Thursday, May 6, 2021

When Book Publishers Are Sold Like Best-Sellers


Harper Collins recently announced it is acquiring Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books and Media, for 349 million bucks. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt brings along some impressive backlist bestselling authors, including George Orwell, Philip Roth, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

As predicted, the consolidation in book publishing continues. Authors do not benefit from it. Nothing new here. But should we be concerned?


There were six monster publishers a decade ago. Now there will be four when Penguin Random House finalizes its swallowing of Simon & Schuster. Along with Harper Collins. Macmillan Publishing, and Hachette Books, these four behemoths will run the book industry.

But there are other opportunities to publish a book. There are hundreds of vibrant university presses and many smaller, independent presses. Amazon, which controls a lot of the sales side of publishing, is also a publisher, both on the traditional and self-publishing side. Speaking of self-publishing, three out of every four new books are self-published. But even with all of that competition swirling around, more than 80 % of all Publishers Weekly best-sellers come from the Big 5.  

So, what does all of this consolidation really mean? Less competition for the best authors means authors have fewer bidding wars and fewer places to run to – unless they want to go the small press-university press-self-publishing route.  

Consumers could lose out, starting with the pricing of books. Prices go up in any industry without competition. Consumers may not care who publishes which authors, but authors and literary agents pay close attention to how they are getting squeezed.  

“Several industry groups,” says the New York Times,” including the American Bookseller Association, and the Author Guild, have said the Simon & Schuster deal could destabilize the industry and leave authors with fewer opportunities. Critics of the deal have also noted that consolidation often leads to more consolidation, as smaller companies try to build up to compete.  

Still, the good news is that authors have many remaining options to get published, and even more to market and promote their books. This consolidation is worrisome and will have some impact on things, but the book world is still big and diverse enough to handle it.  

For now.


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About Brian Feinblum

Brian Feinblum should be followed 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. It was 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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