What are some of the differences between publishing companies?

Classifications of publishing companies

Typically, a publishing company will produce one category of books that defines their range of authors and material, identity, and business. If a publishing company such as Penguin is a well-known label for novels found in Barnes & Noble, then chances are that same label does not also publish educational material.editor cartoon

There are five main categories of books from which a publishing company will choose one to produce:

  • Trade: books typically seen on the shelves of bookstores
  • Promotional: cheaper books, calendars, reprints, etc.
  • Academic: textbooks for classrooms, both school and university
  • Professional: books that contain data and information for professional use
  • Self-Published: books paid for by the author to see his or her work in print

To learn more about these categories of books, click here

Approaches to publishing

Because there are different genres of books and writing styles, it is difficult for an author to know where he or she should take their final manuscript for publication. An author needs to first understand what form of business approach suits his or her work and financial situation the best.

Publishing companies use four widely recognized approaches to publish manuscripts:

  • Traditional: an author employs an agent to showcase his or her work to potentially interested publishing companies that specialize in that material
  • Vanity: an author pays to have his or her work printed and bound, without jumping through the hoops of selection or editing in traditional publishing
  • Subsidy: an author and a publisher form a partnership, the author maintains most rights to the material, and profits are earned from the book sales
  • Self-publishing: an author is both publisher and writer and responsible for the entire publishing process and costs, but he or she also maintains all creative control and rights

To learn more about these approaches to publishing, click here

The Big Six

Like any business, not all publishing companies are created equal. Publishing companies come in a variety of sizes, but only a handful of publishing companies have risen to the top of the industry as the biggest and most successful in the United States. Although the books are popular in America, foreign entities own the majority of these famous publishing companies, in fact only one of the Big Six is not owned by a foreign entity. Each of these publishing companies owns a series of smaller publishing companies that do not necessarily bear their same name.

  • Hachette Book Group: foreign, click here to visit their website
  • HarperCollins: multi-national, click here to visit their website
  • MacMillan Publishers Ltd: foreign, click here to visit their website
  • Penguin Group: foreign, click here to visit their website
  • Random House: foreign, click here to visit their website
  • Simon & Schuster: American, click here to visit their website

To learn more about the Big Six, click here

For additional information

About.com Book Publishers: http://publishing.about.com/od/BookAuthorBasics/a/Book-Publishers-Different-Types-Of-Book-Publishers.htm

Writing Forward:



Brighton Publishing:


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Kyra Lindholm is an English major, Spanish minor, and swim team member at Texas Christian University. She is wildly attached to books and has been called a “borderline hoarder” when it comes to them.


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