Do You Notice the Publisher

If your work is associated with publishing (book or magazine), then you are probably aware of who published a particular book.   You join a small group of people who recall some of these details. It’s outside of the normal thoughts for a reader. I do not walk into my local bookstore and think, “I wonder what Doubleday has published lately. I’m going to look for their latest title.” Instead consumers buy books related to a particular author or a particular subject or a catchy book title.

I’ve been involved in publishing houses who spend hours in meetings talking about the distinctions of their particular imprints.  Over the last few years, publishers have worked hard to distinguish one imprint from another—particularly in the larger publishing houses.

Thomas-Nelson-logoWhile I was at the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference, I heard Thomas Nelson had a company-wide meeting on Friday. A Publisher’s Weekly article showed one of the key contents of that meeting.  Effective April 1, the ninth largest publisher in the United States will be dropping all of their 18 imprints—including the three which were recently acquired from Integrity Publishers. As the Lynn Garrett’s article said from CEO Mike Hyatt, “The old imprint model no longer serves us well. It’s an inside-out way of looking at the market, self-focused rather than customer-focused. The only ones who care about imprints are publishers, and they are expensive to maintain.”

If you scan through the history of Thomas Nelson, you will see some easily recognized names are going to disappear including: WestBow, J. Countryman, Tommy Nelson and others. As the PW article details, books will all bear the Nelson name.  As I pointed out in an earlier entry about the writing life, this change will involve many books (3900 on their backlist and 500 new titles last year plus new ones entering the marketplace every day).

While some people may bemoan the loss of these distinguished imprints, from my view, it’s a healthy shift—and a wise one.  It’s a way to refocus on the basics—such as publishing well-crafted material from great authors.

4 Responses to “Do You Notice the Publisher”

  1. Richard Mabry Says:

    Terry–You’re exactly right. Before I got into writing, I never paid any attention to which house published a book. Now I’m looking at the spine and saying, “So that’s what they want.”
    The business of keeping straight all the variants of “minibooks, an imprint of megabooks” has always seemed somewhat confusing to me. Maybe this consolidation is indeed a good step.
    Thanks for keeping us posted.

  2. Bonnie Calhoun Says:

    I read about this on Publishers Lunch, but didn’t really know if it was good or bad. Thanks for insight from within!

  3. Heather Ivester Says:

    I’m so glad you gave us your perspective on Thomas Nelson’s news because when I saw it in Publisher’s Lunch, I was stunned. In the press release, I saw a quote that said “…we’ll be able to do more with fewer titles.”

    I wonder if this is because of the trend to publish celebrity authors, who put out a book or two a year. Unfortunately, I know many of these books are ghostwritten. It’s hard to know what will happen — but I’m sad to see Westbow go — and all the gift book imprints. Will we only have celebrity name gift books in the future? I wonder if other Christian publishers will follow this trend.

  4. Terry Whalin Says:


    I didn’t notice anything about titles being reduced–and time will tell if that really happens.

    As for losing some of the imprints, I’m sorry to see them go but I also understand it from a business perspective. Too much internal time and energy is devoted to something the consumer cares nothing about.

    I’ve been in those branding meetings–and even at the time I questioned the value–but said nothing since it would have been totally counter-culture. I applaud Nelson’s courage for taking this step.


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