If you want to create a company to publish your work, you’ll probably want to give it a name that differs from your own. You can publish books using your own name as the publisher, but I’d recommend against it because it doesn’t project a professional image. However, if you’re only ever going to publish one book, then it might be the way to go. In fact, depending on what you want to publish and how you intend to do it, starting a company could be overkill. Sometimes using a company like Lulu is the right answer. As I said in my Self-Publishing in Canada post, there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer to questions around self-publishing. You’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to publish under a business name, publish under your own name, or forget about self-publishing and use a subsidy publisher like Lulu (note that you can publish under your own business name with Lulu through its Published by You package—self-publishing, or you can just let Lulu be the publisher—subsidy publishing).
Jacqueline Simonds of Creative Minds Press has written an excellent self-publishing FAQ. It’s a good place to start if you’re at the point of considering self-publishing but don’t know much about it. Her FAQ contains a good description of many of the steps I’ll be focusing on from a Canadian point of view. I’ll also provide more detail in some cases. For example, the FAQ’s “What Should I Name My Company?” answer doesn’t explain what you should do to reduce the probability that you’ll end up with a name that someone else is already using. I discuss how to do that in this post.
If you’ve decided that you want to publish under a business name, you obviously need to choose a name. This can be more difficult than it sounds, since there are already tons of publishing companies out there. It’s possible that the name you’ve chosen is already taken. You want a unique name.
You also want a name for which the .com domain is available. That’s not a requirement, but in this day and age you’ll definitely want a website and it’s best to have a domain that matches your company name. When I went to the bank to open a business account, the account manager was impressed when I provided an @mycompany.com email address. She asked me how I managed to do that. It made me wonder if most people provide hotmail, yahoo, or gmail addresses! Small details do count and can make a positive impression.
Before we start, About.com has a fantastic site about Starting a Small Business in Canada. In my Self-Publishing posts, I’ll focus on details related to self-publishing. For example, in this post, I’ll tell you how to check if a publishing company already exists with a particular name. When choosing a company name, there other considerations (like not using trademarks). I won’t go into details that relate to small businesses in general. For general information about choosing a company name, visit About.com: How to Choose a Business Name.
Okay, so you want to come up with a name for your publishing company. It’s time to brainstorm. Sit down and write a list of potential names. They can reflect the types of books you want to publish, something meaningful to you, or your cat’s favourite toys. Up to you. Once you have a list, google the names. If you find that one is already taken, cross it off the list. Then go to www.companyname.com for each remaining name on your list. For example, if one of your ideas is “ZZZ Books,” go to www.zzzbooks.com. If you land on an active website, cross it off your list. If you like, you can try .net, .org, .ca, and other variations, but as long as the .com is available, you’re good to go (though having the .ca also available is a bonus). Finally, for those names that are still in the running, look up the domain names at a domain registrar to be sure they’re not taken. If any are, oh well. More names bite the dust.
Now you want to go to the Literary Market Place online. You can sign up for a free subscription that allows you to search its publisher lists. Search for the remaining names on your list. If you find a name, cross it off. Unfortunately, each country has its own list and it’s a real pain in the you-know-what to look through them all. So focus on the big markets (US, UK, Australia/NZ, and, of course, Canada), and if you run out of time, or more likely, patience, ignore the rest.
Armed with your short list, you now need to go to your local library so you can look up the names in Books In Print. We’ll talk more about Books In Print and Bowker later. Suffice it to say that Books In Print has a comprehensive list of publishers. Not all publishers have a website or are in the Literary Market Place, so this is an important step. If you find a name on your list in Books In Print, cross it off.
I hope you have some names left! I started with more than ten and ended up with two. If you’re particularly attached to a name and are disappointed that it’s taken, consider changing it slightly. For example, if you wanted ZZZ Books but it’s in use, try ZZZ Press, ZZZ Publishing, ZZZ Media, etc. I’ve read in some self-publishing books that using the word “Enterprises” brands you as an amateur. I have no idea why and doubt readers will care, so take that as you will. If someone knows why “Enterprises” screams amateur, do fill me in. The books never explain and I’m apparently too naive to figure it out on my own.
- Come up with a list of potential names.
- Google to see if any are already taken. If so, cross them off the list.
- For each name, check to see if the .com domain is available. If not, cross it off your list. If getting the .ca domain is important to you and it’s not available, cross the name off your list.
- Go to Literary Market Place and search the publisher lists for your names. If you find one, cross it off your list.
- Go to your local library and check Books In Print for your names. If you find one, cross it off your list.
- If you don’t have any names left, go back to number 1 and come up with a new potential set.
There’s one more check you have to do before you get excited, but you’ll want to do it on the same day you register your company name with your provincial or territorial government. I’ll tell you about that in the next post on this subject: Registering Your Business Name.
One final piece of advice: If you have money to burn and you have one or two favourites on your remaining list, consider buying the domain names immediately. If you end up not using them, you can just let them expire or use them for something else.