Some bloggers are up-in-arms about self-publishing writers using imprint names. They claim an imprint name misleads readers into assuming the book has been vetted by the traditional publishing process. (An imprint is a trade name you create for your self-publishing business and is listed online and at the front of your book as the “publisher.”)
Think of all the small businesses you know: the local flower shop, the wedding photographer, the physical therapist, the fruit seller at the farmers’ market. How many of them use a trade name even if they are a mom-and-pop, or just a mom, or just a pop, company? Why not you? Your self-publishing venture is no less legitimate a business.
I recommend you adopt an imprint name, even if your self-publishing business is a sole proprietorship. An imprint name is commonly known as a DBA, short for “doing business as.” Publishing under an imprint name makes it less obvious that your book is self-published. (Many bookstores, reviewers, bloggers, contests, and readers refuse to consider self-published work.) Using an DBA also encourages you and others to see the venture as a business, a real benefit at tax time.
Choosing an imprint name is a creative process. You could use your personal name, such as “Helen Sedwick Publications,” which doesn’t say much. Your imprint name should imply some promise about your books, such as romance (Passion Press), adventure (Kick-Ass Books), travel (Rickshaw Riders), or life-changing insights (Next Chapter Publications).
My novel, Coyote Winds, is set in the American West, so I chose Ten Gallon Press as the name of my imprint. I tried dozens of other names, such as Prairie Winds Press and Coyote Publications, but they were already in use.
Your imprint name may include the word “company,” but should not include corp., corporation, or inc., unless you have set up your business as a corporation.
How to Determine if a Name is Available
Start with a internet search of possible names using Google, Bling, and other search engines. As you settle in on a name, be sure to check several search engines since one may show results that the others missed.
Check the Fictitious Business Name (FBN) filings of your local county. Many, if not most, counties have on-line databases. I’ll explain the purpose of an FBN filing in my next post. Here is the link for searching in San Francisco.
Search domain names. There are many sites where you can search and purchase domain names. I use GoDaddy, but there are many others. Try various spellings and misspellings. See where people will land if they type your domain wrong.
Search the U.S. Trademark Office database. Federal trademark law is tricky. If you see a registered trademark which is the same or similar to your dream name, don’t despair. Generally, you may use the same or a similar name as long as you do not “create a likelihood of confusion in the mind of the consumer as to the source of the product.” What does that mean? Here’s an example.
I searched the trademark “Goody Two Shoes.” The database lists one “live” registration by MaxWax Inc. for a “hair removal service using wax or sugar that removes hair from women or men up to two inches inside the bikini line with the bikini line defined as the break between the top of the leg and the beginning of the bikini area.” If you were to adopt the imprint name “Goody Two Shoes,” you are highly unlikely to be infringing on the MaxWax’s trademark.
However, don’t try to use a well-known or strong trademark such as Exxon or Apple. Owners of strong marks have the right to claim that permitting others to use their trademarks “dilutes” the value of the mark. Avoid this fight. Those companies have lawyers who will make your life miserable. You are better off using your time and energy for writing your next book.
Once you decide on a name, buy the domain name ASAP. Considering buying .com, .net, .info, and other tags. They are a small and worthwhile investment.
What are your thoughts about imprint names? Has this issue been overblown?SHARE THIS