Sunday, May 20, 2012

Who Are the Big Six? What Does “Indie” Really Mean? Answers to Not-So-Dumb Questions You Were Afraid to Ask

There’s much talk on the Interwebz about “Big Six, “small presses” and “indie publishing.”  But a lot of newer writers aren’t quite sure what these terms really mean.
None of us wants to sound dumb, so we usually don’t ask.
So I’ll pretend you did. (And thanks, Yumi, for asking about the word “indie” in the comments last week.)
Here’s a quick guide:
The Big Six

These are the six multi-national corporations that control most of the Western world’s publishing.
1.     Simon and Schuster
2.     HarperCollins
3.     Random House
4.     Macmillan
5.     The Penguin Group
6.     Hachette 
Two are American: Simon and Schuster and HarperCollins, (although Harper is a division of Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, so it’s pretty international.)
Two are German: Random House is owned by Bertelsmann and Macmillan is owned by Holzbrinck.
One (Penguin) is British
One (Hachette) is French.
Some people include the Canadian Romance giant Harlequin when they’re talking about “big publishing” (which I guess would make them the “Big Seven.”)
Most books you see in stores come from the Big Six/Seven. They have hundreds of imprints with familiar names like Little Brown, Knopf, Viking, NAL, Pocket, Scribner, St. Martins, Dutton, Avon, William Morrow, Crown, Tor, Zondervan, Grand Central, Dell, etc. but they’re all owned by one of those six corporations.
In almost all cases, you need an agent to query the Big Six. There are a few exceptions, like Tor/Forge/Tom Doherty—which is a division of MacMillan—and some children’s divisions of the big houses.
Five of the Big Six—all but Random House—have recently run afoul of the US Department of Justice because of their attempts to keep the price of ebooks artificially high. A lot of people think this means the Big Six are doomed.
I’m not so sure about that. Multinational conglomerates tend to be rather good at hanging onto their trousers in a crisis.
But there’s no doubt the ebook revolution is changing the face of publishing. Most of the changes the Big Six has come up with recently have NOT been author-friendly, but maybe they’ll learn from their mistakes. (We can hope.)

Mid-Sized publishers (sometimes called “small” just to confuse you)

This covers a lot of territory, from university presses to big international operations like Canada’s Harlequin (see above) and the UK’s Bloomsbury (which has branches in London, New York, Berlin, and Sydney.)  
When mid-sizers are successful, they tend to be bought up by the Big Six. (Thomas Nelson, the largest independent Christian publisher, was bought by HarperCollins in 2011.)
There are many dozens of mid-sized houses. They often address particular niche markets. Here’s a sample list—by no means comprehensive
  • Kensington: Most genres except sci-fi and fantasy 
  • Llewellyn: New Age nonfiction and mysteries (under their Midnight Ink imprint)
  • Chronicle Books: Art, food, pop culture (and some illustrated fiction like Griffin and Sabine.)
  • Perseus Books: Travel and other nonfiction genres. 
  • Workman Publishing: Tends toward the literary. Imprints are Algonquin, Black Dog & Leventhal, Storey Publishing, Timber Press, Artisan Books, HighBridge Audio, Fearless Critic.
  • Sourcebooks: Formerly a publisher of financial guidebooks, it’s grown to include fiction in all genres in the last decade. 
  • Sunset: Gardening, cookbooks and how-to
  • Poisoned Pen: (Maybe on the cusp of small and mid-sized.) One of the largest mystery publishers.
  • F + W Media/Writer’s Digest Books: How-to 
  • Dorchester: Genre fiction. Now in bankruptcy. It was the premier mid-sized independent publisher of mass market paperbacks until 2010, when it suspended most paper operations and went to ebooks only (see below.) Its financial difficulties have given it a “not recommended” stamp from most writers’ organization. 
  • Titan Books: UK publisher of movie and TV tie-ins as well as graphic novels. Took on Dorchester’s crime fiction imprint, Hard Case Crime
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Textbook publishers (merged with the Irish company Riverdeep in 2008)
Most mid-sized publishers want agented submissions, but not all. Kensington still accepts unagented queries for all their lines (snail mail only.) Check websites for submission guidelines. Midnight Ink no longer accepts unagented queries, but some Harlequin lines do. Right now, they include Harlequin HeartwarmingKimani PressHarlequin Historical Undone, and Nocturne Cravings .
Here’s a database of midsized and small publishers compiled by Canadian thriller author Jack King .
NOTE: Mid-sizers tend to pay smaller advances and lower royalties (that includes Harlequin.) They also tend to be the most financially precarious. So expect some of these to go the way of Dorchester if they don’t keep up with the times.


