Who Owns Whom in Publishing?

Updated October 14, 2014

Our emphasis in this post is the Christian publishing industry. There are many fine commercial publishers that do not publish Christian books and thus are left out of this discussion. First let us review what are known as The Big Five. These are the five major conglomerates that control a sizable portion of the marketplace.

Who are these big five? In no particular order:

1. HarperCollins Owned by Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate News Corp., HarperCollins has around fifty imprints. Zondervan had been their sole evangelical Christian imprint until they bought Thomas Nelson Publishers in 2012. The two have been combined under the HarperCollins Christian Publishing group. Under that HCCP group they have multiple imprints: Zondervan, Zonderkidz, Thomas Nelson, Tommy Nelson (Children’s), and W Publishing. (There are also an Academic division, a curriculum division, and a Bible division.) In addition HarperCollins keeps a separate religious publishing imprint called HarperOne (formerly HarperSanFrancisco). News Corp. is the parent company of 20th Century Fox, the film company with numerous divisions including several Fox television networks. In 2013 the print/publishing division was spun off from the entertainment division.
In 2014 HarperCollins bought Harlequin Enterprises. This includes the Love Inspired and Heartsong imprints which are the Christian fiction divisions of Harlequin.

2. Hachette Book Group Formerly Warner Books (of Time Warner), they were acquired by Hachette Livre, a subsidiary of the French media conglomerate Lagardère Group. Their Christian imprint is FaithWords (formerly WarnerFaith). A few of their imprints include Little Brown, Grand Central, and Center Street.

3. Pearson/Bertelsmann (aka Penguin Random House) Peason is a British corporation known in the U.S. as Penguin. They have imprints like Putnam, Berkley, Viking, etc. They have tipped their hat to the Christian market with the Penguin Praise imprint, but does not have a dedicated staff developing those titles, their editors go on a case by case basis. For example their Dutton imprint publishes Tim Keller. Their Tarcher/Penguin imprint does a number of religious titles. Bertelsmann is a German media conglomerate that owns Random House which is the largest English-language publisher in the world. They have several divisions. The Crown Publishing Group has within it the Waterbrook/Multnomah imprint. Their Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group includes Doubleday which is a religious imprint that generally has had Catholic oriented titles, but with many exceptions. In 2013 the two book publishing groups officially merged and is now known as Penguin Random House.

4. Holtzbrinck Publishing Group Owned by the German Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. Primarily known in the U.S. as MacMillan. They do not have a Christian imprint. But do have strong commercial imprints like St. Martin’s, Tor, and Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.

5. Simon & Schuster Owned by CBS (the TV station). Their Christian imprint is Howard Books. Other well known imprints include Pocket, Free Press, and Scribner.

A little trivia for you. ABC (the TV station) used to own Word Entertainment, which included Word Books and Word Music, which was a well known Christian company. Word Entertainment was purchased by…Thomas Nelson in 1992. Nelson later sold the Word Music division to Gaylord Entertainment, the folks who own Opryland. The book publisher, Thomas Nelson was bought out by a private equity firm in 2006, sold to another private equity firm in 2010 and then to HarperCollins in 2012.

What about the rest of the Christian Publishing Industry?

Christian publishers still independently and/or family owned include:
Tyndale House Publishers (Mark Taylor)
The Baker Publishing Group (including Bethany House, Revell, Baker, Brazos, and Chosen) (Dwight Baker)
Barbour Publishing (Tim Martins)
Worthy Publishing - (privately held corporation) – in addition, in October 2014 they purchased the Ideals Publishing division from Guideposts.
Charisma Media (Stephen Strang)
Crossway Books (The Dennis Family)
Harvest House (Bob Hawkins, Jr.)
Kregel (Jim Kregel)
Eerdmans (William B. Eerdmans, Jr.)
P&R Publishing (The P and R stand for Presbyterian and Reformed)
Whitaker House (B0b Whitaker, Jr.)
New Leaf Publishing Group (includes Master Books, and New Leaf Press)
Enclave Publishing (Steve Laube) – focuses on Speculative Fiction

But then there are Christian publishers owned by a larger organization. For example:
B&H Publishing Group is owned by Lifeway Christian Resources (aka the Southern Baptist Convention).
David C. Cook is part of a large non-profit organization that distributes literature around the world.
Guideposts is a non-profit organization. Their trade book division was shuttered in 2013 but they continue to publish books intended for direct-to-consumer sales (Book Clubs or continuity subscription series).
IVP is a part of a parachurch organization, InterVarsity.
NavPress is owned by the Navigators. In 2013 they signed an agreement with Tyndale House to move all production, marketing, and sales to the Tyndale organization. Acquisitions will still be handled by NavPress.
Abingdon is an imprint The United Methodist Publishing House.
CLC is the publishing arm of the Christian Literature Crusade
New Hope is owned by the Women’s Missionary Union (an organization which is part of the Southern Baptists).
Beacon Hill is the publishing arm of the Nazarene Publishing House.
Leafwood Books is a division of Abilene Christian University Press.
Moody Publishing is owned by The Moody Bible Institute.
Concordia is owned by the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church.
Westminster/John Knox is owned by the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.
Augsburg/Fortress is owned by Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Dropped their trade publishing (Augsburg) and now focuses primarily on academic books (Fortress).
AMG is owned by AMG International (a missions organization). Best known author is Spiro Zodiahtes.
Paraclete Press is owned the Community of Jesus.
Standard Publishing, founded in 1872, has been connected to The Christian Church denomination (especially with their curriculum) but was publicly owned by Standex Corp (on the NY Stock exchange) until 2006 when it was bought by the Wicks Group, a private equity firm.
Warner Press (not to be confused with the former Warner Books) is owned by the Church of God, Anderson, IN.

If I have left out someone I apologize. I am not trying to duplicate The Christian Writer’s Market Guide. Merely trying to show that there are a number of publishers in the Christian industry that are not owned by the corporate giants.

And if I have something wrong in this list, let me know and I’ll correct it as soon as possible.

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