Posted By Sue Collier on July 11, 2011
You’ve finally made the decision: You are going to self-publish your book. And by “self-publish,” I am talking about true self-publishing in which you obtain your own ISBNs and start your own publishing company—not vanity or subsidy publishing wherein you sign on with a so-called “self-publishing” company that assigns your book one of its ISBNs. The next thing to consider is the right name for your new enterprise.
One suggestion is to come up with a name then tack on the words press, publishing company, books, or publishers on the name to help eliminate any doubts about what you do.
But be wary of choosing a name that is too specific. Although a company called Wildlife Publications would be fine for your first book on wildflowers of the Northwest, what happens when your second title, How to Be a Good Stepparent, is ready to be published? Likewise, geographic names can be limiting. Don’t you agree that Tampa Bay Books sounds much less substantial than Windsong Books International? Your choice can also influence how easy it is to sell your company downstream and how receptive vendors are in letting you establish credit. Looking big has definite advantages.
If you want to spark your thinking about press names, try leafing through Writer’s Market, Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, Literary Market Place (LMP), and Small Press Record of Books in Print directory. So many names of existing small presses, conventional or unusual, are listed in these sources that one or another is likely to help you come up with a name that will be all your own.
I recommend you do not include any part of your own name in the company title. Why? Because you want to come across as an official publishing entity, not necessarily as a writer who publishes his or her own work. If you include your personal handle, that is a dead giveaway. John Martin publishing a book as Martin Press leaves little to the imagination. As do John Martin and Associates and John Martin Enterprises. It’s also poor form to make the title of the book and the name of the publishing company identical. This shouts, “I’m a tiny, one-book publisher.” Even if you are, there is usually no advantage to advertising this.
When you arrive at a name, always check in Literary Marketplace, Small Press Record of Books In Print, and the publishers’ section of Books In Print to avoid duplicating an existing publisher’s name. (Duplication could cause numerous errors and missed sales.) Because so many new small presses have started over the last decade, it’s tough to find an unused name. I sometimes advise clients to think about combining their children’s names or considering a foreign word as a press name.
To use your new name legally, you’ll probably need to file a fictitious name statement. In most locales this is done by paying a small fee and advertising on four consecutive weeks your intention to do business as (dba) XYZ Publishing Company. You’ll receive instructions when you apply for your dba. (By the way, you can save money by looking for a little weekly neighborhood paper instead of inserting your notice in the major daily newspaper.)
When you embark on your self-publishing journey, keep in mind that publishing is a business. Everything from your professional-looking book cover right down to your publishing company name should reflect that.
(Portions of this post have been excerpted from The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier [Writer’s Digest Books, 2010]).