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View Full Version : Houghton-Mifflin stops acquisitions



trickywoo
11-25-2008, 05:49 AM
Kind of discouraging - not the best time to be peddling our manuscripts...sigh.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6617241.html

Soccer Mom
11-25-2008, 08:04 AM
I saw that article and immediately broke out in hives.


:(

mscelina
11-25-2008, 08:08 AM
Ack.

Realistically, though, you'd pretty much have to recognize that the current economic crisis would have to impact the major houses. What's really scary to contemplate is the fate of the smaller houses if this keeps up. I have a feeling that HM may have been a bit premature in this, and can only hope it doesn't set off some sort of wacked out domino effect.

Jackfishwoman
11-25-2008, 10:02 AM
The only possible answer... is to buy more books!!! Support our plight in these troubled economic times.

I am starting to feel the HM domino effect... sales are waaaay down and no publisher wants new acquisitions at this certain point in time.

Blueridge
11-25-2008, 10:11 PM
I think this is really, really bad news for those of us seeking agent representation right now. Agents know that publishers will be very wary about taking on an unknown author.

IceCreamEmpress
11-25-2008, 10:34 PM
I think this is really, really bad news for those of us seeking agent representation right now. Agents know that publishers will be very wary about taking on an unknown author.

Nah, the people who really need to worry are the people with one or two books published to non-spectacular sales.

New writers always have the potential to be the Next Big Thing.

jennontheisland
11-25-2008, 10:53 PM
The only possible answer... is to buy more books!!! Support our plight in these troubled economic times.
Buy more everything. The only way to stave off economic slow down is to move the money around.

The article says they've stopped aquiring in "trade and reference divisions"...that doesn't include fiction does it?

*clueless*

Puma
11-26-2008, 02:28 AM
I work in the Publishing business (temporarily - I'm retiring soon) for an educational publishing house. Our sales in the past couple months have been very strong, but there are definite indications that consumers want the nitty gritty - solid educational books rather than fluff - the best bang for the buck, so to speak.

For us, trade refers to all the mass market, clubs, bookstores, etc. while educational refers obviously to the schools. So the notice that HM has cut off acquisitions in trade might affect fiction, at least from the perspective I have. Puma

Toothpaste
11-26-2008, 03:02 AM
Nah, the people who really need to worry are the people with one or two books published to non-spectacular sales.



Grand. :(

willietheshakes
11-26-2008, 03:04 AM
Grand. :(

It's okay, Tp - once you get past the first flash of pain, you don't even feel the rest of the cuts along your wrists...

jessicaorr
11-26-2008, 04:00 AM
The only possible answer... is to buy more books!!!

I just bought two this morning :D

I do what I can.

WendyNYC
11-26-2008, 05:34 AM
I'm certainly no expert on the subject, but if Houghton Mifflin bought Harcourt in July 07, that would have been at the very top of the market. Maybe this has more to do with their own financial woes instead of being indicative of something larger.

No?

Alphabeter
11-26-2008, 10:02 AM
Boy how I wish this were PublishAmerica! Alas, the publisher is Harcourt

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the publisher of authors including Philip Roth, Jonathan Safran Foer, Günter Grass and J. R. R. Tolkien, has temporarily suspended acquisitions of new manuscripts, a company spokesman said Monday. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/25/books/25publish.html?_r=2&ref=media&pagewanted=print)
.
.
.
He said he could not be specific about what criteria would govern decisions about what manuscripts to buy, but said that editors would have to prove to an acquisitions committee that the book showed concrete evidence of “market interest.”

cletus
11-26-2008, 02:46 PM
Last week the Bookseller reported agents are having a hard time selling debut and literary novels.

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/71232-buyers-scared-say-agents.html

jclarkdawe
11-26-2008, 04:54 PM
One thing to realize with HMH is that it is highly leveraged -- borrowed a boatload of money. Businesses in this type of position are very subject to downturns in their business, as they tend to have high fixed costs.

Some book publishers are highly leveraged, but others are more conservatively funded.

Although we're probably going to see a reduced number of books accepted, what we're going to see even more of is significantly smaller advances. HMH is sacrificing its long-term business to deal with a short-term problem. Although it may have quite a few books in the process of being published, if it continues this policy for long, it's going to create a gap, as well as seeing a significant drop in its employees.

As well as the writers with HMH, it's the employees of HMH who are in trouble. If I worked there, I'd be polishing my resume like crazy. I won't be surprised if in a month or so, you see HMH doing a major lay-off.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

ChaosTitan
11-26-2008, 06:29 PM
According to agent Kristin Nelson, HMH is still acquiring in its children's department.

http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2008/11/hmh-hold-is-not-for-children.html

ChaosTitan
11-26-2008, 06:37 PM
We've got two similar threads going.

