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Publisher Branding in Publishing

Publisher Branding

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This is the second in a series of polls about digital publishing.   One of the concepts that was of great interest to me in a recent thread was this idea of publisher branding. I think within the e-publishing industry, branding matters a lot to readers. I know it does to me. Often I hit the publisher website first, looking through the new releases and browsing through the various categories.

But because I go to the publisher website first, I tend only to visit a few publishers to those who I percieve to put out a quality product.   The branding of the publisher is far more important to me at the epublishing level than it is at the print publishing level.   This poll asks you what you think about publisher branding. Tell us why you voted the way that you did.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. SonomaLass
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 21:00:49

    I said important for both, but I want to add “not equally.” I pay more attention to branding with e-publishers, because there are many I don’t know, and some that specialize in books I particularly want or do not want.

    I follow authors more than brands, in either format, and I’m more likely to pick up a new author if I’ve heard/read that his or her work appeals to someone whose taste I generally share, or if his or her work is compared favorably with the work of an author I do know. But so often with e-books the publisher’s site is where I start browsing, as opposed to print books, where I tend to browse in the bookstore, regardless of publisher.

  2. Nadia
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 22:26:23

    I pay attention to epub branding b/c there are many shoddy epublishers.

    This doesn’t mean epublishing is bad, but that as a reader, I have to very careful not to give my money to a shoddy publisher that may deliver someone’s 1st draft or screw up their online cart system and give my CC info to hackers, etc.

    I suppose I should say that I’m more sensitive about epub REPUTATION rather than branding actually.

    Print pub branding doesn’t matter that much, except for H/S category romance lines. There are certain category romance lines I won’t read because their offerings do not interest me.

  3. Evangeline
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 00:17:21

    I think publisher branding is important for both NY and epub. For example, Berkley Sensation was born from the amalgamation of Berkley’s semi-category lines, and now can be considered the tops in paranormal romance under the helm of Cindy Hwang. Because of this, I’m more likely to take a closer look at Berkley paranormal titles than those put out by other imprints (with the exception of Tor). Another example is Avon–love em or leave em, but they have made themselves synonymous with Regency Historicals since 2000. The lack of branding for other publishers can make me somewhat leery of purchasing new authors, unless I already have it in my mind to buy that book, because the editorial hand(s) of the imprint haven’t really solidified a collective “tone” for the authors they acquire–especially if the imprint begins publishing a genre it has only recently dipped its toes into. As for e-publishers, I go by word of mouth reputation–Samhain, Ellora’s Cave, Loose-Id, Liquid Silver, etc. Though many of them publish a bevy of genres, their stamp is quite marked on the quality of books they publish, and I am less hesitant in purchasing books from them because of this reputation.

  4. ms bookjunkie
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 00:42:53

    Important to me in digital publishers only.

    Nadia said:

    I suppose I should say that I’m more sensitive about epub REPUTATION rather than branding actually.

    Yes, that! (I’m most comfortable buying from MBaM.)

    To be honest, I rarely notice branding in print publishers. Except that Tor’s covers have a distinctive, recognizable look to them (to me) and after reading the three books on Avon’s website in the past week, I sort of realize what people mean about Avon branding (or whatever).

    I think my print branding blindness has to do with the fact that for the first five -or so- of my book-buying years, I bought second hand. First by availability (what was there for me to try), and then by author when I found someone worth keeping. When I moved and had to start buying new, I bought by author: keepers only. (I was young and pretty broke.) Today I still buy by author, but also by recommendation, interest caused by review/buzz/giveaway/interesting author comment (Hi Anthea Lawton!)/free reads on website (Hi Lynne Connolly!) and sometimes I just experiment when a books sounds like something I have to read. (I’m somewhat less young and somewhat less broke.)

    I can’t for the life of me remember if I was coming to a point about something. Did I make one? Is this comment even relevant? I can’t tell, what with my usual incoherence being multiplied by the fact that my brains are leaking out through my nose, and I’m feeling very childish. Summer chills are the pits! Now, please excuse me, I have to go see a doctor about an earache. Mine! (See what I mean about feeling childish?!)

