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: [email protected] (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:

self-publishing

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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124 Comments

  1. Alice

    Hi there Joel,

    Just wanted to thank you for this article and for answering readers’ questions so clearly.

    My author friend created an LLC as the Publisher and we originally thought that would be the Imprint name as well. However I ran into some confusion on the Bowker’s site when it says “DO NOT ADD your imprint as the same name as the publisher.”

    From another answer, I believe this just means do not add “Createspace” but do you see any issues with using the LLC name as the Imprint name as well?

    And thank you for clarifying your experience, that adding additional Imprints do not require more DBAs if all financials go through that main company. (I was frantically searching for that info with no luck until I got to your post/comment section!)

    Reply
    • Sharon Goldinger

      Hi, Alice,

      There shouldn’t be any problem with using the LLC name as your imprint name with Bowker. If you have any questions about this, I would recommend contacting Bowker directly.

      Reply
  2. Susan

    Thank you for this info! I have spent hours combing the internet for clarification on what an imprint is, and how an author with no registered business can use it. All other “answers” were too vague to be of any use. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Susan

      After continuing to read more on this subject, I’m still not absolutely sure I understand it correctly. Can I, as my own publisher with no registered business identity, use an imprint I conjure up as long as I own the ISBN? The terms “trade name” and “brand name” appear to have legal ramifications.

      Reply
      • Sharon Goldinger

        Hi Susan,

        I think I understand your question and think the best answer can be found in this from Joel (above): “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.” I would recommend getting on the phone with a Technical Services Manager and review your questions and their requirements.

        Reply
        • Susan

          Yeah, still clear as mud.

          Reply
          • Joel Friedlander

            Susan,

            Yes, you can use an imprint you create because even if you don’t establish a business identity, you will be doing business as Susan ___, in other words, as a sole proprietor. You can’t avoid it since you’ll also have to declare the income from your activities and the most advantageous way to do that is through a Schedule C business of some kind, and you are starting one by default, and if you don’t establish a company of some kind, your name will become your “trade name.” I suggest setting up a business entity to any author who hopes to publish more than one book or to make a profit, and we have tools to help with that.

  3. Connie Lacy

    Thanks for all the good advice. I have a question about transitioning from CS as my “publisher” to setting up my own publishing imprint. I’ve already published 5 books allowing CS-generated ISBNs. Now I want to set up my imprint to publish my 6th and all subsequent books, in addition to eventually republishing the first five through my imprint. Which will be a lot of work. (Wish I had set up my imprint when I started out.)

    My question: during the transition period, I’ll have my SSN# attached to my first five books published by CS and an EIN# attached to new books published by my imprint. Will that cause problems?

    Any advice would be appreciated. Outstanding website and newsletter.
    Thank you,
    Connie

    Reply
    • Sharon Goldinger

      Connie, from what you describe I don’t think you’ll have any problems–just two reports (one for your SSN# and one for your EIN#). Glad you’re finding the website and blog posts helpful.

      Reply
      • Connie Lacy

        Muchas gracias! Very kind of you to respond!

        Reply
  4. Deanna Moore-Lopez

    Great article, thank you!

    I have my own IBSN and publishing company, which is listed on my Amazon account. {books..}

    Now I want to access expanded distribution by publishing with CreateSpace. they offer a ‘free’ IBSN mandatory if you want to get into retailers and library streams but they say they will be listed as the publisher……will my publishing company not given credit at all in this scenario ?

    Thank you for your excellent blog!

    Reply
    • Deanna Moore-Lopez

      Gosh I am tired! ISBN…and They offer….
      Doesn’t look too good for a writer.. oops! :-)

      Reply
    • Sharon Goldinger

      Hi, Deanna,

      The CreateSpace books that go into expanded distribution use Ingram to get that distribution, and the books are all listed as CreateSpace books, since the individual authors don’t have accounts at Ingram. This allows them to consolidate all the royalties etc. into one account instead of having to generate and service thousands of individual accounts. Yes, you are correct–your publishing company name will not be listed as the publisher.