Amazon is a bookstore that has become a book publisher. It has a number of lines in different genres:
·       Amazon Encore: Reprints of self-published and out of print books
·       Amazon Crossing: Books in translation
·       Thomas and Mercer:  Thrillers
·       Montlake: Romance
·       47 North: SciFi
·       New Harvest: General Fiction—which will be published in conjunction with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (see how convoluted this all gets?)

You need great sales as a self-pubber to be approached by Amazon’s publishing wing, but agents are also selling directly to Amazon.
Amazon has some of the most author-friendly deals around, BUT other bookstores are reluctant to carry their products because of the obvious conflict of interest.
Other online retailers like iTunes/Apple may follow suit.
Brick and mortar bookstores are also producing their own books. This isn’t new. City Lights in San Francisco has had its own publishing wing since 1955, but with POD technology, this may become a trend that will help bookstores stay alive.

Independent Ebook Publishers

These are new publishers like Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Press (with more start-ups all the time.) They publish primarily ebooks and usually appeal to a particular niche.
Expect to see more and more of these.
Because ebooks have low overhead, they can be more author friendly and often provide some marketing help for their authors. (Samhain is branching into print, although the bulk of their titles are ebooks.)
These generally do not require an agent for submissions. But because this is a new industry, check them out thoroughly and try to get referrals from satisfied clients.

Small Presses

These are sometimes called “indie presses.” (Ten years ago, this is what people meant by “indie” publishing, but now self-pubbers have kind of taken over the word.)
There are thousands of them. It’s hard to find useful listings because the number is never stable. They spring up and get knocked down like a literary version of Whac-A-Mole.
Some, like Beacon Press, GrayWolf, and Copper Canyon Press are prestigious and have been around for decades.
Some are regional and publish books specific to one area--like guidebooks and local history.
Others address niche genres, like Canada’s SciFi publisher Edge , and noir mystery publisher BleakHouseBooks, or New England Cozy specialist Mainly Murder Press.
They tend to focus on poetry and literary fiction, so if you're a literary writer, you may find your home here. Poets and Writers has a great database of literary small pressesFor more general list of small publishers, check the Writer's Resource Directory, curated by author (& friend of this blog) T.K. Richardson. It's a great resource for publishing info in general. 
Small presses are usually labors of love and nobody gets rich, but they’re often a good way to break in to print and lots of authors are very happy to stay with a small press where there is a more personal interaction with editors.
Authors are responsible for their own marketing and there’s generally no advance, but higher royalties.
These publishers generally don’t want to deal with agents—writers should query the editors directly. (Remember to check for submission guidelines on their websites.)
But beware: Check them out thoroughly with sites like Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors and if they’re not well-established, contact other clients before you sign. And always have a lawyer or publishing professional look at the contract before you sign.


These are a tiny version of the small press—usually one or two-person operations, generally oriented toward the literary. They often publish chapbooks of poetry. They operate on a shoestring, and are usually run as a hobby.
Often these are run by authors who are essentially self-publishers who also take on a few colleagues and friends. A micropress can be a friendly, supportive place for a writer to start out. But beware: they can also be clueless and unprofessional. There’s a horror story at Writer Beware this week about a writer who had her book rewritten without her permission by a “publisher” of this type.
Some of these can be a great first step into publishing, but look for red flags. Grandiosity, unrealistic promises, negativity about the industry, and bad spelling/grammar on the website are tell-tale signs.

Vanity Presses

These are publishers who make their money from services to authors rather from sales of books.
Before ebooks and POD (print on demand) technology, vanity presses were mostly pricey self-indulgences—although every so often a vanity-published book like 1990s phenomenon The Celestine Prophecy made it to mainstream readers.
Two of the best known of the traditional vanity presses are Vantage and Dorrance.
But as prices came down and self-publishing took off, the line between real publishers, printing services, and vanity presses has blurred. A lot of authors are taken in by vanity publishers posing as real publishers.
But others successfully use vanity presses as printers for self-publishing and--with a lot of promotion--make the bestseller lists with books like The Christmas Box and Legally Blonde. 
               The problem is, most vanity publishers overcharge for services so their books are too pricey to be profitable for the author. And there can be other problems. For instance, PublishAmerica ties up the author’s copyright for seven years. 
              But vanity publishers are not all scammers, and they can be useful for books that aren't produced to be profitable, like family histories and recipes, memoirs and poetry collections.
Here are some of the best known vanity publishers
·       PublishAmerica (aka Independence Books)
·       Tate Publishing
·       AuthorHouse (which has many imprints)
·       XLibris
·       iUniverse
·       Ivy House
·       Trafford Publishing

