The single thing that identifies a business entity as a publisher is the "ownership" of at least one ISBN (International Standard Book Number). In the United States, ISBNs are issued by R. R. Bowker. An ISBN ties one format (such as paperback) of one book title to a specific publisher.
To get an ISBN you could put almost any series of letters and numbers in the "company name" spot on the Bowker website.
HOWEVER, to be taken seriously as a publisher by others in the book business, you'll need a serious business name. "XYZ123" is not sufficient.
It should be something more businesslike than "Karen's Book Company," and should not be like "Random Books" or "Simon & Shoestring" which are similar to exising publishers' names.
Don't pick a name that's used by a major company, even if that company is not now in publishing. While the "Cadillac" brand has been used for both cars and dog food, calling your new operation "Maxwell House Publishing" or "Coca-Cola Books" is looking for trouble. Even if you win the lawsuit, it could be very expensive and consume a lot of time and effort.
Don't pick a name that could restrict your field of publishing.
If you think you'll specialize in sci-fi, "Astro Publishers" could be a good choice, but that name could hurt sales if you later decide to publish romance or business books.
"Bernstein Books" and "Patrick Publishing" sound like real businesses, but they could be the kiss of death if you write as Steven Bernstein or Rebecca Patrick.
You should NOT use an author's name for the publishing company. That would reveal that your company is a one-person operation and hurt your effort to be taken seriously by those who discriminate against self-publishers.
You don't need to spend big bucks to incorporate with a business name. You can register with a local government office for a "fictional name" or "doing business as" (DBA) certificate. It should cost just a few bucks. (I paid $8 for lifetime use.) In some places you have to advertise the new name, and/or pay an annual fee.
I named my publishing company Silver Sands Books, in honor of a local beach.
In choosing a name, consider:
- how it will work in a website address. Try to avoid consecutive repeated letters ending and beginning words like http://www.blobbooks.com, and DO NOT use hyphens.
- if it will be easy to misspell or hard to remember
- how it will look on letterheads and business cards
- how it will fit on the spine of a book
- what you can use as a logo. I use my company name with a picture of a beach chair and beach umbrella.