      Reply
  5. Elma

    Joel, this article has been extremely helpful to me. I also found your answers to some reader questions very useful. Thank you!

    Reply
  6. Hannelore

    Joel,

    Thank you so much for this incredibly useful information. I’ve had my finger hovering over the “BUY NOW” button on the Bowker website for a long time now. The reason for my hesitation? Nowadays, a block of ten ISBNs just doesn’t seem like enough for anyone who intends to publish more than one book. With all the different formats — hardcover, softcover, audiobook, MOBI, EPUB, and PDF — each requiring a separate ISBN, just two books could require twelve ISBNs — or more, if you ever find it necessary in the future to publish updated editions of your books. That would make the $575 price tag on 100 ISBNs look like a better deal. Gulp! Is there any hope of relief for small, independent, U.S. self-publishers, anywhere on the horizon?

    Reply
    • Sharon Goldinger

      Hannelore, you’re right–buying 100 ISBNs is the better choice when you have so many potential products to assign a number to. ISBNs used to be free–many years ago (ahh, the good ole days). Those 100 should last a long time.

      Reply
      • Hannelore

        Yes — I went ahead and bought 100. As I entered my payment details, I tried not to think about those good old days when they were free! Guess we just have to accept that it’s part of the cost of doing business these days.

        Reply
        • Linore Burkard

          MOBI, epub and PDFs do not require different ISBNs. The mobi (kindle) file can be converted to epub and PDF with the same ISBN. And for my book that went into an audio edition (with Audible) I did not have to supply an additional ISBN. Having said that, it’s definitely handy to have a large bank of the numbers for numerous projects.

          Reply
          • Sharon Goldinger

            My experience is different. My distributors require a different ISBN for the e-book versions. (We don’t need a different ISBN each for mobi and epub but we do need a different ISBN from the print version of the book.)

  7. Linda Bonney Olin

    Hi, Joel. I hope you still monitor this article. I’d love to have my question answered by the “horse’s mouth” of indie publishing. :) Your info has guided me on many aspects of my book projects.

    I bought my own ISBNs and published several small-niche books on CreateSpace in my own name as publisher. I’d rather have a genre-related publisher name appear on my books instead of my own name, but I decided my few sales weren’t worth the complication of setting up a DBA, special bank account, etc.

    If I understand your article correctly, I can have Bowker add that genre-related name as an imprint on my Linda Bonney Olin account and use my existing supply of ISBNs to upload new books on CreateSpace on my existing CS account, specifying the genre-related name as my “imprint,” without having to register a DBA, etc.? SWEET!

    The question: Could I also update the “imprint” on my previously published books without having to upload them to CreateSpace as a new edition with a new ISBN?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Linda,

      If you want to change the imprint name or publisher name on your ISBN account at Bowker, you will need to get in touch with their bibliographers. They have a link on the site to send them an email.

      Whether you can change the metadata without re-uploading is a question for CreateSpace.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  8. Vikk

    Hi Joel,

    Love the article. I’ve had my own ISBNs for years but two years ago I added an imprint for a line of fiction books to my Bowker account. I entered the imprint name as the publisher and all went well with Createspace and no notices from Bowker….

    I recently added another imprint but now I’m confused. I don’t remember this warning last year (It shows up underneath the info on your publisher name and your imprint names:

    “Createspace is not a legitimate imprint name.
    If you have been asked for your imprint name by Createspace, you are being asked for Ordinary Matters Publishing.
    For MyIdentifier purposes, an imprint is another name used besides the company name to identify a line of books.
    DO NOT ADD your imprint as the same name as your publisher.”

    The last line is what is confusing me. Are they saying I should NOT add the imprint name when I list the publisher name when filling out the Createspace info? Sort of defeats the purpose of having an imprint if you can’t list it as the publisher on Createspace.

    Maybe I’m just not reading this correctly.

    Reply
    • rs

      The statement means when creating an imprint, the name “Createspace” is not a legitimate imprint.

      It is a common error made by people.

      Reply
      • Joel Friedlander

        rs, thanks for clarifying that.

