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Sunday, 06 October 2013


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Really enjoyed your thoughts on company names, I think your absolutely correct and good luck with yours. By the way, I buy a lot of records, and much prefer Soundstage Dirrect over Music Dirrect. You might check them out, the pack really well and have free shipping. However, their name is not easy to remember!

Mike - I've given a lot of thought to the very dilemma you're facing now. Here's just one thought, by no means original, but something that's occurred to me in the internet age of naming businesses:

Go to GoDaddy, 1&1, or any other of the multitude of domain name registrars that feature a "Find your new domain name" search box and begin brainstorming with your keyboard. Most of the time, the words (names) you come up with will already be taken and you can eliminate that idea. When you find one that isn't, add it to your list.

The latest trend seems to be these short, nonsensical words that still somehow convey meaning, or at least sound good and are above all else, unique. I'm not coming up with a great example off-hand, but they are myriad. This makes sense if you think about it, as one thing a business name MUST have now, as opposed to yesteryear, is an internet presence and a searchable (as you said) domain name. In many cases, your "nonsense" name of choice which is already taken, will be available (as a domain name) if you add "publishing", or some shorter, clear abbreviation for it.

I'm sure you know the holy grail of domain names is a descriptive name in four to six letters, or the shorter the better. Short dictionary words are either already being used, or taken by another registrar and will cost you $25,000 at auction.

Since you say you already have a likely name chosen for your new venture, this may all be moot and your domain name might be ********.top.com, in which case you can use any words you like. I just wanted to give you something else to consider, in the event you haven't looked at this route for finding a good business name yet. Either way, I'm sure we're all anxious to see what you've come up with and certainly to see what your eye for good photo books will produce. Best of luck to you!

This Frazz comes to mind after reading your name dilemmas....

A unique and memorable name? Easily searchable? Maybe Ctein can offer some suggestions...

Surely BMW is superbly descriptive? - in German and English!
Bayerische Motoren Werke
Bavarian Motor Works

Whereas BSA was famous for motorcycles (and some cars) but you had to see the logo (before they called them logos) to see the link with their original business of firearms - Birmingham Small Arms

Good luck with the book project, hope it's affordable for my very reduced means.

Hi Mike.
Make sure, the name is as unambitious as it can get. This will make sure, you don't provoke ill spirits. There is nothing worse than a combination of a pompous name and small company. Make it something really private.
Best regards

book? photography?

isn't that "too many words"

"Pistachio Arachnid Press"

I love it, Mike!

Sell 'em for a dollar and you've got "Buck Books". Catchy, eh?

"The Online Photographer" worked fine for the blog, so why not "The Writing Photographer" Press/Books?

Hi Mike,
After your first post about names I thought of 'Hippolyte books/publishing', which tied in with your Bayard idea (although it rather brings to mind the tutu wearing hippos in Fantasia).

Also, if you've never seen "old Jews telling jokes", it's worth a watch ;

best wishes phil

Someone made me laugh once writing that whoever at Microsoft had picked the "names" COM and NET must have had something against easy internet searches.

I don't know , none of those names are Top Shelf.

There is a general contractor here in LA who has a company called 'Aedifice Rex'. While I love the name, it suffers from many of the issues you describe (although funnily enough I can remember it - must tickle my sense of the absurd)

Names ARE hard. Years ago, we had a project to do an on-line Thai-English dictionary (with pictures and audio pronunciation). After much discussion, we settled on Multimedia Bilingual Interactive Dictionary, or MBI Dict. (Get it? Moby Dict).

I still can't pronounce Melville's book correctly!

In this internet age, I always see what domain names are available for any venture names I'm considering. A domain name search/survey will let me know if the proposed name might be colliding with established names.

Hi Mike, I've always liked names from local places, your suburb, a nearby river or hill, there's nothing like location to add richness to a name. Cheers S

"I think the easiest way to make a name is to combine two familiar and easily-pronounced simple words in a way that no one usually combines them". Rico Suave?

Trademarks are issued within business domains; your book publishing is not in conflict with a financial firm, you can both be Fox River (and neither of you can stop the other).

(This is what made Apple computer getting into the music business so exciting; when you change your area of business your trademark can run into other trademarks.)

While I like place names for a lot of things, I don't think it's good for your book publishing venture. There's nothing "local" about it, except the editorial offices (currently). Today you'll certainly sell worldwide, and deal with photographers worldwide.

When you have an idea and want to get a domain for it, I find https://domai.nr to be very handy.

People are weird; to me, "acoustic sound" is less generic than "music direct".

[I think they're both very generic, but I just have more trouble remembering one than the other. --Mike]

Sure fire naming scheme for the 2010s: Take any common multisyllabic word and remove the last vowel or 2: "photographr". "Pictr". "Hipstr".

It felt good when we named our company wordsandpixels.com years ago as the digital revolution was obviously going to change photojournalism and filmmaking forever. Today I often smile when I see the names of production companies at the end of TV shows or movies. Some of them are pretty cute.

But you have carved out an enormous audience and respect with your never-ending effort at TOP. How about TOP THIS! Publishing Company?

