Tag s | publishing

Publishing is a Global Business

Recently a list of the world’s largest publishers was posted by “Publisher’s Weekly.” It reminded me again of how large the publishing business really is and how easy it is to forget that fact.

Below is the top ten listed along with their sales revenue.

Rank 2017 Publishing Group or Division Parent Company Parent Country 2016 Revenue (in $M)
1 Pearson Pearson PLC UK $5,617
2 RELX Group Reed Elsevier PLC & Reed Elsevier NV UK/NL/US $4,864
3 ThomsonReuters The Woodbridge Company Canada $4,819
4 Bertelsmann Bertelsmann AG Germany $3,697
5 Wolters Kluwer Wolters Kluwer Netherlands $3,384
6 Hachette Livre Lagardère France $2,390
7 Grupo Planeta Grupo Planeta Spain $1,889
8 McGraw-Hill Education Apollo Global Management US $1,757
9 Wiley Wiley US $1,727
10 Springer Nature Springer Nature Germany $1,715

Of the “Big Five” trade publishers we think of in the U.S., note that Bertlesmann owns the majority of Penguin Random House and Pearson owns the rest. This includes their evangelical imprint Waterbrook Multnomah.

Hachette Livre owns Grand Central, Little Brown, and the evangelical imprint FaithWords.

HarperCollins (owned by NewCorp) includes their evangelical division, HarperCollins Christian (Zondervan and Thomas Nelson) which was #12 on the list.

Simon & Schuster (owned by CBS) was #23 on the list. Their evangelical imprint is Howard Books.

The other “Big Five” general market trade publisher commonly known as MacMillan, is owned by Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck (Germany) and was #15 on the list. They do not have an evangelical imprint.

In case you are curious, Scholastic was #11.


Think about this for a minute. If a publisher is selling five billion dollars of books in a year and the average net sale (the amount received by the publisher) is $10 (US) then that publisher sold 500 million individual books….a little more than 1.3 million books per day. [I am using the arbitrary $10 per book average to account for the mean between expensive textbooks and inexpensive ebooks, and so we can all “do the math” together.]

This, of course, does not account for all the indie author sales.

Then multiply that across all of these publishers and consider how many books are sold each day across the globe. The top 10 in the above list account for over 30 billion dollars in book sales. $30,000,000,000.

Then consider that not all of the books are in English. The scope of the business is truly exhilarating when you think about it. In the ranking for #11-#50 six publishers are based in Japan, five more in Germany, four more in France, three in Italy, and two in Korea.

All of the books our agency represents are published in English first. Most of the time translation rights are controlled by the publisher and they handle the licensing to publishers in other countries. However there are times where we’ve negotiated to control those foreign translation rights. This means that I have had the privilege of licensing client’s books in German, French. Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovakian, and Dutch. My office has a full shelf of those books in non-English languages.

Even in English your books can travel the globe. Authors have told me of getting letters from exotic places where their book has been read by an entire village.

My point is this. We can forget how tiny the size of our personal writing and publishing bubble is. Take a moment to cast a much larger vision and pray that what you write can help change the World word-by-word.


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I Love Change, Especially For Someone Else

Several decades ago, the British magazine, The Linguist printed a graphic with the phrase, “The strongest drive is not to Love or Hate; it is one person’s need to change another’s copy.” In the cartoon, the word “change” was crossed out and replaced first by amend, then by revise, alter, …

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Ask Me Anything

With Summer in full mid-form and some planning the rest of their year’s writing efforts, I thought it might be a good chance for you to post below any question you might have about the publishing business. Editing? Proposals? Why so many rejections? How does it all work? Will Amazon …

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Houston, We Have a Problem

Today marks the 46th anniversary of the launch of the infamous Apollo 13 mission to the moon. Two days after the launch an oxygen tank exploded jeopardizing the lives of the astronauts and scrapping the mission. Their ingenious solutions and subsequent safe return on April 17 were later portrayed in the …

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Is Book Publishing Fair?

Anyone who has been around young children has heard their cry of protest, “That’s not fair,” when some sort of consequence is meted out for misbehavior. In reality, what is being objected to is fairness, as consequences were spelled out ahead of time and known to all. Parent: “One more …

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Publishing Acronyms

After being in an industry for a while there is a natural tendency to speak in code. Acronyms flow freely and can be a foreign language to those new to the conversation. Below is an attempt to spell out some of the more common acronyms in the publishing industry and …

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The Great Slot Mystery

Every traditional publishing company has a personality or focus that defines them and their product. Usually that personality or focus is determined by past success. They also know how many books they can effectively publish during a year. Combining focus and capacity, you have the beginnings of a publishing strategy. …

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Time Travel?

Most people find it astounding how long it takes for things to happen in traditional publishing. Even after spending months or even years writing, an author waits for weeks or months to hear from an agent, who if they agree to work together, wait weeks and months for publishers to …

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The Anatomy of the Publishing Cycle

If you ask an editor or an agent “What’s hot right now?” you are too late with the question. The nature of the publishing business is that what you see selling today are books that were conceived, written, published, and marketed over the past couple years or more. That is …

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How Publishers Make Decisions

We all agree that book publishing is changing fast. New technology, new formats and new ways to sell books have changed everything.  Well, almost everything. One thing has not changed…the fundamental way decisions are made as to what new authors an agent represents and publishers publish. It has always been …

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