  5. May B.
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 01:27:27

    I am more open with print publishers than the e one. I am willing to try the title of the unknown author if it is released in print but not so much (or not at all) for the e publisher I did not trust (in quality). Even in some case that there are great recommendation but if it is from the unknown/I burn before publisher, I will not buy it.

  6. ms bookjunkie
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 03:41:10

    Pretty much what May B said.

  7. Edie
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 04:15:28

    Branding is very important to me with ebooks, as have learnt that lesson well, lol.
    And is also important to me with print.
    But I am a cautious reader, as to get the books to Australia (very limited amount released here.. and what is, is generally only released here three or four years after the rest of the world has it! doh) it costs me too freaking much to gamble with books..
    – ebooks the same due to our sucky dollar..

    Apologies for the rambling gibberish..
    I am nearing the end of a 13hr work day, and am a bit plotless.. sigh

  8. Moth
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 09:21:21

    I don’t read e-pubbed books. Not a band wagon I have jumped on yet. And for regular print I follow authors, not publishers. I am not a browse and buy kind of person. I haven’t picked a book off a shelf by an unknown author and bought it in YEARS (The last one was Blood Moon Over Bengal because the title was just too camptastic to resist). So in either of these cases, the branding of the author is what matters to me, the publisher doesn’t factor in to my decisions at all.

  9. Kalen Hughes
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 09:58:16

    suppose I should say that I'm more sensitive about epub REPUTATION rather than branding actually.

    This pretty much sums up my thoughts. With ePubs it's about rep, with print, branding is vital only for category books IMO. But then I'm one of those readers who never really noticed what publisher put out my books.

  10. fshk
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 10:06:59

    I agree mostly with the consensus here; it’s important for the epubs in that there are a couple of epub website I check periodically to see what they have that’s new, but I agree, it’s mostly based on reputation/personal experience with those publishers.

    For print books, I pay attention only insofar as I work in the industry and I’m curious about which publishers are putting out which books, but for most print books, there’s less variability in quality among various publishers.

    In other words, I’ll look at a book’s spine to see who published the book, but who the publisher is won’t affect whether I buy the book or not, but there are some epublishers that I won’t buy books from because I’ve found the quality to be lacking.

  11. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 10:18:19

    I said no only because e-publisher branding is only important to me insofar as I have to know which e-pubs to go to to look at their offerings. After that is when I decide to buy or not.

  12. Tessa
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 10:49:49

    Though I am not in the publishing industry, fshk summed it up nicely:

    In other words, I'll look at a book's spine to see who published the book, but who the publisher is won't affect whether I buy the book or not, but there are some epublishers that I won't buy books from because I've found the quality to be lacking.

    I buy new authors mostly on recommendation and review, so I will occasionally venture outside my trusted zones. But when I am browsing for ebooks I stay with the two or three publisher with whom I have found consistently good reads.

    For the most part, when it comes to both print and epub, I buy based on authors I like and trust, which means sticking with whatever publishers they work with.

  13. Mischa
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 11:26:34

    I had to vote for both. I realized several years ago that of all the romance books I’d purchased from a certain publisher, whose name escapes me at the moment, only one of them wasn’t a wall-banger. Since then, even if I find a book that looks promising, if it is from that publisher I put it back on the shelf.

  14. Tammy
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 13:50:09

    I didn’t vote because my answer is “not important until there’s a problem.”

    I don’t tend to notice publisher branding until I have a negative experience. Enough negative experiences from a single publisher and it takes a lot for me to purchase any book from that publisher again.

    These negative experiences include producing books of poor writing or editing quality, lines with consistently heinous titles (Harlequin Presents, I’m looking at you), really bad cover art (a fair amount of epub – just one more reason to not even go there), or outrageous pricing.

