Corporate vs Independent Publishers

Corporate Publishers

A common example of corporate publishers are the big five, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster. These publishers put out thousands of titles annually, including their imprints, and are geared towards making a profit. Many authors have dreams of being published by a big five company and selling their books worldwide but it is important for authors to be aware of the nature of the beast that is corporate publishing before diving in head first. Writer David Sterry, shared one of his experiences publishing with one of the big five in his article, How to Get Successfully Published TODAY: Big 5, Indy, or Self-Publish?, in the Huffington Post. One of the first books him and his wife wrote together was published by a big five publishing house – he did not name which one. He said, “…we were full of grand and fantastic ideas about how to promote and market our book,” but to their disappointment the marketing team, one man, decided instead to send out press releases and a few copies of the books – ultimately resulting in the failure of the book (Sterry). This is just one example of a publishing experience gone wrong and authors being lost in the publishing process. The reality is that corporate publishers are ultimately after a profit, not sustaining writers or literature. This is not to say that they do not put out excellent works, because they do on a regular basis, but that they pick what they publish based on what will make the biggest profit. If ones work is suitable to the needs of a big five publisher they could have great success.


Independent Publishers

Independent Publishers are typically much smaller than corporate publishers. These publishers put out less titles annually and are not as well-known but they have many benefits for authors. Since they publish fewer tittles editors and staff can spend more time with each work. The author can also form personal relationships with their editor and have more of a say in their final product. Seth Pennington with Sibling Rivalry Press said that their authors are solely responsible for the marketing of their books and for this reason they do everything they can to ensure that their authors love their final product. They work with their authors as closely as possible on things such as typeface and cover images, giving the authors a huge say in the appearance of their book – a luxury that is often not available to authors who publish with a big five house. Steve Almond, in the Special Section of Power and Community, noted on the camaraderie felt and the intimacy of the process when publishing with a small press. He said, “I remember [is] the sense of camaraderie. I got to know the directors of publicity and marketing, the other editors, even the publisher. When I called the Algonquin office, the receptionist knew who I was. That might not sound like a big deal, but it certainly felt like one” (Almond).
Independent presses publish many different works depending on the presses particular goals. Some publishers have only scholarly work and textbooks while others have exclusively poetry or a mix of fiction and nonfiction. Presses, like a university press, are more focused on publishing relevant content and breaking even rather than making a profit. Pennington also said that they have their bigger publications to support the other titles that are passionate about publishing even though they know it will not make a large profit.

Corporate publishers tend to have the advantage in terms of resources such as staff, funding, and marketing. Independent publishers offer more control of one’s final product and a more intimate publishing process that still has the potential for great success despite potentially limited resources. Ultimately,“[e]ach author should operate in the traditional vs independent scene based on his or her best interests and actual opportunities” (Foster).



Almond, Steve. The Big Myth: Why Going With a Small Press Can Yield Big Dividends. file:///C:/Users/Morgan/Downloads/Why%20go%20with%20a%20small%20press%20(1).pdf

Foster, Lee. Independent Book Publishing: Is it the Viable Future for Books?. (Copyright © 2016 Lee Foster, Foster Travel Publishing). 

Sterry, David. How to Get Successfully Published TODAY: Big 5, Indy, or Self-Publish?. Sep 02, 2014.


Penguin Random House logo.

Sibling Rivalry Press logo.


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