New Publisher Ownership Emerging: How Money Makes the Connections

Current news of HarperCollins bidding for Simon & Schuster sparks interest in publisher ownership. Here’s how money is the connecting factor.

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In current news, publishing company Simon & Schuster is back on the market after the U.S. Justice Department blocked their conjunction with Penguin Random House last year. HarperCollins, another major publishing company, is one of the prominent bidders in this new sale. With this, questions about company relationships and publisher ownership arise. Let’s take a look at how companies make these connections.

Important History of Publisher Ownership

To start, there are a few different types of publishing companies: trade (traditional), self-publishing, and hybrid. Right now, five companies are dominating the publishing industry, including HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. Therefore, news of their potential association is huge.


Previously another significant connection was made between Penguin and Random House in 2013, creating the most influential publisher on an international scale. It makes sense, then, why news of HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster coming together would make a large impact financially. Joining two of the “Big Five” publishing houses would take over the industry.

This concern was also brought up in 2020 when Penguin Random House expressed interest in acquiring Simon & Schuster. However, in terms of antitrust laws, the U.S. Justice Department stepped in and broke off the deal. Yet, a similar claim can be made if HarperCollins now obtains the company. HarperCollins is confident, though, that because of the percentages each company has in shares, their union wouldn’t cause as much trouble.


Impact on Authors

Of course, a major concern is how the authors working with these companies are going to be affected. We can look at the merger of Penguin and Random House as an example. For any new company combination, the first action is to look over each of their respective catalogs. This determines which authors and/or titles they want to keep, often based on commercial success. Therefore, with a merger, authors could lose a publishing house to work with if their books didn’t make the cut. This is a devastating part of business, especially for readers who want to see their favorite authors do well.

Additionally, people in other positions, like an editor or a graphic designer, could lose their jobs because of a surplus of staff members. An article explaining the Penguin Random House merge states that “286 employees from the Kirkwood warehouse of the new company… were let go.” A similar situation is very likely if HarperCollins wins the bid of Simon & Schuster.

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