Do I Need a Publisher’s Imprint?

There is no reason that you need to have a publisher’s imprint in order to self-publish. If you are doing the things a publisher usually does, you are the publisher! You only need to list your name on the back (verso) of the title page as the copyright holder for your book.

Publishers usually place their names in two places on a print book: at the very bottom of the spine of the book, and on the verso of the title page. Many publishers do not use a name on the spine. They use a tiny logo instead. Some use both a name and an image.

On the upper part of the verso of the title page, there will be a block of text that tells who published it, who owns the copyright, and a Notice of Rights that tells others what they must do if they want to copy part of your book. Usually the publisher is listed on a single line like this: Published by Publisher’s Name.

Note: The publisher does not usually own copyright – publishers are manufacturers of books not the creators. The same goes for agents – they are not creators either. You should always get the copyright to your own work. Register your book with the US Copyright Office located at the Library of Congress and put the Copyright form (usually Form TX) that you get from the Copyright Office in a safe place with your other legal documents.

Most readers won’t even notice if a book has a publisher’s imprint. At the library, the call number label often covers up the publisher’s imprint on the spine. But, if you wish you can create a name, an icon, or logo, and use it for your book. I’d advise finding a name that somehow relates to the topic of your book. Also, include an address, email address, and blog/web site URL, if you have one, so that readers can reach you with questions or find out more about you and/or your topic.

Here are three ways a publisher’s imprint may be of use to you:

(1) You own a business that is related to what you write about

Many professional services people on the web are writing books and/or ebooks to buttress their authority in their field. It’s a great idea to put the business name as the publisher.

Does that mean you make the business the copyright owner for purposes of the copyright statement on the verso of the title page? It depends on your business.

For example, if you have an incorporated business or a business partnership, you may want to use your own name instead of the business name or you may want the proceeds of your writing to go into your business revenues. This is something to take up with an accountant and/or an attorney.

It’s also good for helping people remember you and what you write, that both the title of your book and the blog/web site URL you employ for your business use some of the same keywords or are thematically related.

(2) You want to track a separate revenue stream for expenses

As indicated above, your tax situation can affect the name under which you publish your print or digital book. In the US, a solo proprietor (which can also mean a partnership) can deduct expenses for creating, publishing, and marketing a book.

Authors who have a publisher may use an IRS Schedule C for their expenses too. However, it may not be worthwhile to do this if the publisher pays most of the expenses and/or you have a paycheck job. In that case you may just want report your royalties as “other income” when you file an IRS Form 1040. Again, you should check with your accountant and/or attorney.

If you do use a Schedule C to track business expenses, you can deduct a large number things as expenses, e.g., equipment, office supplies, communications devices used for business, auto expenses related to business use of your car or truck, and research expenses for your book. You can also deduct marketing and travel expenses.

What you cannot deduct is the cost of your own labor!  That’s why it is best to hire other people who are experts in doing things you aren’t, e.g., editing, design, or indexing. If you hire others, you can deduct the cost of their work on Schedule E. Usually others can do things faster than you can and better, so you save time, money, and aggravation by hiring them.

Also, you can use your net income (at the bottom of Schedule C) to determine how much money you made on your book. The net income you make for your business will be the payment for your labor in writing, publishing, and marketing your book. That’s why your net business income becomes part of your personal gross income on Form 1040.

(3) You want your book to have a CIP record from the Library of Congress

If you are a self-publisher, placing cataloging-in-publication (CIP) data, a block of text that describes the components of your book, in the book before it is published is a terrific advantage, especially if you want to tap the library market. Small publishers who publish others’ books as well as their own may be eligible for CIP from the Library of Congress. Forty percent of the CIP output from the Library of Congress is created for small publishers with less than five books

Obviously, this isn’t the easiest way to publish your own book. You will need to have a financial and emotional commitment to publish more of your own books along with books by a few other authors. These books must be quality books that librarians will want to buy for their collections.

By “quality” I mean two things (1) your book should be formatted for library use, and (2) it should have content that will be of interest to that library’s patrons. No subject or format is out of bounds for libraries, but certain types of content and formats will be more popular with librarians and easier for them to handle than others. I cover these two aspects of publishing in my new book, Marketing Your Book to Libraries: An Insider’s Guide for Authors.

If you want a pre-publication record for your book that librarians will recognize as an official library catalog record, but you don’t want to become a publisher, you may want to purchase a catalog record from a private cataloging company. Please see my post, Does My Book Need PCIP?

Tired of waiting for your royalties? Disappointed in your book sales? Feel like your publisher isn’t doing their job? What if I handed you a step-by-step plan to sell hundreds of additional copies of your book right now? Check this out.

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