after having had three books put out by a traditional publisher. I see the need for an imprint and want to do it but I do have a few technical questions. I live in France where I work and I file taxes in both the US and France. My American tax accountant here in France has told me that I am already self-employed and the way I declare my tax form won’t change when I self publish, imprint or no imprint because the imprint is me. What I don’t understand is the question of how to set up the imprint in France because I no longer live in the States and it doesn’t make any sense to do a DBA in a state I don’t live in. Can I simply consider that as a self employed worker I can get myself a publisher imprint name after doing the research and then put it on the book without doing anything else? Or would that be illegal? I want to be legal of course and follow the correct procedure but for the moment have no clue. I would love any advice on how to get this complex situation figured out and thank you in advance for your thoughts. Best regards, Harriet Welty Rochefort

  4. Thank you so much!

    ✨✨✨ I would love your advice ⭐⭐⭐✍

    So, i published my first book around 4 months ago… Selfhelp kind of.

    Its been a great success and suddenly its sold out in most places. Its a self edition, first 1000 copies, no editorial.

    I need to print a second edition soon so i started correcting details already. My book is in spanish


    Should I contact an editorial?
    ⭐ Create my own editorial?
    ⭐ Keep having no editorial whatsoever?
    I would love to expand abroad.
    ⭐how is this done?

    Or have any recommendations?

    I was told a best seller in Chile are 1000 copies sold in 4 month (a very small amount in my opinion). But good news for my book


  5. this is my book in link if shown right i’m trying to revise into hard cover and add 145 plus poems i left out, i stopped writing due to friends dying different ways family, now my mom on deaths door cancer bad! dementia memory loss severe paranoia she got in 2013 seems after her 4 massive heart attacks so put her in 29 day medicated coma it’s breaking my bi polar mind worse! i want to finish this version type at 12 not 14 huge already 407 poems…so gotta go through all the ones i have small typos, WISH i could add my drawings too from age 17, now 40 from my 5 year mental hospital stay, not but few drawings but they are like my poems in my brain in THAT MOMENT ONLY! i can’t write in 2014 stopped drinking it brought the darkness out the abuse i suffered the girl i loved destroying me friends like judas thus i found alone best 37 are about my ex but i revised changed her name though all i said was true in a poetic way, POINT IS GOING CRAZY i publish on lulu publishing made no cash cos never had job to fill irs form thing so i’m confused on that lost loads cash from book sells though….POINT REALLY i publish get my test book copy, later they buy it, but ask to fix?????lines hidden i forgot the name sadly wanna do this fast but right take out the something lines???? can’t recall they don’t show in book i guess the printer can see them??? i’m goin crazy if you know what these things are i must REMOVE revise again then the book is fixed…????????? thanks for your time either way….

  6. Thanks for this useful article Debbie. I’m in the process of writing a business language book which I was planning to self-publish under my own imprint. However, I was planning to assign the copyright to my company (jointly owned with my wife); the reasoning for this was that I could pay for any self-publishing expenses through the company (my company’s business is related to the book – we’re a translation and copy-editing company). I was planning to just make up an imprint name. But is there any advantage in explicitly linking it to our company, or specifying the company as the publisher?
    Oliver Dirs

  7. Hi! Thanks for this article. I am wondering if it is necessary if I already have an LLC and was planning on using the same name for my imprint name if I need to file a DBA for the words “books” or “publishing”, etc. in it? I am not sure if it’s necessary to have those words but want to make sure. Thanks!

  8. What a helpful article – just what I needed as I am just about to strike out on my own with my own imprint. I already have an author website and I’m not planning to set up another one for the imprint but nonetheless I feel it’s a good idea to claim a domain name for it “just in case”. But I was wondering about the pros and cons of choosing .com or .co.uk? My author website is .com, though I don’t now remember why I chose that over .co.uk… Any thoughts gratefully received…

  9. Hello Debbie,

    First of all thank you for your good wishes and, yes, it is rather wonderful to be living in Greece. We are on the island of Kefalonia – it’s like Wales with sunshine! (Back in UK over Christmas).
    In reply to some of the points you made I shall use ‘Kefalonia, Greece’ as the address for my imprint on the copyright page. I will adopt your suggestion of adding the word ‘Press’ to Trojan History so that my imprint will be ‘Trojan History Press’. I have already done a logo for the imprint.