Indie Publishing

True DIY publishing. You do everything yourself or hire somebody to do it for you. You can do this several ways:
·       Get help from a publishing facilitator like Smashwords or BookBaby, who for a flat fee will code your ebook and upload to different retail platforms and keep track of royalties. They also offer inexpensive cover design and other services.
·       Get shepherded through the process by an agent. A number of agents are actually helping authors become indie publishers these days—usually existing clients. Some industry purists consider this a conflict of interest, but the agented authors I know who have published through their agents have nothing but good things to say about this.
·       Hire your own private editor, cover designer, and coder and keep complete control.
NOTE: “Complete control” does not extend to Amazon. Author-friendly as it is, the ’Zon has glitches that can’t be controlled by anybody, apparently. Ruth Harris has been trying to get Amazon to post the correct book cover art on her Amazon author page for six months now, to no avail, and Saffina Desforges had her bestselling thriller Sugar and Spice disappear from for over a month with no explanation—when you’re selling an average of 10,000 books a month, that’s a hefty price for some glitch.
If you’re an indie publisher who wants your books printed in hard copy as well as electronic form, you’ll need the services of—

P.O. D. Publishing Service Providers

These are printer/distributors who use print on demand technology. This means that instead of having a huge print run for your book that has to be stored in a warehouse, the book is only printed when it is ordered.
Most small presses use these providers, too.
The primary POD providers are:

  • CreateSpace: Owned by Amazon. Printing with them gets you on Amazon, which owns a huge share of the book market
  • LightningSource: Owned by Ingram, the biggest book distributor in the US. Ingram supplies bookstores, so if you want to see your book in your local bookstore window, LS has the advantage.
  • The only printer I know of that doesn’t charge upfront fees. So even though they keep 20%, I’m putting them in the service provider category rather than with vanity presses. They'll sell your books on their own site (not terribly customer-friendly) and post them to Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online retailers worldwide.
For a great comparison between Lightning Source and CreateSpace, small press owner Robin Sullivan has a great analysis on her blog Write to Publish
The ebook revolution is rapidly shifting the old publishing paradigm, and nobody’s quite sure what’s coming next. Much of what I’ve written here will probably be obsolete by next year.
But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the old guard. They may have life in them yet.I think educating yourself about the industry as it is now will help you make decisions about what path might work best for you in the future. One of the best ways to learn about the industry is to subscribe to Publishers Lunch, a free newsletter from Publishers Marketplace.
Yes, publishing companies do seem to merge and change partners like square dancers on speed, but they’re still very much with us. And they're learning to adapt with the changing times. (Some are learning faster than others, and I have no doubt some will fall to the e-revolution.)
As I said last week, learn everything you can and don’t let anybody bully you into making a choice you’re not comfortable with. 
We live in an age when authors have more choices than ever before, and if you don’t like the choices you’re being offered right now, wait a few weeks and something new is bound to pop up!

What about you, scriveners? Did you know the names of the Big Six? How many mid-sized publishers can you name? (Let’s add some to my list. I hardly scratched the surface here.) And if you know of a great small publisher or ebook publisher, do leave that name, as well. If you’ve had experience with them, good or bad, we'd like to hear about it. Any additions, subtractions or caveats welcome. 


  1. Wow, that's a lot of information, Anne!
    I'm happy with my small, independent press right now. I probably could've sold more books with a bigger publisher, but both of mine are Amazon Best Sellers, and that's good enough for me.

  2. Thanks for clearing this up! The publishing world is very confusing!

    It's also amazing how varied the publishing industry is.

  3. Oh Anne, this is totally fantastic. What a comprehensive informative post. Just what the newbies, and some of us oldies need. With the publishing world in uproar, it's good to see everything laid out in plain black and white English (with links is fantastic) so we all can get a better idea of where we want to go in the publishing arena.

    Great job. Really great job!

