The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

What is an imprint?

At my first (and only!) publishing job interview 10 years ago, the HR recruiter asked me if I was familiar with the concept of “imprints.”  How fortuitous — I’d just spent all of 30 seconds glancing through the catalogs in the waiting area, so I said intelligently, “Oh yes — those are like departments,” despite having only the vaguest notion of what I was talking about.

Needless to say, imprints have a significance far beyond job interviews.  Larger publishing houses — like Random House, the Penguin Group, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, etc. — are divided into departments called imprints.  Sometimes, several imprints are affiliated in an official ”group” like The Crown Publishing Group which includes the imprints Broadway Books, Clarkson Potter, Crown and many others.  Sometimes imprints work together — like The Penguin Group’s mass market division that includes imprints like Ace, Berkley, Jove, Roc and many others — although the department doesn’t have an “official” name. 

This is all pretty unimportant for the average reader who’s more concerned with reading a book rather than ruminating over who published it, but for those interested in book publishing — authors, literary agents, book bloggers, journalists — it’s valuable to know about the building blocks of publishing houses.  (Book publicists — feel free to forward this post to anyone who might have questions about imprints.)

Imprints typically have a defining character or mission.  For example, the objective of Viking, an imprint of The Penguin Group, is “To publish a strictly limited list of good nonfiction, such as biography, history and works on contemporary affairs, and distinguished fiction with some claim to permanent importance rather than ephemeral popular interest.”  Many imprints publish only one type (or one format) of book — Crown Business (Random House) and Portfolio (The Penguin Group) publish business books for example, Fireside(Simon & Schuster) publishes (paperback) inspirational books and HarperPerennial(HarperCollins) publishes paperbacks.  Other imprints like Penguin Books and Random House publish a variety of fiction and nonfiction titles.

Which brings me to one of the most confusing (yet one of the most important) distinctions to make in publishing: the difference between publishing houses and their eponymous imprints.  So Random House the company has a division called The Random House Publishing Group which is itself broken down into several imprints including Ballantine and the Random House Trade Group (known as “Little Random).  The Penguin Group (the company) has one imprint called The Penguin Press, that publishes hardcover fiction and nonfiction, and another imprint called Penguin Books, that publishes paperback fiction and nonfiction.  (And to make matters even more confusing, Penguin Press titles are published as Penguin Books paperbacks.)

Several months ago, Sarah Weinman of Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind broke down the imprints at all the major publishing houses: Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, HarperCollins, The Penguin Group and Random House.  (You should note, though, that her series was written before the reorganization at Random House, so the scene’s changed a bit since then.)

For bloggers and journalists attempting to get in touch with authors, make a note of a book’s imprint and contact that department, not the company as a whole.  I can’t tell you how many people contact atrandompublicity[at]randomhouse.com or penguinpublicity[at]us.penguingroup.com not realizing that these addresses are *not* for their respective companies, but for specific departments within those companies.  If you’re in the book reviewing / author interview business, you need to make it your business to know your imprints.

If you’re trying to locate contact information for imprints, I link to the Contact Us pages at several major publishing houses in this Media requesting review copies / trying to contact authors post.  You can also find more information about review copies (and why you may not be receiving the ones you request).

***

What do you find most confusing about imprints?  Ever tried to find contact information for an imprint but couldn’t?

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July 14, 2009 - Posted by | Miscellaneous

18 Comments »

  1. Something I encourage journalists to do when they contact me for a book not in my imprint or division, is to look up the book they are looking for on Amazon.com. Since the publishers submit information on new titles directly to amazon.com, the publisher under the Product Details heading is not only accurate, but more often than not says the exact imprint. Then I usually include a rough breakdown of the imprints and divisions in the whole company, so they know at least which general inbox to contact for specific imprints (i.e. Crownpublicity@randomhouse.com for Crown, Corwn Business, Three Rivers, Harmony, etc.)

    It seems to limit the number of e-mails I receive for books not published by my imprint or even division. I wish more reporters knew the Amazon “trick” and did their research!

    Comment by mkkb | July 14, 2009 | Reply

    • Most people email rather than call these days, but when they do call about a book that’s not published by my imprint, I make a point of saying very loudly and clearly, “Let me check Amazon and see what it says …” (but I’ll do the equivalent in an email message as well).