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=122734

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=122749

Hillgate
11-26-2008, 06:46 PM
...but then their name does sound suspiciously like Dunder Mifflin...;)

Phaeal
11-26-2008, 07:01 PM
...but then their name does sound suspiciously like Dunder Mifflin...;)

Heh, I could get Dwight to buy my MSS.

But seriously, folks. Hasn't it always been the idea for publishers to buy scripts with "market interest?"

Hillgate
11-26-2008, 07:07 PM
Heh, I could get Dwight to buy my MSS.

But seriously, folks. Hasn't it always been the idea for publishers to buy scripts with "market interest?"

Yes! I think they're just prepping literary agents to expect lower advances for their clients and to make us poor sods even more grateful when/if we get the next deal.

I'd buy a book by Dwight. It'd be virtually unreadable, but it'd probably make the bestseller list.

scheherazade
11-26-2008, 09:53 PM
Actually.. I imagine a book by Dwight would be a funnier version of John Hodgman's "The Areas of My Expertise." I expect a whole chapter on beet farming, and another one profiling all the evil people named Andrew.

Seriously... a Dunder-Mifflin book must already be in the works, no? Something along the lines of the Daily Show's textbook or Six Feet Under's family scrapbook?

Erin
11-26-2008, 10:04 PM
According to agent Kristin Nelson, HMH is still acquiring in its children's department.

http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2008/11/hmh-hold-is-not-for-children.html

This is a bright spot in the doom & gloom news for some.

popmuze
11-26-2008, 10:14 PM
Nah, the people who really need to worry are the people with one or two books published to non-spectacular sales.


Thanks a lot, said the writer with 13 books published (three by Houghton Mifflin), all of them to non-spectacular sales.

WendyNYC
11-26-2008, 10:57 PM
I read on Publisher's Lunch that HMH would consider selling its trade division. The private equity company that own HMH also said "...we will continue to evaluate opportunities if and when we decide to lift the freeze."

If?

ETA: Guess I should provide a link. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/26/books/26rich.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=houghton&st=cse)

blacbird
11-26-2008, 11:14 PM
I read on Publisher's Lunch that HMH would consider selling its trade division. The private equity company that own HMH also said "...we will continue to evaluate opportunities if and when we decide to lift the freeze."

If?

"If and when" is a jargon phrase common to business-speak. It says more about the mentality of the suits who run the place, most of whom don't give a rat's about books, except for the ones that contain their profit-and-loss statements.

caw

IceCreamEmpress
11-27-2008, 12:33 AM
Sorry, fellow midlisters, I should have said "The people like me with one or two books published to non-spectacular sales."

In any case, Houghton Mifflin has been in trouble for a long time, for many of the reasons Jim and Wendy mention. It may or may not be a bellwether for other houses.

JennaGlatzer
11-27-2008, 04:27 AM
I think I'm having an attack of the weepies.

It is a very tough climate right now. I have a book out on proposal that I thought I could have sold five times over by now. One company that made an offer decided to declare bankruptcy about two weeks after they made the offer.

donroc
11-27-2008, 04:33 AM
Perhaps the marketers/PR types may lower their fees to avoid going out of business.

How many of us can afford fees of $15,000 to $100,000 with no guarantees their services will result in sales and fame?

rugcat
11-27-2008, 06:47 AM
The seriousness of the HM problems may have been somewhat exaggerated, or at least not quite as bad as it was made out to be.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081126/ap_en_ot/books_harcourt_houghton

trickywoo
11-27-2008, 06:58 AM
The seriousness of the HM problems may have been somewhat exaggerated, or at least not quite as bad as it was made out to be.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081126/ap_en_ot/books_harcourt_houghton

This is encouraging...

katiemac
11-27-2008, 10:54 AM
Perhaps the marketers/PR types may lower their fees to avoid going out of business.

How many of us can afford fees of $15,000 to $100,000 with no guarantees their services will result in sales and fame?

If you mean the marketers and PR guys that work out of the publishing houses, they aren't making wads of cash, either. And they shouldn't be charging the author fees unless you're asking for extras. Even then, the extra charges come from an agency, not the pub house.

Alphabeter
11-27-2008, 12:45 PM
First, I did a search and got no results.

Second,
We've got two similar threads going.

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=122734
This is from: Absolute Write Water Cooler > The Conference Room > For All Writers: the AW Roundtable


http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=122749
This is from: Absolute Write Water Cooler > Coffee Break > Rejection and Dejection

I don't visit those sub-sub areas as they are too general and get silly. Also, they are not as informative as a subforum called Writing Novels to someone interesting in having novels published. Which is probably why someone searching for information on what publisher is not accepting novel submissions would not get results from there.