  4. Many beginner writers will greatly appreciate this post - hopefully they find it! Awesome job.

  5. That's a great post. Wish I had someone explain all this to me a year ago. Would have save hours of research:) I'm a DIY indie and love it so far!

  6. Great information sharing. All this information is readily available all over the internet and is filled with a wealth of information on it. It's funny that 'Indie' is now a cool word but just 3 years ago saying you were with a small publisher, or independently published, or self-published would get you ripped apart by other authors, reviewers and all. But there has been a rather successful line of independent self published authors that were around way before it was cool to be independent. The owner of Urban Bookstores, Carl Weber was one of them. Just to name a few.

  7. Thank you thank you thank you for this list. I even learned a bit (and I thought I pretty much 'knew' the system). I have this image now of little people popping up holding signs with "Harlequin", "Penguin" etc, and authors trying to whack them with a club.

    Whac-a-mole has got to be the best description I've heard in a long time.

  8. Alex--You're certainly one of the success stories for the small press. It's where I'm comfortable right now, too.

    Kamille--I think it's good to realize there is variety, and the industry isn't one huge monolith that's out to get authors--which is how it sometimes seems when you're starting out.

    Anne-Thanks a lot. I hope people will find it helpful.

    Laura--Reaching the right people is always the problem isn't it?

    Marta--It took me years to get this stuff straight myself. And then everything keeps changing...

    LM--Yes, all this info is available on the Internet (that's how I found it :-)But I wanted to organize it so it's easier to see the whole picture. Absolute Write can be awfully daunting for a newbie to navigate, and there's a lot of snark against indies and small publishers that I find off-putting. Still, it's always good to do a search there before you sign with a small publisher. Then you have to decide for yourself if it's sour grapes talking or a real warning.

    And yes, there have always been indies: Mark Twain and Charles Dickens to mention a couple who didn't do too badly.

  9. Andrea--I got the giggles when I thought of that metaphor, too. It sure is the way the industry seems right now.

  10. Thanks, Anne, for a fabulously informative post & for laying out in a coherent fashion the many, many choices. Even tho I've worked in publishing for a long time, some of the imprints you list are new to me—A)because they ARE new or B)because I'm clueless. ;-)

    I would add Kensington to the list of mid-sized publishers. The company has a number of imprints including Zebra & Pinnacle. I was the publisher of Kensington in an earlier life & the company was founded by the late Walter Zacharias, a brilliant publisher who came out of the sales/distribution side back when the mmpb ruled & who stood his ground & stayed independent even as publishers were racing to consolidate.

  11. Ruth--Thanks for the info on Kensington! I'll add it right now. I was sure it had been gobbled up by one of the Big Six by now.

    I guess I thought it couldn't have survived independently without you at the helm. :-)

    And I see that Kensington still publishes some of the biggies in Romance like Fern Michaels.

  12. Anne, great post as always. Glad I take the time to read comments since Ruth already mentioned Kensington and their imprints. They bill themselves as the largest independent publisher in the US and take non agented work for all imprints.

    For even lesser known small genre press both RWA and MWA have lists on their web pages that are accessible to non-members.

    Since we all love these types of number crunches: Harlequin sold more books than all of the Big Six COMBINED every year since 2008. They out sell everyone and most of their imprints still allow non-agented work.

    It is a great time to be involved in this brave new world of publishing. Hands down there have never been so many exciting opportunities for both aspiring and pub'd writers :)

    Thanks again !!

  13. thanks Anne, I couldn't name the big 6 (7) and I also thought they would all be American. this was great info for my mind.

    I want to thank Ruth Harris for teaming up with you, although, I have read your blog before she joined. I think the two of you are a wonderful pairing.

  14. Hi, Anne! Another great post. A bit of information readers may find useful. Neither CreateSpace nor LightningSource charges up front for printing. (Your post says that Lulu is the only company to do this.)

    LightningSource does charge to upload interior and cover files, a hefty $40 each file. It also charges to upload any changes you make in your files (Also $40). But LS charges nothing (Aside from the cost of printing and mailing a proof––$30) for just printing the books and making them available on their huge distribution network. If you order a bunch of books for yourself, they charge you for them, of course.

    CreateSpace makes no charges for initial uploads or changes in files. It does charge for proofs––the cost of printing the book + shipping.

    I have books printed by Lightning Source and CreateSpace. I find the quality of LS books superior to CS. LS paper is better and the cover printing far superior.

