Hachette Book Group Acquires Workman Publishing

On August 16, Hachette Book Group (HBG) and Workman Publishing announced that they have entered into a binding agreement for Hachette to acquire Workman. The transaction is expected to close this fall after regulatory approval by the Justice Department.

On August 16, Hachette Book Group (HBG) and Workman Publishing announced that they have entered into a binding agreement for Hachette to acquire Workman. The transaction is expected to close this fall after regulatory approval by the Justice Department.

Hachette Book Group - Workman logoWith the acquisition, HBG will become the third-largest trade publisher in the country, with estimated annual sales of roughly $700 million, according to Publishers Weekly. For the reported $240 million price, Workman will become HBG’s eighth group, publishing the Workman imprints along with Algonquin, Algonquin Young Readers, Artisan, Storey Publishing, and Timber Press. The purchase will add more nonfiction and backlist titles to HBG’s offerings, especially well-known franchises such as What to Expect, Brain Quest, and the new Atlas Obscura line. Some 40 percent of Workman’s revenue comes from content the company owns, as reported in the New York Times. “Workman is brilliant at developing new products and has several such programs that have huge expansion potential. We all look forward to learning from Workman on this front!” Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch told LJ.

Added Pietsch, “When we make an acquisition, we try very hard not to change what attracted us to the company in the first place. We expect their publishing to remain as unique, successful, and market-leading as it has been for many decades. And as the two companies begin to get acquainted, we will both learn from each other.”

Dan Reynolds, CEO of Workman, agreed that he has “no expectations of change,” adding that “Hachette’s buying us for who we are, and they want us to do more of that work. They want to learn how to convert books to backlist and we want to learn how to make our frontlist stronger.” He emphasized that “most publishers have hundreds of books on the front end. Each of our imprints publishes about 40–70 new books a year and then we…turn them into backlist. Our uniqueness is about converting frontlist to back list: Publish very few books, publish them well, and find the market for them.” He continued, “We loved creating our own brand and we will continue to use those muscles. A lot of publishing houses rely on agents and writers for their ideas; we like to generate our ideas in-house and build products that way. One of the things we always say about ourselves is that we are ‘fiercely independent’ and while that may no longer be literal, we will be fiercely independent in spirit.”

When asked about which markets Pietsch sees opportunity to tap with this new acquisition, he said, “We expect that the scale and scope of a global company like Hachette will help Workman to grow, particularly in sales in international markets. HBG’s strong relationships with mass merchant retailers may also help expand Workman’s presence there. Conversely, Workman’s successful reach into specialty and gift retailers will give HBG’s publishing in practical, how-to, and gift categories significant new opportunities.”

Reynolds hopes to tap into Hachette’s strength with fiction and responded that, “One of Hachette’s strengths is commercial fiction. They are going to teach us, especially with Algonquin, on how to reach a wider audience with fiction.”

Reynolds added, “We think the children’s market has tremendous growth opportunities. Our children’s line is fantastic, and we want to build new products in this world. Each of our adult imprints (Artisan, Storey, and Timber) want to build upon what they are known for. Hachette is going to allow us to fuel that growth in new ways. I am so excited about not doing just one or two books a year, but doing six to 12 books with, for example, Atlas Obscura on how they see the world. Atlas Obscura recently partnered with AirBnB during the pandemic, and they are going to be expanding their business model; the travel opportunities alone are tremendous.”

As for the acquisition impacting a relationship with libraries, librarians, and the patrons they serve, Pietsch added, “It’s too early for us to have gotten a close look at Workman’s particular sales to libraries...many of their books are intended to be useful for years, and should have a strong library presence. We look forward to Workman making our relationship with libraries even stronger.”

Reynolds added, “Between Algonquin, Storey, and Timber, the library market is so important to us and we want to contribute to the part of our DNA that publishes prescriptive, curated, accurate, and trustworthy resources. It seems that with more and more content available online, people don’t know what to trust. If the pandemic has shown us anything it is that books are relied upon for information and knowledge, and they are perceived to be trustworthy because they are curated. We are more and more committed to publishing this kind of prescriptive information. We have fantastic relationships with libraries, and I see them supporting our work. With Hachette, there are ways we can expand our relationships with libraries with print, ebook, and audiobook. Hachette has a lot more experience in audiobooks and we are going to learn a lot. We had created some audio a year ago, and Hachette has been doing it for much longer. So, that is a growing market for us. Because we are more of a backlist house, the library market has been very important to us, and we will probably show Hachette more about the library market. It will be interesting to see how trade shows will go through the library market.”

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