What Are the Big 5 Publishing Houses & A List of All the Major Publishers

While I have been writing most of my life and while my debut picture book, The Donkey’s Song, is scheduled to be published by one of the Big 5 Publishing Houses, I hate to admit it, but my effort to understand the hierarchy of the publishing industry is baffling. I have decided to try to understand a bit more about the publishing business. Although I don’t guarantee the validity of any of the points gathered below, here is my best faith attempt to tell you what I have learned about how the publishing industry works.

Before I begin, however,

The Big 5 Publishers were formerly the Big 6.

In 2013 Random House and Penguin merged, and now, Penguin Random House is by far the largest publishing house.

The Big 5 Publishing Houses:

1-Penguin Random House
3-Simon & Schuster
4-Hachette Book Group

In 2017, Publishers Weekly Ranked the Top 20 Publishing Houses in Order Here

1-Penguin Random House
3-Simon & Schuster
4-Hachette Book Group
7-Disney Publishing Worldwide
8-Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
11-John Wiley and Sons
15-W.W. Norton
19-B&H Publishing
20-Tyndale House

You might say: “20 Houses–That’s Not Too Much to Remember,” but things begin to get foggier when you realize that most of these houses have divisions and imprints within themselves, and that is where the rubber meets the road.


In the above post, I try to explain how many divisions there are in Penguin Random House, and you will probably begin to agree that nailing down the publishing industry is not an easy task.

For instance, my debut book, The Donkey’s Song, was acquired by one of the imprints of Penguin Random House two years ago. The fabulous Frances Gilbert, VP, and Editor in Chief of Doubleday for Young Readers acquired that book. For the past two years, I have tried to understand exactly what Frances’s exact title is. My checks come from Penguin, and I knew that Frances was the Editor in Chief of Doubleday for Young Readers, but in a recent tweet, Frances reminded me to mention Random House Children’s Books. That threw me off completely. I seriously wondered if Frances had taken a new position, and today, I simply emailed her and asked her to tell me what her exact title is. She Responded: Frances Gilbert, VP, Editor in Chief, Doubleday for Young Readers at Random House Children’s Books, which I know is an imprint of Penguin Random House. Wow! If I had known how important Frances was, I would never have dared to send her my manuscript.