    However, LS is HARD to deal with initially. You basically have to present the credentials (resale #, tax inf) of a small press for them to sign you. Their requirements for file formatting are exacting. Once in, they're great. You get a rep and personal service.

    CreateSpace uses heavier, coarser paper, its creme color is yellowish, and its cover printing doesn't come anywhere near LS.

    What's good about CS? It's EASY to sign up for and upload files, with no additional changes for making changes.

    Sometimes, that's enough to warrant its use.

    Not very newsy bulletin: There's a war going on between Amazon/CreateSpace and LightningSource.

    LS, owned my Ingram, has direct supply lines to Amazon. In the past, you could print with LS and your books would be immediately available on Amazon, listed as "In stock."

    Until Amazon stopped treating LS books equally with its CS books. (For a more complete explanation, look at Aaron Shepard's "POD for Profit" and his newer, "Plan B", which was written to counter what I talk about above.)

    How does the war manifest? Overnight, I found my LS printed books showing up on their Amazon pages as available in 1-3 weeks, the kiss of death for sales. They were, in fact, as available as Amazon's CS books.

    So––though I strongly prefer LightningSource as a printer and company to work with, I am now using CreateSpace. My books show up on Amazon as "In Stock." Nuf said.

    LS does have the advantage of Ingram's superior distribution. (Amazon's extended distribution uses Ingram's resources.)

    Enough on that subject. Do read Shepard's book before going with either company. Aiming at Amazon is also good.

    Re: Indie Publishing and the Big Six/Seven. Indie publishing can be satisfying and lucrative (my ebooks regularly are Amazon bestsellers), but its LOTS of work. LOTS, LOTS, LOTS. Do you want to spend your life making and selling books? That's something to think about, long and hard.


  15. When I first started looking into the publishing world, it felt like you could only get into print with the big 6. I still go into bookstores and nearly everything is owned by a super-publisher.

  16. Florence: Thanks much for the info on RWA and MWA having free lists of genre publishers. I've added Kensington to the body of the post now. As you say, they do NOT require an agent. Harlequin does for all but the lines I've listed above, but those lines change often, so always check.

    Alice--Thanks! I'm so lucky to have Ruth as my blog partner. I've been a fan of her books for years, so I was totally jazzed when she agreed to join forces last summer.

    Sandy--I can't thank you enough for the detailed and useful comment! I did not know CS and LS are almost as cheap up front as Lulu--or that you need a small business id for LS. I'd heard it costs $300+ to print with LS and CS, but I'm not sure where I got that figure--maybe that's the cost of getting the required business credentials. I know the LS/CS battle is ongoing and the 'Zon is squashing the competition because people like "easy". I guess if they make accessing competition a little harder, they win even bigger.

    Thanks also for the useful advice about self-publishing. It's essentially running a small business, which is really hard work.

    Kamile--I think a lot of people think that. I sure did. I was sure it was agent/Big 6 or self-pub. But there ARE alternatives.

  17. Fantastic resource, Anne! Just shared this post with my followers. Keep up the great work.

  18. Great resource! I'm a newbie, so this really helped a lot. I'm going to share this info on Twitter as well.

  19. This blog is so interesting and to the point, I would like to use it as a guest blog on my WRITERS REMINDER (not on Google). May I? Hope Clark tweeted a reference or I would never have found it. I have close to a thousand subscribers and not enough time in the day to read all the important posts I want to read. Yours I would like to keep for reference! or go to the main website and choose "Writers Reminder" (bottom of the list), then click on the Reminder - May/June 2012

  20. Great information! Thanks for including so many publishing terms beyond the "big 6" as well. I feel much more informed now.

  21. Suzannah--Thanks, and thanks for the share!

    Handy--Thanks for the tweet!

    Carolyn--I'm glad you like the post. Hope Clark is the best. I'm actually fairly busy too, with our own followers here, and my 7 books published since last Sept with another coming out in a couple of weeks, so I know how hard it is to keep up!

    Leslie--I think it's so important to know there are many options in between the Big 6 and self-publishing.

  22. I've been calling myself a micropublisher, but you and others would call me an indie publisher. Anyway, I have self-published nine books plus a second edition of one of them. I've been in business for almost 20 years. AND, I have always offset printed my books. Unless you want to print no more than 500 or fewer books, don't want interior color, and are willing to accept inferior quality AND a much higher per-unit cost, you really don't want print on demand. There are several offset printers who specialize in dealing with very small publishers and short print runs, and they have great quality and are easy to work with.

