Obtain DBA if creating your own imprint

If creating your own imprint (i.e. publishing company) when self-publishing a book, one of the first actions you’ll have to take is registering your company’s name. Because the author and publishing company are essentially the same, you don’t need to set up a full-blown company but can simply file a DBA – or Doing Business As – statement with the appropriate local officials.

The DBA essentially states that you the author are a sole proprietorship who owns and operates a business that has a different name than your given name. So, if John Smith the author self-publishes his books via his own company, City of Angels Publishing, then John Smith is doing business as City of Angels Publishing. In some states, counties, and cities, the equivalent is filing a Trade Name Registration (TNR) or a Fictitious Business Name (FBN) statement.

The main advantage of a DBA is image. In an era where self-publishing is still considered by a some to be no better than vanity publishing, establishing a self-publishing company creates the fiction that a publisher separate from you picked up your book.

Once filing a DBA, however, you enter the murky waters of whether you’re running a separate business and all that entails legally and tax-wise. For example, you may need to keep separate checking accounts (one for your personal use and one for your publishing company) so your royalties can be deposited in a bank. So long as you don’t incorporate your business and remain a sole proprietorship, however, you generally can file your publishing company’s royalties as personal income tax while taking advantage of some business deductions; this is known as pass-through taxation and is quite common.

Each state has different filing requirements for a DBA. In a few of them, if the name of your publishing company is virtually the same as your own name (e.g. your name is Jane Smith and the publishing company’s name is Jane Smith Publishing), then a DBA doesn’t need to be filed. In other states, a DBA is filed with the county or city you reside in rather than with the state. In addition, you may need to obtain other licenses for your publishing company. Finally, most jurisdictions require that the DBA be printed for a few consecutive weeks as a legal in a local newspaper.

Always check with your local county/city clerk’s office and secretary of state’s office to learn how a DBA affects you. The summary provided here is only a general overview of DBA.