Footprints in wet sand at the beach. The shape of a child’s hand in clay or plaster. Thumbprints in the notary’s ledger. These are all imprints of the physical sort. But what is a publishing imprint and should self-publishing authors have one?
Think of an imprint as a publisher’s brand or trade name for a specific set of works. The publisher is the legal entity that is publishing a book, whether that’s a company or an individual. An imprint is not a legal entity in and of itself. Rather, it serves as a marketing tool to establish an identity for the books and other products released under the imprint.
Larger publishers have different imprints for the various genres they publish, to create a brand identity for each one in the minds of readers. A small publisher focusing on a single genre may not use an imprint, because the publisher’s name also serves as the brand. So it stands to reason that a self-publishing author with only one title doesn’t really need an imprint.
However, having an imprint adds an air of legitimacy to the book, which in turn lends credibility to the author. Much like a memorable title, well-designed cover and having your own ISBNs, an imprint is yet another sign of professionalism as a publisher. To wit, the inclusion of an imprint is among the judging criteria for certain book publishing awards.
If a book is being published by a company, the imprint and company name may be one and the same. Or perhaps the imprint is a variation of the company or author name, with a publishing term such as Books, Press or Media added to it. Or it could be a name inspired by something meaningful to the author, such as their children, a pet, where they live, or a primary theme of their writing. As you consider imprint names, it’s worth searching the internet to see if it already exists to avoid brand confusion.
For additional branding impact, you may want to create a logo for your imprint. The imprint, with or without logo, is typically placed at the bottom of the title page, along with the location (city and state) of the publisher. It is also listed on the copyright page and included on the spine, perhaps as a logo only if space is limited.
A key step, if you decide to use an imprint, is to associate the imprint with the relevant ISBNs in your Bowker account (Bowker is the U.S. agency for ISBNs; if you are in another country, you will obtain ISBNs from a different agency.). You will also need to specify the imprint in your publishing accounts, such as KDP and IngramSpark. Ensuring that the imprint information matches between those accounts is essential to successfully complete the publishing process.
Now that you know what an imprint is, let your publishing goals guide you to determine whether creating an imprint makes sense in your case. But consider that at its core, an imprint is another step toward producing a bookstore-quality book, and who doesn’t want that?