Before you get upset about who worked on a book you don’t like, check the family tree of the imprint

There is a brouhaha in the Christian community about a book published by one imprint with a focus on one segment of the faith community saying things that will definitely not pass muster with readers of a sibling imprint that has a focus on a different segment of the faith community. Underlying issue is that staff working for one imprint were doing some work on a title published by the other imprint.

Comments made in book from imprint 2 are doctrinally unacceptable to audience of imprint 1. Of course, the same can be said of books from imprint 1 if read by the audience of imprint 2.

I can’t get worked up about that issue.  Imprints are only labels on the book that provide a way to group books appealing to like-minded people.

Before you get upset with this issue, consider some of the family trees outlined by Christianity Today in their article Too Close for Comfort.

I’ll summarize one part of the family trees and then list the imprints, along with their focus. I’m doing this because it is interesting to me as a microscopically small writer and sub-microscopically small publisher.  It may be of interest to several readers of this blog.

A few of the pertinent imprints and their publishers are:

Bertelsmann owns Penguin Random House which owns Crown which owns WaterBrook Multnomah.  Inside Crown are the imprints:

  • Image – Catholic
  • Convergent – Progressive

Inside WaterBrook Multnomah are the imprints:

  • WaterBrook – Evangelical
  • Multnomah – Evangelical

Those 4 imprints are all subsidiaries of Bertelsmann.

Lagardere owns Hachette (who is in a public spat with Amazon) which owns Hachette Nashville, which has 3 diverse imprints:

  • Center Street – broadly spiritual
  • FaithWords – Evangelical
  • Jericho Books – progressive

News Corp owns HarperCollins which owns several publishers, two of which are HarperCollins Adult Trade and HarperCollins Christian, which in turn has at least two imprints/publishers – Zondervan and Thomas Nelson.

HarperCollins Adult trade has 1 imprint:

  • HarperOne – broadly spiritual

Zondervan ( evangelical) has 3 imprints, and Zondervan is a major imprint itself:

  • Blink  – evangelical
  • Zonder Kidz – evangelical
  • Editorial Vida – evangelical

Thomas Nelson (evangelical) has 5 imprints in addition to being a major imprint by itself:

  • Grupo Nelson – evangelical
  • Nelson Books – evangelical
  • Tommy Nelson – evangelical
  • W (I think this used to be Word) – evangelical
  • WestBow – evangelical

Those imprints are a way to market books. They allow marketing, distribution, writers, and agents to be focused on one specific market segment. They are each a small piece of a humongous publishing/media/all-sorts-of-stuff conglomerate.

Number of imprints

For some hint of context, with a few minutes of research I learned Penguin Random House claims has over 250 imprints.

Hachette Book Group USA has 17 imprints in 5 divisions.

There is a list of Hachette’s 51 best-selling authors. After scanning the list, I think that regardless of your social or religious views, you can find at least one author on their roster who deeply offends you.  The most entertaining contrast on the alphabetical listing is the sequential order of Christopher Hitchens and David Jeremiah next to each other.

By the way, that is one part of the incredible joy of having freedom of speech. Everyone can speak their peace.

You can easily find someone who encourages you on what you already believe. That is a wonderful freedom.

HarperCollins has about 50 active imprints and about 25 defunct imprints.

Unless you think that each imprint is an independent force in the market, I think it might be a good idea to avoid getting worked up over a staff person in your favorite department (imprint) doing some work for a sibling department that is a first or second cousin inside a huge conglomerate.

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