Monday, February 1, 2021

Does Book Publishing Have A Labeling Problem?


The Big 5 in publishing account for more than 80% of all best-selling books that you see appear on major lists, like the ones put out by Publishers Weekly and The New York Times. The public, however, doesn’t really know which publisher publishes which books. Nor does it have much of a clue as to which imprint is owned by which publishing house. Now, as the Big 5 become the Big 4 with the pending sale of Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House, it is time that brand identity of book publishers be established.

Think about it. Just four corporate leaders will dictate what gets published and devoured by the masses. That is a sad fact that should not be ignored by the public. It is important for readers to know which company publishes what type of books and demand that they expand the diversity of voices published.

Few know that Avid Reader Press, Enliven, and Skybound Books all come from Simon & Schuster – which will now be under the same Penguin Random House umbrella that includes Dutton, Dial Books for Young Readers, Fodor’s, Doubleday, Crown Forum, and Three Rivers Press.

Let’s start the education process by identifying the Big 4: Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Macmillan, and Hachette. Next, we need a flow chart identifying all of the imprints that fall under each house. Then, we must pay more attention to which voices are not breaking through and demand to see quality books released in these areas.

For instance, we need to see more conservative voices published. Why? To keep the process honest and to ensure the marketplace decides – not the gatekeeper – what we read and choose to embrace as a centrist Democrat with some liberal leanings. I won’t likely buy a right-wing diatribe – but it should be available and we should have a free flow of ideas available for debate and discussion.

On the other hand, I do not want quotas for books. If we need more Black voices, publish qualified books. Do not purposely publish a writer simply because an author is Black. Don’t purposely dismiss them for the same reason. Publishers must be open and honest and we will see a greater diversity of authors and books out there.

Change the process or the people who acquire books. Or both. White, female liberals are fine at their jobs as acquisition editors and literary agents, but we can also use ones of color, one’s on the right pf the political spectrum, and ones that don’t forget middle-aged white guys deserve a voice too.

Book publishing suffers from a labeling problem. No one book label has a brand identity that consumers appreciate. And all publishing labels need to open up the type of voices published.

Imagine how many more books we can sell when everyone is represented.

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Brian Feinblum, the founder of BookMarketingBuzzBlog, can be reached at  You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2021. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America. For more information, please consult: 

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