Historically, a publisher has been the gatekeeper of literature, bringing readers and authors together through advertising and a distribution network. The publishers pay authors money to write books in the form of “advances” for the authors to live on while they write. Thereafter, a publisher will pay a writer a “royalty” for every copy of the author’s book they sell. The publisher assumes the risks in the hope that they will be rewarded by fantastic global sales. To manage the risk of a book not being publically well received, publishers assume artistic control of the writing and story development, “guiding” the author through a tried and tested recipe for success. In a declining global economy with disposable income evaporating, publishers tend to stick to what they know will sell – genres and themes that are currently trending – to ensure sales.

Consequently there is a limited amount of diversity and new ideas in an industry geared towards creating and supplying a mass market. That is where self-publishing is starting to disrupt the industry. There is more variety on offer than ever before, but the general public, as yet, are not aware of it, as change comes slowly to readers. Many cling puritanically to the idea of hard copy whilst the, shall we say more heretical, younger readers have embraced the concept of kindles and ebooks. It is those brave new worlders that self-publishing authors are hoping to convert and attract away from the conventional and traditional publishers who “know what’s best” for the reading public.

For now, publishers continue to be powerhouses from which we get the likes of Harry Potter and The Girl with the Dragoon Tatoo, and they are still especially powerful in the arena of educational and academic textbooks which carry hefty price tags. Here is a list of the top ten publishers by revenue. See if you recognize any of them.

Penguin Random House.
Annual Revenue: $3.3 billion. Germany.
Penguin Random House publishes 15,000 titles annually under its 250 divisions.

Hachette Livre.
Annual Revenue: $2.7 billion. France.
Founded in 1826,it now includes Hachette Australia, Hachette UK, and Hachette Book Group USA.

Springer Nature. 
 Annual Revenue: $1.9 billion. English-German.
 Its subsidiaries include Springer Gabler, Springer Healthcare, BioMed Central, Scientific America, Macmillan Education, and Nature Research.

 Wiley (John Wiley & Sons).                 
 Annual Revenue: $1.7 billion. USA.
 Founded in 1807, Wiley focuses on academic publishing and instructional materials for educational purposes.    

McGraw-Hill Education.                       
Annual Revenue: $1.7 billion. USA.
McGraw Hill supplies their traditional educational materials, digital products and services to over 11 million users.             

Scholastic Corporation.                        
Annual Revenue: $1.7 billion. USA. 
Founded in 1920, Scholastic has three divisions including children’s book publishing and distribution, education, and international.          

Cengage Learning.
Annual Revenue: $1.5 billion. USA. 
Cengage’s reference library arm specialises in e-research and educational publishing.  They also develop and maintain databases published online, in print, as e-books, or in microform.                 

Annual Revenue: $1.5 billion. USA. 
This household name is also represented in Australia, Canada, China, India, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Macmillan Publishers.
Annual Revenue: $1.4 billion. Britain.
Founded in 1843, Macmillan is regarded as one of the “Big Five” publishers.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 
Annual Revenue: $1.4 billion. USA.
HMH publishes textbooks, non-fiction and fiction, assessments, instructional technology manuals and materials and reference works. They are venturing into TV through Netflix.

Last Book Stand

It is sad to think that these and other institutions may not be around much longer as they are swept away by the digital revolution. Certain names have already disappeared through mergers and acquisitions as publishing houses have circled the wagons in a bid to survive.