    With many thanks for your superb advice.
    Bernard Jones.

  10. Hello Debbie,

    My name is Bernard Jones and I have just come across your blog. How fantastic! Why have I not discovered it before? The advice you give is so practical.

    I have spent more than 30 years on historical research that has resulted in two books. I will self-publish the first of these this year (2018). I am at the stage of purchasing my ISBN’s but I am taking some time out to ensure I do not make a mistake with my imprint name.

    The subject matter of my research and hence my books is Trojan history. Two years ago I purchased the domain name ‘trojanhistory.com’ and I have now set up my FaceBook page as ‘facebook.com/trojanhistory’. I love the name ‘TROJAN HISTORY’ as an imprint but I wonder if it is advisable to add perhaps ‘Books’, ‘Publications’, or ‘Press’ after it. I would very much appreciate your independent thoughts.

    I have also prepared a logo for the spine of the book (and elsewhere) that consists of an ancient warrior’s helmet with the words ‘TROJAN HISTORY’ in capitals. I could also present it as ‘TROJAN History’, perhaps differentiating ‘Trojan’ as a name and ‘history’ as a genre?

    Finally, could I ask if it is a requirement (legal or otherwise) to put an address for the imprint on the copyright page? I am a British citizen, now retired to Greece.

    With very best regards
    Bernard Jones.

    1. Hi Bernard

      Thank you for your kind words and congratulations on your imminent books. What a lovely way to spend your retirement – and wonderful to retire to Greece. We have quite a few ALLi members there, and I’ve travelled there quite a bit myself, mostly in Athens and the Ionian islands.

      I think it makes sense to add another word after “Trojan History” to your imprint to make it clear that it is a publishing imprint. To me, “Press” trips off the tongue best, and would fit physically better onto a logo or a line. Regarding capitalisation, I suggest you ask advice from a designer. What you’ve done so far sounds great and very distinctive, but I think the professional touch from a designer specialising in book design would give it extra polish and be well worth the small investment. At ALLi, we have lots of designers we can recommend, who are tried-and-trusted partner members. Some will give initial advice for free with no obligation, so you have nothing to lose by asking.

      You don’t have to put your full postal address on the copyright page, but you may decide that it would add credibility if you put a country or even the city where you’re writing, as it will subtly indicate that you are on the spot and researching at first hand.

      If you like our website, by the way – and I’m very glad you do – what you’ll find even more useful is to join ALLi as an author member, which will entitle you to many benefits including access to our closed discussion forum in which you may ask any question you like, any time, and get expert personal answers from other members around the world. You’ll also be entitled to various discounts and deals. Many ALLi members more than cover their membership fee with the savings they make – and also many say that being able to be part of the forum is worth the fee in itself! To find out more about membership, please visit http://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/?affid=885. (Disclosure – that’s my affiliate code: we also offer an affiliate marketing scheme whereby you gain a small reward in return for recruiting new members!) As you haven’t published a book yet, you could join as an Associate Member to save a little bit of money, until your first book is published, when you’d need to upgrade to full author membership.

      I hope that helps, Bernard, and good luck with your books!

      Best wishes

  11. I must thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning this site.

    I really hope to see the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well.
    In fact, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own, personal blog now 😉

  12. Hi Debbie

    Hoping you can help…

    I have finished my novel and created a publishing company. Question is: when buying ISDN’s via Nielson’s online form, do I put ‘self-publisher’ or ‘publisher’ if I’m using my company’s name as the publisher. There’s a drop down menu there asking me to choose one of those options. I’d rather not put ‘self-publisher’ as that defeats the purpose of creating a publishing company, but would I be accurate opting for the term ‘publisher’?

    Very best wishes

  13. Hi, I would like to use an imprint for my novel, so this article was great! So it sounds like, as long as I do due diligence, I can create my own imprint and use it (I’m based in the UK). If I want to go more official then I would need to set up a publishing company on the Companies House government website, which may be overkill until I have more then a few books.

