Monday, November 24, 2008

Panic!! Panic!! (Ahem, I Mean: Oh, Hmm.)

HMH Places "Temporary" Halt on Acquisitions

It’s been clear for months that it will be a not-so-merry holiday season for publishers, but at least one house has gone so far as to halt acquisitions. PW has learned that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has asked its editors to stop buying books.

Josef Blumenfeld, v-p of communications for HMH, confirmed that the publisher has “temporarily stopped acquiring manuscripts.” The directive was given verbally to a handful of executives and, according to Blumenfeld, is “not a permanent change.”

--Rachel Deahl for Publishers Weekly

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

oh crap!

Kerry said...

eek.

Kerry said...

(though, on second thought, it does lessen the sting of recent rejections... sort of...)

Susan said...

Is it too late to put my fingers in my ears and run away singing LA LA LA LA LA LA LA very loudly?

It is?

Oh darn.

The word verification for my comment is saying it all:
E P H E A K !!

Kelly said...

Not good...

Deirdre Mundy said...

Temporary like several months, or temporary like "until Jan 1?"

How much of a backlog do they currently have?

Would they REALLY turn down the next Harry Potter/Twilight/Lemony Snickett if it came along?

I'm not worrying yet. (OK-- I admit it, I'm not a worrier by nature... And hey, if all the publishers stop buying books that means I can ignore the hard work of revising and just write for my own entertainment, right?)

Deirdre Mundy said...

BTW EA -- When are you going to tear apart our synopses?

Colorado Writer said...

Hmmm...

Anonymous said...

As in they aren't buying midlist books or they aren't buying huge, high concept books that they'd pay six figure advances to?

There's a big difference between the two as far as money going out...

Also, does this mean editors there will lose their jobs? Hard to go to work if there is no work. Not saying anyone has the answers to these questions but it seems a rather reactionary thing (for the company) to float out to the world without defining their thought process and giving a time frame for when they plan on accepting new ms.

Oh, and I don't say this soley because I currently have a ms out with Harcourt, but, also, this sucks.

Anonymous said...

If you read the whole story, ol' Mr. B. coyly says that the "right project" will go to the review board. WTF?

So what say you, EA? If I have a requested revision there (and it's been there a while), should I pull it and go elsewhere? I hate to be rude when an editor's put time into comments but, geesh, doesn't sound promising ...

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/
CA6617241.html?desc=topstory

Anonymous said...

I love the "the directive was given verbally" part. As in, what?

"Put. The. Manuscript. Down. Step away from the picture book ..."

B. Nagel said...

The article is only referring to acquisitions, which means that there is still plenty of work for editorial, production, design, &c. And maybe this means time to go through the slush. Still, yeck.

Apparently, Blogger agrees with this post. Word Verification: ammen.

Kim Kasch said...

It's a scary time we're living in.

Kim Kasch said...

Maybe we should run for the hills or better yet, run for the bookstore and buy books for Black Friday!!!

If they sell so many books, they'll have to make more ;-)

JKB said...

CRAP!

Wendie O said...

A friend contacted her editor who said that she had not received any notification of this edict and that she was still acquiring children's books. So, maybe this only applies to the adult book division of that publisher? We should see a clarification soon, I imagine.

-wendie old

Anonymous said...

Tailing Wendy O's comment: IS this for the adult Harcourt or the childrens division?

It would make a huge difference to those who are reading this kidlit site to know for sure. Seems as if the announcement failed to mention it.

Anonymous said...

Poop. I have an ongoing relationship with one of their editors who keeps asking me to send her stuff. I was gearing up to send her the novel I'm nearly finished. *SIGH*

Deirdre Mundy said...

Ok everyone! It's time to pull out your Hitchhiker's Guide, gaze at the soothing cover, and remember "Don't Panic!."

A bubble just burst. Big bubbles are followed by big panics. But if you keep your head on straight and remember to breathe, you should weather it fine.

Remember, people (and firms) panic not because the know something, but because they're uncertain. So it's no use hopping on the panic train like a bunch of lemmings.

(BTW-- over at Pubrants there's a discussion in the comments that makes it sound like this is more about one firms over-agressive expansion then THE DEATH OF PUBLISHING.)

Now... I'm off to find my favorite towel and some tea full of Brownonian motion......

Sarah Laurenson said...

I still think this is the beginning of the changeover to POD for the big publishing houses. Why waste money on returns if budgets are tight? I'd like more money for publicity and royalties personally.

Change isn't always bad. It just is.

And I, too, heard this was the adult division and not the children's.

Anonymous said...

Well, Jane Yolen speaketh over at Roger Sutton's blog and she says that it's grown-up division only that's affected ...

Sarah Laurenson said...

From one of the SCBWI-LA RA's:

A friend of mine spoke to a Houghton/Harcourt editor, and apparently the "no new acquisitions" policy did NOT apply to the children's arm of HM. The boycott in the adult arm is expected to be lifted after the first of the year. So relax and have a wonderful Thanksgiving - being surrounded by so many wonderful people, we have a lot to be grateful for.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Another item of note. From a bookseller friend of mine:

Scholastic has downsized its field sales force which is significant, because the books can't get from the catalog to the shelves without someone helping the buyers understand the list. Also, the number of children's catalogs I usually review from MacMillan (meaning the number of imprints doing catalogs) was reduced by about half for the spring list.