Do I Need a Publisher Imprint for

My Self-Publishing Company?

Recently, I saw an Indie author ask the question, What is a publisher’s imprint and do I need one for my self-publishing business? The answer is, yes. The number of imprints you have depends on what you write.

A publisher imprint comes from the traditional publishing world, and how they have to do things as large corporations.

Bowker defines an imprint as, “A trade name, or brand name, used by a publisher to identify a line of books or a publishing arm within the organization. You may have multiple imprints. The imprints may be developed to market works to different buyer interests.”

As an indie author, your publishing company is your publishing imprint. (You did set up a business for your publishing, right? For more info, see this article, or Episode 2 of my podcast.) It is the trade or brand name you use to publish your books.

The large traditional publishers use imprints. For instance, Simon and Schuster has 35 imprints, segregating their children’s publication from nonfiction or adult fiction titles. Their imprints include Atria, Pocket Books, and Touchstone. Penguin Random House has, according to their website, nearly 275 imprints internationally! These include Knopf Doubleday, Ballantine Books, and Bantam Books. Amazon Publishing, separate from KDP Print, has several imprints: 47 North, Thomas & Mercer, Montlake Romance, and New Harvest.

Each imprint has its own colophon or logo and its own brand identity.

A traditional publisher’s organizational chart would look like this for their imprints.

In essence, an imprint is how traditional publishers brand the various categories of books they publish. It’s also how they organize their divisions. A good way to visualize or think about this is an organizational chart.

At the top of the organization, you have the main corporation, such as Penguin Random House. Below that is each individual imprint. These are usually grouped by the type of books they publish.

In our example, I’ve used the three categories I write: Fantasy and Science Fiction, Business, and Spiritual or Self-Help.

The publishing house would have a different imprint, or division for each category. They would create a brand identity to fit the imprint. Such as Knopf is known for high quality literary books. Tor is known for fantasy and science fiction. Atria is for self-help and spiritual books.

Within each of these divisions, or imprints, would be the individual authors and their books.

For most independent authors, we usually only need one trade name for our books, our publishing company.

However, if you write in multiple genres or categories, you may decide to create separate imprints and branding for each one you write in.

Many indie authors use a pen name to distinguish their genre brands when they write in several different genres, especially if they aren’t linked or compatible.

This is a type of imprint. Each pen name usually has a different style and branding.

For example, your branding for your cozy mystery books may be light hearted, fun, even a bit quirky. For your sweet romance, the branding would be wholesome, the tone and themes of your books would be innocent love. The branding for dark fantasy books would be more gritty, the spice level could be quite high, and your themes would delve more into the darker side of the human psyche.

An independent publisher, or self-published author’s, organizational chart would look like this.

Our main publishing company would be at the top, for me this is Lunar Alchemy Publishing.

Below it would be each genre or category you write, these would be your divisions.

Your imprint for each could be another publishing name or a pen name.

This would help distinguish and segregate the various types of writing you do. It would also make marketing to each individual audience easier.

I brand my fantasy and science fiction as genre-bending, combining troupes and subgenres in new and different ways. My business books are branded as easy-to-understand, the tone is friendly and knowledgeable. Whereas, my spirituality and self-help books explore the Feminine Divine and women’s empowerment. I could quite easily have an imprint for each one of these types of books.

I wouldn’t need to establish a different publishing company. The imprints would all fall under my current one, Lunar Alchemy Publishing. I would simply register the imprints with Bowker and when I assign the ISBNs to my books, I’d indicate which imprint is publishing the book.

Examples of Publisher Colphons

For each imprint, you’d create a separate name, logo or colophon, and branding.

You may want a different website for each imprint, especially if you want to keep the genres separated.

The imprint would be shown on the copyright page and other areas of metadata for the publisher.

For instance if I set up Moonbeams and Starships as the imprint for my fantasy and science fiction books, on my copyright page, I’d list it like this:


Published by: Moonbeams and Starships, an imprint of Lunar Alchemy Publishing Company.

Your independent publishing company is your imprint. It’s up to you to decide if it’s right for your business to have more than one imprint or pen name. It depends on what you write and what your business goals are.

If you need help determining your business goals and plans for your author business, my Author Business Coaching program may be what you need!

Do you need help, encouragement, or guidance in planning, writing, and publishing your book? I work with both nonfiction and fiction writers to make their dream of becoming an author a reality!

Do you have a pressing question about self-publishing or your Indie Author Business? My Micro Coaching is for you! This is coaching program is good for one or two questions.

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