    The one thing that I’m concerned about is how this fits in with ISBNs. It seems that if I want the imprint to be meaningful, I have to buy my own ISBNs with my publisher company name that matches the imprint name (I read that if you use Createspace it won’t accept the novel if the entered imprint name if it doesn’t match the data associated with the ISBN. But really I don’t know what Createspace does with the entered imprint name). If I don’t do use my own ISBN then the publisher will be listed as Createspace and the imprint will not be shown – I mean in the meta data, db or what ever? I’m not sure … it’s just what I’ve read. Obviously, I can just put an imprint logo on the bookcover. But most things I’ve read suggests its better to get your own ISBN (of course, this assumes you have loads of spare cash to spend before earning a penny). Given ISBNs are not cheap, if I went down that route, I might as well go whole hog and set up a limited company. At this point I’m not really sure what all the upfront spending would give me, verses just waking out the book on Createspace with them as the “publisher”. But I can see adding an informal imprint would help in the future.

    I guess my question is should I get my own ISBN if I am going to use an imprint?

    1. Hi Alex. As you are UK-based (as am I), you don’t need to set up a company to have your own imprint – just name it as your publisher in your metadata and when you buy your ISBN, and register as a sole trader for tax purposes. There is no real benefit in having a limited company unless you are planning to do a lot more than publish your own books – and setting up a limited company will be expensive, and it will add needless overheads to the publishing costs of your book(s), thereby reducing the likelihood of making a profit.

      If you want your imprint to be listed as your book’s publisher, this will certainly mean you require an ISBN of your own. Also having your own ISBN and imprint will make it less unlikely for bookstores to stock your book – many won’t stock Amazon-published books on principle. You can also use the same ISBN should you ever get copies of your book printed elsewhere eg at Ingram Spark, as so many indie authors do, or for your own handselling purposes.

      1. Thanks very much for responding, Debbie. This is very useful information! And I really appreciate the time you took to reply. One very basic question I have, which I’m finding it hard understand, is – How do I self-publish? This might sound like a dumb question, but what I mean is, there seems to be three main ways, Createspace, KDP, or some other third party like Lulu. Most of the discussion here is about being a publisher as well as being an author. If I am going down that route, then which one of these publishing options gets me on amazon with an option to be in the mortar bookshops and my book is actually published by me (and uses my imprint) rather then a third party. I suspect it’s Createspace as long as I use my own ISBN.

  14. Very good answer to my query. I was just wondering about using a name for my books and one website said you had to register as a company but I filled in my tax forms the other day to start being self-employed (in the UK) and you can just put ‘Trading As’ so I may have to change them.

    I live not far from you in Little Sodbury End. I write SF and fantasy but my girlfriend reads women’s fiction so I’ll check your out. Interesting to read an author who lives just up the hill.

    Thanks for the info, Debbie

    1. Hi Eamonn, so glad that helped – and gosh, small world! We should get together for a coffee some time as we live so close! I run an authors’ group in Bristol if you fancy joining that – plus you must come to the next Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest on April 21st and you’ll meet lots more ALLi members who are relatively local!

      1. Hello from Charfield! I went to the Lit festival a couple of years ago, when Katie Fford was speaking. Soon to publish my first Regency Romance. Will certainly get to the festival next year, and look up ALLi

  15. Hi, thanks for the article!

    I am in the UK. What steps do I take to set up an imprint formally like you have? Who do I have to contact and/or register the name of my imprint with?

    Thanks, Sofia 🙂

    1. Hi Sofia, you don’t have to register the name of your imprint anywhere, as you’re in the UK, if you are using it only as a sole trader rather than trying to set up a company. If you’re planning to publish only your own books, that’s the easiest path for you to take. But do a thorough search of your planned imprint name online first, to make sure someone else isn’t already using it.

      1. Hi Debbie,

        Apologies if you have already been asked several versions of this question, and thank you for the great article. Basically, I am about to dive into the world of self-publishing and would like to use an imprint. I am based in the UK and am already set up as a sole trader under my own name because I do a little freelance editing work. I was wondering: would I need to change the name of my sole trading company to the name of the imprint so any money (I can dream!) I make from writing and editing can go through the same channel, or can I just purchase the imprint and use it on my Amazon page / website etc without having to change my sole trading title? (I hope that makes sense!) If so, how do I go about purchasing / establishing the imprint name as there don’t seem to be many guidelines on this for the UK?

        Thanks ever so much,


        1. No need to change your company name Vicky. And establishing an imprint is as easy as deciding on the name and including it in your book metadata. No purchase is necessary.

          1. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply, Orna. That’s really helpful (and reassuring!). Have a lovely weekend.

