What is the first place that comes to mind if you think of published books? Chances are, it’s one of the big multinational publishers: Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Macmillan. While there are literally hundreds of places to get published, these four take the cake in terms of annual revenue, number of titles, and notoriety.
For each publishing house below, I share some big-name authors, the main imprints at that publisher, and whether or not they’ll take unsolicited manuscripts. All of this information is available on the publishers’ websites, by the way, so you can keep current. Remember that, as an author who intends to publish, you need to do your research on your competition, potential employers (a.k.a., publishing houses or avenues), and how to tailor your offering to get where you want to go.
The biggest names in trade publishing
There are pros and cons to signing on to a big firm. In trade publishing—which encompasses the majority of books the general public consumes—you have flexibility on how you enter the market and attain authority. Be prepared to scout an agent if you decide to apply to one of the below. If you want to be taken on without an agent, you may need to consider finding a smaller publisher or self-publishing.
Penguin Random House
A very familiar name in publishing, Penguin Random House is quite the industry giant (though they themselves are fully owned by the Bertelsmann conglomerate as of April 1, 2020). Penguin covers just about every literary genre—in fact, it probably has an imprint for that. As this company’s name suggests, it’s profited from mergers and acquisitions where popular titles have transferred alongside. If you want yours to join the list, you’ll need to follow their submission requirements to the letter.
Penguin Random House handles authors like Margaret Atwood, Chinua Achebe, Danielle Steel, Nick Hornby, Terry McMillan, Diana Gabaldon, Nathalie Abi-Ezzi, and Mercedes Lackey.
Interesting note: Pearson Education used to be part of this company, but branched off to focus on academic education. They’ve actually partnered with DuoLingo to further their reach.
McClelland & Stewart
Penguin Publishing Group
Avery; Berkeley; blue rider press; DAW; Dutton; Family Tree Books; Putnam; Impact; Interweave; kp; North Light Books; Penguin Books; Penguin Classics; Penguin Press; Plume; Popular Woodworking Books; Portfolio Penguin; Riverhead Books; Sentinel; TarcherPerigree; Writer’s Digest Books; Viking
Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
BOT (Books on Tape); Listening Library; Living Language; Random House Puzzles and Games; Random House Reference Books; Penguin Random House Audio Publishing; Random House Large Print
Penguin Young Readers Group
Dutton Children’s Books; Dial Books for Young Readers; Firebird; F. Warne & Co.; Putnam; Kathy Dawson Books; Kokila; Nancy Paulsen Books; Penguin Workshop; Philomel; Puffin; Razorbill; Speak; Viking Children’s Books
Ballantine Books; Bantam; B\D\W\Y; Potter; Convergent Books; Crown Archetype; Crown Forum; Crown; Currency; Del Rey; Delacorte Press; Dell; Harmony Books; Hogarth; Image; Lorena Jones Books
Digital Imprints: Loveswept & Flirt; Lucas books; Modern Library; One World; Random House; Rodale; Spiel & Grau; Ten Speed Press and Watson-Guptill; The Dial Press; Three Rivers Press; Tim Duggan Books; Waterbrook & Multnomah
Random House Children’s Books
Alfred A. Knopf; Crown; Delacorte Press; Doubleday; Dragonfly Books; Ember; Golden Books; Laurel-Leaf Books; Now I’m Ready!; Random House Books for Young Readers; Schwartz & Wade Books; Sylvan Learning; The Princeton Review; Wendy Lamb Books; Yearling Books
The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Alfred A. Knopf; Anchor Books; Doubleday; Everyman’s Library; Nan A. Talese; Pantheon Books; Schocken Books; Vintage Books; Vintage Espanol
Simon & Schuster
Some fun 2020 trivia about this publishing house is they were almost acquired by Penguin Random House to turn the Big Five in publishing into the Big Four. However, the wisdom of the day prevailed and the merger was blocked by the US federal government. We will see where S&S finds a home, because it sounds like their parent company is still looking to rehome the publishing house.
Simon & Schuster is a well-established brand in the industry, publishing a wide-range of work with a focus on non-fiction. They like unusual stories (no surprise one of their key signee authors is Stephen King!) and those that show cultural significance. Sound like something you’ve done?
Other authors they’ve published include Judy Blume, Kiese Laymon, Mary Higgins Clark, Sylvia Nasar, Dale Carnegie, and Cassandra Clare.
Adams media; Atria; Avid Reader Press; Emily Bestler Books; Enliven; Folger Shakespeare Library; Free Press; Gallery; Howard; Jeter Publishing; One Signal; Scout Press; Scribner; Simon & Schuster; Threshold; Tiller Press; and Touchstone
Aladdin; Atheneum; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Beach Lane Books; Little Simon; Margaret K. McElderry; Paula Wiseman Books; Saga Press; Salaam Reads; Simon Pulse; Simon Spotlight
Pimsleur; Simon & Schuster Audio
Subsidiary of News Corp, they’re one of the industry giants. Their publishing pedigree is long and rich and full of familiar names. You’d likely recognize authors like Agatha Christie, H. G. Wells, Alyssa Cole, Quentin Tarantino, Veronica Roth, Lawrence Hill, Margaret Wise Brown, and Garth Williams. Will you be one of their ~10,000 titles this year?
Amistad; Anthony Bourdain Books; Avon; Broadside Books; Caedmon; Custom House; Dey Street Books; Ecco; Harper Books; Harper Business; Harper Design; Harper Luxe; Harper Perennial; Harper Voyager; Harper Wave; HarperAudio; Harper 360; HarperCollins Español; Harper One; Harper Via; William Morrow; Witness
Collins; Harlequin; Harper Avenue; Harper Perennial; Harper Weekend; HarperCollins Canada; Patrick Crean Editions
Does HarperCollins accept unsolicited manuscripts? Generally no, but their Avon and Heartdrum imprints will accept unsolicited manuscripts. Sometimes HarperCollins Canada asks for specific submissions, as well, so keep an eye out.
Holtzbrinck Publishing Group owns this one (noticing a theme?) as part of its publishing portfolio. Macmillan is well-known in the academic world since the publisher’s main focus is education. Some of us may be more familiar with their Tor imprint, which houses their sci-fi offerings. As one of the greats in publishing, they’ve published familiar names like Emmanuel Acho, Robert Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Brandon Sanderson, and Jamie Oliver.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux; First Second; Henry Holt & Co.; Macmillan Audio; St. Martin’s Publishing Group; Tor/Forge; Flatiron Books; Macmillan Collector’s Library; Caledon Books
Farrar, Straus & Giroux for Young Readers; Feiwel & Friends; Henry Holt Books for Young Children; Imprint; Kingfisher; Odd Dot; Priddy Books; Roaring Book Press; Square Fish; Tor Children’s
College & Academic
Macmillan Learning; Quick and Dirty Tips
Magazines and Journals
Nature; Scientific American
Bloombsury USA; The College Board; Drawn and Quarterly; Graywolf Press; Papercutz; Page Street Publishing Co.; Entangled Publishing; Guinness World Records; Media Lab Books; Wattpad Books
Does Macmillan accept unsolicited manuscripts? They have two imprints that accept unsolicited manuscripts, Pan Macmillan India and Tor Books.
Hachette Book Group (HBG)
Hachette Book Group is owned by a French company called Hachette Livre Group—which, if you speak a little French, means Hachette Book Group. No surprise they’ve got a strong publishing tradition. They publish a wide range of material from sci-fi fiction to style guides and want to stay at the forefront of the industry.
If you’re familiar with authors like James S.A. Corey, Andrzej Sapkowski, Brandy Colbert, James Patterson, and Kim Stanley Robinson, then you’ve got a good feel for the type of content HBG wants to publish.
Interesting note: Hachette Book Group owns a few thousand Disney titles. In 2013, they bought the rights to the adult offerings from Disney Publishing Worldwide’s Hyperion imprint. Just this year, HBG expanded that content to round out their Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (LBYR) division.
Grand Central Publishing
Forever; Grand Central Publishing (previously Warner Books); Twelve
Little, Brown and Company
Back Bay Books; Jimmy Patterson; Little, Brown and Company; Little, Brown Spark; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Mulholland; Voracious
Center Street; Faithwords; Hachette Nashville; Worthy Publishing
Avalon Travel; Basic Books; Bold type Books; Hachette Books; Hachette Go; Perseus Books; Public Affairs; Running Press
Does The Hachette Book Group accept unsolicited manuscripts? They don’t, generally. Their imprint, Yen Press, will accept unsolicited graphic novels, however!
They didn’t make the top five, but that shouldn’t deter you. I have no doubt you’ll be familiar with these. And, if you don’t see what you’re looking for here, there are more publishing houses out there than you can shake a stick at. Just do your research!
A predominantly educational publisher, Scholastic is perhaps best known for their Scholastic Book Fair. If you’re aiming for children’s lit, Scholastic might be the home for you. Norman Bridwell, Alesha Dixon, Eric Carle, and Roald Dahl are some of the authors they publish.
Cartwheel Books®; Chicken House®; David Fickling Books; Graphix™; Klutz®; Little Shepherd Books®; Orchard Books®; Point®; PUSH; Scholastic en español®; Scholastic Licensed Publishing; Scholastic Nonfiction; Scholastic Focus; Scholastic Paperbacks; Scholastic Press; Scholastic Reference
Does Scholastic accept unsolicited manuscripts? Yes . . . if you’re going their educational route. The Canadian site is a little more detailed on their submission information and occasionally does open calls for specific content.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Lots of major publishing houses have both a trade and education. HMH’s offerings span both, though you’re likely more familiar with their childhood offerings. In fact, they recently started Etch to expand on their children’s graphic novel offerings. You might know authors like Tim Ferriss, Lois Lowry, Chris Van Allsburg, and Alex Snodgrass.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
John Joseph Adams Books
Does Houghton Mifflin Harcourt accept unsolicited manuscripts? That’s a big no, there, buddy.
Didn’t know they published their own books? You’re not alone, but you’re missing out on a big element in children’s lit and young adult… and let’s face it, older adult, too, because it’s not just five-year-olds who like Frozen or teenagers who love StarWars (even though we can’t give Disney credit for the best films in the franchise). Disney puts out books regularly on their movie titles—Little Mermaid is one I remember reading as a little—and has series for educational purposes as well.
Jump at the Sun
Disney Libri (Italia)
Disney Libros (Spain)
ABC Daytime Press
Rick Riordan Presents
Does Disney Publishing accept unsolicited manuscripts? Nope. You’ll need an agent or another in.
Hopefully I haven’t taken the wind out of your unsolicited submission sails. Agents are useful! They can help you achieve your dreams and give you a realistic market response to your book. They also prefer edited work to show that you’re serious about what you’ve done—plus, it gives you an edge on the competition in your niche.
However, even the best agent can’t guarantee your book will get taken up. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, publishers buy book rights based on the content they’re currently looking for. You could have an excellent product ready for them that just missed their deadlines and you’d never know. Your agent will. And there are always other ways to get your (first) book off the ground if you don’t want to work with an agent.