  23. What a GREAT resource for writers, Anne. Thank you so much for this post.

  24. Just adding my thanks for this great resource!

  25. Yes, thank you, highly informative; the links led me to other links I found useful too. In general, the article was kind of a like a pep talk for me about the need to brush up on one's knowledge of the industry on an ongoing basis - something that on occasion seems a daunting task indeed, and one, even though I have already told myself not to fall behind with, that reminds me its not just me; we ALL need to keep up in this ever-changing industry. I particularly appreciated the info re: small presses in Canada. Will look forward to your future posts.

  26. Frances--Fascinating to hear that somebody is self-publishing still using offset printing! If you have photographs, I can see it might be superior. Enhanced ebooks are going to be a huge boon to you. Nook already has color on its cheapest e-reader, so Kindle can't be far behind. Soon all ebooks may be illustrated.

    I call it a "micropress" if there's more than one author and "self" or "indie" publishing if there's just one person doing the whole thing the DIY way.

    Patricia and Deb--So glad you find it useful.

    SP--I tried to make all those links go to submission guidelines if the presses take unagented submissions. Writers need to know there are many roads open to us.

  27. I'm too tired to make a real comment, so I might have to come back and read this again at some point. At least I've bookmarked it so I can. :}

    Thank you, as always, for the useful information. I had no idea Harlequin was Canadian, or not always thought of as one of the big six... It's probably on of the few names I knew before I started becoming serious about about being a writer.

    :} Cathryn

  28. Anne, thank you so much for this breakdown. It is extremely helpful. I'm in the middle of my rewrite, so I'm seriously now trying to figure out what publishing direction I wish to take. Your post has provided the most comprehensive information I've seen and I'm grateful!


  29. If there is a writer's heaven, you will be given special golden wings. I already knew a lot of what you described here, but not in such a comprehensive way. This is definitely a post to bookmark. Thanks and thanks and thanks.

  30. This is a great 'keeper' post. I knew some of this but you've laid it out beautifully. Thank you.

  31. Wow! A gold mine of great information. I can especially relate to the small/mini press who prints your book for free, but then charges so much for author copies that you can't make even a small profit. Another pet peeve is setting the price of the e-book too high. $6.99 is about top for a small press mystery.

  32. That's a cool history lesson. Thanks Anne. Learned a few things here.

  33. Hi Anne, this is great information all wrapped up in one post. I'll definitely bookmark this page. I've also linked to it from my blog. Today I did a post titled 'Should You Consider A Small Press?'and added a link over here at the end. I hope you don't mind me mentioning it here in the comment section. Your post is one I'll bookmark for future reference.

  34. Cathryn--The Harlequin parent company used to be called Mills and Boon, and Harlequin was their US branch, but at some point they ditched the M & B title. It's sooo hard to keep up.

    Ann--Glad it's useful.

    Tonya--I think it's worthwhile to try the agent route first, but midsized publishers are worth looking at. Some may not last, but Poison Pen seems to be doing great and Kensington has been around a long time. Both take unagented fiction. If you have your first couple of books with a trad. publisher, you get a real leg up if you decide to indie pub later.

    Judith--Aw shucks. Thanks. Glad it helps. I actually put it together to try to get it all straight in my own head.

    LD, Ben, and Madeline--Thanks a bunch.

    Sue--Small publishers can definitely be problematic. They may not be trying to make money off their authors, but if they're perfectionist types who want the best paper, etc, the books will be too expensive to make a profit. You bring up an important point: ALWAYS CHECK THE PRICES OF THE BOOKS before you submit. If you can't afford them, your readers won't either.

    TK--That's exactly what comments are for--networking. I'll check out your post! Small publishers are an option, but we need to keep our eyes open.

  35. Hi New follower from Anne Gallagher's blog. Thanks so much for taking the time to put all that information together!

  36. Great stuff as always, Anne; this was really helpful for me to learn more about how the Big Six and their imprints work, plus how to figure out if a publisher is an imprint or an independent/small publisher. Thanks a ton!

    Btw...did you see the news this morning about Houghton Mifflin?? Bankrupt too....

  37. You hit it out of the park with this one, Anne. Thank you for your generosity. A fantastic overview of the publishing industry with great links. This will help me get my book out there.

