The word “imprint” crops up all the time in traditional publishing but it’s not as commonly used in the self-publishing landscape. An imprint is a brand name used to identify books in a similar category that are published by a particular publisher.

It’s not necessarily the same as the company name: publishing companies often publish under many imprints in order to distinguish types of books from one another – for example, Running Press publishes its children’s books under the RP Kids imprint, in order to distinguish them from their adult titles, which bear the imprint name Running Press.


Why choose an imprint name?

At Page Two, many of our self-publishing clients question the need to choose an imprint name. It can seem like an unnecessary formality in an era of direct online sales, where the name of the book and the author play a much more dominant role than the imprint. But we feel it’s worth carefully and strategically choosing an imprint name for your self-published books, for a couple of reasons:

It’s professional

Self-publishing has come a long way from the vanity press, in part because self-publishers have become savvy about applying professional tools to their publishing practices. If you’re bringing publisher-quality design and editorial standards to your work, why not do the same when identifying your publishing brand? Whether or not they’re consciously aware of it, readers expect to see an imprint name inside the book or on its cover. It’s one of those publishing conventions that can add a little professional flair and provide further context for the book.


It’s practical

When you upload your book data (such as title, author bio and book description) to online retail sites, you will be prompted to enter the name of the imprint or publisher. Retailers such as Amazon will use an imprint name as an organizing tool to identify books from the same company, or books within a given series. If you publish several books, they can be identified under the same imprint, and if you publish books in different categories, you can use several different imprint names to distinguish them from one another.


How to choose an imprint name?

If you’re sold on the idea of choosing a name for your imprint, the next step is deciding what to call it. This is a process that some authors find daunting, especially if they feel they’ve used up all their creative juices writing the book itself.

Here are some considerations that might inform your naming process and make it a little bit easier:

1. Flexibility

You never know what kinds of books you might publish in the future. You might also decide to publish the work of other authors under your imprint at some point. Choose a name that’s flexible enough to accommodate a wide range of purposes.

For example, if your first book is a work of popular science, the imprint name “PopSci Books” might work well for this purpose but it won’t work as well for the cookbook you might publish down the line.

This might not concern you if you plan to create several imprint names over time, but if you’d prefer to use one name over the long term, choose one that will suit a broad array of books.

2. Distinctiveness

Distinctiveness factors into any kind of branding exercise. Imprint names should be unique enough to avoid confusion with others and to stand out in peoples’ minds. Anything that’s similar to an existing imprint name will appear to be piggybacking on the success of the original brand. There are also legal reasons to avoid using a name that overlaps with that of another publisher; find out which laws apply in your particular area.

3. Resonance

Consider the impact and resonance of your imprint name. What do you want the words to convey? A client of ours self-published her first book this year and plans to publish several more in a variety of subject areas. While her books will be very different, they will have in common a bold and assured authorial voice, and a writer who appreciates elegance and style. After finding out that she’s a fan of certain gemstones, we suggested she name her imprint after a vibrant stone that conveys the qualities she’d like her brand to reflect.

Do you need to design a logo or word mark for your imprint?

Think of one of the most common imprint names you know. Does the image of a penguin come to mind? Penguin Books – which is now part of a multinational publishing empire with hundreds of different imprints to its name – is closely associated with its penguin logo, which has become an instantly recognizable icon.

You can design a logo for your imprint name, or you can create a wordmark, which is a distinct typographic rendering of your imprint name. But neither of these things is necessary – especially if you are publishing an ebook edition of your work exclusively. In an ebook, the imprint name might only appear on the copyright page or title page, and it can be written in plain text.

If you’re producing a print book, you might want to consider creating a logo or wordmark, as you’ll be inserting your imprint name on the back cover and spine, as well as inside the book. For aesthetic reasons you might want to have it designed so that it stands out from the rest of the text. If you’re working with a book designer, he or she can probably design a simple logo or wordmark for you as part of the design process.

Choosing an imprint name can be a fun and engaging process

Like most aspects of self-publishing, it requires an entrepreneurial, professional approach and a great deal of innovative thinking. Involve creative people you know in your naming process and enjoy the brainstorming that goes into developing your own publishing brand.