Founded in 1974, Kensington Publishing Corp is located in New York City and is known as “America’s Independent Publisher.” It remains a multi-generational family business and is widely regarded as the foremost independent commercial publishing house in the United States providing hardcover, paperback, mass market and digital releases. As they state on their website “Kensington publishes the books that America wants to read.”
Home to many New York Times bestselling authors, including Fern Michaels, Lisa Jackson, Joanne Fluke, William W. Johnstone, and many others, Kensington publishes over 500 fiction and non-fiction titles each year. It has a diverse subsidiary of imprints including – Kensington Books, Zebra, Pinnacle, Dafina, Citadel Press and Lyrical Press – and is well known for providing readers with a range of popular genres such as thrillers, romance, historical fiction, cosy mysteries and non-fiction, as well as true-crime, western, and commercial fiction titles.
With its 50th anniversary approaching in 2024 Kensington is one of the last remaining independent U.S. publishers. In this full Kensington Publishing review, we’ll explore in more detail, who they are, what they publish and whether or not a writer should consider submitting their work to them.
Who are they & what does Kensington Publish?
The question that’s always asked when considering an independent publisher is why would a writer consider working with them over one of the larger publishing houses. Whilst the industry is moving towards a more refined, analytics-based approach, many people feel it’s starting to lack a human touch. Working with a smaller publishing house, and one that is fully independent, allows for a more personal connection between writer and publisher, where friendship and bond play just as much a part as data and spreadsheets.
The other upside is that because they are smaller they are more agile. They’re able to respond more quickly to trends or emerging markets. The books can be put into readers' hands faster than traditional publishers with shorter turnaround times, which is a huge upside for any writer. But they still have the manpower and staff numbers to put together promotional and marketing campaigns to engage readers.
Those who sing the praises of companies like Kensington Publishing Corp often refer to it as a sweet spot or happy medium between a start-up with a few people and an idea vs a multinational publishing house which feels too impersonal.
This is showcased perfectly by the fact that Kensington is a multi-generation family business and the current President & CEO Steven Zacharius says he has four grandchildren and hopes for that tradition to continue. Lastly, under the FAQ section on their website, they have a section that goes into detail on how readers can get in touch with their favourite authors, either to simply commence correspondence or potentially arrange a book signing.
These extra touches that are often found missing from a publisher go a long way to create brand loyalty with their customers as well as reveal the type of attitude that comes with a family-run business.
Under the ‘books’ section on their website, they list a variety of genres including Fantasy, Fiction, Romance and many more. Seemingly they are a genre-agnostic company which creates both scope for writers considering a submission as well as depth for their readership who will have access to many different types of works if they follow the releases of the publishing house closely. Below is a selection of titles to provide further insight into the types of work they release.
Notable Kensington Publishing Books
- The Heretic Royal – G A Aiken
- Tick Tock – Fern Michaels
- One Last Chance – Kat Martin
- Somebody Like Santa – Janet Dailey
- The Lost Girls of Willowbrook – Ellen Marie Wiseman
- The Girl Who Survived – Lisa Jackson
- The Nurse’s Secret – Amanda Skenandore
- The Wife Before – Shanora Williams
- Cold Snap – Marc Cameron
- Forever Texas – William W Johnstone
As you can see these titles do not all fit neatly into one category or box so regardless of the type of work a writer is looking to publish, it will likely have a home at Kensington.
Can Authors Submit to Kensington Publishing?
Well, it’s complicated. They may be able to make a submission but first, they have to submit what Kensington refer to as a ‘query’. They openly invite authors to select from a list of editors and email them. There is no further detail on what this email should contain, but it’s reasonable to assume that it should include an introduction to the author, a synopsis of the book and anything else the writer thinks will improve their chances of sparking the editor's interest.
They do however very clearly state that no manuscripts or formal proposals should be included in this stage. Writers making such a query can expect a response within 3 months if it is positive however there’s no guarantee of a reply at all. They are currently not accepting Children’s, Middle Grade, Young Adult or Poetry submissions.
What are some alternatives to Kensington Publishing?
Thankfully writers have many an option when considering how best to move forward with their completed work. Broadly speaking these options fit into 3 categories.
Firstly, a writer can make a submission to Kensington or a similar publishing house. The rewards that come with having your submission accepted or often enormous with financial gain, prestige and recognition all achievable once fully published. However, as we’ve seen above, the limitations on what one can submit, combined with potential lengthy wait times for a response make this an uncertain path to tread.
Secondly, a writer has the option of self-publishing. This naturally requires more work from the writer but the upsides are also huge with full autonomy retained, creative control maintained and an ability to work to your own schedule rather than be at the behest of a publishing house and their time frames.
Lastly, if a writer does self-publish but wants some extra help, they can consider the route of using a book promotional service. This carries with it the upsides mentioned from self-publishing but gives them a leg up when it comes to marketing, distribution and reaching a wider audience. However, this comes with a financial cost to the writer which can be expensive and may be unviable for many in that position.
Kensington Publishing Review – Final Verdict
Ultimately then, Kensington Publishing Corp sits firmly in the spot where lots of publishing houses find themselves. Their history and track record are impressive, they clearly care deeply about their work and only accept submissions from writers they believe would add to their collection of releases. But from a writer’s perspective that comes with risk and reward as we mentioned previously. The rewards are huge if accepted. But this process can be arduous and time-consuming and a writer may wish to take matters into their own hands by self-publishing.
If a writer has the time, patience and meets the criteria to make a submission to a publisher such as Kensington Publishing Corp then they absolutely should. It goes without saying everyone they have ever published had to start somewhere. However, it’s likely that this should be one part of a multi-pronged approach for a writer to get their work out there as opposed to pinning all their efforts on this single submission.