Monday, November 24, 2008

News flash

I'm refraining from publicly cursing in this blog post because it's not professional. But rest assured, I'm doing it on the inside....

I LIKE Harcourt.

Harcourt/Houghton Mifflin "temporarily" stops acquiring manuscripts

If you can get the PW article to load, you'll notice that one agent says it's "very scary". Yes folks, that is VERY SCARY. Not unexpected, mind you. But very scary.


Amanda said...

I left this comment on another blog, and maybe my info is irrelevent, but my husband works for Harcourt Assessment (or what used to be HA), and the Harcourt parent company sold off all the various branches just under a year ago. I don't know if the publishing group got sold. Maybe all the shifting around of assets has something to do with this, maybe not. I don't know. Just thougth I'd throw in my two cents.

Ryan Field said...

I like Harcourt, too. I think the term "shifting around of assests" is a good example. But I saw this with another publisher I've worked for in the past and when things change sometimes...they really do change drastically.

Jenny said...


I wonder whether the ructions at Borders are behind this. Heres' a blog that discusses the situation intelligently: Todd Sullivan's valueplays.

More recently Businessweek reports that Borders Group is close to becoming a penny stock. Borders Shares Fall with 3Q Report on Horizon.

A massive wave of unexpected returns (which is what it sounds like Borders just sent back)and a very questionable future for a chain that buys a large percent of new books has to have the bean counters putting just about everything on hold.

green_knight said...

<shakes head>

The fact that publishers are trying to keep down new acquisitions to a minimum right now - particularly if they've overstretched themselves - is nothing new and should not be newsworthy. But this must be the clumsiest, most awkward way of reminding your staff and creating a lack of confidence in the marketplace.

As an agent, does this change the way you approach the company? If a publisher announces that their business is not doing well, do you take that into consideration?

James Buchanan said...

I have not seen this particular bit of scary news, but I have been speaking with friends that own or have knowledge of where book sales are going and things do not bode well, especially for the independent book store folks. The interesting thing about it, though, is that the numbers for the bookstore that I consider to be sort of a leading edge indicator (it is also an independent) were great for the year up until about mid September. That's when the bottom fell out and he is now down about 20 percent for the past few months. While this is not a good omen, the rapidity by which it came may suggest that a rebound for book sellers (books are economical entertainment and gifts) could be equally as quick.

I have blogged about this at:

Or at my website:

Julie Butcher-Fedynich said...

If you dust off your copy of the Cheney report, you'll see the numbers for the holiday season in 1929, after the crash, are similar to this year. If you dig a little further, the crash of the 80's had the same results, just more time before the holidays. It will bounce back as quickly as it dropped.
We're in a fearful social and business climate.
It will be better. So don't use this as an excuse to quit writing. It's only a good excuse to duck revisions -- Just kidding

BJ said...

Julie said: It's only a good excuse to duck revisions -- Just kidding

You mean it isn't?


Gwen Jones said...

I would think that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has some money tucked away. They sold their College Division to Cengage earlier in the year. And don't they also publish the Harry Potter franchise?