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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Naming your self-publishing company


Every business, including every self-publishing business, needs a name.

Fortune 500 companies often spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and many months to develop product names for household products, cars and websites. It's possible to do it in less time and at little or no cost, but be careful.

Here are some tips:

(1) Pick a name that sounds substantial. If your name is Joe Smith, don't use "Joe's Book Company." "Smith Publishing" sounds better, but I recommend not using you own name in the company name. When you write a letter on your new letterhead, it's better if the name at the top is not the same as the name on the bottom. Let people at least think that there might be more than one person on your staff.

(2) Don't use a name that's too limiting. You may think you'll only publish books about car repair, ballet or vegetable growing, but a too-specific name will hurt your chances to expand if you change your mind later. It may be tough to market a sci-fi book if your company name is "Ballerina Books" and your logo is a tutu or ballet slippers.

(3) Don't pick a name that's already in use. You probably don't have to pay a lawyer to do a trademark search, but at least do a web search with several search engines, and check Writer's Market to make sure that no other publisher is already using your proposed name.

(4) Don't pick a name that sounds like another publisher. Calling your new company "Random Home" or "Random Books" will invite a lawsuit from Random House.

(5) Pick a name that works with a logo. It could be an actual photo or drawing, or just interesting typography. It's nice to have more than a name to put on your books, business cards, letterhead and website.

(6) Try for a short name. It will be tough to fit "Xylophone Publications" on the spine of a thin book. Also, the longer a name is, the more likely it is to be spelled wrong in emails and web searches.

(7) Register the name in the local municipal office that registers names, often a town clerk. You will get an “assumed name” certificate or a DBA (Doing Business As’) certificate. Even if you are not incorporating as "ABC Books, Inc." you should get a legal document to prove that you have the right to use the "ABC Books" name. You'll need that paper to open a bank account in your new business name. You should also consider registering your business name and logo as a trademark with the Feds. Ask an attorney about it.

(8) Start using the name. Even if your first book is six months away, establish a website immediately to announce your planned books and talk about your company. Send out a press release to announce the new business. Order business cards. These simple and inexpensive activities will help establish "prior use" if another company later wants to grab your name. Within a few weeks of registering your name, you'll probably start to receive letters from local insurance companies and accountants and the Chamber of Commerce who pay your local government to receive lists of new businesses. Even if you have no plans to use their services, the letters addressed to your business may help to establish legitimacy later on.

(9) Get a business-like email address. "JohnSmith@ABCbooks.com" is more impressive than "js38647252@aol.com."

(10) For your website and email address, avoid hyphenations and top-level domains other than "dot com." The more unusual your company name is, the more likely you are to get a dot com web address.

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