Who Are the Major Publishing Companies?

Although independent publishing has made vast, once unthinkable inroads in claiming a share of the publishing market in recent years, major publishing companies are still a crucial part of the industry – as well as the favored option for many authors. The Big 5 publishing companies account for somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 percent of the trade publishing market in the US. Any author deciding how to publish their book should gain a basic understanding of how this industry works, and what these companies could each offer aspiring writers.

Together, these major publishing companies cover most areas of the publishing industry, including trade, fiction, nonfiction, journals, education, and so on, using imprints, or subsidiary publishing companies, to establish a reputation in a particular area.

The Major Publishing Companies

Hachette

The Hachette Book Group, based in Paris, is part of Hachette Livre, which itself is part of Lagardère publishing. In 2015, they published just 900 books for adults and another 250 for kids and young adults. These figures are dwarfed by the number of books self-published these days.

Half of their business is actually in travel retail, including travel essentials, duty free items, fashion, food service, and other non-publishing areas. They are also known for content publishing, production, and broadcasting in addition to book publishing.

The company’s roots go back to the 1837 founding of one of its publishers, Little, Brown, and Company. That company was acquired by Time Warner in 1968, and the Hachette Book Group came into being in 2006 when Time Warner Book Group was in turn acquired by Hachette Livre.

Parent company: Lagardère Publishing

Country of origin: France

Founded: 1826

Imprints and brands: Some of Hachette’s divisions are Hachette Digital, Faith Words, Orbit, Yen Press, Grand Central Publishing, and Hachette Audio.

Annual revenue: Hachette Livre: €2.289B (2017)[1]

Net profit: €208 million (2016)

Headquarters location: Paris, France

HarperCollins

HarperCollins is the second largest major publishing company after Penguin Random House, with more than 10,000 books published each year through its 120 imprints. Notably, HarperCollins is owned by NewsCorp, which owns Fox News, the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal, among others. Book publishing accounts for about 19 percent of NewsCorp’s sales. They are known mostly for publishing consumer books.

  1. and J. Harper was founded in New York City in 1817. By 1987 the company had become Harper & Row, which was acquired by NewsCorp that year. Three years later, NewsCorp also acquired William Collins & Sons.

Parent company: News Corp

Country of origin: United States, United Kingdom

Founded: 1989

Imprints and brands: Avon Books, Broadside Books, HarperTeen, HarperCollins Children’s, Harper Business, Newmarket Press, William Morrow, HarperAcademic, and many others.

Annual revenue: $1.67 billion (2015)[2]

Net profit: $221 million (2015)

Headquarters location: New York City, United States

Macmillan

Macmillan is owned by a German family company, which provides limited financial data to the public. It has imprints in the US, Germany, South Africa, Australia, and the UK, among others. They specialize in textbooks, particularly STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Parent company: Holtzbrinck Publishing Group

Country of origin: United Kingdom

Founded: 1843

Imprints and brands: Macmillan trade publishers include Henry Holt and Company, St. Martin’s Press, Farrar, Picador, Starus and Giroux, Macmillan Audio, and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

Annual revenue: $338.82 million[3]

Net profit: $41.21 million

Headquarters location: London, England

Penguin Random House

This massive company publishes 15,000 books each year, with almost 250 imprints, making it the largest of the major publishing companies. Random House and Penguin merged in 2013, combining their adult, children’s, non-fiction print, and digital trade book divisions. Before this merger, there was a “Big 6” list of major publishing companies. Penguin Random House is known primarily for publishing consumer books.

Parent companies: Bertelsmann (75%), Pearson PLC (25%)

Country of origin: United States

Founded: 2013

Imprints and brands: Imprints and publishers under Penguin Random House include Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Penguin Group U.S., Random House Publishing Group, Crown Publishing Group, Dorling Kindersley, Random House Children’s Books, and others.

Annual revenue: €3.7 billion (2015)[4]

Net profit: €557 million (2015)

Headquarters location: New York City, United States

Simon & Schuster

Simon & Schuster is part of the CBS Corporation. They publish 2,000 books each year under 35 imprints. They were originally founded in 1924, and have been owned by Viacom, Gulf + Western, and Marshall Field at various point in their history. Like Penguin Random House, they are also known mostly for their consumer book publishing.

Parent companies: CBS Corporation

Country of origin: United States

Founded: 1924

Imprints and brands: Today, their division and imprints include Howard Books, Pocket Books, Atria, Gallery Books, Free Press, Folger Shakespeare Library, Simon & Schuster, Scribner, Touchstone, and Threshold Editions.

Annual revenue: $780 million (2015)[5]

Net profit: $34 million (2015)

Headquarters location: New York City, United States

Today, their division and imprints include Howard Books, Pocket Books, Atria, Gallery Books, Free Press, Folger Shakespeare Library, Simon & Schuster, Scribner, Touchstone, and Threshold Editions.

This chart is great for understanding which imprints belong to which major publishing companies.

[1] https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/2018/03/08/lagardere-announces-2017-full-year-revenue-and-profit/

[2] http://www.bookbusinessmag.com/article/harpercollins-reports-growth-2015-thanks-harlequin-acquisition/

[3] http://www.hoovers.com/company-information/cs/company-profile.macmillan_publishers_limited.c59b06212ee3ba48.html

[4] https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/financial-reporting/article/69731-penguin-random-house-reports-record-profits-in-2015.html

[5] https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/71336-global-publishing-leaders-2016-simon-schuster.html

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