These main staple houses are lovingly referred to as ‘The Big 5’. They are the main houses, the biggest, brightest and most powerful in the industry, each of which holding several imprints under their label, specializing in a variety of writing genres.
When beginning your own publishing research, familiarizing yourself with these five is essential. Why? Because they hold the majority of power within publishing, and although you know their names, you might not realize the number of imprints they control. Why is that important? Simply put, because the big five don’t accept unagented and unsolicited works. The majority of the time, this rule falls down to their imprints as well. So even though there are countless options when browsing publishing houses, as many are controlled under these names, it is important to familiarize yourself with them.
And, of course, if you are lucky enough to have them consider your work, either through a literary agent, or by chance otherwise, it is essential that you are aware of their reputation. Think of it as a job interview. You wouldn’t go in to such a meeting with absolutely no familiarity with the company and their work, would you? The same can be said for publishing, and the houses that control the majority of the market.
In an attempt to spread the little bit of knowledge I have procured since starting my own publishing pursuits, I’ve decided to dedicate this weeks blog post to the Big 5.
Shall we begin?
I think it is important to point out, before I break it all down, that the Big 5 was originally the Big 6, until Penguin and Random House joined forces. The merging of these two powerful publishing giants gained strength and momentum to their brand, combining several large name title holders.
Additionally, I find it important to mention that all the Big 5 have their headquarters in New York City.
And now, lets break it down.
- Penguin/Random House
- Both powerful in their own rights, you would wonder why Penguin and Random House decided to join forces. But, when two giants combine, you get magic. In 2013, the two came together, bringing imprints such as Random House, Penguin, DoubleDay, and Crown in collaboration.
- Titles best known under these giants include the Shopaholic series, the Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, and the Girl on the Train
- Authors such as Sophie Kinsella, Dan Brown, and Jodi Picoult call this press home
- Both a traditional trade publisher, and an academic house, founded in 1843 with houses all over the world. Imprints include MacMillan, St Martins Press, MacMillan Childrens, and MacMillan Audio. The most impressive finding I came across was due to its time of founding, MacMillan published some of the most influential and beloved authors of the 1800’s, many of whom we are still reading and praising today.
- Titles you may know include Tess of the DUbervilles, and Alice in Wonderland
- Authors such as Lewis Carroll, Thomas Hardy and others
- A subsidiary of News Corp, controlled by powerhouse Rupert Murdoch, HarperCollins started in 1817 in New York City. Several takeovers and mergers turned the house in to its current name and power, with imprints such as Harper Collins, Avon Books, Broadside Books, and HarperTeen.
- Familiar titles include Tuesdays with Morrie, and the Divergent series,
- Authors include Mitch Albom, Veronica Roth, and the late Harper Lee
- A lot of big, well known names are associated under this press, many of which you may not have been aware are linked. Hachette was formed in 1837, originally Little, Brown & company, which was then claimed by Time Warner. Several imprints are under this house, including Little, Brown & Company, Little Brown & Company Books for Young Readers, Hachette Audio, Yen Press, and others.
- Titles you may know, who are prints of Hachette and their imprints include the Twilight Series, the Cuckoos Calling, The Forgotten, and David and Goliath.
- Authors who found a home with this publisher include James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, and Stephenie Meyer
- Simon & Schuster
- Founded in 1924, their first print was a popular crossword book. Now, Simon and Schuster can be counted as one of the biggest and brightest in the industry, with imprints such as Gallery Books, Free Press, Atria and Pocket Books under their name. Additionally, they are the publishing arm of CBS. Also, Simon and Schuster feature a romance genre digital imprint through XOXO After Dark.
- Titles carried by this publisher include After, Beautiful Bastard, and Im Thinking of Ending Things
- Anna Todd, Christina Lauren, and VC Andrews have signed on with this publisher
Of course, all writers would love to find a home with these names. Their established success, breadth of power and influence is known in the publishing world, and they hold the ability to make your book a household name. But, having said that, it is important to remember that there are still hundreds of other options, houses that are just as good, just as influential, without all the red tape. It is important to do your research, and familiarize yourself as much as possible with every house to submit to.
Like I said, it is like a job interview. Know who you are facing, what they want, and the work you put in will make you that much more noticeable.
About Money. (2016). The Big Five Trade Book Publishers. Retrieved from http://publishing.about.com/od/BookPublishingGeneralInfo/a/The-Big-Five-Trade-Book-Publishers.htm
Good Reads. (2016). Popular fictions. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com