        Reply
  9. Jack Williams

    Hello! To anyone who can answer,

    Lets say I get a ISBN# for my book…I want to sale paperback, audio and ebook. Do I need 3 different ISBN’s ??

    What if I have my ebook on multiple platforms (google, kindle, iBooks) do I need different ISBNs for all online platforms?

    Reply
    • Sharon Goldinger

      Hi, Jack,

      You will need a different ISBN for the paperback and audio versions. You’ll need one ISBN for the e-book version but that ISBN should work for all e-book platforms.

      Reply
  10. Darrell Goodlett

    Thanks for the great article. It’s a little overwhelming trying to find good advice about publishing books. I used a publisher to release my first book this past year. Everything went fine and I have the book on Amazon, etc. I also have some paper back copies on hand. Unfortunately, the publisher went out of business. I’m awaiting my print ready files from the publisher and have talked to CreateSpace about republishing. I’m seeing some older reviews about CreateSpace that concern me. Is CreateSpace as good an option as is out there for an unknown author. I have had many publishers offer to republish my book. I just want to be able to get copies of it and keep it available on line. I would appreciate some advice.

    Reply
  11. Dennis

    I’d obtain my LLC for the state of Georgia and just found out another publishing company in Arizona has the same name in the same industry. Should I consider a name change? My second question is, with a publishing company name should I create other imprints for niche specific books (e.g. Thrillers and another for Poetry)? or is it wise to publish books in other genres under one publishing name?

    Reply
    • Sharon Goldinger

      Dennis, I always recommend having a unique publishing company name–that no one (in any state) has. I have seen this issue cause a lot of problems. I would definitely recommend changing it now. The choice is yours about using imprints but I think it’s better to publish them all under one publishing company name especially as you start out. Later, if you have dozens of titles, you may want to revisit this issue.

      Reply
  12. Angie Narus

    As an independent author and publisher, I appreciate it when I run across articles like this. After researching Amazon and several other POD publishers, I decided to forego that route and do it all myself and become an independent publisher of my own books. I use Microsoft Publisher to design and write, get the books printed by a local printing company, and distribute the books myself through my own website, amazon.com, and small retailers that I have established business relationships with. I do my own marketing, handle my own sales, and basically do the work of an entire publishing company. I have one book that’s been selling for two years now, and a second book coming out this summer. I use my own name as my business name and use the imprint on my books, online author profiles, and correspondence. I also came up with a tagline that describe my book genre. I just think like a big-house publishing company and find ways to do what they do, and it works.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Angie, congratulations on the progress you’ve made with your publishing enterprise. It sounds like you’re following almost the exact same route that I did in the 1990s. Although I wouldn’t do that today for a lot of reasons, you will learn every aspect of the publishing business, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Good luck!

      Reply
  13. Malek

    Awesome article! Thank you for this, and as I continue to read the comments I just got confused all over again. I am in the process of self-publishing my children’s book for the first time. I do not posses a DBA nor Publishing company.

    After conversing with some friends I’m torn between allowing CS to give me an ISBN for free or pay the $99 so I can have full option of publishing & distribution.

    I do have a name I can use for a DBA yet not sure if it makes more sense to have a publishing co by creating a LLC or use the name as a DBA? I would like all of my children’s book titles to begin with “Blah Blah Stories Presents” followed by the title/subtitle of each book.

    In your expertise, does this mean I’ll need to create a DBA so I can continue to use it as my imprint name or create a LLC. I’m stuck & confused at this point.

    Thank you,
    Malek

    Reply
    • Sharon Goldinger

      Malek, I always recommend using your own company name and buying your own ISBNs. How you set up your company (dba, sole proprietorship or an LLC) should be based on your personal and/or business situation. I recommend consulting with your accountant at a minimum and possibly even a business attorney (if you have one already for your other businesses).

      Reply
  14. Steven

    Hi Joel,

    Thanks for this great site. Could you clarify how the author, imprint, and publisher name would be used in the front matter? If I’m self publishing, what name actually owns the copyright, or does it matter? Is one of these correct usage:

    Copyright (c) 2016 My Name
    Copyright (c) 2016 My Publishing Company
    Copyright (c) 2016 My Imprint, an imprint of My Publishing Company
    Copyright (c) 2016 My Imprint

    or is it used after the copyright, like,

    My Imprint is an imprint of My Publishing Company

    If more than one of these is correct, how would you choose between them?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Sharon Goldinger

      Steven, this article should have the answers to all your questions: https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/01/copyright-page-samples-you-can-copy-and-paste-into-your-book/. It’s very rare for the copyright to be in a publisher’s name; it’s almost always in the name of the author (unless the contract between the publisher and the author says differently). Here’s a sample of a publisher and its imprint:
      Published by Smith Publishing Group, a division of Big Name Publisher, Inc. (where division means imprint).

      Reply
      • Steven

        Thank you, Sharon.

        Reply
  15. Linda Sweitzer

    Joel,

    Thanks for this interesting information. I have one question though. If I want to add a book’s cover to my webpage, do I ask the publisher or the imprint for permission.

    Reply
  16. Bonnie Lyn Smith

    Thanks so much for this informative article. I just went through something similar. I publish other authors through my press Ground Truth Press on CreateSpace, and I am always completely perplexed when they ask the imprint name and that little explanation comes up. It came up when I published myself two years ago.

    As always, your articles are so timely and helpful!

    Best!

    Reply
  17. Chibueze

    Hi Fred,
    I stumbled into your blog and it ‘s full of information. I don’t know if you can provide me with more guidance.

    My sister who resides outside the USA wrote a fantastic book that I would like to publish for her in US. I considered using literary agents but found out that self publishing would be a better idea. I have an incorporated company in Florida that I might use. I don’t know much about imprint and other steps to take.
    Please can you advise? Thanks.

    Reply
  18. Elaine Donadio

    Joel, I’m hoping you can clarify something for me involving imprints, etc. The name of my blog is Elaine Donadio Writes. This same title appears on my website and the title page of my ebooks along with the copyright symbol to indicate written permission must be asked of Elaine Donadio Writes, rather than just my name, since I have discovered other people have the same name. Does this count as an imprint or publisher? If I use CS for my PoD books, can I use Elaine Donadio Writes somewhere in there without having a special titled bank account and be paid in my personal account? I live in New York City.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Hi Elaine,

      There’s no need for a special bank account simply to publish books, although I might advise you to come up with a better name for your publishing endeavors (separate to your blog) with a variant that speaks more to publishing, like “Elaine Donadio Books” or “Elaine Donadio Press.”

      Reply
  19. Elaine Donadio

    On Feb. 2, 2016, Dan S. wrote…”CreateSpace didn’t work out for me.” He mentioned issues with sales reporting. Having read numerous old horror stories about CS, it seems the organization has improved its image and customer service recently. I’m wondering if Dan S., or anyone else for that matter, would recommend a different company to use for PoD? My ebooks are already on Amazon, so CS seems logical, but I’m concerned about the numerous problems that may arise.

    Also, Joel, what is your opinion of CS?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Hi Elaine,

      I like and use CreateSpace for my own books, and find them to be a reliable partner.

      Reply
  20. Ken Owens

    I wish I wasn’t stumped, but I am. I bought my ISBN from Bowker under my name. I wrote only one book, my memoirs, and not planning anymore. This took a year to finish. I’m having Createspace print it. I don’t want to set up an entire publishing business just for “a” book. Do I still need an imprint for the book, even though this is the only one? I hate to be so close to finally uploading it and then hit this road block. Any advice? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Ken, you don’t need an imprint name, you can simply list yourself as “publisher” which would be perfectly appropriate for a memoir.

      Reply
      • Ken Owens

        Thank you! I’ll see if I can do that!

        Reply
  21. James Lee

    Thanks Joel for this article. When I got my ISBNs from Bowker last year, I did notice that they have a spot to enter any imprints that you may have. Perhaps they have updated their service since your experience.

    I did hope that you would have addressed any legal issues surrounding imprints. For example, do you need to file a DBA for each imprint? In my case, I setup an LLC to publish my books under rather than just my author name.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Hi James,

      It would be great if they improved the handling of imprints, I’ll have to check that out so thanks for the tip.

