Updated August 2023 (first created November 2011)
For a comprehensive list, check out The Christian Writers Market Guide. Available in print at your favorite retailer or as an online subscription (updated frequently) at www.ChristianWritersMarketGuide.com.
My emphasis in this post is the Christian publishing industry. There are many fine commercial publishers that do not publish Christian books and thus are left out of this discussion. First, let us review what is known as The Big Five. These five major conglomerates control a sizable portion of the marketplace. (Take a look at this fascinating graphic of all the imprints of the Big Five.)
Who are these big five? In no particular order:
1. HarperCollins is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate News Corp. HarperCollins has around fifty imprints. Zondervan had been their sole evangelical Christian imprint until they bought Thomas Nelson Publishers in 2012. The two are combined under the HarperCollins Christian Publishing group. Under that HCCP group, they have multiple imprints: Zondervan, Zonderkidz, Thomas Nelson, Tommy Nelson (children’s), W Publishing, Emanate Books, and Harper Focus. (There are also an academic division, a curriculum division, and a Bible division.) In addition, HarperCollins keeps a separate religious publishing imprint called HarperOne (formerly HarperSanFrancisco). News Corp. is the parent company of 20th Century Fox, the film company with numerous divisions, including several Fox television networks. In 2013 the print/publishing division was spun off from the entertainment division. In 2014 HarperCollins bought Harlequin Enterprises. This includes the Love Inspired imprint, which is the Christian fiction division of Harlequin.
A little trivia for you. ABC (the TV network) used to own Word Entertainment, which included Word Books and Word Music, which was a well-known Christian company. Word Entertainment was purchased by Thomas Nelson in 1992. Nelson later sold the Word Music division to Gaylord Entertainment, the folks who own Opryland. As part of the sale, the brand name “Word” went with the music division. The book division was then renamed W Publishing. The book and Bible publisher, Thomas Nelson, was bought out by a private equity firm in 2006, sold to another private equity firm in 2010, and then to HarperCollins in 2012.
Quoting parts of an article in the New York Times: In March 2021, “HarperCollins bought Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books and Media, the trade publishing division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, for $349 million…. Houghton Mifflin publishes perennial sellers by well-known authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, George Orwell, Robert Penn Warren, Philip Roth and Lois Lowry, as well as children’s classics and best-selling cookbooks and lifestyle guides.”
2. Hachette Book Group, formerly Warner Books (of Time Warner), was acquired by Hachette Livre, a French media conglomerate Lagardère Group subsidiary. Their Christian imprints include FaithWords and Worthy Publishing (which they bought in 2018). Other well-known, general-market imprints include Little Brown, Grand Central, and Center Street.
3. Penguin Random House is a 2013 merger of two huge book publishing groups, Penguin and Random House (often abbreviated as PRH).
Bertelsmann is a German media conglomerate that owns Penguin Random House, the world’s largest English-language publisher. They have several divisions and over 300 imprints.
As of this update, the Christian-oriented imprints include WaterBrook, Multnomah, Convergent, and Image. These are currently under the Random House Division within PRH as a separate and distinct group. Also, WaterBrook and Multnomah have separate editorial and marketing teams from Convergent and Image in Colorado Springs and New York, respectively.
4. Simon & Schuster is owned by KKR, a private equity firm (purchased by KKR in August 2023). Their Christian imprint is Howard Books, which is a division of Atria. Other well-known imprints include Pocket, Free Press, and Scribner. In 2017 the Nashville office of Howard Books was shuttered, and operations moved to New York under more direct management by Atria. I wrote about this event at this link.
In November 2020, it was announced that Penguin Random House had won the bid to buy the Simon and Schuster division from Paramount Global, which includes ViacomCBS (the media conglomerate), for $2.2 billion in cash. The U.S. Department of Justice sued to stop the merger, citing antitrust laws. In late October 2022, the court ruled against the merger. PRH had to pay a $200 million termination fee.
In August 2023, KKR, a private equity firm, bought S&S for $1.62 billion in an all-cash transaction. According to the press release, KKR has a history of investing in content-oriented media businesses, including current and prior investments in Epic Games, Mediawan, Leonine Studios, Artlist, Skydance Media, BMG, and RBmedia, among others. (KKR stands for Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., LP.)
5. Holtzbrinck Publishing Group is owned by the German Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. It’s primarily known in the U.S. as MacMillan. It does not have a specifically Christian-oriented imprint, but does have strong commercial imprints like St. Martin’s, Tor, and Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
Not one of the big five, but still significant, is Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). The education publisher was purchased in April 2022 by a private equity firm, Veritas Capital, for $2.8 billion. A focus of their publishing is K-12 educational resources. Their general trade division was purchased by HarperCollins the previous year (see above).
What about the rest of the Christian publishing industry?
Christian publishers still independently and/or family-owned include:
The Baker Publishing Group (including Bethany House, Revell, Baker, Baker Academic, Brazos, and Chosen, all owned by the Baker family. Jesse Myers is the CEO as of mid-2023. (He is the first non-Baker family CEO of the publishing company.)
Barbour Publishing (Mary Burns is the president. In July 2017 the company became employee owned and operated.)
Broadstreet Publishing (Carlton Garborg)
Charisma House (part of the Charisma Media Group owned by Stephen Strang)
Crossway (a nonprofit publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, founded by the Dennis Family)
Eerdmans (the Eerdmans family)
Elk Lake Publishing (The Haggerty family)
The Good Book Company (Based in Epsom, Surrey, England, it has acquisitions and editorial in the U.S. in North Carolina.)
Group Publishing (Thom and Joani Schultz)
Harvest House (Bob Hawkins, Jr.)
Iron Stream Media (John Herring, president, and CEO. The company bought New Hope Publishers in 2017, Lighthouse of the Carolinas in 2019, and Brookstone in 2021)
Kregel Publishing (the Kregel family)
New Leaf Publishing Group (includes Master Books and New Leaf Press)
Oasis Family Media (includes Oasis Audio, Sky Turtle Press, and Enclave Publishing)
P&R Publishing (The P and R stand for Presbyterian and Reformed.)
Salem Books (the Christian imprint of Regnery Publishing)
Tyndale House Publishers (a part of the Tyndale House Foundation formed by founder Ken Taylor and his family. Bought Hendrickson Publishers, another family-owned business, in 2021. Hendrickson also includes Rose and Aspire imprints.)
Whitaker House (Bob Whitaker, Jr.)
Then there are Christian publishers owned by a larger organization or ministry. For example:
1517 Media is owned by Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). They have multiple divisions: Augsburg Fortress, Fortress Press, Sparkhouse, and Beaming Books.
Abingdon is an imprint of The United Methodist Publishing House.
AMG is owned by AMG International (a missions organization). Their best-known author is Spiro Zodiahtes. AMG stands for American Mission to the Greeks.
B&H Publishing Group is owned by Lifeway Christian Resources (aka the Southern Baptist Convention). And if your memory is long, B&H stands for Broadman and Holman. In 2015 there was a move to merge the Lifeway resources division (education and curriculum) into a tighter integration with B&H. Eventually, the Lifeway name will become more prominent as new products are developed. For now, the B&H imprint remains unchanged as their trade books and Bibles division.
CLC is the publishing arm of Christian Literature Crusade.
David C. Cook is part of a large nonprofit organization that distributes literature around the world. (Purchased Scripture Press and Victor Books in 1995, then the curriculum divisions of Gospel Light and Standard publishing in late 2015 to become the largest evangelical, nondenominational curriculum publisher in the U.S. Their trade book division still publishes regularly.) They also own Kingsway and Integrity Music.
Concordia is owned by the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church.
Focus on the Family Publishing is a part of the larger media ministry of Focus on the Family founded by James Dobson. Their production, marketing, and sales are handled by Tyndale, but continue to run their own acquisitions.
Foundry Publishing is the publishing arm of the Nazarene Publishing House (the publishing arm used to be called Beacon Hill Press).
Guideposts is a nonprofit organization. Their trade book division was shuttered in 2013, but they continue to publish books intended for direct-to-consumer sales (book clubs or continuity subscription series).
Gospel Publishing House is the publishing arm of the Assemblies of God.
InterVarsity Press (IVP) is part of a parachurch organization, InterVarsity.
Leafwood Books is a division of Abilene Christian University Press.
Moody Publishing is owned by The Moody Bible Institute.
NavPress is owned by a parachurch organization, the Navigators. In 2013 they signed an agreement with Tyndale House to move all production, marketing, and sales to the Tyndale organization. Acquisitions are still handled by NavPress.
Our Daily Bread Publishing is owned by Our Daily Bread Ministries. The publishing arm used to be known as Discovery House Publishing.
Paraclete Press is owned by the Community of Jesus.
Plough Publishing is owned by the Bruderhof Christian Communities.
Standard Publishing (no longer in business), founded in 1872, had been connected to The Christian Church denomination (especially with their curriculum, which was sold to David C. Cook in 2015) but was publicly owned by Standex Corp (on the NY Stock exchange) until 2006 when it was bought by the Wicks Group, a private equity firm. I’m not sure where their book properties ended up. The balance of their intellectual property (two magazines) was bought by Christian Standard Media. So Standard Publishing Company is no more.
[I continue to list Standard here because I had a personal connection with them early in my career. They shared a parent company that owned the Berean Christian Stores where I spent my first 11 years in the industry. The headquarters were in the Standard Publishing building in Cincinnati.]
Warner Press (not to be confused with the former Warner Books) is owned by the Church of God, Anderson, IN.
Westminster/John Knox is owned by the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.
YWAM Publishing is the publishing division of Youth With a Mission.
If I have left out someone, I apologize. I am not trying to duplicate The Christian Writer’s Market Guide. Merely trying to show that there are several publishers in the Christian industry that the corporate giants do not own.
And if I have something wrong with this list, let me know; and I’ll correct it as soon as possible.