A Quick Lesson About Publishers, Imprints, CreateSpace, and Bowker

by | Feb 9, 2015

While getting ready to publish The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide a few weeks ago, I ran into an interesting situation that may affect more authors as your own publishing continues to mature past a first book.

I procured my ISBNs back in the 1980s for Globe Press Books, my first publishing venture. When that experiment had run its course, I continued to publish, but had to change the name of my publishing company since Globe had been a partnership that was subsequently dissolved.

That’s no problem for a publisher, because we can simply devise a new imprint for any separate publishing venture. These imprints usually refer to a specific line of books that address a similar readership or point of view.

Here’s an example of how publisher Pan Macmillan positions their Bluebird imprint:

Bluebird Macmillan Imprint

Imprints allow a publisher to establish a brand identity for a cohesive line of books some of which may be aimed at specific segments of the market.

Here’s a list of the imprints of the huge Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group:

Knopf Imprints

Of course conglomerates like Knopf Doubleday are not like you and me. Many of the names on this list have rich histories of their own in book publishing, and they were independent companies before being acquired and brought under one roof.

But the same principle applies. When I was publishing at Globe Press Books, for instance, I established a Fourth Way Books imprint for a specific audience interested in this niche topic.

CreateSpace and the Missing Publisher Name

CreateSpace has a wonderful interface for setting up your books, probably the best and easiest to use of all the ones I’ve seen, with lots of help available as you go through the setup tasks.

However, I found it odd that the “Publisher name” didn’t appear anywhere. Instead, when you indicate you’re going to be using your own ISBN and not one supplied by CreateSpace, you are presented with this dialog asking for the ISBN and your “Imprint Name.”

CreateSpace ISBN entry

If you click the little “What’s this?” link, here’s what CreateSpace has to say:

CreateSpace Imprint field

Now as we just saw, a Publisher Name is not an Imprint Name, they are different, and we’ve seen that one publisher can have many imprints. So it doesn’t really make sense that “… the publisher… is your imprint,” does it?

I Feel So Rejected

Sure enough, when my book went into their review process, it got rejected. I had entered the imprint I was using, in this case “Marin Bookworks.” But one of the things that goes on during the review is that CreateSpace will actually check your account at Bowker—who issues the ISBNs to publishers—to make sure (for security reasons) that your entry matches.

And mine didn’t. My publishing company was listed as “Joel Friedlander, publisher”. My Bowker record also showed the imprints I had used in years gone by, but not the name I was now publishing under.

I spoke to a Technical Services Manager at CreateSpace, and found out that whatever you enter on their title information setup under “Imprint Name” has to match either the Publisher Name or an imprint name in your Bowker record.

Well, I’ll just add Marin Bookworks as an imprint name, right?

When I went to look, there was no way for a user to create an imprint name. For a minute, I was stumped. Did it mean I would have to open another account at Bowker, with the added expense of new ISBNs? I didn’t want to do that.

Or would I have to change my publishing company’s name just to conform to this security check for CreateSpace? That didn’t make much sense.

In the end, I got in touch with a Senior Analyst at Bowker, who explained their own take on imprints:

“What is an Imprint? A trade name used by a publisher to identify a line of books or a publishing arm within the publishing organization. … An imprint is distinguished from a corporate name in that it does not represent an entity with a corporate life of its own.”

She affirmed that there was no way for a user to add an imprint. However, Bowker acts quickly on customer requests to adjust their record, and provides an email address for that purpose: PAD@bowker.com. (Don’t forget to include one of your ISBNs so the bibliographers there can identify your record.)

That’s what I did to solve the mismatch that had my book suspended on the eve of publication. Bowker made the change within 24 hours and the book passed review at CreateSpace a few hours later.

Now, my publisher record at Bowker shows both my newly-changed publisher name and the other imprints I’ve used over the years:


Looking to the Future

I’ve been writing recently about how authors can continue to “evolve” in their publishing ventures, either by becoming more entrepreneurial, or by starting to publish the books of other authors, or by creating a cooperative publishing venture with other authors.

In all of those scenarios, the ability to create targeted imprints for specific lines of books can be a great strategic marketing tool to know about.

Even a single author, publishing her own books, might use an imprint if she decided to publish in a new genre, if it’s completely unrelated to her original one.

This historic practice of publishers is another tool you can add to your arsenal as a self-publisher.

How would you use an imprint in your own publishing business? See any need for one? I’d like to hear.

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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