If you haven’t read the post about choosing a name for your publishing company, read it before you do anything else. You should put your name through the paces described in that post before you do this step.
Okay, so you’ve decided on a name for your company and have done all you reasonably can to ensure that another publishing company isn’t already using the name. Unless you’ve settled on using your own name for your company (as in, your name is Jane Doe and you plan to publish your work using Jane Doe as the publisher name), you’ll probably have to register the name with your provincial or territorial government. Since I live in Ontario, this post will be about how to do that in Ontario, but the procedure won’t differ much if you live in another part of Canada. You can visit About.com’s Small Business Canada site for details about what to do in your province or territory, or you can google for your government’s small business site.
The process for registering your business name is the same regardless of the nature of your business. It’s a straightforward process that I won’t describe here. I only want to raise two points, one general and one related to self-publishing.
In Ontario, and probably everywhere else, you can register your business name online . But before you do, you’ll want to perform a search to make sure that nobody else in Ontario or Canada is already using the name. Even if you went through the rigamarole of making sure no other publisher is already using the name, you still have to perform this step. At the end of my post about choosing a name, I mentioned that one step remained and that you’d want to do it on the same day you register the name. This is it.
If you start the online registration process, you’ll be asked if you want to perform a name search for the cost of $8. If you read the fine print, you’ll discover that it will only cover names registered in Ontario in the past five years. Ideally, you’ll do a more comprehensive search, one that covers all of Canada and more than the last five years. But if you’re strapped for cash and can only afford $8, the limited search is better than nothing. If you can afford to pay for a more comprehensive search, don’t start the online registration process just yet.
The Ontario site suggested two business partners that offer a more comprehensive online search. I decided to go with OnCorp Direct. I believe you can do a search through this company no matter where you live in Canada. When I performed the search, it cost $40. Use their Name Search Services, follow the online instructions, and you’ll be fine. You’ll probably also be surprised at how many companies across Canada already use words in the name you want.
I searched for the name I ended up using, Norn Publishing. The search found quite a number of names with the word “Norn” in them, many of them located in northern Canada, which makes sense, given the meaning of Norn. I didn’t locate any of these companies when I googled for “Norn Publishing.” Either they don’t have websites, or they were located on page 392 of the search results. Fortunately none of the companies were publishing related.
The search will also check for the availability of the .com and other domains. You’ve already done that, but if you didn’t snatch up the domain at the time, someone might have bought it in the meantime. So make sure you check that section of the search results. If the name is in the clear and you haven’t already bought the domain, buy the domain now. Then go ahead and register the name, which will cost you $60 in Ontario. You’ll have to renew the registration every five years.
Now we come to the second point I wanted to mention, the one related to self-publishing. When you register the name, you have to specify your form of business. Most self-publishing books will suggest that you form what’s called a limited liability company (LLC). You can’t do that in Ontario—check with your local government to see if it’s possible where you live. In Ontario, you can form a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation. You’ll have to decide for yourself which type best suits your needs; it’s not a publishing-specific decision. I only wanted to mention it because you might be confused if you’re trying to follow the procedure in a self-publishing book. I formed a sole proprietorship, and that’s likely what most of you will want to do, as well.
If you’ve registered the name online, you should receive what’s called your master business license via email. Mine arrived within minutes of completing the online application. This document is important; it shows that you can legally act under your company name—do things like write and cash cheques. The bank will definitely ask to see it if you decide to open a business account.
Congratulations! You’ve just created your company. I’m not going to discuss things like accounting, getting an HST/GST number, opening accounts at the bank, getting credit cards, logos, office supplies, mailing address, etc. These are all general small business concerns. There’s already tons of information about this on the net and numerous books on the subject. In this post, I wanted to remind you to do a search on the name, since that’s the last step to choosing your publishing company name, and to let you know that in some areas of Canada (perhaps all), you can’t form an LLC, like most self-publishing books suggest.
You’re not a publisher yet. You have a company, but you’re missing something very important: ISBNs. I’ll talk about those in my next self-publishing post.