  16. Hi Debbie, Thanks for an awesome article. I have co -authored a business book with a Norwegian citizen, I am American. I really only want to use the book to promote my consulting practice, not interested in the revenue but will still pay 50% of publishing costs through Ingram Sparks. The US tax process is so ridiculously crazy I don’t want any income coming back to me as it will cost me more to pay my CPA to track it than I would collect in income. I also don’t want my consulting business tied to a publishing house, for the same reason. What other options do we have? My co-author is 79 and not too excited about creating a publishing entity under her name. Thanks so very much.

    1. Hi Anna, you could just publish it privately but not sell it. That way you have no income attached to it at all so don’t need to worry about tax or imprints – just treat it as you would a brochure for your business, only with more pages! Clearly by not selling it you have to cover the production costs in another way, but presumably it would count as a marketing expense for your business. Instead of putting it on Amazon etc, just promote it via your website offering it as a giveaway (in ebook or print form – ebook will be cheaper for you in terms of production costs for obvious reasons), and in any other marketing promotions e.g. in adverts, in articles you write for magazines/blogs, etc. Hope those thoughts help! Best wishes, Debbie

  17. This is a wonderful post. I still have a couple of questions, though (I am in the UK, and so much seems US-slanted):

    1) I am currently an employee with a 9-5 job and PAYE. If I register an imprint, will I have to fill out lengthy self-employed tax returns? And how will that affect my PAYE job?

    2) I print through CreateSpace and sell through Amazon, and have already had to fill out their tax form. Will I have to fill out anything else, since they are in the US?

    1. Hi Ros, I’m glad you found the post helpful. I’m also in the UK. You are still eligible for income tax against earnings whether or not you decide to publish under your own imprint. If you decide not to set up a limited company for your imprint (which I have not done for mine), you will be liable for income tax on what you earn as an author which will count as self-employed income. However, the tax return is not as scary as it might sound – you will have a P60 from your employer for your PAYE earnings, and you just have to copy those numbers across, and then declare the income from your books separately and pay tax on them. HOWEVER you also include how much it cost you to publish your books, and unless and until you start selling really well, you are likely to have very little tax to pay (there are lots of things you can count as allowable costs). Please note, though, I’m not an accountant qualified to give professional advice – I’m just sharing my own experience. You can always phone up the tax office and get their advice for free, if you don’t want to run to the cost of an accountant just yet. Or ask an accountant for free advice on the basis that you might retain his or her services in the future. Hope that helps!

      1. Thank you Debbie, your reply to Ros reassured me that I did the right thing a few years ago when I set myself up as a sole trader and did a couple of tax returns. So far I’ve had little tax to pay because I am still trying to make a name and get those books selling, so maybe I was a little premature, but it’s certainly not difficult to do – if I can, anyone can! 🙂

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  19. Interesting post and dialogue. When I decided to publish my second book (the first was mainstream) I had several goals – I wanted the second to be indistinguishable in physical terms from the mainstream one – hence professional editing, formatting, cover design, distribution and a print run and I was fortunate to be able to use the same printer, designer, and distributor as the publisher used for the first book, it was only for the editing and formatting that I had to go looking for someone new. I wanted an imprint name for the same reason and also one other issue – I wanted to be able to have some distance between me and the ‘publisher’ – on the basis that if someone wanted me to do something that I wasn’t keen on I could turn it down via the publisher name without it seeming a personal rejection. I have a friend who is the official email for the imprint, which also helps with distance and emails. I decided I wanted a bird name, at least partly because I liked the original publisher’s name (Capercaillie) so trawled through books of birds looking at the illustrations. Many that I liked in terms of both the visual and the sound turned out already to be publishers, but eventually I found an illustration of a Sanderling which I liked on three counts – 1) it was simple 2) it worked well as a silhouette both in black or white and 3) it’s character seemed to relate to me – always rushing about. Hence Sanderling Books was born.The person doing the cover design for the novel made the logo for me at the same time (at no cost – a small job for him I guess, but it would have ben a nightmare for me) which was great. My experience so far (the book came out in October 2015) has been that the majority of folk seem to take it more seriously with an imprint name, though I’m always totally open that it is my own new imprint. I have registered with Neilsen in the UK as an imprint and bought ISBNs as that name.

