Some people dream of publishing at Random House, while others dream of publishing under something a little more personal: a book imprint.
Publishing your book under an imprint name can make your book feel more personal and special. More importantly, it’s a way to more easily and profitably manage the business side of a writing life, so let’s dig into it!
What is a book imprint?
An imprint is simply the name of your publishing company. For someone who’s traditionally published, that’s a no-brainer – there’s nothing to choose. But those who are going indie get to pick the name listed on the book’s copyright page, in the Library of Congress, associated with the sales material and shared with booksellers, both online and in-person.
It’s also the name assigned when you purchase an ISBN, or International Standard Book Number. It is true that some ebook platforms don’t require ISBNs anymore, but having one is really important for people to find your book, to get into libraries, for inventory control and much more. We always STRONGLY advise our clients to get one; it’s a vital, non-negotiable part of our publishing process in-house. This is NOT a corner you want to cut. Read more about how to do it here.
Sales of ISBNs to imprints has grown over 200% in the last 10 years, and it’s a trend we expect will continue, because it just makes creative and business sense.
The creative upside to using an imprint.
As a writer, you want to seize every opportunity to tell your potential readers who you are. You want to build a brand that’s consistent and that helps tell your story. Whether you’re writing nonfiction, memoirs, fiction, poetry — it’s important in any genre.
An imprint can help you build that brand.
Just having an “official sounding” name on the back of that book will help some readers overcome any old-fashioned, lingering reservations they have about indie authors. Some booksellers won’t carry a book without an imprint name.
Plus, having an imprint also makes your other job — marketing your new indie book — much easier. When you write press releases and create social media, you can do so as your publishing imprint. It creates the kind of helpful distance that will take your marketing efforts to the next level. And you might even find it freeing when you’re crafting sales copy about that exciting new writer who is, in fact, you!
The business upside to using a book imprint.
Using an imprint creates space between You, The Author, and You, The Business Owner. That’s what you are when you indie publish, right? A small business owner! You’re responsible for your book’s success, and your financial stake in it is something you don’t want to leave legally fuzzy.
To get the most mileage out of using an imprint, you will want to set it up as a legal entity. You can do that as a sole proprietorship, an LLC (limited liability company) or an S-corp (subchapter S corporation). You’ll want to consult with an attorney and accountant to figure out what’s best for you, long-term, but your corporation will default to being a sole proprietorship unless you make a change.
Once your imprint is set up as a legal corporation, using it will help you separate our your personal finances from those of your writing business.
And, after you’ve established this legal entity? You can keep using it, even if you do eventually reach a deal for traditional publishing. Whether it’s for future books of your own, or for beginning to help others achieve their publishing dreams, it can be a long-term way to grow your writing career.
The essential steps to setting up an imprint for maximum value.
- Name and brand your imprint: we always recommend that authors take this chance to think about their brand when selecting an imprint name, but it’s also vital to be sure your chosen name isn’t already in use elsewhere! You’ll also want to design a logo and build a website that carries that branding through. Consider trademarking your logo and name, if you can afford it and if you think this is a long-haul business plan for you.
- Register your new imprint name: register it as either a DBA (doing business as) or FBN (ficticious business name), depending on where you live; then get your employer identification number from the the IRS – yes, even if you don’t have any employees yet! You’ll also want to check into your local laws on registering a business – you may have to register with the state, county and/or town.
- Get your financial house in order: set up bank accounts for your new business and get a sales tax permit, if local laws require it. You’ll want to keep track of all your expenses going forward to ensure you’re ready around tax time.
All of this might seem like a lot of work. Honestly, it is work to set up, but it’s a smart step towards setting yourself up for success as an indie author, and that’s always time well-spent.