      Comment by Yen | July 14, 2009 | Reply

  2. [...] aprofundar o tema das chancelas vs. editoras, leia este artigo do The Book Publicity Blog e daí siga os links para os artigos do blogue de Sarah Weinman em que ela analisa o confuso [...]

    Pingback by Blogue BOOKSMILE, livros que saltam à vista » Blog Archive » O que é uma chancela? | July 14, 2009 | Reply

  3. Excellent post. Thanks for all of the great information you are publishing.

    Comment by Kimberly Davis | July 16, 2009 | Reply

  4. I actually pay attention to imprints when choosing books to read for pleasure. For example, I’m not that into chick lit, but if Razorbill publishes a book that LOOKS like chick lit, I’ll read it anyway because nine times out of ten, it has an edge or a twist and is not your average chick lit. I have been paying attention to imprints since I was a teen and didn’t even know what they were, so the average reader might too.

    Comment by Joelle | July 16, 2009 | Reply

  5. so THAT’S what it is. thank you!

    Comment by Howlin' Harry Besharet | February 19, 2010 | Reply

  6. I have a question about the type of imprint/brand used when one is self-sublishing through a company like Createspace.

    You can either have them assign you an ISBN# which makes them the publisher listed on Amazon, or you can pay them 10.00 for your own ISBN#, which allows you to create an imprint/brand like “Star Press.” Then on Amazon that is listed as the publisher. Sounds good to me.

    Here’s my question: If you do that, what else is involved? Do you need a DBA, or anything like that? I’ve heard mixed things. I’d like to have my own imprint brand to publish under, but not if it’s going to be complicated. Please help.

    Comment by Jill Shinn | February 26, 2011 | Reply

    • I’m actually not sure, since I don’t work with self-published authors. $10 seems a pretty low price to create your own name (but then again, I don’t think most people using Amazon look at the publisher). Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

      Comment by Yen | February 26, 2011 | Reply

  7. Finding an imprint owner can also be hard.. We have a book published by Vega books that was published in 2003 and the imprint was sold and then sold again (and even maybe again) and now I am unable to find out who even owns it despite hours of trying online.

    And the reason for this – in 2007 the republished the book translated into French and we’ve never received a penny or a cent for it.. makes me think publishers hide behind the duplicitious reselling of imprints to avoid the paying of rights.

    Grrrrr!

    Comment by Nicholas Breeze Wood | February 27, 2011 | Reply

  8. Are imprints registered at companies? Or could MYPRESS LTD just decided to publish a book under a different name. Do trade names or imprints need some official registration?

    Comment by M Hogg | August 7, 2011 | Reply

    • Imprints aren’t registered, per se — they’re essentially departments at a company. Although I don’t deal with this part of the publishing process, I assume the imprint would be part of the book’s metadata.

      Comment by Yen | August 9, 2011 | Reply

  9. [...] What is an imprint? The Book Publicity BlogJul 14, 2009 For bloggers and journalists attempting to get in touch with authors, make a note of a book's imprint [...]

    Pingback by 7 Books Imprint Sites | Hold Your Future | October 8, 2011 | Reply

  10. [...] What is an imprint? « The Book Publicity Blog. [...]

    Pingback by What Is An Imprint? « Eliza Loves Sci Fi | February 7, 2012 | Reply

  11. [...] our program. It requires some work on the part of the author to determine what kinds of books an imprint publishes, but it also takes a lot of work for us to evaluate unsolicited manuscripts. If you want [...]

    Pingback by Author Tips: 10 Turn-Offs for an Editor Reading Your Book Proposal | AMACOM Books Blog | February 28, 2012 | Reply

  12. Reblogged this on Down Unpaved Roads and commented:
    Here’s another gem worth sharing! Today I was pondering about blog tours, but two days ago I was considering the mystery of Imprints. As I’m trying hard to learn all I can about the industry, this one seems important.

    Comment by Lisa Hall | February 2, 2013 | Reply

  13. I have deciced to use my New Logo for my imprint brand. It will be easy for anyone and everyone to contact the author, who will be working in the press department for the enterprise business.

    Comment by Britney Chanel Dunn | February 14, 2013 | Reply

  14. I want to see a definition of the word ok people

    Comment by Zeandre | May 31, 2013 | Reply

  15. […] own e-pub imprints. Some even have print imprints (are you confused yet? Learn more about imprints HERE) that writers can submit to without needing an agent. One of these such imprints is Avon, which is […]

    Pingback by Long time, no write | Tales of Rejection | June 16, 2013 | Reply


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