How to Publish Topic #2: Do I want a Big Six Publisher, and Why?

This is something I think a lot of people struggle with. Not too long ago, authors did not have the choices they have today. If you wanted to get published, you needed an agent. Period. And that agent had only a handful of publishing houses to get you book into.

Not so today, but let’s take a look at the “biggies”.

These are the publishers commonly referred to as the “Big Six”





Random House

Simon and Schuster

Even though there are many other choices available, these Big Six (5) are still the “only option” for many people. Hey, I’m not knocking that… why not aim high? The big houses can do a lot for you. Professional editing. Marketing. Sales team to get you into bookstores. Kick-butt cover art.

Yep. Sounds good to me.

I completely understand anyone wanting to jump into an organization that can give you so much. Problem is, more and more Big Six authors are raising their hands and saying “umm, I don’t get that stuff from my Big Six publisher”.


Now, I am not a Big Six author, so I can only relay what I’ve heard. Yes, there is a marketing budget. However, most of that budget is spent on the Stephen Kings and JK Rowlings of the world. Big houses spend their money to spread the news about titles the KNOW will sell. The little, debut authors? Not so much (but that is not to say never) And as far as getting into Barnes and Noble, the sales person, if you are lucky, will mention and talk about your book for all of fifteen seconds in a very short sales meeting with the bookseller. That’s not too long.


Editing is hit or miss. I think we’ve all seen typos in Big Six novels. They make me cringe. It shouldn’t happen. I do think that, overall, Big Six novels do seem to get decent content edits, though. Editing is manual. It will always be open to mistakes.

Cover Art:

I will give them this… Covers are usually pretty dern snappy. That kind of cover costs a pretty penny. But there are some misses there as well. And you will have no creative control whatsoever about your cover with the big guys.

Bragging Rights:

I think that the big thing attracting people to the Big Six is bragging rights. I totally understand that. Getting into a Big Six is a statement. What does it say?

“I did it.”

Yes, I understand that completely. It’s a huge accomplishment. With thousands of novels vying for a precious few slots in their catalog, “making it” is certainly brag-worthy. Once you are there, though, you need to take stock and decide if you are really getting what you thought you were getting.

In many cases, authors ARE getting what they hoped for. But there are also many who think the Big 6 fall short.

Next time, we’ll talk about the ‘bigger than you can imagine’ houses.



19 responses to “How to Publish Topic #2: Do I want a Big Six Publisher, and Why?

  1. Like you, I have the impression editors at the big houses don’t actually edit these days. They expect agents to do the editing and bring them a gem on a silver platter. (How’s that for mixing my metaphors?) So one of my disillusions with the major publishers is, what good are these editors if they can’t or won’t edit?

    • Yeah, I’ve heard this sometimes and people ask me this a lot. ( like I would know ) but it seems like the role of editor has changed dramatically in the big houses over the years.

  2. Sensible information. IF you can grab their attention, it’s a real pat on the back. And it’s got to feel great to be finally able to tell people, “Oh, yeah my book is being published by X” (and it’s a name they recognize).
    It’ll be interesting to see how publishing morphs in the next few years

  3. Yes, I just sat through an agent presentation on how marketing is heading online. That book tours are no longer encouraged unless you’re “big” because you can sell more dong online events. The world is changing quickly.

  4. It isn’t bragging rights that I want from the traditional path. I want to be certain my writing is ready to see the light of day. If a big house is willing to invest in me, then my writing is on par. I can see myself going indie in the future and even have some study book ideas that I would likely self-publish through KDP and their on-demand sister.

    • Yes. For me, I am also looking for a skilled set of eyes to tell me that I’m ready. There are so many bad books out there, it scares me to ever be considered one of them.

  5. I’ve been reading a lot of negative hearsay(?) about the Big Six. Author Solutions is a subsidiary of one of them and a big problem for anything getting mixed up with them.

  6. Some of those typos in the novels are deliberate I’ve heard. Book publishers will deliberately allow some typos to make it through to the finished product as a safeguard against plagiarism. If someone copies the writing and includes the typos, it’s clear evidence as plagiarism.

  7. I recently read a blog post by an author who’s been published by Harper Collins 4 or 5 times. I pulled up his books and was surprised to see less than seven reviews each and very poor Amazon sales ranks. And two were published within the last four months! It made me think they did very little marketing for him. Kind of depressing to see.