    Re Amazon and US – my two books in ebook format are up on Amazon as Sanderling Books, and also the PB of the second one. I have now bought back the rights to the first book, but legally, until the print run is finished and I reprint, I need to sell existing PBs under the Capercaillie logo. Amazon seem happy with the situation – is there anything else I need to do re US law? (I have my tax form etc sorted.) I intend to do some re website so have registered the domain name and have an email address attached to it, but at the moment if anyone looks for it they will be automatically re-directed to my own website.

  20. Hello. I have written, illustrated, and published a children’s book called Peggy Day’s Martha’s Vineyard Adventure. It got a good review and is selling in bookstore on Martha’s Vineyard and also on Amazon. I published it under my own imprint Poppy Press and made a logo. I have a second book Truman’s Los Angeles Adventure that I am probably going to also self publish under the name Poppy Press. But bookstores like Barnes and Noble will only sell books by a publisher and I don’t know if they will except my Poppy Press. Do you have any advice on how to get my book in to book stores. And do i have to register the name Poppy Press somewhere?

  21. Hi Debbie! I found this article after a quick Google search. I am SO EXCITED! I really think an imprint gives an extra touch of professionalism, but will also allow authors scope to change genres if they wish. For example, if you want to switch from writing mysteries to writing romance, simply invent a new ‘romance’ imprint and it will neatly divide your audiences. The control this gives authors is so promising!

    I kind of set up an imprint without knowing it, as I had an old domain name I wanted to make use of and wanted flexibility like I said above. I’m a serial wantrepreneur, so the idea of setting it up as a kind of side business to complement my writing is really attractive!

    I’m releasing my first novel next year in the folk horror genre, under the imprint of Foxes & Harts. The website is very much in the early stages and more a blog of evocative images, but I’ll be putting more effort in it soon! Thanks for the advice Debbie, I’ll be reading your blog in the future!

    1. Hi Bethany! I’m so glad you found us – and I hope you might want to not just read our blog but also become a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, which will entitle you to lots of membership benefits, including free professional guidebooks and some great discounts and deals on essential services for indie authors. See our membership website for more info: http://www.allianceindependentauthors.org

  22. Hi,

    I’ll be publishing through a Limited company I already own and run. My question is: As an author, do I need a contract with that company? If so, any thoughts on how it should structured?

    I see no info at all out there about this possible extra dimension to self-pubbing through my own limited company, but something tells me that the relationship will have big legal and financial consequences, especially if I go on to sign with a major down the line

    Thanks for all the useful info. Very much appreciated.


    1. Dave, I recommend you read Helen Sedwick’s “Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook” for a good grounding in the legal issues, in which I have no expertise so don’t want to offer legal advice in case I get it wrong! Helen is ALLi’s official legal advisor. But one thing you should be aware of is that when you publish the book, make sure the copyright is attributed to you the author rather than to the company, even though you own the company. Do you have to publish through the company, though? I have a publishing imprint, for example, but it’s one of my “trading as” names, and I operate as a sole trader. (I’m assuming that as you use the term “limited company” you’re in the UK, as I am.) I like a simple life!

      1. Thanks Debbie,

        the reason for publishing through an existing company is that I can average out personal income over the years. I agree being a sole trader would be simpler.

        My own accountant and lawyer haven’t a clue about self-publishing, so although they prefer the limited co. route, nobody seems able to tell me the contractual structures needed, but I suspect I need to construct a contract allowing royalty collection, payment on invoicing and instant termination.

        Because my project is long-term and multi-book, I want to get things structured the best way possible from the start. My experience of advisor has mostly being told after the fact that I would have been better doing the thing some different way.

        Helen Sedwick’s book is US-focused, I think?


  23. Thanks for this very informative and concise article. It has helped me decide the correct route for my own upcoming book. Because I may initially use Amazon, I’ve been confused by the use of imprint by them, by my personal name, a made up name, or a business. I would like to add the following option to help others…

    As you mentioned, its likely better to create a publishing “company” name and use that, not your own name. That goes back to the flaw in Amazon’s imprint used in their free ISBN: It likely wont help bookstore or library sales using anything but a real publisher.

    Some are mentioning though, they feel like its a fake name, creating a publisher that doesnt exist, etc. But thats where I feel everyone should go ahead and create a real “business entity” associated with the publishing name. Here in the United States, you do that through the state as an LLC, s-corp, or incorporated business. In my states its a few hundred dollars to setup, one form, and its done. You don’t have to have a formal office or publishing company. Its just a tax designation at its core.

    But the advantages to say creating your LLC (limited liability corporation) as your publisher are as follows:
    1. Your name is protected by the state you live in and has some international standing if later you get into legal issues
    2. you have a partial “corporate veil” or if you got sued, have some legal protection for all your books via the LLC
    3. Paying taxes is much more legit as now you file taxes as an LLC. In the USA you can still file as a sole proprietor, so nothing changes as a self employed person
    4. All your income is now tracked through a real business, even if you work out of your garage. Its just as legit
    5. As above you can now deduct all expenses associated with the LLC or business as expenses (even costs of ISBN’s!)
    6. Bookstores and Libraries are more likely to see you as a professional using a real business….not your name, Amazon’s or a fake publishing name.

    So, its a financial benefit. When you deal with agents and publishers, now, you are more than yourself. Your publisher is a real business, legally and for tax purposes. And you can tell your friends its a real company, as well. Plus, if your books take off, you can hire others to work for you under the business. And thats even more tax write offs. But I agree, using a publishing imprint name seems more professional. And its more likely to get you in bookstores!


  24. Debbie
    Thanks for the article, but I’m afraid I did not understand what was meant by, … nominate someone as publisher, whether your chosen “trading as” name or your own given name.” I would be most grateful if you could explain further.
    Many thanks

    1. Happy to clarify, Colin. You can either give a person’s name as the publisher or a company name. If the latter, it doesn’t have to be a formal company name, because in the UK at least (which is where I guess you must be as you have a BT email address), you can be a sole trader and use a “trading as” name. Thus I could put “Debbie Young” in the “publisher” field, but I prefer to use “Hawkesbury Press”, which is in fact still me, but a company name that I trade under. (When you do your self-employment tax return, I think you have the option to state your trading names. I also trade as Off the Shelf Book Promotions when I’m doing consultancy, but have recently adopted Hawkesbury Press as my self-publishing imprint, named after the village in which I live. Hope that all makes sense now, Colin!

  25. When it comes to the copyright holder – What if I don’t want to reveal my real name, and instead just want to use an alias/pen name I use for my books? Some people don’t want their identity out there. This also defeats the purpose of a pen name since people can easily find out who you are if they check the copyright info.

  26. Do you know, or do you know where I can find out, whether in the US I can pick a name and use it, or whether I have to go through the rigmarole of setting up a “business”? Thanks!

  27. Thanks to Debbie and everyone for this informative article and subsequent dialog. For me, I like to keep things as simple as humanly possible. I did file a DBA name and got a bank account and even put up a website and social media pages for my proposed “JGJ Press.” But now I’m thinking of abandoning all of that and just publishing as myself, James Goi Jr. I’d buy my block of ISBNs in that name and use that name whenever I’m called upon to enter a “publisher name.” I, of course, would not be even trying to hide the fact that I’m self-publishing. (Oh, and I no longer have any interest in publishing other authors.) As I’m planning on buying a block of 1000 ISBNs (I’ve written a handful so far and plan on writing lots more books) and as I don’t want to have to go back and fix or change things later if I can help it, I really want to do this publishing thing in a way that is doable and sustainable for the long haul.

    So, with all that in mind, I have one question before moving forward:

    Are there any major downsides to this plan that I may not have considered? (Other than the standards such as I won’t look as professional and will be declaring loudly and in no uncertain terms that I’m a self-published author.)


  28. Thanks for an interesting article and good follow-up conversation. I went down the imprint route, I set up The Story Bazaar in January of this year and haven’t regretted it. I now have books from other authors in the works, not just my own writing, so my self-publishing experience will help others. Incidentally, my logo is a pile of books ( deliberately hand drawn ), not sure how to attach it here. I do like the snakes.

  29. This is a great article that I plan to share with others I know. When I decided to self-publish my own novels, I used a company my daughter and I formed years ago to do resume & business writing, which never got off the ground. I publish my books under our company name “Williams Ink.” I have an author website that I created in wordpress, but I don’t have a separate website for my imprint. So, my question would be: should I have created the website under the publishing imprint name and just showcase my books, or is having the author website good enough?

    1. Williams Ink – great name, Jennifer! I think if you’re publishing only your own books, it’s better to have the website in your author name, and you could have a separate menu tab for Williams Ink. You could also buy a http://www.williamsink.com URL or similar (whatever is available) and direct that to your author website too, which covers all eventualities. But only if you’re publishing other people’s books would I bother setting up a completely different site – otherwise it just creates more admin to keep everything updated, and eats into time you’d probably rather spend writing more books!