This thread isn't in the wrong location.

MacAllister
11-27-2008, 01:04 PM
<snip>
I don't visit those sub-sub areas as they are too general and get silly. Also, they are not as informative as a subforum called Writing Novels to someone interesting in having novels published. Which is probably why someone searching for information on what publisher is not accepting novel submissions would not get results from there.

This thread isn't in the wrong location.

Yeah, it is. And I'm merging it with the Roundtable thread already in progress.

Captain Ian
11-27-2008, 01:45 PM
Let's not overreact.
The credit crunch gives us the time to polish our manuscripts. When it's over, we should come out with our best stuff and take over the publishing world :D

nevada
11-27-2008, 09:33 PM
Perhaps the marketers/PR types may lower their fees to avoid going out of business.

How many of us can afford fees of $15,000 to $100,000 with no guarantees their services will result in sales and fame?

Who are you paying and why? Never pay anyone to market your book. I'm really confused by this statement.

Atlantis
11-28-2008, 02:13 AM
This news doesn't concern me. So one publishing house is on the verge of going broke, so what? There's still the net, self-publishing, not to mention hundreds of publishers overseas. John Grisham self published his first book A Time to Kill and sold copies out of the boot of his car.

IceCreamEmpress
11-28-2008, 05:18 AM
John Grisham self published his first book A Time to Kill and sold copies out of the boot of his car.

That's not true, actually. It was published by Wynwood Press. The copies he so famously sold out of his car were the remaindered copies from the printing of 5,000.

Alphabeter
11-30-2008, 07:40 AM
Move stuff wherever you want Mac, you're paying for it. I stopped financially contributing to AW when I started getting censored. This thread is moot anyways as the story is not correct. They are still acquiring books. (http://breakingnews.nypost.com/dynamic/stories/B/BOOKS_HARCOURT_HOUGHTON?SITE=NYNYP&SECTION=ENTERTAINMENT&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2008-11-26-16-26-21)

HMH spokesman Josef Rosenfeld has called the current policy "freeze-lite," although cracks keep appearing. Rosenfeld confirmed that education and children's books are still being acquired, did not dispute Penzler's assertions and added that the "right" book, of any kind, would still be considered. He said talk of a freeze had been taken out of context.

"A headline about a freeze is very appealing, but in reality all we're doing is taking a good, hard look at everything that comes in, much the way this company is watching all expenses and expenditures," he said. "It's just a higher degree of scrutiny."

Asked if agents should continue submitting manuscripts to HMH, Rosenfeld said, "I don't see why not."

katiemac
11-30-2008, 08:09 AM
Seriously confused as to what the problem is, Alphabeter. Threads get moved and merged all the time.

blacbird
11-30-2008, 08:55 AM
Let's not overreact.
The credit crunch gives us the time to polish our manuscripts.

The lack of opportunity to publish anything gives me all kinds of time to polish my manuscripts, and make them even more perfectly unpublishable.

caw

ChaosTitan
11-30-2008, 06:34 PM
Perhaps the marketers/PR types may lower their fees to avoid going out of business.

How many of us can afford fees of $15,000 to $100,000 with no guarantees their services will result in sales and fame?


Who are you paying and why? Never pay anyone to market your book. I'm really confused by this statement.

I think donroc meant that the publishers are paying promotional fees of $15-100,000 with no guarantee of returns. They take a gamble every time they publish a book, and an even larger gamble when it's a new author.

Medievalist
12-01-2008, 03:45 AM
I have no inside information, and am indulging in rampant speculation :D

HM makes a very very large percentage--more than half its profits--from textbook sales, especially to the college markets.

They publish the standard editions of Shakespeare, and Chaucer, and one of the better Miltons under the Riverside label.

Deepriver, the Irish company that bought HM is primarily known for the e-book creation/publication/metatdata tools.

I think they're quietly retooling HM for more effective e-book publication of printed books.

Ideally, for publishers, they want to go through the entire editorial process right through galleys, then, at the point where digital files are sent to the printer, they want to fork so that the same files are used to produce a variety of e-books.

Both DeepRiver and HM have been making making appearances and major presentations about the digital work flow.

HM has listed the Riverside Shakespeare and Chaucer as out of print. There are good alternatives for Shakespeare as a collected edition. There is no equivalent for the Chaucer; it's the standard, here and in Europe.

So in addition to the obvious reasons for the "freeze lite" I think there are other things afoot as well.