My advice: Don't spend excessive energy on such a trivial detail. You're not establishing a consumer brand. Publishing monikers remain largely unknown to the general public. To the extent a publisher's name connotes public meaning the meaning comes from what the house is known for publishing.

I understand the vanity in creating "just the right name" for your new business. I've been there years ago as a young man. But nobody's going to buy (or not buy) a book from you, or for that matter find you, because of your business name. Spend your energies on your business plan which will have to be very formidable to succeed in a competitively brutal business.

My 2 cents. Good Luck, Mike.

You're probably aware of this site, but I thought it interesting that a pronunciation site exists purely for Wisconsin :


[That's great. It's not easy to know how to pronounce Paoli, Ixonia, or Monches. --Mike]

In Argentina there's a pest-control company that uses the tagline Matamos por encargo, that literally means Murder for hire .
There are a lot of old VW vans with that sign on the side, no other names, logos or anything, just Murder for hire .

I've been in the fiber optic biz for 35 years and had to name several companies and organizations. There were so many companies with names starting with opto- or opti- and even photo- and foto- that you were always getting them confused. Some, no many, were unpronounceable.
BTW, I just heard that car companies have registered over 800,000 names- no wonder we are overrun with meaningless letter/number names. Remember the Porsche 911 was supposed to be the 901 until Peugeot pointed out that they had trademarked all the numbers with a zero in the middle.

I just came across this... fun(?) of naming something.
amazing how the internets now makes it harder,
because it has to be a searchable name,
and not a name that is everywhere.
but, what seems to work is to think of photography —
all photographs have been taken,
so all that is left is to be ourselves and try to convey the self,
and the same with a name:
think of something that defines how we express ourselves.
in the end, it does not have to be accurate,
but have something that resonates nevertheless.
(hence, names of places are totally out! :)

best of luck with the chosen name...
that it feels right, and it serves as you wish it.

The name of the Game is change, so named and therefore of itself a change.

What do you call a Volvo car that has rolled?

A Ovlvo...

'TOP Shelf'. Okay, a little corny...

I am sure the title you choose will be fine Mike, all the articles in TOP-for years- have been attention-grabbers so you have a kind of track record...
I must say, "My Stomach Hurts" is one of the best. I might steal it for one of my own books one day...(just kidding..!)

What Fernando said. Green Chipmunk. Spooky Lettuce. That type of thing.
I heard that one way of making up a nom de plume was to take one of your mother's favourite things and combine it with the name of the road you first lived on: Quickly Sunshine came about for me via that method (though I've yet to publish a book using the name...).

Top Shots


How about one of the following:

Double Gauss Press

Triplet Publishing

Rapid Rectilinear Imprints


I thought I was being clever by calling my little furniture renovation blog. Ercolholics Unanimous. Google directs searches to AA. Do they think alcohol impairs spelling?


The name worked for the Best Party. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxBW4mPzv6E

It has to be TOP Books, surely?

That language transfer problem has been around for awhile. My Great Great Great Grandfather founded the family woollen mill in Galashiels in the Scottish Borders in about 1870. It was named after it's location in the town: "Wilderhaugh Mill". He quickly found that the cloth merchants in London couldn't pronounce the name and that put them off. It was quickly changed to Wilderbank Mill - a "haugh" is a riverbank in the local vernacular and then ran for the next 100 years or so.

Gotta be: "M. C. Johnston, Publishers"

Avoid the trendy, go with a classic. It also plays to your strength, you.

Yes, as a previous poster suggested: 'Fox River Editions'
Sounds good and I see a nice logo to go with the name.

In their latter years BSA were also known as Best Scrap Available.

Qwerty Asdf Books has a nice ring to it, I think.

I'm thinking you should follow the lead of all of the small companies that strove to be first in the Yellow Pages for their particular industry. So... AAAardvark Books it is.

"I've been hard at work puzzling over the name-to-be of TOP's photo book"

TOP's Photo Book (#1)

Sometimes these things are too obvious.

I see your problem... I tried names starting and ending with K a'la George Eastman, but millions of others beat me to the punch. I think that your idea of a non-name might be the better way to go. With that in mind, I humbly suggest Pabtar. The domain name is available and it only received 954 hits on Google.

You could always try to come up with your own word like Kodak or Exxon. Makes searches pure, but probably doesn't pass the memorability test.

"Trolley Stop" Old concept, motion come to still, a new view at each stop/turn of the page. Best luck.

How about "View from the TOP"? Or something original like "Mike Johnston Publishing inc."? I promise, no more.

I had fun creating a business name a few times as I went through various freelance careers. I once called myself Small Pond Consulting because I was hoping to be a big fish -- but also in memory of a romantic weekend with a girlfriend at a lake named Little Pond in upstate New York. Later, seeking a unique URL name, I turned to the street where I live, 9th Street, and named my (one person) company The Streetnine Group. Unfortunately, everytime I say it, I have to explain that "nine" is spelled out, not a numeral.

Recently a photo consultant complained about Streetnine, insisting that it didn't represent me or what I do, but I'm faced with the fact that another, better-known Joseph Holmes photographer grabbed josephholmes.com long ago. And I was dead set against the lame top-level domains .net or .biz. So I settled on josephholmes.io, which I enjoy telling people is the top-level domain for one of the moons of Jupiter.

