Childrens industry responds to Penguin/Random merge

The merger of Penguin Children's Books and Random House Children's Books within the trade giant Penguin Random House has been described as a meeting of "titans", arousing mixed reactions from the wider trade.

Scout John McLay said: "They both have a lot of strengths‚ Penguin seems to be focusing more on branded properties, Random House is very strong on author care. It will be a very impressive publishing operation and I think other competing houses will have to step up their game to persuade authors to come to them." He added that the merger would see all of Roald Dahl's titles finally brought under the same roof.

Agent Philippa Milnes-Smith at LAW agreed that both houses were "positive forces", and said: "There's a lot of talent both within Penguin and Random House, and no one seems to be saying it should all be put in one melting pot."

However, Penny Holroyde of the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency expressed concern. "Both are great publishers but I might worry that the merging of two such effective titans could lead to less variety which means fewer opportunities for authors. Great bestsellers have been born of richness of opportunity," she said.

Catherine Clarke at the Felicity Bryan Literary Agency said the merger may create a different role for smaller publishers. "It's not that Random House and Penguin are not looking for new authors—and with any new author I was looking to place, they would absolutely be at the top of the list—but a lot of their emphasis is on larger projects. So there will be a much greater emphasis on smaller imprints and publishers, like Faber or Hot Key, to find a different kind of new talent, to take risks and be able to nurture new voices," she said.

Bookseller Wayne Winstone of Winstone Books, Sherborne, raised a question mark over whether the sales forces could do justice to the number of titles that would be included in the merged company. "Random House and Penguin already have many imprints they have absorbed, and the subscription lists you go through with the reps are quite substantial. If they amalgamated sales forces, I don't think the reps could do justice to it—not just the size [of the lists] but the knowledge and attention to books," he said.

Kate Agnew of the Children's Bookshop, Muswell Hill, said: "We have a particularly strong relationship with Random House Children's publicity department with whom we've built up an immensely strong range of ongoing author events that has, I think, been beneficial to all concerned. I'd be really sorry if this were to be a casualty of the merger—though of course if it were to be extended across an even wider range of authors and lists that would equally be beneficial."

RHCB m.d. Philippa Dickinson and Penguin Children's Books m.d. Francesca Dow declined to comment on the merger.