      1. Hi Debbie, I’m only a few years late to this party! But I found this post via a search on setting up an imprint for self published authors, and in particular, I found your response to Jennifer Lewis Williams comment most helpful (williams Ink), and something I may act on myself for my own publishing goals.

        However, what happens (in the best case scenario) if/when you are approached by well established publishing houses for a publishing deal, do you then have to remove your own imprint reference on your ebooks to make way for the big guys instead? I’m not sure how that would work – would seeing an imprint mentioned on the book (of your own creation) put them off?

        I hope this makes sense?

        Thank you for your time – and a great post by the way!

        1. Debbie’s on holiday, Adrian, so I’m stepping in. Many things will be up for negotiation and agreement with a publisher as part of the negotiation but they’ll want their own imprint on the book, yes. Nobody in publishing is put off by this (or anything much), so long as the sales are good enough and the book fits their list. The thing is that when an indie author gets to the point where they get offers, they are often happier staying with their own imprint, as they’ve already done most of the hard work.

  30. Thanks Debbie for a great post. I set up my my imprint back in 2001, with my first book on marriage, as Lifeline Publishing to become Lifeline Publishing Books. The logo is a yellow half sun on the horizon with a bird flying through it. It has a solid ring to it and I tend to write about life sustaining subjects. At that time I also sold my books to Borders and Barnes&Noble and could not do it as a self publisher since it wasn’t possible at that time.
    I then stumbled on a website with many negative comments from readers on how dishonest it was to pretend to be a publisher of books. I tend to view an imprint or being a publisher in my own right as any other business. What is the difference between a boutique dress shop and selling books? The dress shop has a name so does the bookseller, though I don’t operate from a building. What’s more, when we sell books, whether from Amazon or otherwise we are in business. That is the business of selling books we love.

    1. Lilian, I wonder if that is a widespread opinion, or one that is localized to the website you mentioned? (By the way, what website?)

      As a reader, I don’t think I would care if the publisher for a book turned out to be a DBA for the author. I also try not to judge a book by its publisher, so maybe it has more to do with giving people a chance than the “honesty” of a publisher’s background and number of employees.

  31. Random Penguin is such a *great* name, Debbie! I love the sound of it, and as for the image it raises in my head that’s even better. Little fella wandering around, bumping into things…

    Sorry – I have nothing else to say, but thank you for raising a smile this morning.

  32. My initial reason for choosing to create an imprint for a print book was to have a ‘real’ publisher to list on the title page and to put at the bottom of the spine on the cover. There are also other benefits of having an imprint name such as the listing on an Amazon sales page and for use on business cards.

    I list myself as ‘Author/Publisher’ on mine and, after purchasing the domain name for my imprint, I use ‘info@…’ for a business email address. The website for the imprint is basic but will link to my author website when complete and tie into the book. My novel is about climate change so I chose to use One Planet Press.


  33. I set up Richardson Media Limited back when I did lectures, training, TV set-up consultancies and lots of newspaper articles, but now that I do screenplays and books, it is a handicap. I am about to re-name the company for the very reasons already expressed in this thread, but it does mean a lot of work because the current name is embedded in so many areas, not least my two websites. This time around I will probably use a made-up neutral name that avoids the words “media”, “publishing”, “films” of “screenplays” — so that whatever direction the company then goes in, I won’t become a hostage to fortune.

      1. Gosh, that’s a very good point, Ian – I’d never thought about that, though of course I know of the old favourite brand disasters such as the “Nova” car – which sounds like something nice and new and novel in English, but in other languages means “Doesn’t go” 🙂

  34. I established Basilisk Books (as a DBA). Still need to get a good logo, though! I’ll look into Canva…

  35. When confronted with the “publisher name” question, I decided to create a publisher name for myself. It’s only me, only my books. I went through the whole copyright search and registered the business name (on my lawyer’s advice). When people ask who my publisher is, I say “King Company”. They nod, as if they’d heard of it. I haven’t created a logo yet, though I suppose I should do that at some point (my 5th book comes out later this month). I expect to do that before the end of the year.

    My books are printed by Ingram, so being able to say “you can get through Ingram” has actually been more impressive to people than the name of my publisher.

