Updated December 8, 2020
For a comprehensive list check out The Christian Writers Market Guide. Available in print at your favorite retailer or as an online subscription (updated weekly) at www.ChristianWritersMarketGuide.com.
Our 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 There are many fine commercial publishers that do not publish Christian books and thus are left out of this discussion.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 are known as The Big Four. These are the four major conglomerates that control a sizable portion of the marketplace. (In 2016 someone create an incredible graphic for all the imprints of the Big Five. Which will soon the Big Four as of this update.)
Who are these big four? In no particular order:
1. HarperCollins 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 have been 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, and Emenate Books (Charismatic). (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. The book 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.
2. Hachette Book Group Formerly Warner Books (of Time Warner), they were acquired by Hachette Livre, a subsidiary of the French media conglomerate Lagardère Group. Their Christian imprints include FaithWords and Worthy Publishing (which they bought in 2018). A few other imprints include Little Brown, Grand Central, and Center Street.
3. Penguin Random House In 2013 two huge book publishing groups, Penguin and Random House, officially merged and is now known as Penguin Random House (often abbreviated as PRH).
Bertelsmann is a German media conglomerate that owns Penguin Random House which is the largest English-language publisher in the world. 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. The Dutton imprint publishes Tim Keller. Also the Tarcher imprint has done a number of religious titles, not all specifically Christian.
In November 2020 it was announced that PRH won the bid to buy Simon & Schuster which was owned by ViacomCBS (the media conglomerate). 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.
4. Holtzbrinck Publishing Group Owned by the German Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. Primarily known in the U.S. as MacMillan. They do not have a specifically Christian oriented imprint. But do have strong commercial imprints like St. Martin’s, Tor, and Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
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, Brazos, and Chosen – owned by the Baker family. CEO is Dwight Baker.)
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 non-profit publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, founded by the Dennis Family)
Eerdmans (the Eerdmans family)
Elk Lake Publishing (The Haggerty family)
Group Publishing (Thom and Joani Schultz)
Harvest House (Bob Hawkins, Jr.)
Hendrickson Publishers (includes Rose Publishing, bought in 2017 – owned by the Hendrickson family)
Iron Stream Media (includes New Hope Publishers, Iron Stream Books, Ascender Books, LPC Books, and New Hope Kidz)
Kregel Publishing (the Kregel family)
New Leaf Publishing Group (includes Master Books, and New Leaf Press)
P&R Publishing (The P and R stand for Presbyterian and Reformed)
Tyndale House Publishers (a part of the Tyndale House Foundation – formed by founder Ken Taylor and his family)
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 memories are 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 the Christian Literature Crusade
David C. Cook is part of a large non-profit organization that distributes literature around the world. (Purchased the curriculum divisions of Gospel Light and Standard publishing in late 2015 to become the largest evangelical non-denominational 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 non-profit 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 a part of a parachurch organization, InterVarsity.
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 will still be handled by NavPress.
Leafwood Books is a division of Abilene Christian University Press.
Moody Publishing is owned by The Moody Bible Institute.
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 them here because I had a personal connection with Standard. They shared a parent company that owned the Berean Christian Stores where I spent the first 11 years of my life 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 a number of publishers in the Christian industry that are not owned by the corporate giants.
And if I have something wrong with this list, let me know and I’ll correct it as soon as possible.