Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday's Focus: Things You May Not Know About The Big Six Publishers

With one book published, and one due to come out in the spring of 2014, "publishing" seems to hang heavy over my head, and in my mind. I've also been thinking about why I chose to go the way of smaller, independent publishers, like MuseItUp.  Most aspiring authors want one of the "Big Six", publishers whose names are like the brands of our favorite foods that everyone else also knows about. For many reasons, this didn't appeal to me. However, I did do some research about the big guys, and found a few interesting facts in some articles I read. I thought I'd pass them along to you.

The names of the Big Six are: HarperCollins, Random House, Simon and Schuster, Macmillan, The Penguin Group, and Hachette. But did you know that only two of these are US companies, and the rest are foreign holdings? The two US are HarperCollins and Simon and Schuster. Of the other four, two are German, one is British, and one is French.

HarperCollins was founded in 1817 in New York by two brothers, James and John Harper, and  at that time was known as Harper & Brothers. In 1962, 145 years later, the company merged with Row, Peterson & Company, and became Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. Eventually, the Harper company by itself was bought out by a gigantic conglomerate, News Corporation Limited. In time, the company acquired a very old and distinguished publishing house, William Collins & Sons, founded in Britain in 1819. The distinguished name Collins was joined to the distinguished name Harper and became HarperColins. It is still a subsidiary of News Corp, the largest media company in the world.

In 1924, Simon and Schuster was established in New York by Richard Siman and Max Schuster. It was a unique publishing house, owned only by these two men, who approached the publishing business much differently than most along Publishers' Row: they were the first to offer booksellers the privilege of returning unsold books for credit; in 1939, they were the first to offer paperback books with the founding of Pocket Books; and in 1945, published the first "instant" book. In the year 2000, they became the first publisher to publish an electronic book, with the publishing of Steven King's eBook, Riding the Bullet, a worldwide publishing phenomenon.

More changes came about as the years passed: in 1944, Simon and Schuster and Pocket Books were sold to Marshall Field, the department store magnate. When he died in 1957, Simon and Schuester re-aquired the company in conjunction with Leon Shinkin and James M.Jacobson. These four men held the company in various combinations of ownership until Shinkin sold it to the international conglomerate Gulf + Western.

Eventually, through many twists, turns, and sales acquisitions, Simon and Schuster became part of the Viacom Entertainment Group in 1994. In 2006, when Viacom separated from CBS Corporation, Simon and Schuster became part of the CBS Corporation.

Currently, HarperCollins has fourteen imprints, and Simon and Schuster have thirty-five imprints. None of these imprints are what most people believe are small and independent publishing companies. They may have been just that, sometime in the long distant past, but now all are a part of these two mega-publishing companies.

Next week, the focus will be on the foreign companies.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.