  38. Johanna--Welcome. Anne has a great author blog. She knows how to do it right and get a loyal blog following. I learn a lot there about historical fiction writing.

    Veronika--Yikes. What did I say about how fast this business changes? Thanks for letting me know about the bankruptcy. I wonder what that means for the proposed Amazon partnership?

    Diana--Thanks! If I can help a few writers get on the right career path with fewer mistakes than I made, I'll feel like I'm doing my job.

  39. Wow! So much information so well compacted! I didn't realize I knew so little until you showed me how much there was to know. Thank you so much. You are amazing!

  40. Most informative, as always!

    Sandy's comment on POD was also most instructive.

    Up until literally this past week CreateSpace wasn't a realistic option for those in the UK and Europe. Which gave a big opportunity for the British Arts Council funded FeedARead (formerly Yourwriteon) to provide a respectable alternative POD service.

    Leaving aside their feeble choice of names (Youwriteon is still the peer group review site, FeedARead the new name for the publishing arm) they seem to offer a straightforward service, with free creation, but a hefty £80 ($130 USD) for distribution. And they are run by a team who look down on ebooks.

    For those who prefer not to use Amazon for any reason it is a viable alternative to LS for POD.

  41. This is a truly outstanding post. Thank you for sharing!

  42. I have little information about international publishing and it is quite interesting for me to read such a summary.
    Thank you for sharing.

  43. Christine--It sure took me a while to get my brain around all the different companies and where they sit in the publishing hierarchy.

    Katie--Thanks! Nice to see you here.

    Mark--Sandy's great comment is full of important information. It's amazing how fast it all changes though--with Create Space now in Europe, I wonder how that will work with Waterstones, since they've just announced teaming with Amazon? FeedaRead is a childish name, isn't it. But then, so is Google.

    Susan--Glad it's helpful!

    Mehmetarat--Publishing really is an international business, as you can see from the ownership of the big publishers. And Publishers Lunch ran a piece today saying foreign sales are up 333% for US publishers.

  44. This is the first time I have read your blog and I was blown away with the valuable information you have provided. I am subscribing as soon as I post this. Thanks very much, Anne, and thanks to my writer friend Stephanie Ciofalo for pointing me in this direction.

  45. Sandra--Welcome! And thanks to Stephanie. We only post on Sundays, so you won't get spammed with updates :-)

  46. Thank you for answering my question! I'm really new to all this and this post cleared up a lot. Again, thank you!

  47. Yumi--I'm so glad you came back to read the post you inspired. And thanks for asking a smart question!

  48. What a great and informative run-down here! I've bookmarked this!! Thanks. :)

  49. This is a great, comprehensive and non-partisan list, Anne. Thanks for the research and time that went into this. It's a great guide to bookmark and you're right--we don't ask the question very often, but certainly I've wondered.

  50. Unbelievably useful helpful educational details!! Thank you Anne, and thank you all the commentators who added more ideas, tips, and details as well. Definitely needs to be kept in my "star" file! Cheers.

  51. Carol--Thanks for the bookmarking!

    Sierra--Nice to see you here. I'm glad people who've been around a while find new things in it too. (I didn't know a lot of this stuff until I started researching.)

    Celia--The commenters here are so helpful. I really appreciate the input, too.

  52. Wow, wow, wow. What an awesome blast of information. Thanks so much!

  53. Nice to find all of this information in one place for once. =)

    Also filling in the Christian Fantasy/SciFi genre is Marcher Lord Press. The owner/editor has years of experience at larger presses (Multnomah, Strang Communications, NavPress...) and has a couple of Writers Digest books to his name (Plot Vs Character and The First 50 Pages)
    Thought MLP has only been around since 2008, he is well-established in the industry.

    (I'm only recommending him because I've learned a TON from his teachings.) =)

  54. I believe the Penguin Group belongs to Pearson, which you have not mentioned among the big ones.

  55. Julie--Thanks!

    Jenni--Good to know the name of a Christian small press. Thanks!

    Anon--Penguin was bought by Pearson in 1970, but retained the Penguin name, so the textbook publisher called "Pearson" is actually an imprint of the larger company, called Penguin.

