Follow JuneCotner on Twitter

I’m frequently asked this question. Since most of my books have been published by major publishers (Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette, Penguin Group, Simon & Schuster, and Holtzbrinck), my bias leans toward encouraging writers to have their books published by one of the large publishers.

What are the advantages of working with a large publisher?

These include the following:

·        Bigger advances – Large publishers can afford to pay higher advances (the money given up front to create the book).

·        Distribution – The key to any book’s success is distribution—how effective is the publisher at getting books into the major chains (Borders and Barnes & Noble)? Usually, a book cannot become successful unless it is picked up by the major chains. Book buyers know that large publishers are careful about the books they publish (because they have higher costs to develop each book), so the buyers feel assured that a book from a larger publishing house has undergone rigorous review.

·        Editorial staff – The large publishers can afford to hire top editors; your book will be in excellent hands.

·        Marketing – Important to the success of any book is evaluating and utilizing all of the marketing channels which are appropriate for the book. A large publisher can afford to hire the best marketing people in the field.

·        Sales reps – Large publishers attract the top sales representatives who, in turn, sell your book to the chains and independent bookstores.

·        Special sales staff – More than half of all books in this country are sold outside of a bookstore environment. Your publisher will need to have an experienced special sales staff who can sell into specialty markets such as Costco, Hallmark, and other retail outlets.

·        Publishing staff – Many other elements factor into the success of your book: the right title, the perfect cover, and developing a sales hook. The large publishers have experienced editorial boards that brainstorm the best ways to make each book successful.

·        Publicity – Another key to success is promoting the book in all the appropriate media: newspaper, magazine, radio, TV, and the worldwide web. Again, large publishers hire the best publicists in the industry.

·        Media response – The media pays more attention to books coming from a large publisher. As Diana Jordan, host of “Between the Lines” (a radio program that goes to 800 AP radio stations) noted, “I pay more attention to books coming from the large houses because I know they will be edited well.”

Are there any disadvantages to a large publishing house? Not really, if your book is geared to a large trade audience (as opposed to being a book that appeals only to the clientele of an academic publisher or a small literary press). So long as you can accept being a little fish in a big pond (and can live with the fact that the large publishers will focus on promoting their New York Times bestselling books), you will gain all of the advantages listed above if you are published by one of the big houses.

How do you find a major publisher?

Most large houses will not accept unsolicited manuscripts, so you will need a literary agent who can submit your manuscript for you. In November’s “Publishing Tip of the Month” I gave tips on the best ways to find an agent.

A decade ago, my agent said there were about 30 publishing houses to which she could submit projects. With the recent buyouts, acquisitions, and creation of media conglomerates, there are only six large publishers.  That’s why a book proposal or a manuscript must be in top shape. If your agent is turned down by one publisher, there are fewer places to “shop it.”

The following is a list of the six largest publishers, along with some of their major imprints. For a complete list of the big houses and their imprints, see the annual issue of the Writer’s Market.

1.         Random House
Sample imprints: Harmony Books; Broadway Books; Doubleday; Crown

2.         Simon & Schuster

3.         HarperCollins

4.         Penguin Group
Sample imprints: Penguin; Perigree; Dutton Books

5.         Hachette Book Group (formerly Time Warner Books)
Sample imprints: Grand Central Publishing; Faith Words; Center Street; and Little, Brown and Company

6.         Holtzbrinck (Germany)
Sample imprints: Macmillan; Henry Holt

Your agent will know which publisher(s) and imprint(s) are the best ones for your manuscript.

© 2010 June Cotner, publishing consultant and author of the bestselling Graces and Dog Blessings and 24 other books. PO Box 2765, Poulsbo, WA 98370 june@junecotner.com


For information on having your book concept analyzed or your nonfiction book proposal evaluated, please go to:



For more articles on how to get published, go to www.JuneCotner.com and click on "Articles on Publishing."