What is an Imprint?

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Your imprint name is different from your author name, which is the name you are writing a single book under. It’s also different from your publisher's name. Are you confused yet? Let's break down what an imprint is and how to set it up.

The dictionary tells us that an imprint is

Noun: a mark or impression left behind by printing, pressing, or stamping.

Verb: to imprint is to leave your mark, either physically or figuratively. Now there’s a verb that speaks to many authors’ motivations.

Little wonder, then, that in the publishing world, an imprint is the publisher’s trade or brand name for a specific group of works.

How Does an Imprint Work?

The line of authority is Publisher Name → Imprint Name → Author Name

  • Your publisher name is the legal entity you are publishing under. It could be a company or sole trader, among other entities
  • Your imprint doesn’t have any legal standing; it’s a trade name or brand name for a group of works
  • Your author name is the name of the person who wrote this particular book.

And yes, the three names could all be your own personal name if you are self-publishing. You might not want to create separate identities for each. It’s not compulsory by any means. Alternatively, they could be a complex web of trusts, companies, imprints, and authors. It all depends on how involved your financial setup is and how grand your goals are.

If you, as a publisher, have produced many books under different genres, you may have a few imprints, perhaps one for your children’s books, one for your self-help books, and one for your fantasy novels.

Each of your imprints would relate to a different genre. As an example, Penguin Random House has more than 275 imprints, one for each of the myriad topics their authors write on.

Traditional Publishing

As you can imagine, then, if you are looking for a traditional publishing deal, it’s important to research the publisher you are aiming for and submit your manuscript to the correct imprint. It’s like sending your application to the correct department rather than ‘to whom it may concern.’

If you are submitting an unsolicited manuscript, applying to the correct imprint will give your book more chance of being seen by the relevant editor, the editor who specializes in your genre, rather than have your precious book disappear into the corporate ether.

Indie Authors

If you are an indie author, your imprint will be used by retailers for record-keeping and on your promotional material. You might create a logo to go with your imprint, and this will appear on the cover of the book as well as your promotional material to build customer recognition of your brand.

Inside Your Book

Inside your book, your imprint will appear, along with all the other information about your book, on the Imprint Page. There’s that word again! The Imprint Page is the page that appears on the back of the Title Page. It contains everything we need to know about who wrote the book, who the publisher is, how we can contact them, where the book was printed, what the ISBN is, etc.

Setting Up Your ISBNs

Remember when setting up your ISBNs with Bowker that you must allocate your ISBN to an imprint name at that point if you are using one. If you want to have more than one imprint name under your publisher name, I would recommend setting up a separate publisher account so that each imprint appears separately with Bowker and has a separate prefix. This will make data matching much easier.

Like many decisions with indie publishing, it’s totally up to you. You can write with no imprint and no fallout. Or you can plan ahead for a raft of books you may write in the future and set up an imprint now for all your bestsellers down the track. The choice is yours.


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Alex Fullerton

Alex Fullerton is an author’s consultant and self-publishing specialist at Author Support Services, based on a pineapple farm in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Australia. She has spent the last sixteen years working with business people to create concise, compelling, and comprehensive books that complement their businesses and increase their professional standing. Alex is supported by a dedicated team who provide a full self-publishing service, from planning to printing and promotion. www.authorsupportservices.com