  56. Hi Anne I've been working with Zumaya Publications as a graphic designer (Cover design) for about a year now.

    Zumaya Publications LLC is a Austin TX-based micro-press that publishes in trade paperback and ebook. Zumaya accepts adult and juvenile fiction in all genres except erotica; they do not publish picture books or poetry. Query before submission, guidelines available at website and Scribd.

    Hope you can add them to your list.

    Kind regards,
    Tamian Wood
    Graphic Designer
    Beyond Design International

  57. Sorry, I hit enter before I was actually finished. I wanted to add the link to Zumaya's web site so your readers can find them easily.

    And the Executive Editor/Publisher, Elizabeth Burton is a treasure to work with. And one of their cover designers, is GREAT! (If I do say so myself) ;-) JK

    Kind regards,
    Tamian Wood
    Graphic Designer
    Beyond Design International

  58. Thanks for the great info, Tamian!

  59. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  60. Thank you so much for clarifying the terms and giving clear examples of who is who in publishing.

  61. Interesting list of Vanity Presses you have. I recently had the need to check out one of them on the BBB site, only to find this list of Alternate Business Names:
    Author Solutions, Inc.
    iUniverse, Inc.
    Trafford Publishing
    Balboa Press
    Westbow Press
    Legacy Keeper
    Author Learning Center
    Abbott Press
    Inspiring Voices
    Content Distributors Inc
    Responder Media

    From this, it seems you've listed the same parent company four times!

    On another point, I've found that whereas mostly prints books and has recently branched out to merchandising items, started out with the merchandising items and then added books. Both are good with little to no upfront costs until you order a printed copy of your book!

    Thanks for all the good info!

  62. This is wonderful information, Anne! And you're right -- I was afraid to ask some of these questions. Thanks so much for helping me to not feel "so dumb." :)

  63. Reeta-- Glad it helps.

    Westley--Thanks for the update. I knew AuthorHouse had gobbled up some of the other vanity publishers, but I didn't know it had bought so many of the well known ones.So Trafford (formerly Canadian) iUniverse, and XLibris are all owned by the same outfit now? In any case, beware all of them. They have many different 'packages' but they pretty much all rip off the author.

    I didn't know about Cafe Press branching into books. I know they make nice but expensive T-shirts.

    Jan--The only dumb questions are the ones you DON'T ask :-)

  64. Hi, I had a very bad experience with Xlibris in 2005 and would not recommend them at all. I found out too late that the books literally fall apart in your hands!

    I am now working with a good publishing house, and have confidence that the book that will be published is not going to fall apart.

  65. Anon--Sorry you had such a bad experience with XLibris. Now that they are owned by AuthorHouse (as Westley let me know--thanks Westley!) they may have better quality POD technology, but they are still a vanity press who charge too much for mostly non-existent services. If you're self-pubbing, CreateSpace and LightningSource are printers with competitive pricing and good product (although you'll see in the comments above that LS seems to have better quality.) But what's important is they don't pretend to be "publishers." YOU get to have that title.

  66. I can't believe I missed this one! You handed me a ton of GREAT information, now I hope I can retain it all. P.S. You're blog is one of my favorites...

  67. Christine--Thanks a bunch. A lot of this info is going to be available in a book--both ebook and print--in our book HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE...AND KEEP YOUR E-SANITY! It debuts in June.

  68. Lots of useful info here. Dunno if anyone has listed them, but I've found Wild Child Publishing to be good to work with.

  69. JL--Thanks for the info on Wild Child. It helps a lot to have the names of some good small presses. So many of them are well-intentioned, but so undercapitalized, they can't pay their authors.

    BTW, I now have a Kindle and I just downloaded your book "Don't Get Mad..." Can't wait to read it!

  70. Fantastic blog... some publishes I knew about, some I didn't:)

  71. Terrific article. Thanks a lot! Definitely bookmarking this one.

  72. Hi Anne. A follower tipped us to your blog and list, and I'd like to add Marcher Lord Press to the small presses list ( It's the premier publisher of Christian fantasy and science fiction, but you can read more about the company and the owner/publisher at the bottom of the main page.

    Thanks for compiling such a comprehensive and informative list. We would be honored to be included.

    ~Tiffany Amber Stockton
    Virtual Assistant
    Marcher Lord Press

  73. Amber--Thanks so much for stopping by with your info! Yours is exactly the kind of small press that I think is one of the best alternatives for new authors these days. You have a targeted niche with your own audience hungry for new books in the genre. I urge authors of Christian fantasy/scifi to contact you!


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