    1. Excellent point, Victoria – without the practicalities making it possible to get your books in front of readers, having an imprint means much less!

  36. Thank you for some thoughtful, workable ideas. Frankly though, I think that prospective readers prefer to see a visual concept e.g. Blue Kingfisher Publishing, rather than a sole generic imprint like Create Space.

    I also believe that, despite the difficulty of making changes and the added expense, every e-book should also be published as a paper-back with a distinct publisher logo.

    1. Christopher, I suspect the brand CreateSpace means nothing to the average reader. Blue Kingfisher Publishing sounds very colourful – could make for a great logo!

      I agree with you about having a paperback for every ebook, by the way – except, of course, for “Kindle Single” style ebooks which are too short to justify print. But even if you publish enough of those, you can compile them into a paperback – that’s something I’m aiming at doing with the few Kindle Singles that I’ve got out there, alongside my longer books.

  37. With my latest book I decided to finally be an author-publisher, which I was before but now I acknowledge it. LOL I went with Gray Sweater Press for reasons listed on my website. GSP is just an extra page on my author website but I had a logo made at VistaPrint and added it to the latest book.

    http://www.graysweaterpress.com directs to my author website and the page is there.

  38. Hi: Yes, projecting a professional appearance is always the best approach. I have had a Brand for many years: Frugal Marketer Publishing, LLC. It is n the front matter of my books, paper, or digital. A professional website is in construction.



  39. Likewise Debbie I created CollaborArt Books ( named after a combined arts centre I also created which failed, so it seemed a nice echo of what once was, but I also liked the option for CAB with a London cab as the logo ( suggested a destination which I am still hoping for!) It Also has a website which defines what it is about ( or hopes to be about) here https://collaborartbooks.wordpress.com/

    Where it has proved helpful is in doing what you suggest, persuading bookshops ( a few) to consider books they may not otherwise have done.

  40. Thanks for the mention, Debbie. It was difficult to set up in English as the Cypriot tax office kept wanting me to use my own name as they didn’t want the hassle of registering me on the island. In the end I just used APE for the USA and now in the UK. In Cyprus I was known as GlynisJSym because the woman wrote my name wrong on all things tax! It has taken two years to resolve now I live in the UK. Sigh.

  41. Great advice, Debbie. I created an imprint for the very reasons you mentioned in this article. Called it Thinking Women Books. I have a website (http://thinkingwomenbooks.com/) and the hope of being able to offer my services and the skills learned through being an indie author to others not wanting to take on the whole project alone. My logo and other marketing tools are being developed by an indie designer, who created by book cover, Not ready yet to launch other books, but will be soon, I think.

      1. Thanks, Lorna – I really liked the caterpillar too! I’m just waiting now for someone to tell me that the caterpillar isn’t the right match for the butterfly on the front cover, but I think I can live with that!

  42. I have thought about this, but decided that it would be too complicated for me to do. I have been writing and publishing under my name as a sole trader and will continue to do this as it’s far more easier for me.

    1. Publishing under your own name is certainly the simplest option, Julie, and goodness knows, this self-publishing business is complicated enough already! Glad you’ve made the decision that feels right to you.

      1. I had my first children’s book published, Storm Buddies in 2013. The next year I had the coordinating plush animals made. They come in a soft cloud pillow and have superpowers to comfort a child during stormy weather.

        I had to cancel my contract with the publishing company a year ago because they would not sell as a bundle.

        I am now ready to revise the book to create a spine and feel like I need to put a publisher on the copyright page. I cannot use them. What do you suggest I do? Do I create one? I just feel lost.

        1. Hi Melissa, sorry to hear you’ve had to cancel your contract, but on the plus side, with greater control now, you could go on to bigger and better success as an indie. Did you see our profile of “The Elf on the Shelf” at Christmas? https://selfpublishingadvice.org/christmas-elf-on-the-shelf-self-publishing-success/ That should hearten and inspire you! I’d say yes – go on and create an imprint if that’s what makes you feel comfortable. As an indie, you have the right to choose and do what suits you best.

          You might also like to read my Opinion piece about creating my own imprint here: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/self-publishing-and-indie-author-imprints/

          Good luck, Melissa, and keep us posted! If you’re not already a member of ALLi, you might like to consider joining, to avail yourself of more help and advice via our private Facebook forum (members only) as well as the many deals and discounts available exclusively to ALLi members.

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