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Types of Publishers
Industry Sectors
Large and Small Book Publishers
Publishers and Packagers

The term "publisher" means a person or business who prepares and sells content to the public. It is now used to refer to the sale of print, software, music, and Web content. Print publishing common books, magazines, newspapers. All of the information here refers only to book publishing.

It should be noted, however, that book publishing does not mean only printed books. Book publishing can now include audio books (currently the fastest growing sector of trade book publishing) and electronic books.

Industry Sectors

Book publishing is traditionally divided into the following sectors:

Trade: Most of the books you find at the bookstore and intended for the general public. Often divided into "adult trade" and "juvenile trade."

Professional: Books specific to a particular industry or even a particular company.

Textbook: Books specifically targeted at students. This sector is divided into "el-hi" (elementary and high-school publishers) and "college."

Scholarly: Specialized books, primarily published by the university presses.

Religious: Books published by religious organizations for their members or potential members.

Large and Small Book Publishers

Although most trade books found in the chain bookstores are published by a few very large publishers, the vast majority of publishers are small. Currently, there are at least 50,000 publishers in the United States, and most of these publish fewer than 10 titles per year. In contrast, the largest publishers are multinational corporations, which own numerous subsidiary publishers and imprints (an imprint is essentially a line of books with a common theme or editor). Between the two extremes are the established small publishers that have grown to mid-size proportions, publishing perhaps 25 to 100 books per year.


Most publishers, especially small and mid-size publishers, specialize in specific topics or groups of topics. This trend is caused not only by the personal preferences of the management, but also by strategic necessity. By specializing, a publisher develops a keen sense of the market and a set of deep relationships with relevant channels.

The simplest way to categorize books by topic is to use the sections that are found in most large bookstores. These sections closely resemble the 47 categories developed by the Book Industry Systems Advisory Committee. The BISAC categories are:

  • Antiques/Collectibles
  • Architecture
  • Art
  • Biography/Autobiography/ Letters
  • Business/Economics/Finance
  • Computer Technology & Software
  • Cookbooks & Cookery
  • Crafts and Hobbies
  • Current Affairs
  • Drama
  • Education & Teaching
  • Family/Child Care/Relationships
  • Fiction/Literature
  • Foreign Language Instruction & Reference
  • Games
  • Gardening & Horticulture
  • Health & Fitness
  • History
  • Home Improvement & Construction
  • Humor
  • Juvenile Fiction
  • Language Arts
  • Law
  • Literary Criticism & Essays
  • Mathematics
  • Medical/Nursing/Home Care
  • Music
  • Nature & Natural History
  • Occultism/Parapsychology
  • Performing Arts
  • Pets & Pet Care
  • Philosophy
  • Photography
  • Poetry
  • Political Science & Government
  • Psychology/Psychiatry
  • Reference
  • Religion/Bibles
  • Science
  • Self-Actualization/Self-Help
  • Social Sciences
  • Sports & Recreation
  • Study Aids
  • Technology & Industrial Arts
  • Transportation
  • Travel & Travel Guides
  • True Crime
In addition there are a few other popular topics, such as erotic/adult and gay/lesbian.

Publishers and Packagers

There is a type of business that creates books, but does not print or sell them. This is the book packager. A book packager acts as a hire-out firm for a large publisher. In this relationship, the packager is a one-stop vendor that develops and produces a book, delivering the product to the publisher when it is ready for printing.

Some packagers avoid content development and stick to design and production. These businesses are also known as production houses.

The packager's advantage is that he assumes less risk than the publisher. The packager works for a fixed fee, or a fee plus royalty. The decisions relevant to distribution and sales, including the number of books printed, the price, the marketing strategy, and so forth, can be made by both parties, but the publisher pays the bills and makes the profits (or losses).

Some book packagers respond to bids sent out by publishers, while others initiate book project proposals and sell them to their client publishers.


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