IceCreamEmpress
12-01-2008, 07:19 AM
I think donroc meant that the publishers are paying promotional fees of $15-100,000 with no guarantee of returns.

No, I think he was referring to book publicists who are retained by the author. Publishers don't have to (and rarely do) outlay anything like that kind of money to promote individual titles.

Lauri B
12-02-2008, 02:26 AM
I was talking to several industry people recently, and the trades are definitely hurting. Interestingly, though, the ed market is still going pretty strong. Good news for ed and nf writers; not-so-good news for fiction and general trade books.

Soccer Mom
12-02-2008, 11:30 PM
Senior VP steps down amid rumors of HMH sale

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081202/ap_en_ot/books_publisher_quits

donroc
12-02-2008, 11:44 PM
No, I think he was referring to book publicists who are retained by the author. Publishers don't have to (and rarely do) outlay anything like that kind of money to promote individual titles.

Correct.

Typically, self-published authors who can afford it do hire publicists to arrange events from local book signings at venues other than bookstores (with much publicity free food and booze) to getting them national exposure. Some authors published by the big houses also use them for the same reason.

willietheshakes
12-03-2008, 12:03 AM
Hey, donroc -- Do you think you could make the book jacket in your sig any bigger? ;)

donroc
12-03-2008, 12:37 AM
Hey, donroc -- Do you think you could make the book jacket in your sig any bigger? ;)

Humility prevents ....

dclary
12-03-2008, 02:14 AM
And I wish you quoted people I've heard of...

:p

nevada
12-03-2008, 08:54 AM
and the plot thickens. it's looking more and more like they're being sold.

http://start.shaw.ca/start/enCA/Entertainment/EntertainmentNewsArticle.htm?src=e120284A.xml

WendyNYC
12-03-2008, 10:34 PM
More crappy publishing news, delivered to my inbox via PublishersLunch:

Bleh.


The Next Domino: Layoffs at S&S
Simon & Schuster has "enacted a reduction in staff in which 35 positions across the company were eliminated, from areas including our publishing divisions and international, operations and sales," according to a memo from ceo Carolyn Reidy.

Despite having "literally examined our budget line-by-line to find those areas large and small where we might further economize," Reidy says "today's action is an unavoidable acknowledgment of the current bookselling marketplace and what may very well be a prolonged period of economic instability. In light of this uncertainty, we must responsibly position ourselves for challenges both near term and long."

Richter to Leave S&S; The Other Applebaum Stays
Simon & Schuster Children's president Rick Richter has resigned "to explore other opportunities in publishing," leaving December 5. He has run the unit since 2003, and has been with Simon & Schuster since 1999. CEO Carolyn Reidy notes that "under his leadership, Children's division revenues have nearly doubled, and the division has grown to become an industry-leading full-service publishing enterprise." She underscores that "children's publishing remains an important and vital part of Simon & Schuster's overall publishing portfolio" and indicates Dennis Eulau will "work with the children's division on day-to-day operational matters" on an interim basis while she finds a successor.

Meanwhile, Carol Schneider at Random House advises that "there's been no change" in Stuart Applebaum's position at Random House. "Because this news involves the departure of his brother and longtime colleague, he decided that he would not take press calls at this time and I am standing in for him."

Finally, note that many other accounts have misreported the status of Doubleday group president and publisher Steve Rubin, indicating that he is definitely leaving the company. As we reported earlier, his position has been eliminated, but Random ceo Markus Dohle is "in discussions" about creating a new job for Rubin at the company. Our earlier edition gave the wrong link for the Rubin memo.


Dismantling of HMH Continues with Firings
Galleycat reports that Ann Patty says she has been "fired" along with "a lot" of other employees at Harcourt Houghton Mifflin, adding to the community's sense that the parent company has simply given up on the trade line. As ever, the company is not commenting. Place your takeover bids now.

If there's more to report, it will be on our home page and the Publishers Lunch Deluxe newsblog.

jscribbles
12-04-2008, 12:23 AM
So... Nathan Bransford said in the comments on his blog today that things will still be "business as usual." Moonrat and Colleen Lindsay don't seem to think so, though.

Will you all keep submitting work or wait until things look a little less bleak?

Nandi
12-04-2008, 12:43 AM
So... Nathan Bransford said in the comments on his blog today that things will still be "business as usual." Moonrat and Colleen Lindsay don't seem to think so, though.

Will you all keep submitting work or wait until things look a little less bleak?
I'd already decided to stop querying until Inauguration Day. After that? Well, the option of withholding my manuscript feels awful. I tell myself that, at some point, agents and publishers will need to have work in the pipeline, so it might as well be mine...and yours!