Skip to content →


There has been a lot of discussion on publishing blogs lately about the benefits and drawbacks of publishers branding their imprint. Some feel that publishers should be an invisible structure that support branded authors. While I agree that authors should have a brand, and that we as their publisher should help them establish that brand, Dreamspinner has worked hard to develop its own brand from the moment we opened.

Dreamspinner publishes gay male romantic fiction. It can be any genre, but the book must be story and character driven. Romance in our stories is defined by the growth of the characters’ relationship and not how much sex they have or even, necessarily, the outcome. When you look back at the great loves of your life, was there only one? Did you end up with them forever?

In November of 1957, the Alfred A. Knopf company published the Borzoi Credo in an advertisement in The Atlantic Monthly. The first line was,

“I believe that a publisher’s imprint means something, and that if readers paid more attention to the publisher of the books they buy, their chances of being disappointed would be infinitely less.”

So what do you think? Should publishers have a brand? Do you think branded publishers or imprints help readers discover new, quality authors and fiction? Does a branded publisher decrease the chance of being disappointed as a reader?


Published in Book Marketing Branding Social Media for Authors


  1. Dreamspinner's brand is the reason I subbed to the press. It was the first one I chose to submit to because of its strength of name and its presence in the market. I reviewed the market, choose the best and submitted accordingly as I saw how the publishers of the genre were presenting themselves outwardly.

    So yes, branding is important because I think it can communicate the thrust of the publisher and its reliability of product…its authors.

  2. Which raises a different issue about marketing a publishing company – the dual consumer base. We market to authors because we need quality submissions, and we market to readers so those authors have an audience. I find it a disturbing trend that publishers are marketing more and more to authors and forgetting that without readers, you can't support the authors once you've attracted them. In a scary way, it reminds me of pyramid marketing. Even the big 5 publishing companies are marketing their services to authors to bring in more authors, but as with any business, you have to have an end consumer for your product.

  3. It seems rather obvious to me that publishers should have a brand of their own. The publisher brand determines whether authors want to be associated with that publisher, and readers certainly would want to know where to go for high quality books. And yes, you're right that marketing to readers outweighs marketing to authors, but I think readers benefit from the association of a particular publisher with the type of books they prefer. I'm having a hard time imagining why it might not be beneficial to readers.

  4. I think the main argument is that it isn't good for the publisher because of the expense involved for what they are citing as "little to no benefit". Their stance is that readers have no awareness of publishers. Who publishes Stephen King? And that they don't care – it isn't relevant to their decisions.

    I think it is different with niche publishers like Dreamspinner. I think because of the branding we do, our name is recognized by readers and can be a factor in their decision to purchase. We have much more actual contact with readers than traditionally managed publishers.

  5. What about Harlequin for romance? Or Simon & Schuster for YA? I recall looking at some books by authors I've never read and thinking, "Well, this publisher is good." It may not always be uppermost in readers' minds, but I think it does make a difference.

  6. Harlequin is the textbook example of atypical branding of a traditional publisher. Their subscription services and style of releases is also completely counter to everything the old-school publishing industry. It is funny that we are moving closer to that style as things evolve.

  7. Lou Lou

    I think Dreamspinner's brand stands out because it's specific, and because quality is included as an attribute of the brand. For me as an author, it was when I happened on DSP that I realized my Vasquez and James novels might have a publishing home. As a reader, if i'm looking for books featuring great characters in gay reationships, Dreamspinner is where I look first, because I know I can count on finding what DSP stands for. I don't know if a more general publisher could succeed in branding the same way. (My two cents.)

  8. We do hear that a lot – readers leaving feedback that they buy books based on the fact we put them out. It would be harder to foster that sort of reader attitude with a broader range of fiction.

  9. A long time ago I had lunch with Donald and Elsie Wollheim, founders of DAW, my first publisher. DAW is still a respected publisher of fantasy and science fiction. Donald told me then that he wanted DAW to mean something to readers, and how he wanted readers to count on DAW books to deliver imagination and adventure. That vision was born out by the authors they published: Marion Zimmer Bradley, C.J. Cherryh, Tad Williams, Tanith Lee, among others. When the company started, the spines of all DAW books were bright yellow so readers could easily zero in on DAW books on bookstore shelves. Wollheim was branding before branding became a buzz word. 🙂 I think Dreamspinner is a lot like DAW. Can't say yet if you're a lot like Don and Elsie. 😀 But that's one of the reasons I think DSP is great, because it has the same kind of vision.

  10. There are a lot of parallels between the fantasy/scifi market when it was mainly small indy publishers and the glbt niche now. Thank you for the comparison to DAW – it is quite a compliment.

  11. I appreciate the creative approach to publishing Dreamspinner has. When I look at a book by another publisher, yes, I know which house it came from by the cover. As an author who is very involved in her cover art, I wouldn't submit with them because I cherish the individuality and consistency Dreamspinner allows me.

    My boys are beautiful and Dreamspinner lets them shine. 🙂

  12. J.P., your boys are as much a part of our overall story as your words. Covers have to reflect the story and author as much as the contents. I wouldn't want that any other way.

  13. As a reader I think the publisher brand is infinitely important. There are a few authors I read despite who they are published by, publishers I've read poor books from or had bad experiences with. But many times I will see a new release on ARe, see the publisher, and think it's not up to standard.
    I also think how a publisher treats it's authors influences readers. There is a certain publisher currently imploding that I will not buy from because I have friends they are screwing over. This is a small genre so I feel like I am friends, through social media, with many authors despite never meeting them. I wouldn't buy a book from a publisher notorious for not paying royalties to my friends. If a publisher is known for quality books I am more likely to try new authors from them. I've read fabulous books I almost missed because the cover art was atrocious, these are things a good publisher thinks about. The author isn't the only one that becomes known for bad covers.
    Because this is a niche genre branding is very important, books are sold through word of mouth(blogs, goodreads, social media) and you want to stand out. I don't think this is important to more mainstream houses, they have big name authors & series that sell themselves.

  14. Sometimes I choose a book because I'm a fan of the author. In these instances, the author is bigger than the publisher (at least from my perspective). But there are certain publishers I go to when looking for quality. DSP is one such publisher, and it's for this reason I chose to submit manuscripts to them. It really is the responsibility of the author to create and promote their own brand. As long as DSP continues to focus upon readers and reinforces their own brand, they will be a magnet for quality authors. As the author establishes his/her own brand, even as it relates to other published works from various publishers, this will benefit all of the publishers he/she has contracted with.

  15. Juliana – Nothing is more important than the way a publisher treats its authors and customers. There is no excuse for any business not to operate with integrity.

    I think the advantage that a publisher brand can give a new author is especially important. If a reader knows what to expect from a publisher, they are more comfortable trying a new name or a book outside of their norm.

  16. Jeff – I think author and publisher brands can work synergistically when they are focused on the same type of fiction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *