Do you know the difference between a “publisher” and an “imprint”? Many authors (and even more readers) don’t – and with good reason: in most situations that matter, the two are one and the same.
An Imprint is a trade name used by a publishing house to publish and market certain types of books. Many large publishers own and operate multiple imprints, each targeted toward a specific genre and/or audience. For example, Macmillan owns St. Martin’s Press, which in turn operates the imprint “Thomas Dunne Books.”
Imprints help readers find new books by publishing similar genres and titles. Harlequin publishes a variety of romance novels, from erotic “bodice-rippers” to romantic tales that involve only minimal sex. Imprints allow the publisher to ensure that fans of one story type can locate similar offerings with a minimum of confusion without restricting the publisher’s ability to offer a wide range of novels.
Many publishers have imprints in more than one genre, too. Publishing houses often produce science fiction under one imprint, fantasy through another, and nonfiction under a different imprint still. The larger houses have many imprints – sometimes so many that readers (and even authors) have difficulty keeping track of them all.
The good news is that mostly it doesn’t matter. Find an imprint you like and you’ll also find a variety of good reads, regardless of the name at the upper end of the publishing chain.