      I’m not an attorney, but in my experience you don’t need a DBA for every imprint. For instance, I have a DBA for Marin Bookworks, and could also publish books under a different imprint name that was part of that company, as long as all payments come to the main company (in my case, Marin Bookworks).

      Hope that helps.

      Reply
  22. Bryanna Plog

    This is very basic, but I still confused on imprints vs. publishing companies. If I choose the Custom ISBN with CreateSpace so I can have something other than CreateSpace listed as my publisher, does this actually have to be an established business? Or can I just list a “publisher name” that no one else ahs used without setting up an LLC?

    Thanks! Love your site and services!

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Bryanna, because those ISBNs are “administered” by CreateSpace, you should ask their support people your question. I do recommend for any authors who want to be more than hobbyists, they acquire their own ISBNs directly from Bowker (myidentifiers.com). You do want to create a business entity of some kind, too. For more (lots more) on this you might want to have a look at the Self-Publishing Business in a Box.

      Reply
  23. Nadine

    Hi Joel I have a question about the $10 custom ISBN# on CS would I be able to sell my printed book else where.
    This is my first book that I am publishing on my own. I want to know would I be considered a self publishing company if I have an imprint with my ISBN# and if so do I have to put this on my copyright application for my book title.

    Reply
  24. Samita Sarkar

    I’m a Canadian, about to release my first book!

    The thing is, ISBNs are free in Canada. Can I still publish with my own imprint and ISBN on Amazon if I didn’t buy it from Bowker? Or do I have to just suck it up and get a US ISBN?

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Samita, you are fine with your Canadian ISBN, you don’t need another one. Good luck with your book!

      Reply
  25. Sherry Everett

    Hi Joel,

    I hope you can help me. I’ve published 21 books on Amazon under my name as well as some pen names and never had a problem with CS. However, I’m currently having a horrendous time with them. I posted a book, “Aruba: Your Travel Guide”, with them almost a MONTH ago and sent it to their approval department, which normally takes a day for them to approve. They sent me a very vague email about my ISBN being listed on another book so I checked with Bowker’s and confirmed the ISBN I listed with CS was not listed to another book. I called CS and wasn’t satisfied with the answer I received so I sent my book again to them for approval but received the same email.

    I called CS and learned that, if the publishing company I had listed with Bowker back in 2002 wasn’t the same as the one I listed with CS, CS wouldn’t release my book. After immediately calling Bowker, I sent PAD an email, then sent the book to CS again. I know I sound like a broken record, but I got another vague email from CS the following day.

    Thankfully, this time I talked with a well-trained supervisor who put me on hold and verified that the information listed on CS and Bowker matched. He filed a case to make the CS paperback approval team aware of the problem and told me I would hear from them within 48 hours.

    That deadline is quickly approaching (5 hours) and still I haven’t received an email from them. I even told the CS gentleman I spoke with that I hoped this delay didn’t have anything to do with the fact that Fodor’s is supposed to be coming out with an updated version of their book on Aruba. He assured me it didn’t.

    Joel, can you help me? I’ll be glad to send you my case # if you can.

    Thanks and I hope to hear from you soon.

    Sherry Everett
    Author/Editor

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Sherry, this sounds similar to the situation I ran into. I can’t help, but you’re doing exactly the right thing, and you may need to keep on them until it’s resolved, hopefully soon.

      Reply
  26. Patricia Dines

    QUESTION: How do imprints work in printed books from the viewpoint of the bookstores and Books In Print? Do they list just the imprint, the publisher name, or both? I’ve asked PAD at Bowker but the person responding seems to only be seeing the database view, not the out-in-the-world view.

    I ask because my publisher name doesn’t really fit my new book’s title/category. So I thought I’d create an imprint and only use that in the book and when promoting the book. However, if the bookstores see the publishing name or both then it seems that would be confusing not inspiring!

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Patricia, your instinct is correct. Using an imprint name will essential replace the publisher name for virtually all uses. Bowker will maintain a record that shows both the publisher name and any imprints you’ve created. You can at your option show the publisher name on the copyright page, but it’s not required.

      Reply
  27. Laura French

    My question is, do you have to be a sole proprietorship in ordered to establish an imprint? ( I already ruled out an LLC at the cost of $800 a year.) I live in California.
    When I look at all of these steps, I just get mind boggled. Especially buying liability insurance, and getting permits and licenses. I don’t have money to do all of this.

    Can you just file the FBN papers and start using the imprint name? This becomes so complicated. I don’t know if this is just California or what. One lady said she just filed a DBA, opened an email account in the new name, and a bank account. That seems simple enough. But all of these steps seems overwhelming.

    For sole proprietorship in CA
    Choose a business name; check all sources that it doesn’t exist
    File a fictitious business name state with county recorder- must be published in a well-known newspaper for four consecutive weeks.
    Obtain licenses, permits, and zoning clearance.
    Obtain an employer Identification number
    Open a business bank account
    But general liability insurance
    Report and pay taxes
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Laura, it really isn’t that complicated, and if you just start doing business, you’re going to be a “sole proprietor” anyway, without doing anything. To receive checks in your publisher name, you’ll need to file a DBA or fictitious business name statement. I’m in California also, and this is fairly easy to do. You’ll have to wait 4 weeks while the notice is published in a newspaper, then you’ll get a certificate that allows you to open a bank account in your publisher name. The rest of your list is optional or depends on your unique circumstances.

      Reply
      • Laura French

        Thank you so much for your quick response. I LOVE your blog.

        Reply
        • Joel Friedlander

          And I LOVE my readers!!

          Reply
      • Jeffery L Buckner

        I am trying to sort through this process as well. Must I form an LLC in California in order to have a publisher name or an imprint? Or is what you described above a process of becoming a sole proprietor without an LLC?

        Thank you,
        Jeffery

        Reply
        • Joel Friedlander

          Hi Jeffrey,

          You can choose the business structure that best suits your situation and your needs. If you’re not sure which is best for you, you might consider consulting with your tax preparer, CPA, or attorney before you settle on one.

          Reply
  28. Linda

    Hi Joel!

    Do I have to register a DBA for both my publishing company and my imprint name? This part seems a little tricky.

    Thanks so much. Love you site BTW.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Hi Linda, and thanks for the love.

      You probably only need a DBA for your publishing company, but what it really comes down to is how you plan to get paid. If all the payments are in the publishing company name, you’ll be fine, and it should be easy to set up your accounts that way. But if you get payments in the imprint name, I suggest you talk to your bank about whether you’ll be able to negotiate those in your publishing company account, which should not be a big problem.

      Reply
  29. Brigid

    Thank you for this article. It was exactly the information I was looking for.

    Reply
  30. Tina

    Hi Joel;
    Great information! Thanks! I’d really like some further clarification. Am I filing a DBA (not incorporated and want to stay as sole propr) for the imprint that I create or the publishing company from which it will be housed under? Or must I be a corporation to create this hierarchy within? Publishing company—imprint
    Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Tina, you can have any type of business organization you like, they each have advantages and disadvantages. There’s no need to incorporate, and if you already have an independent business and file a Schedule C (in the U.S.) you probably don’t need a new business at all, you can do your publishing as long as it’s related, under your current business structure.

      Reply
  31. Coy Williams

    Thanks Joel you have been very helpful, funny I just ran into that exact thing, when is an imprint not an imprint? I have a question about the ISBN. Why does CS have a note saying, to get Expanded Distribution the ISBN must be purchased from CS. Here I was with 7 ISBNs left over when I bought Bowker’s 10 for 2 pack!.. I bought SC $99 ISBN anyway to see what would happen and was told today from a Coeditor with CS that they could have given me one free ISBN and barcode as well! Is it my understanding who ever buys the ISBN controls the marketing as well and that it even trumps copyrights. So why this free ISBN and Barcode if not a hook on the other end. You are the only one I will trust with an answer at this point. Thanks again Joel. Coy

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Coy, the “free” ISBNs provided by vendors like CreateSpace (they aren’t the only one) are purchased directly from Bowker in huge lots. If you buy 5,000 ISBNs, they only cost $1.00 each. However, the owner of the ISBNs is officially the “publisher” of all books that carry them, not you. You could ask CreateSpace why they require a CS ISBN in order to get you into expanded distribution, but it’s because they are likely using Ingram for the distribution, and the books are distributed from their account, since the individual authors don’t have accounts at Ingram. This allows them to consolidate all the royalties etc. into one account instead of having to generate and service thousands of individual accounts.

