AustLit logo
Ballantine Books Ballantine Books i(A37968 works by) (Organisation) assertion (a.k.a. Ballantine Books, Incorporated)
Born: Established: 1952 New York (City), New York (State),
United States of America (USA),
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.


Ballantine Books Inc. was founded in 1952 by Ian and Betty Ballantine, who developed a marketing strategy whereby original titles published in hardcover by a trade house would also be simultaneously published by Ballantine as paperback editions. The trade-off was joint financing. This proposal meant that the trade publisher would advance the manufacturing cost of the paperback edition and a fee for supervising distribution. Ballantine would provide the sheets for binding in hardcover, and authors would receive an increased royalty for the paperback edition (eight percent as opposed to the normal two-and-a-half percent). The cost of the paperbacks was also slightly increased (by 10 to 25 cents). While the concept of joint hardcover/paperback publishing was not new (Fawcett's Gold Medal imprint had originated the strategy in 1950), the Ballantines' plan allowed small, undercapitalised companies the opportunity to compete in the higher end of the publishing industry. The first trade houses to take advantage of the Ballantine proposal were Farrar, Straus and Young, Houghton Mifflin, and, later, Fawcett Books.

Prior to establishing his own publishing company, Ian Ballantine had headed the first U.S. branch of Penguin Books. When the New American Library absorbed Penguin into its U.S. operations in 1945, he resigned and immediately started a new paperback firm, Ballantine and Company, with Sidney Kramer and Walter B. Pitkin; the latter had left Penguin at the same time as Ballantine. After securing additional capital from Grossett and Dunlap, Ballantine changed the name of the company to Bantam Books, serving as both president and publisher until a series of disputes with the board of directors led to him resigning in 1952. He shortly afterwards established Ballantine Books, with the clear intention of becoming involved in original publishing, which Penguin Books had done but which Bantam had not. The first title to be published by Ballantine (with Houghton Mifflin) was Executive Suite, by Cameron Hawley. The success of that first venture led to Houghton Mifflin purchasing a 25 percent stake in Ballantine (ctd. Bartter, p. 29).

While Ian Ballantine served as company president, supported by former Bantam employees Robert Arnold (as vice-president) and Stanley Kaufman (sales manager/editorial assistant), Betty Ballantine was engaged as both secretary and science-fiction editor. Under her direction, the company published Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, Ward Moore's Bring the Jubilee, and Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth's Space Merchants. In its second year of operations, it published the anthology Star Science Fiction Stories (edited by Frederik Pohl).

Although largely focusing on new original titles, Ballantine nevertheless published a small number of reprints, mostly short stories by established science-fiction writers that had previously appeared only in magazines. In addition to Arthur C. Clark, the most notable science-fiction authors to be published by Ballantine during the 1950s and 1960s included John Wyndham, William Tenn, Robert Sheckley, and Ray Bradbury. In 1965, Ballatine secured the rights to publish the only paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings that was authorised by J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien's The Hobbit later became Ballantine's all-time best-seller, with more than eight million copies sold up to the late 1980s. Among the other lines that the company published during this period were art books and wilderness conservation books.

In 1969, Ballantine was sold to Intext, a publisher from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Although Ian Ballantine remained as editor in chief, Intext changed its distributor from Pocket Books to the Curtis Distribution Company. Under Ballantine's guidance, Intext on-sold the company to Random House in 1973. Later that same year, Ballantine was made chairman of Ballantine Books, but remained with the company only a few months. With his wife, he established a short-lived packaging company, Rufus Publications, before returning to Bantam Books, where he helped establish its trade paperback division.

Following the arrival of Ron Busch as Ballantine Books's president in January 1974, the company slowly moved into the high-end auction market. Some of its major purchases in the 1970s were titles by Joseph Heller and Paul Theroux. In 1976, Ballantine Books secured the rights to publish Star Wars and, around the same time, set up the science-fiction imprint Del Ray Books (managed by editor Judy Del Ray). Another major move by the company occurred in 1979 when it combined its sales and distribution operations with Warner Brothers.

In 1980, Random House (including Ballantine Books) was acquired by Newhouse Publications. The following year, Ian Ballantine was engaged by Newhouse to act as a consultant to his former company. When CBS sold Fawcett Books to Random House in 1982, the Fawcett imprints (Crest, Gold Medal, Columbine, Premier, Coventry, and Juniper) were absorbed into the Ballantine/Del Ray house. Additional Ballantine Books imprints have included Ballantine Reader's Circle, Del Rey/LucasBooks, Ivy, One World, and Wellspring. Also in 1982, the company achieved, via Garfield the Cat, its greatest commercial success, when Garfield creator Jim Davis became the first author to have seven titles in the New York Times Book Review paperback best-seller list simultaneously. Total sales at the time were more than US $6.5 million.

Among the Australian authors to be published by Ballantine are Nevil Shute, Paul Brickhill, Dorothy Lucie Sanders (aka Lucy Walker), Thomas Keneally, Patricia WrightsonRs), Peter Corris, Mudrooroo (aka Colin Johnson), John Marsden%5bI), Kerry Greenwood, Ian Slater, Joy Chambers, Luke Davies, Jennifer Rowe (aka Emily Rodda), Mandy Sayer, Sean Williams, Monica McInerey, and John Birmingham.

(Sources: 'About Ballantine Books' from Ballantine Books's website and Mary A. Bartter's 'Ballantine Books'.)

Most Referenced Works


  • Further Reference:

    • 'About Ballantine Books,' Ballantine Books - online (sighted 9/11/2010).
    • Bartter, Martha A. In Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 46 - American Literary Publishing Houses, 1900-1980: Trade and Paperback.' Ed. Peter Dzwonkoski. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986, pp. 29-31.
    • 'Ballantine Unveils Multimedia Marketing Plan to Aid all Titles.' Publishers Weekly 218 (21 Nov. 1980), pp. 44-45.
    • Davis, Kenneth C. 'The Building of Ballantine' Publishers Weekly 225 (27 Apr. 1984), pp. 25-29.
    • Weyr, Thomas. 'Ballantine Books at Quarter Century, Part 1: The Founders.' Publishers Weekly 212 (12 Dec. 1977), pp. 30-33.
    • --- 'Ballantine Books at Quarter Century, Part 2: The New Regime.' Publishers Weekly 212 (26 Dec. 1977), pp. 44-46.

Last amended 11 Mar 2015 13:41:54
Other mentions of "" in AustLit: