Building a self-publishing company #1 – Building the brand

Mark O'Neill and O'Neill Media

When I decided to become a self-published author in 2017, I knew I needed to create a publishing imprint in order to look more professional. After all, nothing screams “amateur!” more than your own name listed as the publisher. Little did I know how little I knew in order to set it all up. Mistakes were made, money was wasted, curse words were uttered. I did know however that before I did anything else, I needed to establish a company brand, along with a structure and a hierarchy. Otherwise, it would all quickly descend into chaos and anarchy.

This immediately discouraged me though – I’m an author and would rather be writing my next book, not building an empire. But I knew that if this was going to succeed long-term, I had to do it properly, and not half-assed. After I die, I want to leave a legacy for those I leave behind. I received a lot of motivation by reading the business books by indie author Joanna Penn, and the Business Musings blog by author Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Table of Contents

Personal name or company name as the brand?

better call saul

For anyone that watches Better Call Saul (and if you don’t, I highly recommend you do), you’ll know that image and brand are everything. In the show, Jimmy McGill wants everyone to think of him when they need a lawyer. McGill recognises that he needs a way to cut through the noise, to stand out from the millions of other lawyers vying for everyone’s attention. So he puts a tremendous amount of attention into his brand. He makes his name synonymous with the law.

I want to make my name synonymous with spy thriller books.

However, this is where I diverged slightly and I had my first wobble. What do I promote? Do I focus solely on my personal name? Or do I promote a company name (along with my name in it), which then gives me opportunities in the future to expand? Part of me rebelled against the idea of promoting myself as a one-person business. OK, it worked for Jimmy McGill, but I wanted to be seen as something bigger. Or at least give myself wriggle room in the future to become something bigger. Promoting myself as a one-person business seemed to me to be portraying myself as small fry. I’m a big believer in the phrase “go big or go home”, along with “fake it till you make it.”

So after much weaving and wobbling, I settled on establishing a DBA (doing business as) company name. I would give the image of a big company with big plans (and believe me, my plans are huge), and actually I do have people working for me. Not full-time payroll employees, but freelance contractors on a “work for hire” basis. Got to start somewhere, right?

Getting a logo was the easy part. I simply went to Fiverr. Once I had my logo, I then gave it to another Fiverr designer, who turned it into an interactive video. This would give me an intro for any promotional videos I made.

Even though I had these elements designed and ready, I still continued to promote my personal name too, since that’s what appears on the front of books. In the end, I decided to go with “Mark O’Neill & O’Neill Media” on invoices, social media, email newsletters, and so on.

The company structure

Now I had to decide the company structure.

  • O’Neill Media Publishing (books, comics, websites)
  • O’Neill Media Productions (videos and short films).
  • O’Neill Media Audio (audiobooks and podcasts)
  • O’Neill Media Syndication (to resell my articles, videos, and publishing rights)

And so on…

You might think that doing all of this is just a vanity exercise and stroking my ego. I don’t see it that way. For me, it provides a kind of roadmap to what I want to do. It made me brainstorm about my goals and the possibilities that could be accomplished. That’s the great thing about doing things yourself as an indie. Everything is possible. You don’t have some publishing CEO in their office telling you “they don’t do audio” or “comics don’t work.” If you want to do it, you just do it.

Developing a brand then involves marketing materials, advertising, SEO, and various other elements. I’ll go into all of these various areas over the coming weeks and show you what I learned along the way (and the mistakes I made – I don’t mind admitting them!)

Coming up in this series

  • Advertising and marketing
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • Redesigning the book covers and website
  • Book translations
Mark O'Neill
Mark O'Neill
Mark O'Neill is the owner of O'Neill Media, and the bestselling author of the Department 89 series. He is also a writer and editor for Android Authority.

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