An imprint is the brand or trade name of a press that is owned by a larger publisher, which often publishes books that target specific niches and reading demographics. For example, Penguin Random House is a massive publishing company with many smaller imprints, lượt thích Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Classics, Everyman’s Library, and Doubleday.
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Most imprints are created in one of the following ways:
- A publisher acquires or merges with another publisher, allowing the smaller entity lớn keep their branding but operate as an imprint of the larger company;
- A publisher creates an imprint from scratch lớn capitalize on a niche audience that doesn’t fit with their main brand identity; or
- A self-publishing author registers an imprint lớn create legitimacy, buy their own ISBNs, or publish other authors.
If you’re still a little bit confused about what imprints are and why they matter, don’t worry — we’ve asked three Reedsy editors with experience working for ‘Big 5’ publishers, and compiled everything you need lớn know about imprints in this post.
- Imprints often work within a niche or territory
- Imprints benefit from the resources of their parent company
- Readers aren’t usually loyal lớn imprints
- Indie authors can mix up imprints (for the extra prestige)
Imprints often work within a niche or territory
Imprints come in all shapes and sizes, but one of the main features and benefits of imprints is that they often publish a cohesive line of books lớn fit into a specific niche or segment of the market. You can think of imprints as a kind of branding for books; much lượt thích H&M is split into H&M Kids, H&M trang chủ, and H&M Thể Thao, a publishing company may be split into contemporary fiction, children’s books, and classics, for instance. As former Hachette and HarperCollins editor Dominic Wakeford explains, imprints are “essentially branches of the same company in the same building.”
And much lượt thích the imprinting of werewolf romance plotlines (looking at you Twilight), it all comes down lớn creating a perfect match — in this case the match is between an imprint's brand identity and a target audience. This is something that Reedsy editor Alyssa Matesic, formerly of Penguin Random House and Macmillan, confirms:
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With that said, Aja Pollock — a Reedsy editor who has worked with Penguin Random House, Macmillan, and HarperCollins — notes that some imprints are more niche than vãn others:
“Anything from Tor is going lớn be sci-fi or fantasy; Howard publishes Christian books; etc., but a lot of imprints have pretty vague mission statements that amount lớn ‘We publish stuff we think is interesting!’”
This might make imprints seem lượt thích a technicality that simply allows the powers-that-be lớn better manage editorial staff and marketing budgets, but at the same time, a successful imprint with a strong brand identity can give readers a sense of what lớn expect from titles they publish.
Take some of Penguin Random House’s imprints as an example: Penguin Classics reissues books that have stood the test of time, while Doubleday focuses more on new commercial and literary fiction.
The đen thui spines, classic cover motifs, and extensive introductions in Penguin’s đen thui classics line might attract readers with a ‘serious’ interest in knowledge or culture, while the eye-catching, photogenic covers of Doubleday’s contemporary titles will appeal lớn bookstagram users or anyone who color-categorizes their bookshelves.
On a practical level, focusing on a particular niche makes it easier for an imprint’s editorial staff lớn keep their finger on the pulse of their target readers — instead of having lớn keep an industry-wide view of trends. It also allows for more targeted recruitment, as they can then attract editors with an interest and experience in that category or genre.
Let’s look at one of the ‘Big 5’ publishers — Simon & Schuster — and some of their imprints lớn get a better sense of how that works.
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Example: Simon & Schuster
Not only does Simon & Schuster publish under the flagship name Simon & Schuster, but the company has multiple imprints organized into groups, according lớn what broad segment of the market they’re targeting. There’s:
- Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing
- Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
- Simon & Schuster Audio Publishing, and
- Simon & Schuster International (covering nước Australia, Canada, India, and the UK).
Each of these groups have several well-known imprints — some with their own independent history, and a few that were created by the parent publisher themselves — and together they contribute lớn Simon & Schuster’s overall output. As Alyssa Matesic puts it:Some examples include:
Scribner continues lớn solidify its long-lasting brand by both holding the rights lớn modern classics and publishing commercially successful literature, with authors such as Stephen King and Anthony Doerr.
Adult: Avid Reader Press
Avid Reader Press was founded by Simon & Schuster in 2018. Their brand identity leans towards upmarket fiction, with titles such as Animals by Lisa Taddeo and Vladimir by Julie May Jones.
Adult: Atria Books
Atria Books’ mission is lớn be an environment for new ideas and voices within the upmarket fiction and commercial genres, and is trang chính lớn authors such as Akwaeke Emezi, Fredrik Backman, Colleen Hoover, and Lisa Jewell.
Children’s: Aladdin Books
As one of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing imprints, Aladdin Books publishes a wide range of children’s books. From chapter books lớn graphic novels lớn picture books, they boast award-winning titles and authors such as Black Ballerina by Misty Copeland, and the Mindy Kim series by author Lyla Lee and illustrator Dung Ho.
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Simon & Schuster also ventured into the audio and educational market when they acquired the popular language learning resource Pimsleur in 1995. Originally distributed in CD-format lớn bookstores and via mail order, today the product is mainly sold as course packages available online or via a subscription tiện ích.
