Is acquisition the name of the game?

The publishing industry is continually evolving, and the last few years have brought with them uncertainty and concerns. The digital age has raised questions regarding the sustainability of publishing physical copies of books and other literature, although we are seeing a resurgence.
As the big players in the industry have the financial means to make quick decisions and invest enormous amounts of money in the future, are smaller publishers still able to survive in this climate? Is now a good time for larger publishers to acquire their smaller counterparts? Perhaps merging talent and ideas will be the key to maintaining a successful publishing house with the potential to flourish in spite of changes in readership trends.
Here’s a look at the positives and negatives of both small and large publishers, as well as some of the current trends within the industry that are changing the narrative.
Also read: The biggest recent publishing mergers

Small publishers

Small publishing houses tend to be more welcoming and relatable for emerging authors and writers. But although they don’t have the vast resources larger publishers have, they do have more to lose. This leads to smaller publishing houses making calculated risks each time they publish a new author – something that means they have to be truly dedicated to a project they decide to publish, as they invest precious time in not only books but also the authors behind them.
Smaller publishers are more ‘on the ground’, head-hunting raw talent and niche writers who may not be able to get a foot in the door elsewhere. It’s more of a collaborative process between the talent and the press.

Large publishers

It’s extremely difficult to get a draft read by a large publisher, due to the excessive amounts they receive on a daily basis – something that means promising writers can easily get overlooked (see J.K. Rowling for a start!). However, if a large publishing house is interested in backing a book, they’ll be able to offer far more in terms of budget, advance, marketing and advertising.
Large publishing houses only employ the very best people – those who can turn a book into a global sensation. Having the name of a large publisher on the spine of a book will automatically demand recognition. Large houses also have strong connections with stores, both online and on the high street, ensuring their authors have the best possible reach.

Growth of digital publishers

The digital age has made it easier for entrepreneurs to create start-up publishing companies. In today’s society, books don’t even need to be published in a physical capacity for them to be a success. Businesses that have been built from the ground up, such as GoodReads and Bookish, are now seeking to capitalise on their success and are forming exit strategies. Amazon recently bought GoodReads for a reported nine-figure sum.
Digital companies that have carved out a new role in the publishing industry now have enough success that they’re attracting traditional publishing houses, interested in acquiring them to further their digital output.

Other content and mediums

Publishers have recognised that their main role is more than simply publishing books and written titles. The digital world has brought with it a change in perspective. They’re now producing content across many different platforms. Technology has made it possible for traditional publishing houses to experiment within the app and educational markets. It seems like a natural step for larger publishers to acquire groundbreaking, independent creators to guide and develop their offerings to consumers.
While there are some obvious advantages to large publishers merging with smaller ones, is it the answer for all? There isn’t a blanket solution for all companies considering a merger or acquisition. Each situation should be analysed on its own set of unique circumstances and future goals.
There’s a call for partnerships but, as with any industry, there must be room for a small publisher to grow, nurture and develop to keep a hold of innovation and raw talent.
The future of the publishing industry is unpredictable and will always be the subject of questions surrounding the longevity of traditional methods. Large publishing companies need smaller ones to survive, and this applies to both the digital and traditional landscapes.
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