Publishers may be made up of divisions or publishing houses, which are like small companies within a larger company. At Penguin Random House, for instance, we are made up of eight publishing houses, each of which is creatively and editorially independent and made up of its own team of publishing experts, including editors, designers, marketers and publicists. We also have a specific division focused on producing, recording and releasing audio versions of our books from their state-of-the-art studios in our office.
Many publishing houses are made up of imprints, which are small publishing units, and may have a certain identity or publish a certain type of book.
Joel explains more, "Having lots of imprints tends to come about for one of two reasons: either because multiple small publishing companies joined together at one point in time but preserved their own identity, or because a new imprint has been set up within a company, with a specific remit to look for a certain kind of book. Either way, the easiest way to think of any imprint is that it has a specific brand identity within the publishing world, in terms of the kinds of books they publish."
For example, some imprints may be geared towards literary fiction, while others might publish certain non-fiction categories (for example, our Yellow Jersey imprint focuses on brilliant sports writing). Some imprints, like Penguin or Puffin, are world famous and recognised by their distinctive look and logo.
Authors will usually work with one editor, who will work for a particular publishing house. Sometimes an editor will work for a single imprint, and sometimes they will work for multiple. Some editors may have the job title of ‘Publisher’ which means roughly the same thing as editor, but with a little more experience and responsibility for the strategy of their imprint.
Whatever the structure or shape of the publisher that you end up working with, the important thing to know is that you'll be working with experts in their field. From a combination of research and experience, publishers know their readers inside out. In a fast-changing world - one which is full of distractions and competing forces for people's time - they know how to cut through the noise and get people truly excited about new stories and ideas.
Illustration: Mike Ellis for Penguin