building new castles every day

why imprint?

In Learnings on June 8, 2010 at 5:07 PM

As I read about David Davidar resigning from his post as CEO of Penguin Canada, I got to wondering: how many Penguins are there?

I’m referring to the number of divisions of the international publisher, not the number of those snazzy semi-flightless birds.

Turns out the first Penguin was in the US (1935) followed by Penguin Team Atlantic (partnership with UK-publisher, 1936). Then came a Penguin in Australia (1946), New Zealand (1973), Canada (1974), India (1987), South Africa (1989), and China (2006) – Penguin Ireland is in there somewhere too.

And with each division comes a significant number of imprints. An imprint is a trade name under which a work is published. Sometimes imprints are created by a division when they feel they have a talent (author, editor, etc.) worthy of an independent list. Sometimes imprints are created through takeovers (think big fish consumes little fish). Imprint books are still published by the parent company, but it’s the imprint’s name on the binding and title page of the book.

Penguin (Canada) has three of its own imprints: Hamish Hamilton Canada, Puffin Canada, and Viking Canada. And if we assume Penguin’s pals around the world of three or so imprints each, we’re looking at quite the colony.

And marketing genius!

Creating an imprint is, says Morris Rosenthal,

part branding strategy (for customers) and part selling strategy (to bookstores) because it gives the publisher the opportunity to list a promising book in the #1 slot of the new imprint. In that way, a large publishing company with a dozen imprints can have a dozen premier titles, while another large publishing company with only one imprint who publishes exactly the same number of books that year only has one premier title. Tricky, eh?”

Clever, actually.

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