Should You Publish with an Imprint?

Every self-published author is faced with this decision. First, here is a little background on the imprint choice; we’ll return to the question in a moment.

The paperback author can select a free ISBN from CreateSpace or pay $10 to $100 for an ISBN from CreateSpace to publish using an Imprint. Another option is to purchase an ISBN directly from R.R. Bowker (the price becomes more affordable per ISBN if buying a block of 10 or more).

The eBook author can leave the publisher field at KDP blank or enter an imprint there. Although some eReader services, like the Sony Reader, require an ISBN, you can get a free ISBN to use with your eBook if you publish through Smashwords (but you’re not supposed to use that ISBN for other eBook editions, like your Kindle edition).

Many authors publish both paperbacks and eBooks. Entering an imprint for the eBook while having the paperback publisher show as CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform kind of defeats the purpose of using the imprint. For $10 at CreateSpace, the imprint names can match.

Back to the question: Should you publish with an imprint?

That depends; there are advantages and disadvantages both ways.

Benefits of having CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform listed as the publisher:

  • CreateSpace is a positive name among many indie authors and their family, friends, acquaintances, and coworkers. There are so many indie authors that this number is very large.
  • People who like to support the self-publishing concept often buy CreateSpace books (or Kindle eBooks where the paperback lists CreateSpace as the publisher).
  • Readers who know your book is self-published are more likely to enjoy your book.

I entered CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform into the search field in Books at Amazon, and pulled up 300,000 titles. So many authors are content with this.

One of these authors is Amanda Hocking. She has been extremely successful; this label has worked for her.

Amanda Hocking’s Author Page

Benefits of using an imprint:

  • Some readers avoid self-published books.
  • The indie label can be a hurdle to get your book stocked in stores, reviewed by the media, etc.

If readers buy your book thinking it was published through a traditional publisher, but it looks very amateurish after they buy it, they are more likely to be frustrated with the experience. This places a premium on professional book design (cover, editing, formatting, writing, etc.) for the author who chooses an imprint. A traditionally published book, for example, has a very detailed copyright page, which most indie books lack. A simple feature like this could give the indie book away.

Note that bookstores and reviewers can clearly see that your book is print-on-demand from the printing number on the last page whether you use an imprint or not. There is a way around this. You can find another printer (i.e. not print-on-demand) to print a small number of copies of your book. The custom order will cost more money per book if you buy a small quantity, but the overall cost may be affordable if the quantity is really small (like 10 books). This way, like many publishers, print-on-demand (POD) will merely be one of your publishing channels. You can approach bookstores and reviewers more confidently with the non-POD edition of your book.

Indie authors who are clearly self-published have succeeded in getting their books stocked in bookstores. If your book looks professional and you have a professional approach, it is possible to overcome various publishing obstacles, including the CreateSpace label; but sometimes there is a flat ‘No!’ to CreateSpace and POD. On the other hand, if you go to the trouble to use an imprint and have some non-POD copies printed, but your book looks unprofessional (cover, copyright page, formatting, typos, etc.), all of this extra work may not open up any doors.

People can also search for your imprint online. If they don’t find a website for it, or if there are just a couple of books that use the imprint, this will reflect that the imprint isn’t a serious publisher. Most shoppers aren’t going to check out the imprint. (However, they probably won’t recognize the imprint; using an imprint certainly isn’t the same as publishing with a household name.) But a wise bookstore manager or serious reviewer might do a little research before investing in your book.

Of course, you must do some research on the imprint name. You can’t enter Amazon or the name of an actual publisher like Random House (or many other publishers you’ve never heard of).

The name you choose should sound authentic. It should fit the book nicely. (It will also show up in keyword searches, but if you just make the imprint name based on keywords, there is a good chance it won’t sound authentic or fit the book.)

Before you publish using your own imprint, consider these questions:

  • Will your cover look professional?
  • Will your front matter look professional?
  • Will your formatting be professional?
  • Will your editing look professional?
  • Will you be approaching bookstores, libraries, newspapers, etc.?
  • Will you be selling copies in person at presentations, signings, readings, etc.?
  • Will you make a website for your imprint?
  • Will you be publishing other titles with this imprint?
  • Do you expect a lot of support from the self-publishing community?

Personally, I’m proud to have my books wear the CreateSpace label. CreateSpace and KDP gave me my chance, and I’m very grateful for it. I’ve also met several fantastic indie authors. I search for self-published books when I look for books to read, and I’m happy to support good indie books. I’m glad to be part of the self-publishing community. If you’re going to wear the self-publishing label, wear it proudly. 🙂

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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