Mark Terry

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Publishing 101: The Big 6

June 17, 2010
In the last year or so big New York City-based publishing has become cemented (albeit probably temporarily) into 6 major publishing conglomerates. They're often referred to as The Big 6.

I'd been hearing enough about this lately that it occurred to me that I wasn't 100% who The Big 6 actually were. And that's not for lack of trying, really. I've been loosely tracking the publishing industry for 20 years or so, but the fact is that with all the merger & acquisition activity (known as M&A, by the way) in the publishing industry, along with some supposedly strategic name changes, I'd pretty much lost track of who the major players were.

Also, I've been pretty exclusively had novels published by smaller publishers outside the sphere of the Big Apple (except for my foreign translation rights, at least one of which is published by a subsidiary of one of The Big 6--go figure).

They are:

1. Hachette Book Group (no, I'm not sure if that's pronounced like a small ax or if it's got some sort of fancy french emphasis). I confess they've never really been on my radar, although many of their imprints, like Grand Central Publishing, Little, Brown and Company are, as well as some of their distribution deals with Microsoft Learning, Time Inc. Home Entertainment, and Kensington, etc.

2. HarperCollins. Well, yeah. Old as dirt, right. Their imprints include Avon, Harper, HarperCollins, etc.

3. Macmillan. Of course, I was aware of Macmillan, but I didn't realize just how many imprints they'd scooped up over the years (see what happens when you turn your back on a publisher?). They include Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Henry Holt, Scientific American, St. Martin's Press, Tor/Forge, etc.

4. Penguin Group. Of course. A giant whose imprints include Ace Books, Berkley Books, Putnam, Dial, Dutton, Penguin, Prentice Hall, Puffin, Viking.

5. Random House, which is the world's largest trade-book publisher, is owned by a German corporation called Bertelsmann AG. I remember fairly vividly when Bertelsmann bought Random in 1998, which slammed together Random with Bantam Doubleday Dell, which also included groups like Crown and Knopf.

6. Simon & Schuster. An oldie, but a goodie, I guess. Includes Pocket, Scribner, Simon & Schuster and others.

For more detailed history, if you're interested, I suggest you read this blog post.

So is this something you really need to know? Maybe not. I think it's helpful to understand that the big NYC (if calling them New York City publishers is remotely accurate, in that they're pretty much international conglomerates now) publishers are, as I just mentioned, big international conglomerates, which perhaps explains why they're being so slow to respond intelligently to the threat of e-books right now--large corporations are rarely known for being nimble (or creative and cutting-edge, for that matter).

So perhaps this is merely trivia, but I wrote it here because I decided to clarify in my mind who exactly people were talking about when they talked about The Big 6. And I confess, for some reason I thought Dutton was part of HarperCollins instead of Random House, and I'm not sure how, if at all, Hyperion and Disney fit into this picture. (Well, OK, distributed by HarperCollins).

p.s. And Grand Central Publishing was previous Warner Books (owned by Time Warner, which apparently also owned Mysterious Press, which I'm not even sure exists anymore...)


Blogger sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Thanks for this clarification. I'm linking this all over. :)

7:42 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Thanks Mark. This is really appreciated. I knew there were only a few big New York publishers, and I would have guessed five, so obviously it's nice to know the details. At least now I can complain about the publishing world with more accuracy.

8:03 AM  
Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

This rocks, Mark! I've always wanted a good list. I'm starting to learn, simply because of their Kindle quirks.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Little Brown and Company, Grand Central, etc., are actually divisions, i.e. companies unto themselves, which then have their own imprints. So even though all these publishers technically fall under the umbrella of The Big Six, there are still dozens of New York "publishers" to submit to.

Little Brown and Company just created a new imprint for crime fiction. Check it out:

5:54 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

That just seems to make things more confusing, as if it weren't confusing enough. And the "distributed by..." aspect of things gets crazy.

I heard about Mulholland Books and alerted my agent to it.

6:02 AM  
Blogger Barbara Martin said...

Thanks very much for this list and clarification.

I had read that if a writer approaches one of Penquin's imprints, i.e. DAW Books, and is turned down, that the same manuscript will be declined by each of the other imprints too. Perhaps this isn't the case with an agent, but certainly when a writer approaches the publisher on their own hoping their query works.

There are several SF/F imprints who take on manuscripts from unagented writers.

9:07 PM  

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