    $16.00 for a trade paperback? Just can’t go there.

  15. Bree
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 15:20:21

    I’ve been paying attention to some types of branding in print. I agree with the previous comment about Berkley Sensation–I’m actually starting to seek out their upcoming paranormal romances because I’ve loved the last few I’ve read. Likewise the last five Blazes I read went against the wall, so I’ve decided I’m likely not the target audience there. (Pity. I do love hot stories.)

    In epub it’s mostly about trust. I can trust an author regardless of where they’re published, but I only have a few epublishers I trust to be selling the types of books I want with the quality I want. I’ll take a chance on an unknown author more readily if I trust the epub.

  16. ReacherFan
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 16:38:53

    I said important for both, but I want to add “not equally.” I pay more attention to branding with e-publishers, because there are many I don't know, and some that specialize in books I particularly want or do not want.

    I feel the same way! With epubs, WHO the publisher is matters to me more than in print where I can see, touch, feel the final product. There is more trust with epublishers.

  17. H
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 18:52:22

    I pay attention in both cases, but it is in ebooks that it carries more weight. – Some publishers carry more of the authors I like, some carry more of a sub-genre, others are easier to navigate, some have Wish Lists and Ratings. I also buy from sites that carry a range of authors, publishers and genre…. (didn’t realise I was quite that consistently inconsistent). However, as an HEA (or HFN or equivalent in an ongoing series) romance reader of the m/m kind only (I think it is because I read so much SF/SFF as a child, m/m is the new speculative Fiction for me *g*), I don’t actually require lots (or any) of um, spice in the book – just a good story well told with characters I come to care about (not too much to ask, is it?). I still read murder-mystery and SF/SFF, but will tend to seek out first those with m/m protagonists. Not being a reader of menage or pwp, it can be tricky to isolate the book I would want to read from the book I would not – blurb can only go so far, so if the author is new-to-me and I haven’t been rec’d this by a friend, the publisher may be the next indicator (and a familiar “friendly” publisher will take preference to one I have not yet experienced).
    Sorry, I had no intention of woffling on like this!

  18. Darlynne
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 09:42:55

    I pay attention to print publishers, but I am overly cautious with digital publishers.

    For years, the Penguin Books logo on those unassuming orange paperbacks meant reliably first-rate mysteries. In the 80s and 90s, St. Martin’s could be counted on to publish exceptional mysteries by first-time authors; the collector frenzy around a new St. Martin’s catalog was always fierce. These days, Soho Publishing sets a high standard for mystery fiction from all over the world (in those wonderful, small formats, but that’s another discussion). This was how I learned the importance of publisher branding and how effective it can be, provided, of course, that it’s backed up with quality material.

    Sorry to say I have no such warm fuzzies for digital publishing. Just the opposite, in fact. The only reason I purchased Butterfly Tattoo was because of the overwhelming and universal praise from this site and others, when it was clear that not purchasing that ebook was just stupid.

    I have to agree that trust is key for digital publishers and it’s a long way off for me.

  19. KB Alan
    Jun 16, 2009 @ 01:19:28

    I never paid attention to who the publisher was when I read print books. If I didn’t like it, I put it down to the author, only.

    When I started reading ebooks, it was all at one publishers site, so it was easy to do a little trial and error and figure out which kinds of blurbs and excerpts turned into books I enjoyed and which didn’t.

    When I branched out to fictionwise, it took me longer than it should have to see a trend in which books I liked and which I didn’t, but I finally made the connection with publisher. Which didn’t mean an all or none thing, just that I learned which blurbs/excerpts to give more or less leeway with, if that makes sense.

    Now that I am back to buying from the publishers sites directly and mostly ignoring fictionwise, it goes by reputation. If I hear good things about an epub, I will check them out. If I try a few things and like some, again, I learn to get a feel for which types will work for me and which will not. If I find an author I like has books at a different publisher, I will most likely follow them there, unless that particular blurb doesn’t work for me.

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