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What Are the Different Types of Fiction Publishers?

By S. McCumber
Updated May 23, 2024
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There are many types of fiction publishers that specialize in different markets, genres and authors. Most fiction publishers specialize in popular fiction in an attempt to mass market books through traditional outlets such as retail-chain bookstores. Other, smaller publishers cater to independent authors and sell through independent retailers or directly to the public. The latest trend is for authors to self-publish their work and sell it online in a digital format that is compatible with computers or electronic book readers.

There is a group of fiction publishers — commonly referred to as “the big six” — that publishes the majority of popular fiction in the United States and the United Kingdom. These publishers are Simon and Schuster, Hachette Book Group, Random House, HarperCollins, Penguin Group and Macmillan Publishers Ltd. These publishers have subsidiaries, called imprints, which specialize in specific genres and sub-genres. They are traditional publishers that mainly sell hardcover and paperback books through retail bookstores.

Most fiction publishers focus on a group of basic genres and their sub-genres. The fundamental genres of popular fiction are suspense, romance, children’s, young adult, horror, mystery, science fiction, fantasy and short fiction. There are many sub-genres within each of these genres.

Suspense stories are characterized by normal people getting caught up in extraordinary adventures. They are designed to evoke an emotional response and to cause the reader to fear for the hero’s safety as he or she attempts to complete a quest to prevent something bad from occurring. Some sub-genres of suspense writing include paranormal, medical, legal and espionage.

The romance genre is also favored by fiction publishers. Romances are generally characterized by the goal of the protagonist to find love and to overcome any obstacles standing in the way of that love. Romances almost always have a happy ending in which the protagonist is able to overcome those obstacles and be with the one he or she loves.

There are also fiction publishers who specialize in science fiction and fantasy. These stories occur in alternate worlds or the distant future. One of the key elements of these stories is the world in which the story takes place. The author’s attempt to craft these fictional worlds is termed “world building.” In these genres, world building can sometimes be more important than characterization or even plot.

Mystery fiction focuses on a puzzle or an unanswered question that must be solved or answered by the protagonist. Fiction publishers who sell mystery stories usually prefer crime or detective mysteries. The mystery itself is the focus of the story, if it is plot driven, while the detective/protagonist will be the focus of the story if it is character driven.

Horror fiction is written to evoke a visceral fear response. Writers of horror fiction either use the fear of mythical or fantastic creatures such as spirits or monsters, or the fear of real dangers such as serial murderers, criminals or rabid beasts. Contemporary horror stories often depict graphic violence such as decapitation or torture.

Many fiction publishers sell young adult fiction. Young adult fiction often depicts adult themes, but the characters who face them are generally teenagers. Young adult fiction deals with how these young characters handle the situations they are in without minimizing their opinions or experiences based on their age.

Children’s fiction is a very broad category that includes everything geared toward children, from picture books to chapter books. Most children’s fiction offers some type of moral or culture lesson. Books aimed at smaller children are often designed to teach the readers fundamental lessons about things such as colors, shapes or names of objects.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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