How to contact a publisher
Two years ago, how many publishers could you even name? Having been a former bookstore manager, I’d have an unfair advantage if I tried it.
I think many people would have known Random House, Harlequin, maybe Simon and Schuster. Science fiction/fantasy readers I think may have known more of them. In some cases, those imprints were really brands, perhaps because they were associated with an actual person. For example, I’d say most sf/f readers knew Del Rey, which was initially run by well-known SF author Lester Del Rey (and his wife, Judy-Lyn). It’s part of Ballantine, which is part of Random House.
That “part of part of” part is really important. In the US market, there are six major publisher (referred to as the Big Six). However, between them, they have hundreds of “imprints”. Basically, an imprint is like a brand. An imprint is intended to be specialized. It will typically be under the charge of a specific person (although one person may manage more than one imprint), and it’s supposed to help readers (and bookstores) have a sense of what type of book it will be. Harlequin, for example, has different imprints for different types of books…teen romances, paranormal romances, and faith-based romances.
Let’s back up here a little bit…why should you care about contacting a publisher?
We are in the midst of a major change in publishing. The technology of e-book readers (EBRs) is driving it. This is a time when you can influence what happens. I’ve taught project management, and that’s one of the rules…it is easiest to change a project in the beginning. Don’t like the prices? Don’t like the release schedules? Don’t like blocking of text-to-speech access? All of these decisions are really made by publishers.
Will they listen to you? I think the answer is yes. You can try to influence a publisher through a boycott, and if you genuinely affected their sales, that could be effective in getting them to change a policy. Publishers are going to be driven by economic factors. Certainly, publishers take some principled stands, even if it costs them money. However, none of those three big issues I mentioned is likely to be that kind of “do this at all costs” tenet.
Publishers have people who read letters and e-mails sent to them, and who answer customer service phone calls. Generally, the assumption is going to be that for every person who takes the time to reach out to the publisher, there are many people with the same feelings who don’t. Oh, there are always going to be those outliers…people with a virtually unique point of view. But if you get twenty contacts, and they do not appear to be connected to each other, that indicates that there could be many more people.
It’s important that they don’t appear to be connected…it’s pretty easy on the internet to send twenty identical e-mails from twenty addresses. Something that appears to be an organized campaign may have less of an impact than a number of individual points.
Who are the big publishers?
What we are talking about here are US trade publishers. A “trade” publisher is different from an academic or professional publisher. To keep it simple, trade books are what you bought in brick and mortar bookstores.
This information comes from Michael Hyatt, who is the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. He tracks and publishes these numbers. Do I know they are accurate? My guess is that they are pretty close, although I haven’t verified them all.
Here are some of the numbers for 2009:
The top ten US trade publishers accounted for 72% of the total US trade market.
Random House had 17.5%
Pearson (Penguin) had 11.3%
Hachette had 10%
HarperCollins had 9.8%
Simon and Schuster had 9.1%
Holtzbrinck had 5.4%
Thomas Nelson had 3.2%
There is a lot more to his article, and I recommend that you look at it.
Let’s start out with how to contact these folks, and then I’ll talk about some of the smaller ones:
Imprints include: Crown, Ballantine, Dell, Doubleday, Knopf, Random House, many others
Random House, Inc.
New York, NY 10019
Customer service e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Imprints: Penguin is really the trade publisher of Pearson. It includes Ace, Dutton, Putnam, and Penguin.
Customer service e-mail: email@example.com
Hachette Book Group
Imprints include: Grand Central (formerly Warner Books); Little, Brown
Customer service e-mail: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Imprints include: Avon, Harper, William Morrow, Zondervan
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
Customer service e-mail: email@example.com
Simon & Schuster
Imprints include: Pocket, Scribner, Simon & Schuster
Contact page (e-mail): http://www.simonandschuster.com/about/contact_us
Imprints include: Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Henry Holt; St. Martin’s Press; Tor; Macmillan
Website: Holtzbrinck.com (this is for Macmillan)
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Online contact page; http://ecom.cdfbooks.com/contactus.htm
Thomas Nelson, Inc.
PO Box 141000
Nashville, TN 37214
There are a lot of other publishers, of course. Nowadays, anybody with a computer and a bank account can independently publish through Amazon’s Digital Text Platform (DTP), as well as through other sites.
Most of the traditional publishers will be members of the AAP (Association of American Publishers). They maintain a list of their member publishers:
and a list of the imprints is available:
The imprint list is available as a pdf, and can be pretty helpful.
It might seem a little odd, but the publishers (both the companies and individuals) use the modern media as well. The information on Wikipedia seems to be pretty extensive and up-to-date. You’ll also find a lot of publishers (both big and small) blogging and on Twitter.
I encourage you to contact the publishers with your opinions…even if (especially if) they disagree with mine. 🙂 You may think that an individual’s opinion doesn’t make a difference, but a number of separate individuals’ does.
It’s a new world, and pretty soon, it’s going to settle down. Right now, you can affect more, I think, than you’ll be able to do a year from now, or two years from now.
You can make a difference.