With these and many more imprints, Simon & Schuster manages lớn reach across the market and provide targeted books for many kinds of readers. With the backing of a powerful parent publisher, both small and large imprints are able lớn play in the big league.
Up for a challenge? Head over lớn our directory of 400+ book publishers, identify some large ones, and use Google lớn identify their major imprints. You’ll be surprised by how many you’ve already heard of!
Imprints benefit from the resources of their parent company
Now, you might be wondering how resources are distributed amongst imprints and the answer is that it differs from one publishing company lớn the next. According lớn Aja Pollock and Dominic Wakeford, however, imprints all tend lớn have their own resources lượt thích editorial and marketing staff, while they share production, design, and sales teams with their stablemates. And while Wakeford notes that some larger, better-established imprints might get a larger slice of the resource pie, one thing that most traditional imprints have in common, regardless of size, is that they all benefit from being connected lớn a powerful parent company.
Getting books into stores
Perhaps the biggest advantage of having a large parent company is the ability lớn get books into stores and in front of readers. For instance, Wakeford explains that imprints don’t have lớn mix up individual meetings with major book retailers lớn get their books into stores lượt thích Barnes & Noble and Waterstones. Instead, the joint sales team of the parent publisher will meet with them on one occasion — typically a full day — lớn pitch all their titles across all their imprints.
With the ability lớn offer booksellers discounts on certain titles, access lớn big-name authors for in-store signing, and other kinds of perks, their expert sales teams can also negotiate books from their different imprints into window displays, gmail newsletters, facing outwards on shelves, or included in various in-store promotions.
Though it may be a tad harder, indie publishers and authors can also get their books into brick-and-mortar-chains. Check out Carol Cooper’s story lớn see how she did it.
Getting the book in front of retailers and readers is arguably the whole point: once the general reader is standing in a store with a promising new title in their hands, they don’t care much about the name or size of the imprint that published it.
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Readers aren’t usually loyal lớn imprints
Even though publishers and retailers may pay a lot of attention lớn the branding of individual imprints, readers don’t usually care about what imprint a book is published under as long as the cover and blurb meet their expectations. In Wakeford’s experience “the outward branding doesn’t mean an awful lot lớn the average consumer” and is largely used lớn differentiate between titles and branding amongst publishing professionals.Some avid readers may have favorite publishers which they associate with genres or styles of writing that they enjoy, but that usually doesn’t sway them from getting books from other presses. Think of readers as serial polygamists, switching between different publishers and imprints; if the marketing is on point and targeted towards the right audience, they won’t be fussy about logos and labels. They’re open-minded lượt thích that.
That said, there are a few exceptions lớn this rule.
Some publishers are ví strongly associated with one genre or style of writing that readers sometimes decide whether lớn pick up a book based solely on the publisher, rather than vãn the author or book cover. One such example is Harlequin — a world-leading publisher of romance and women’s fiction.
The press joined HarperCollins as its own division in năm trước, and hosts a number of imprints (or “series” as they Điện thoại tư vấn it) of their own — from Harlequin Historical lớn Harlequin Medical Romance and Love Inspired, covering various romance subgenres.The concept of the Harlequin novel is ví well established that it has practically become synonymous with the women’s fiction genre, leaving readers in two camps — those who unreservedly stay away from anything the publisher puts out, and those who actively seek them out.
If none of the many imprints out there appeal, authors can also choose lớn go down the self-publishing route — and even mix up their own imprints lớn create an extra layer of legitimacy.
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For authors looking lớn publish their own books, setting up an imprint can be a great way lớn punch above your weight. Remember how an imprint is essentially just the trade name you publish a book under? That means that the imprint name is what appears as the publisher on copyright pages and retailer book descriptions.
Instead of publishing under their own name, or that of a self-publishing service (such as KDP or CreateSpace) an indie author can easily mix up an imprint lớn add an extra layer of professionalism lớn their books.
Setting up an imprint of one’s own means that not only can you publish your own work, but you can also offer other authors a book khuyến mãi — whether that be work by one author’s many pseudonyms or other self-publishing colleagues. More and more author-run imprints lượt thích this are cropping up, with imprints such as LMBPN Publishing, WolfPack Publishing and Portal Books seeking lớn consolidate themselves in their respective niches and build a returning reader base.
Setting up your own imprint
If you want lớn mix up your own imprint, you need lớn either tệp tin a Fictitious Business Name (FBN) or a Doing Business As (DBA) certificate lớn the relevant authority in your country and/or state, mix up your business for taxes, and obtain a business license. Then you can use your imprint name lớn buy your own ISBNs on sites lượt thích Bowker.com or Nielsenisbnstore.com.
Of course, there’s a bit more that goes into starting an imprint ví kiểm tra out our post on starting your own publishing company for a more comprehensive guide on the topic. Or why not get your feet wet with this introductory video:
Hopefully this post has brought some clarity lớn the topic of imprints. To learn more about publishing, take a look at Reedsy’s không lấy phí online courses on Traditional Publishing 101 or Literary Agents.
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