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Becoming a Publisher

  The first thing you will need to do after deciding to become a publisher is to choose a name. Your publishing house will appear more professional and established if you do not name it after yourself. It is also best to choose a name that is not similar to another publisher, past or present. Some folks recommend checking Literary Marketplace, and the publishers section of Books in Print for existing publishers with your chosen name. Others suggest that you hire a lawyer to perform the check. I think the fastest, most effective way to check for other publishers with your chosen name is to go to the's Detailed Search Page. Type in the first word of your publishing firm's name in the Publisher field and click on the "Search Now" button. Next, check for non-book publishers with similar names. Go to Google, enter your publishing firm's name there and perform a Google Search.

When choosing a publishing firm name, there are advantages to choosing a web domain name at the same time. While FogDog is unused as a book publishing name, the domain is very much in use as a sporting goods seller. To check whether a domain name has already been reserved (which is different from being in use), go to a domain registry site, such as or

It is best to give your publishing house a name that is easy to remember and easy to find on the internet. Be wary of uniquely spelled names that will confuse vendors.

Once you've chosen a name, you need to:

  1. File a DBA (Doing Business As), if you will be sole proprietor, or file an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) if the company is more than just you. A sole proprietorship is the easiest. I live in New York, a very litigation-happy state, and one trip to the county clerk, a couple of forms and $25 was all that was needed to complete a DBA.

  2. Register for ISBN numbers. You can apply for ISBN numbers online, or print the forms and apply by mail at The ISBN is a unique machine-readable identification number, which marks any book unmistakably. It is used throughout the book industry. Consider it your book's social security number. You will need an ISBN number for each edition and/or binding (hardcover, paperback, ebook, etc.) of each book you publish. ISBN numbers are requested in blocks. A block of 10 currently costs $270. A block of 100 currently costs $915. Until January 1, 2007 the ISBN number is a 10-digit number. After January 1, 2007, the U.S. ISBN Agency, R R Bowker, will begin to issue 13-digit numbers. A 10-digit ISBN number can be converted to a 13-digit number. There are several online tools available to convert ISBN numbers. I liked the user-friendly one at:

  3. Open a business checking account.

  4. Apply for a library card catalog number. In library-ese, you want a PCN, a Preassigned Control Number, which is an LCCN, Library of Congress Control Number (aka Library of Congress Card Number) assigned in advance to publishers who are not in the Library of Congress CIP, Cataloging in Publication program. See Other Tasks to Perform as a Publisher for more details on CIP program. To apply for a PCN, or simply understand it better, go to the PCN section of the Library of Congress's website at:

  5. Become familiar with the steps needed to register your book's copyright, at the U.S. Copyright Office's web site. You will not need to actually send copyright forms until the book is published.
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