Astra Publishing House Acquires DAW Books

Sheila Gilbert and Betsy Wollheim at the 1995 World SF Convention in Glasgow. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Astra Publishing House has acquired DAW Books. The deal was announced today in a press release run at Amazing Stories and elsewhere.

DAW, although it has a distribution relationship with Penguin Group and is headquartered in Penguin USA’s offices in New York City, was editorially independent and formerly was closely held by its current publishers, Betsy Wollheim (Donald A. Wollheim’s daughter) and Sheila E. Gilbert.

Leying Jiang, President and CFO of APH said, “We’re so thrilled to have DAW Books and its talented team joining Astra Publishing House. It feels like we are adding another bright star to our growing program. And so this acquisition marks a new milestone to Astra’s journey to a successful future.”

DAW co-publishers Betsy Wollheim and Sheila Gilbert said, “We are extremely pleased by Astra’s enthusiasm, and thrilled that we will be the sole SFF imprint of their company (a first for DAW!). We think this is the perfect fit for us, and it’s exciting and refreshing to be an integral part of a new and growing company. It speaks volumes about Astra’s respect for our company that they have included our entire staff. We’re very happy.”

DAW, previously distributed by the Penguin division of Penguin Random House, will be distributed by the Penguin Random House Publisher Services division which distributes all of Astra Publishing House books.

Astra Publishing House, as Shelf Awareness reported in 2020, was formed by combining established and new publishing operations as a subsidiary of Thinkingdom Media Group. With headquarters in Beijing, China, TMG specializes in literary fiction, nonfiction and picture books. TMG is also associated with publishers in Japan, France and Germany. Founded by Chen Mingjun in 2002, Thinkingdom Media Group is the only non-state-owned publishing company to go public in China and has published more than 4,000 titles in that country.

APH’s newly-added DAW Books page outlines the imprint’s history: “Founded in 1971 by veteran paperback editor Donald A. Wollheim, along with his wife, Elsie B. Wollheim, DAW Books was the first publishing company ever devoted exclusively to science fiction and fantasy. Now over 50 years and 2,000 titles later, under the direction of co-publishers Betsy Wollheim and Sheila Gilbert, DAW has a well-deserved reputation for discovering and publishing the hottest talents in the industry.”

David Lamb and Susan Reich at Book Advisors brokered the deal for DAW, with Kuo-Yu Liang of Ku Worldwide. Alan J. Kaufman served as DAW’s counsel.

14 thoughts on “Astra Publishing House Acquires DAW Books

  1. I hope this works out!

    I recently saw a news item about DAW Books — and I thought it was here, but I can’t find it. It was something about how DAW was having problems (at least in the eyes of Big Publishing) because one of their most popular authors had died, and another wasn’t sending in his manuscript. Does anyone remember this item?

  2. Here’s a related item in the 07/26/2020 Pixel Scroll:

    In somewhat surprising news, Patrick Rothfuss’s editor Betsy Wollheim has reported that she is yet to read any material from his next novel, The Doors of Stone, the third and concluding volume in The Kingkiller Chronicle, and notes a lack of communication on the book’s progress.

  3. I hope Astra does good by DAW, but the move from independently-owned to corporate imprint sure marks the end of a long era.

    I remember buying some of the first DAW titles in 1972, at the drugstore up the street from the entrance to Fort Monmouth, NJ, where I was taking Advanced Individual Training as part of my Army enlistment. The rack for DAW’s and other science fiction paperbacks was right next to the rack for Beeline and other porn publishers’ books.

  4. @rcade
    Wow, I must have a good memory. 🙂

    Some people are worried because Astra Publishing House is a China-owned company. Does that mean some topics won’t be allowed? Will there be interference in editorial decisions? What does that mean for minority authors or for queer authors? Sigh.

  5. So…another end of a SF/FANTASY publishing era. Does this mean the end of “DAW BOOK COLLECTORS” numbered books. Hopefully not. But as most buy outs go I really doubt the individuality and diverse line of books wil remain. I still today go to private book stores and purchase as many of the “OLDER” Paperbacks (YELLOW SPINE) of a now by-gone era I can find. Sad, sad sad day. I honestly hope this was not about money..

  6. Does that mean some topics won’t be allowed?

    The Los Angeles Times asked the same question two years ago. This excerpt of the article is enough of an answer for me:

    Does Chinese investment portend more self-censorship? People working in the film business will tell you it certainly has. Chinese money has flooded Hollywood and brought some visible changes to certain movies — more Chinese heroes and settings, fewer dialogue-heavy scenes and, perhaps most importantly, less criticism of China. Writers and producers are sometimes made to sign agreements not to disparage the Chinese government, even privately.

  7. “One question that has loomed over the house is whether or not it is subject to censorship from its owner in China. [Publisher and COO] Schrank said this is not an issue at all. “We enjoy total editorial freedom,” he added.”

    From a 2021 Publishers Weekly article at https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/87770-astra-publishing-house-reaches-for-the-stars.html

    I don’t know for certain what’s going to happen next, but as one of DAW’s authors, I’m keeping fingers and toes crossed for the best.

  8. Hines can speak better to this than I can but I’m known enough authors to know how small the print runs can be, i.e. some of the novels written by Charles de Lint were only printed in hardcover in a few thousand. It’s hard to make a living off runs like that.

  9. Cat Eldridge is not wrong, but the issue with having a publishing company and a list is not quite that simple. The books that have small print runs in and of themselves, can make money if the advances were are large and if those few thousand actually sell. And, in general, those books and authors can be “carried” by the 800 lb gorillas–the books and authors that print and sell in large quantities. In the case of DAW, Rothfuss, of course, is the 800 lb gorilla. The delay in delivery of his novel probably did have significant financial impact on DAW’s “bottom line.”

  10. I hope DAW continues to publish good books, and make money for themselves, and their authors. However . . .

    “Founded in 1971, DAW Books–the first publishing company ever devoted exclusively to science fiction and fantasy”
    Really? What about Gnome Press? Fantasy Press? Arkham House?

    I suspect I’m missing a hyper-technical distinction in what constitutes “science fiction and fantasy.”

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  12. I have very fond memories of the whole Wollheim family. Betsy was an adorable teenager when I met her. Don was amazingly astute as an editor and observant beyond compare.

    Harriette and Steve Kolchak used to throw a big party every two years on conjunction with Philcon. Steve had papered the large front room of the third floor of their house entirely with centerfolds from Playboy. (Centerfolds were two page nude photographs of attractive young women.) In was an amusement to always give that guest room to the youngest and most innocent male of the guests who stayed with them during Philcon.
    During the party Steve would usually conduct the various guests through the house and show off the decor of the different rooms. (Mainly shelves and shelves of books.) When he showed the Playboy room to Don Wollheim, Don moved his eyes around the room once, and announced: “You have duplicated one of the pictures.”
    Steve had not noticed that he had done that. It was the end of an era, and he quickly re-did the room, removing the pictures and replacing them, as I recall, with more bookshelves.
    The last time I saw Don and Elsie we had dinner at Spenger’s Fish Grotto in Berkeley, when they were visiting the West Coast. I asked Don why he did not write any more. I thought it sad that such a wonderful writer had, like many others, stopped writing and turned to editing. He said: “I just didn’t have any more stories to tell.”
    Although I miss having more stories from the typewriter of Don Wollheim, I am grateful for the many careers he fostered among young writers, and the mentorship he provided to them: and I think Betsy has proven to be a totally excellent heir to his work in developing new talent.

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