Defining Your Indie Publishing Company

career indie author

career indie author introduction

As you may have guessed, I’m writing “The Career Indie Author” in chunks. I already have a tentative table of contents written, and every time I have a spare moment, I sit down and hand write several pages of content.

Building your indie publishing company takes time, and although the “CIA” covers a lot of ground, there’s no need to do everything. In fact, you may decide that some sections don’t apply to what you write and publish. That’s fine. Not all publishing houses are the same; why should yours?

This section comes from Chapter 4 “Building Your Company.” Part A covers organizing your company into a sole-proprietorship, LLC, or corporation.

The sections below cover other aspects of becoming an indie publisher.

B. Your indie publishing company’s name, logo

Depending on your ambitions, you can use one name for your business and your imprint. Or, create a name for your company and a name for your imprint.

Why use an imprint? Perhaps you plan on having two types of books: a fantasy series and an erotica series. Having two imprint names lets you set up two web pages.

Should you name your company after yourself? It depends on your goals. Some have argued that not naming it after yourself will make it look less like it came from a self-publisher.

By the time I heard that, I had already published several books (by other authors, with my annotations) from Peschel Press. I thought about rebranding them, or changing the name for new books, but I haven’t had a problem so far, and I have plenty of things to do in the meantime.

Fun With Your Logo

A logo is a visual icon that represents your company. The word is an abbreviation of logotype, a word derived from the Greek words logos (for “word”) and typos (“imprint”). It is a unique symbol used to represent your company, much in the same way that a heraldic shield was used to identify a knight on the battlefield.

Just about anything can be used as a logo. It can include a word such as “Facebook” or “Coca-Cola” in a particular type style. It can be a geographical symbol such as the red triangle for Bass Ale (although I personally prefer Javahead Stout). It can be a drawing such as the running borzoi for Knopf books. It can incorporate all three styles. It can be modified from public domain sources; the Great Seal of the United States inspired the Ramones’ logo. It can have a meaning obvious to the customer, or a private joke, such as the half-naked medieval monk climbing a ladder drawn like a strip of film, the logo for director Terry Gilliam’s Poopoo Pictures.

Indie publishing company logos

Clockwise from top left: Bass Ale was the first company to trademark its red triangle logo, in 1875; the logo with its distinctive name; Terry Gilliam’s Poopoo Pictures; the Ramones’ logo was modified from the U.S. seal; Knoph’s Borzoi.

The Peschel Press logo, while not nearly as humorous, is also basic:

peschel press logo

Gold, green, and a silver ring, all representing money, combined with the company’s initials.

A good logo should be distinctive and easily recognizable whether used on a billboard or on the spine of a book. It’s a difficult combination to pull off, but when it works—watch out!

A logo makes a powerful statement. Anyone (and everyone) can have a company name. Attaching a symbol to it makes it eye-catching and memorable, and makes it look like you have a real business, not a vanity press.

It should be used everywhere: your website, books (ebooks too!), printed catalog pages and flyers, press releases, and everywhere else.

C. Mission Statement and Motto

Mission statements have gotten a bad rap. Clear, actionable. Answer the question: why are you doing this. Think of it as a pitch to yourself and your potential readers.

This is something to consider if you’re thinking about advertising and branding. Mission statements have a bad reputation as a form of makework, a home for clichés.

But mission statements can perform a useful function.

1. It can boil into an easy-to-remember way your company’s purpose. It identifies what it is trying to accomplish. It can clarify in your mind what you’re trying to accomplish, and therefore down the road you can look back and see if what your doing matches your intentions.

2. It can be a source from which you can create your marketing and advertising. It can identify the audience you’re trying to reach, and guide your advertising efforts.

D. Domain names

This is probably one of the most important purchases you can make. You want a name that is accurate and also easy to remember.

First, buy the .com extension. Many people automatically assume that you’re going to be at the .com site, so that should be your first priority. If it is not available, consider the .net extension. But don’t be surprised when some of your potential readers find themselves at the .com site instead.

Next, buy the name you write under. I bought for my personal site, but I also own and redirect to it, but I also have for my publishing company. I admit it’s kind of confusing, but I had my personal site first, and I didn’t want to completely rearrange it so that it became my business. This way, people who are interested solely in my books can go to one site, and in me and my opinions to the other.

Domain names are pretty cheap, so if you feel you need more, don’t be afraid to buy them. If you use penname(s), buy those as well. Domain sellers such as GoDaddy have a redirect option that allows you to send visitors to those sites to your main website. (For those more technically minded who are familiar with cPanel, the control panel software that gives you a “back door” into your website, it has a redirection option as well.)

Do I need the .com, .net, and .org versions of my name? No. The .com version will be enough. Chances are your company will be too small to be concerned that nefarious actors would trouble to buy your name. But you do want to secure your name before your first book is published. “Domain squatters” have been known to capture a name first, then offer to resell it to you at an inflated price. Again, there is a small chance of that happening at first, but if your book hits a best-seller list, the odds will shrink.

Note: When you buy your domain name, don’t be surprised to find yourself flooded with spam for dictionary placement services, logo creator and social media consultants (you can tell because they’ll all refer to your new URL. The only way to avoid these sharks is to delete their emails or pay extra for private registration that hides your connection to the website.