(It's actually the Indian Ocean domain.)

The names that annoy me most are the ones that try to be clever by misspelling words or other similar tactics. I still remember the jingle "We spell carpets with a K (pause) ... Karpet Plus !" Effective in that I remember it 20 years later. Ineffective in that I remember it as a business I'd never consider dealing with.

I was going to suggest Zander Press. But ... it already exists.

Good luck :)

May I respectfully suggest that I think prioritizing searchability above brand is not the right move in this case?

You've built a fantastic brand around The Online Photographer and, to a lesser extent, around Mike Johnston. I'm not sure why you'd want to undertake the task of building yet another brand.

If I were to tell a friend about your book, I'd say "That TOP guy has published a book: you should check it out", not "That TOP guy has published a book: you should check it out. Search for Fox River Publishing". And either way they'd probably end up at this site and search around for a link.

I think you might have nailed it already with "TOP's Own Books" (you have the #1 spot there) or maybe the functional-but-slightly-nonsensical "The Online Photographer Books" (you have most of the top spots there as well)

Arguably Little Brown Mushroom is a counterexample, but I think there's a bigger divide there between what he's doing with his books and his photography vs. what you're doing with the site and the books.

Yeah, few people remember Kodak. Or Xerox, for that matter. Or Microsoft, or Google.
Made up names aren't very memorable.

Such an interesting group process, so many ways to consider a name. Not unlike the picture taking process.

How 'bout going with tried and true:

Random Excellence Publishing

...although there's something about 'my stomach hurts'...


Most likely someone has already suggested this (I'm using my iPod Touch in a coffee shop & it's too hard to read everything), but 'The Printed Photographer' seems to come up blank when searched for.

Not so sure on that as a publishing house name though.

Take care.

I gift you my old, one-time, self-publishing marque: Tomlet Press. It is not used (google it and see what you get) and may capture perfectly your intent. (I used it for my book, At The Beach back in the late 1990s.)

Here is an on-line definition: Tome´let
n. 1. All small tome, or volume.

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, published 1913 by C. & G. Merriam Co.

I wrote an accounting software package once (many many years ago), and I couldn't find a unique name for it...every conceivable accounting name had been used. So I called it Topaz.

So maybe join a name from one discipline with one from another; eg sapphire pixels, or opal prints or ... Perhaps that type of combination of words is less common in google, and the companies register.

Just a thought.

Quiet Moments Publishing/Quiet Moment Books?

Bought My Wife

You should pick a name that is in no way descriptive of your product or service. Perfect examples are Apple computers and Arrow shirts.

"..I think the easiest way to make a name is to combine two familiar and easily-pronounced simple words in a way that no one usually combines them. A great many distinctive names are made up of such constituent parts. .."

I'd agree with that approach, it is often used in the design/creative industries: Rockstar, Happy cog, MoonPig (who are an online greetings card manufacturer over here in the UK) and also one word names like "Tomato" which have no bearing on the output, but are memorable.

You have a recognized name and should leverage this.
"TOP Publishing" is easy to remember and you would get a number one results in a Google search in no time.

Having an effective and memorable name is one thing. Making sure that potential customers know it and visit the site is another, as I have discovered.

You already have the attention of the right sort of people, Mike. Not that this happened overnight. It's almost as if you have been heading towards book publishing for years, perhaps not even realising it at the time.

I was going to suggest Dragoon Publishing but it exists already!

I don't know why I've been reminded of this, exactly, but Mark Gatiss, a fairly famous writer and director of television here in the UK, once said that he wanted to start a production company with a name that summed up the British attitude to such things - 'Will That Do? Productions'.

Anyway, made me chuckle, especially as in the context of what you're doing, it's entirely inappropriate...

Having read all the comments thus far, I have to agree with Jim Freeman. "M. C. Johnston, Publishers" is the way to go.

It sounds serious and established, and it ties directly back to you, as the chief arbiter of taste and policy for the operation.

I've had two businesses in the past thirty-some-odd years, and though they both had memorable and appropriate names, hindsight shows me that my connection with the work might have been more firmly established and recognized had I used my own name in them.

I don't understand your concern about number of search hits, at least in this instance. If they can find your site, they should be able to easily find the books (as I'm sure you'll create a good way for that). It's rare that people know the publisher more than a book title, but that's your advantage here; I recommend exploiting it.

It probably doesn't help `Acoustic Sounds' to be redundant, either.

In addition to appropriating existing (place)names, another gripe to avoid: gratuitous use of "-online": whenever I see that, I think `if you're online I already know it' or `you have an entirely offline department?'. Oh, and placenames put people off - `fineartamerica', what, so it's not open to us right-Pondians?

Good luck choosing, anyway.


Green minds think alike.

I totally agree with your thoughts and I've been thinking about the same things.
I agree about stealing the shine from prominent names, and I agree about the combination of two words.

It gets easier if you slacken the connection with the business. This can be successful, think of Google and Amazon.

Green ocelot

Zen Lover

Clockwork songbird

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