      However, please understand that ISBN is simply an inventory mechanism designed to provide a unique and uniform identifier for each separate edition of a book. It has nothing to do with copyright or marketing.

      Reply
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  33. Dan S.

    CreateSpace didn’t work out for me. The book came out great but when it came time to pay out my royalties, a big fat ZERO. The payouts met the minimum threshold, too. They just gave a bunch of lame excuses that never panned out. At the end, simply stalling tactics. There are also many complaints about CreateSpace underreporting sales. CreateSpace is a Amazon company, but it’s a shady operation. I would stay away from them.

    Reply
  34. Ashley Farley

    This is a great article. Very helpful. I’m confused on one thing, and this might be very elementary. Do I have to create the imprint as a legal entity of my Publishing LLC?

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Ashley, there’s no legal step necessary to create an imprint. If you plan to take payments or cashier checks made in the imprint’s name, you’ll need to file a fictitious business name statement with your local authorities and then present your documentation to your bank (at least that’s how it works where I’ve done this) but if payments will be made to your LLC you can skip that step entirely.

      Reply
  35. Dale

    They hide it well, but there’s a link for adding a new imprint on the Sales & Pricing tab when you’re entering your listing.

    http://i.imgur.com/7xT0Qvz.jpg

    It’s actually nothing more than a mailto: link that opens an e-mail to the [email protected] address you note in your article, with subject pre-filled to “Please Create New Imprint – MyID” and the body containing the message “Provide your 13 digit ISBN, your organization/company/publisher name, and the name of your imprint you wish to add.”

    Not ideal, and “Sales & Pricing” isn’t where I would’ve ever thought to look for it, but then I would’ve done a lot of things differently in organizing their entry system.

    Fortunately they’re fairly quick about it. The turnaround’s always been under 24 hours for my requests, and you don’t have to go back and re-edit the ISBN entry you were working on, as they’ll apply it to the ISBN you specify in your e-mail. After that it’ll be a permanent option on the Imprint dropdown on that same tab.

    There’s a slight delay in the syncing of Bowker’s internal database with what’s provided to Createspace when they do a check, so I’d recommend waiting another 24 hours after Bowker confirms your imprint’s been added before uploading your CS project.

    Reply
  36. Tony Brasunas

    Great article as always Joel. Did your imprint Fourth Way
    Books target people interested in the Fourth Way spiritual path (as originated by Gurdjieff)?

    Reply
  37. Skip Michael

    Thank you for the insight. I will have to make some changes as I go from young adults to adult.

    Reply
  38. David Colin Carr

    Great piece, Joel. But I’m not clear on one thing: If you later try to publish something under Fourth Way, will CreateSpace find that acceptable, or do you need to change the name of the company back and forth each time you try to publish under an old imprint?

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Hi David. No, I won’t have to change the name of the publishing company in the Bowker record again. CreateSpace will “match” whatever you input into the “Imprint Name” field on their form with the publisher name in your Bowker account OR any imprint name found in the account (like the imprint names shown in the final screenshot above). So at this point I can publish as “Marin Bookworks,” “Fourth Way Books,” or “Photographics” without a hitch at CreateSpace.

      I might also mention, which I omitted from the article, that other vendors do not run this same kind of verification. I’ve published books at Lightning Source under several of these imprints without a problem over the years.

      Reply
  39. Matt Sinclair

    Great article and one I’ll need to bookmark for the future. I’ve considered starting an imprint that would feature erotica and/or romance. I’ve kept erotica out of the Elephant’s Bookshelf Press collection, but I’m not averse to it. Still, with books and stories that often focus on children and teens, I don’t think I want to have any erotica associated with those books. Hence, the possibility of an imprint. It’s not happening tomorrow or even this year, but maybe down the road…

    Reply
  40. Jason Matthews

    Joel, hopefully you’ve opened a few eyes at CreateSpace and they’ll change that entry to publisher and imprint.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Well, that would be nice but I don’t see a change forthcoming. And I didn’t mention in the article that the customer service staff at CreateSpace are not very well informed about this issue. During a lengthy phone discussion with a CSR, they continually insisted the “Imprint” name had to match the “Publisher” name in the Bowker record, when in reality it can match either that or any imprint name found in the file. I’ve recommended to CS that they improve the training of their CSRs about this policy.

      Reply
  41. Kathryn Loch

    Hi Joel,
    I’m really enjoying these articles and am finding them very helpful. I too have a publishing company and imprints. Rebel Publishing is for my contemporary suspense (romance) and I use the Dragonbourne Publishing imprint for my medieval historical romances. Both are huge genres but readership doesn’t always cross over.

    I’m discovering that once garnered, many fans will buy anything and everything by an author they like even if it’s not in a genre they generally read.

    One thing I want to mention with my experience is that my historical imprint also works not only within the expectations of the genre, but in consideration of my successful peers. I’m friends with a number of the authors in my genre, some rank higher than I do, some lower. We don’t compete as much as we share our readers. I’ve got a couple of reviews saying “if you like author so and so, try Kathryn Loch” and vice versa. So I developed my imprints (and still keep a close eye on that sort of thing) to run along similar lines as my peers. I don’t want to be identical or confuse readers, but just like meeting genre expectation, I do the same with imprint lines. I hope that makes sense. lol!

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Kathryn, that seems like a thoughtful and well thought out strategy. I especially appreciated your statement “We don’t compete as much as we share our readers,” and would hope that many authors would adapt this positive, constructive, and respectful attitude. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Reply
  42. julie krantz

    Hi, Joel–

    My publishing company is purple pie press (alliterative, child-friendly). So far I have two imprints: piebaby (picture books) and pieteen (middle-grade and young adult fiction).

    Great article. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Julie, I love your imprints, they are clever and apropos and I look like great brands you can continue to build.

      Reply
  43. Danielle

    This is great information! I’ve wondered how that would work. Thanks for sharing this, Joel.

    Reply
  44. JJ Toner

    Hi Joel, Over here, in the UK and Ireland, we obtain our ISBNs from Nielsen, not from Bowkers. So how does all of the above work out for us? JJ

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      JJ, I’m sorry to report I have no expertise in the administration of ISBNs in the UK or Ireland, but I bet there are other readers here who do, and perhaps they will respond.

      Reply
      • Ben Jones

        It’s similar in the UK – we once had an issue when submitting some new book information to Nielsen, because for our first book we had included both the imprint (Ozaru Books) and the legal entity (BJ Translations Ltd) on their form, but for a subsequent book we only put the imprint. After a delay and query, followed by a few emails back and forth they advised that we keep both in there – possibly just to ensure consistency – and since then we’ve simply copied across what we used in the past, with no issues (or at least none about the imprint/publisher point: don’t get me started on the problems with cover images, categorization, or Unicode text in the description…).

        It might look neater to use just the imprint, but it’s not a big deal for us – the long version helps attract some attention to the company too. But I agree there is some confusion: if Nielsen/Bowker/CS etc. simply stated somewhere “Acme Publishing Ltd can have multiple imprints, such as ABC Textbooks, XYZ Novels and Alphabet Comics. These have no legal significance, can be chosen however you like, and are just used for marketing and your internal processes” it would make it much clearer.

        Reply
  45. Ernie Zelinski

    My publishing company name is “Visions International Publishing.”

    I use the imprint “VIP BOOKS”, however.

    No doubt I will have to create another imprint if I ever decide to write and self-publish erotica. That new imprint name will be quite a challenge for me.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 275,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Can’t wait to see what you come up with, Ernie.

      Reply

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