Zondervan and Thomas Nelson Fiction Merge

by Steve Laube

You may have read about some of the reorganization that has begun after the sale of Thomas Nelson to Harper Collins, which already owned Zondervan. This past week there was a new development that touches the fiction publishing programs. Instead of two separate entities, there will be one fiction division moving forward. Zondervan’s editorial team of Sue Brower and Becky Philpott now report to Daisy Hutton who has been the new head of Thomas Nelson fiction since May. Therefore, in acquisitions, there will be a centralized clearing house for all new projects no matter who is acquiring them. As time goes by each brand name, “Zondervan Fiction” or “Thomas Nelson Fiction,” will develop their own distinctives. But for now, nothing changes.

The Zondervan YA and middle grade acquisition editors will remain under the Zonderkidz division and not move over under Thomas Nelson.

Fiction marketing will be overseen by Katie Bond who was in charge of Nelson Fiction marketing. This will create some dedicated synergy between the new releases, similar in some ways to the synergies we see in the Bethany House and Revell offerings. One catalog, two brands. We have been promised that they are committed to providing marketing support according to their already approved levels, and each brand plans take advantage of the increased synergies and combined efforts. Let’s hope that these efforts will result in better market penetration and greater visibility for each release. I am confident that this transition will be relatively seamless and that no Zondervan or Nelson author should worry. Marketing and Publicity is as much an art as it is a science. With the marketplace constantly shifting it is good that there will be a dedicated fiction team to implement new ideas, especially since fiction sells differently than non-fiction.

The sales division is still being reorganized. Top management is set to oversee both divisions under the roof of the HarperCollins Christian Publishing Division. But exactly how this will shake out down to individual territories, responsibilities, and key accounts is being discussed. Remember, much of this reorganization is less than a week old, so having definitive answers of that scale is not realistic.

The merger of two powerful fiction imprints is not foreign in our industry. Nine and a half years ago (2003) Baker Books, which already had Revell fiction, bought Bethany House. One of the benefits to the merger was that Bethany House authors saw an increase in sales because the Baker side of the equation had new avenues for sales. And Revell fiction saw an increase due to the evident market success of Bethany House’s fiction line. Today, all these years later, each division is distinct and has their own editorial oversight. Each have their strong authors and happily co-exist.

When Waterbrook bought Multnomah in 2006 again there were two distinct fiction divisions led by two strong editors. In that case, after a few years, it was decided to reduce the number of overall titles published and ultimately Multnomah fiction faded, to a certain extent. This was a strategic overall publishing plan and was not a reflection on the quality of the books or the acquisitions editor. In my opinion it was as much a function of market realities (the fiction  divisions were merged in November 2008…at the height of the economic downturn).

Back to the Nelson/Zondervan fiction combo. The bottom line is that, for now, it will be business as usual. Authors will “feel” very little change other than those with new books will likely have a new face talking to them about marketing. And veteran authors will tell you that having a new face in marketing has been par for the course across the industry. Fortunately Daisy Hutton, the head of the Nelson fiction division is a great communicator and she has pledged to keep us agents in the loop regarding changes and transitions. I feel like we have a open door to discuss any bumps in the road so that ultimately our authors will be well served…and that the marketplace will find and read some wonderful new fiction in the coming months.

12 Responses to Zondervan and Thomas Nelson Fiction Merge

  1. Tricia Goyer October 1, 2012 at 5:21 am #

    I had a non-fiction book releasing right as Multnomah was bought by Random House. I had a novel releasing when Summerside was purchased by Guideposts. I currently have a novel releasing in three weeks with Zondervan 🙂 The only thing certain in life and publishing is that things will change!

    As a Zondervan fiction author I’ve been paying attention to this! As a Christ-follower I’m praying for the employees as they get their footing. I’m thankful for the men and women in the Christian Publishing industry who love God, love their authors, and work their hardest to spread the good news of the gospel through books!

    Readers will have no idea what’s happening. They’ll still be buying their favorite books by their favorite authors. That’s the best news of all.

    Even in the midst of business changes I’m thankful for the chance to keep writing stories that will touch readers’ hearts, trusting that everyone involved will do their best to get my novels (our novels) into readers’ hands!

    • Jeanne October 1, 2012 at 7:41 am #

      Thanks for sharing your insight and perspective, Tricia!

  2. Laurie Alice Eakes October 1, 2012 at 5:45 am #

    Tricia said it more eloquently than I can, so I simply say: I concur.

  3. Colleen Coble October 1, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    It’s definitely been a year of change for those of us at Thomas Nelson fiction! But I have to say that we are in good hands with Daisy Hutton at the helm! She is super smart, engaging, and just plain savvy about publishing. I adore her, and she is who we need with this sea shift change going on. Katie is going to do a terrific job for everyone too. She’s been my publicity manager for 5 years, and she is so calm and capable as she juggles all those balls in the air. I’m looking forward to this new partnership with our Zondervan colleagues! Exciting times. 🙂

  4. Bonnie S. Calhoun October 1, 2012 at 6:39 am #

    In Ecclesiastes 4:12 it says: “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him…” I’d say this joining has put them both in a great position to do battle for the Kingdom.

  5. Robin Patchen October 1, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    After listening to Daisy Hutton speak at ACFW, I have no doubt that she’ll manage this increased responsibility with grace and competence.

    Changes like this remind me that I need to be praying specifically for Christian publishers, editors, agents and writers. God can use this industry for His ultimate good if we keep ourselves from evil and strive for excellence.

  6. Lindsay Harrel October 1, 2012 at 7:22 am #

    Thanks for the information! Good to know. 🙂

  7. Shannon Dittemore October 1, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    As I read the handful of responses ahead of mine, I’m grateful. There are so many seasoned authors who’ve navigated this before and who seem perfectly as ease to let God truly be in control. They set the bar for us newer authors and I’m happy to watch them and learn. My short time with Thomas Nelson has taught me just how dedicated the Fiction team is to excellence. I have every confidence that their commitment to the written word and to their roster of authors will not change. Looking forward to the road ahead.

  8. tcavey October 1, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    Thanks for the breakdown! Great info to be aware of.
    God bless.

  9. Rebecca DeMarino October 1, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    Thank you for the insight and the reassurance that change and moving forward is not to be feared!

    • Jeanne October 1, 2012 at 7:42 am #


  10. Jan Cline October 4, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    I’m wondering what those who have submissions in to Zondervan should do. I have tried to contact them over the last few months about a partial MS I submitted that was requested at a conference. I’ve gotten no response, so I dont’ know if that means no, or if they are just caught up in the transition. I guess time will tell 🙂
    Thanks for clearing up some questions for us.

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