What are ‘The Big Five’ book publishers?

While researching how to get published, one term you’re likely to run into is “The Big Five”. This refers to five publishing houses that now dominate the book industry in the United States. The majority of books are published by them, and the majority of books appearing in bookstores, discount stores, and supermarkets come from them.

There used to be a Big Six. But as of July 2013, there are only five big publishing houses, as two of the Big Six merged.

The Big Five include Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Schuster. The Penguin Group and Random House merged to become Penguin Random House. HarperCollins and Simon and Schuster are the only two U.S. companies. The others are German, British or French.

So why then when you go to a bookstore do there appear to be dozens (if not hundreds) of publishing houses? First, many of the Big Five have divisions or imprints, which are smaller publishing houses that they’ve gobbled up over the years. For example, Avon Publications and Harlequin once were independent but now are owned by HarperCollins. In addition, there are a number of small independent presses still operating, such as Graywolf Press and Grove Atlantic.