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Bring the Brand Back to Publishing

Official Penguin Random House logo_peoplewhowriteThere’s a great op-ed in the New York Times about how all the mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations in publishing have diluted the distinctions between imprints/brands. Writer Boris Kachka asks “The Big Five have been so busy reducing old companies to brands that they’ve neglected the notion of what a brand should mean. Can any reader tell a Pantheon from a Riverhead novel?”

As a writer, I know different imprints have different areas of focus as far as the kinds of books they’re looking for, but as a reader, I don’t look for books by imprint because none of them stand out to me as owning a specific subject matter. Akashic Books sticks out in my mind as a publisher that specializes in African-American interest books, but that’s one of the only ones I can think of that has a distinct brand. Kachka proposes “Maybe it’s time for publishers to revive the value of their brands by making them more distinctive and connecting them more closely to consumers.”

For now though, Kachka laments the randomness of it all. Speaking specifically about the Penguin Random House merger and the logo in particular, he writes “Their temporary new logo — a giant penguin looking away from a house — is an awkward amalgam, a glyphic non sequitur. It’s a necessary visual compromise, a show of mutual respect for two distinctive histories. But maybe Random Penguin, as a few wags have suggested, would have been a more apt name.”

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