Does Size Matter?

In Ed's Perspective by Hannah Johnson

Editorial by Edward Nawotka

One of the most popular panels yesterday at the fair and sparked a lot of discussion concerned the release of the list ranking the largest publishers in the world (see our story in today’s issue). Are you shocked to hear that the biggest is Pearson? Size is important, but perhaps not quite as much as it once was.

In this era of digital publishing tiny, highly motivated companies can produce titles at a rapid clip, frequently beating the big boys to market with a title on a hot topic. They also have the flexibility to offer authors favorable contract terms, input on the production of the book and a hand in planning the sales and marketing efforts. It’s no wonder that working with a small publisher, in digital or and print, is an increasingly attractive option for authors.

The difference between large-scale corporate publishing and the new generation of start-ups has been underscored time and time again by the American publisher Richard Nash. (If you’re wondering who he is, see our profile in yesterday’s issue. If you didn’t see it you can log on to where you’ll find it archived. Then, subscribe to our free daily e-mail newsletter). Nash is in Frankfurt to promote his new company, Cursor, and sell rights to his first imprint, Red Lemonade, and scout for more titles.

“The thing that I love about coming to Frankfurt,” he said to me over a drink at the Frankfurter Hof earlier in the week, “is that you come here and you don’t feel like a small publisher. Everyone is on equal footing. You have just as much an opportunity of buying or selling as the big guys.”

It’s true too. The book business is made up of individuals, not companies. It’s important to remind authors of the same thing. At its most basic level, you only need two people to believe in a book to put it on the path to being published: an agent and an editor. But finding that one agent and one editor is a lot like getting two stars aligned amid a whole galaxy of stars. It’s no small feat and just the right timing and circumstance.

Here at Frankfurt, this is where the stars can align.

(This story originally appeared in the Publishing Perspectives show daily at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 7 October 2010. Download the complete show daily here or click on the image to view the online version.)

About the Author

Hannah Johnson


Hannah Johnson is the publisher of international book industry magazine Publishing Perspectives, which provides daily information and news about book markets around the world. In addition to building partnerships with international cultural and trade organizations, she works with the Frankfurt Book Fair to organize and support a number of its overseas initiatives. Hannah has also worked as the managing editor for an online media company, The Hooch Life, focused on craft distillers and cocktail experts. Prior to that, she worked as a project manager for the Frankfurt Book Fair’s New York office, managing various business and marketing activities.