HoughtonMifflin

Links of Interest (At Least to Me) 08/04/2009

Eoin Purcell

Some catch-up!

Nice post from Adam Hodgkins about books, generations and nostalgia
Here

The Bookseller lets us know that the engine of new book sales that is Richard & Judy, may be faltering!
Here

Barry O’Callagahan is taking over as CEO at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Here

And last but not least, some recent survey work by Book Marketing Limited indicates that people value pricing and discounting above pretty much everything else. Given the climate, not a huge surprise!
Here

The Publishing Recession

Eoin Purcell

Troubled Times
There is little point denying it, we are in the middle of some big changes in global publishing. It’s moments like this that remind you why working and living in what some might see as backwater, has its advantages. That said we are not immune to it here either.

The Irish Story
Sales have been a bit sluggish and while we need only €12 million in sales over the next three weeks to match 2007 figures (that’s a target of just over €152million sales according to Bookscan) there are only two pre-christmas weeks left and while volume is boyant, average selling price is taking a hammering in the last few weeks.

The Publishing Crunch
It is not just that many of the largest American publishers have decided to lay off staff (there are So-Many-Stories-I-Just-Don’t-Know-Which-One-To-Pick). Even Newspaper companies chimed in with bad news Tribune Co. went into bankruptcy and New York Times Co. announced that they would mortgage their office block to reduce debt. There is a real sense that publishing is entering some kind of crisis.

Is There Any Good News?
The New York Times pointedto the strong year that Hachette has had in the US but paired that story with the uttery depressing tale of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt which is depressing enough on its own.

So Just What IS Going On?
For perhaps the most coherent explanation of what kicked the US element of this off, read this post by moonrat over at the Editorial Ass blog:

In October, bookstores returned so many books that most publishing companies had more coming into them than going out of them. For some companies, the incoming number was more than several months’ outgoing.

Although bookstores are suffering (and how), it was the publishing houses that had to absorb the cost of this cash flow creator. This is why Impetus, a relatively new indie company without the history to survive this shock, folded. Some houses lost so much money in returns in October that profits from the entire rest of 2008 have been negated.

Where Does This Leave Us?
Publishing cautiously is the only answer I have. It’s a bad time for small publishers and mid-list authors. Bizarrely new or debut authors might just have a punt, acquiring new authors tends to be cheaper and if the work is right, marketing it can be easier too. That makes sense in a poor market, just as publishing known entities with solid histories does. I’ll add some more thoughts when I have them!

Refreshed from my Chicago trip but only defrosting now!
Eoin

Houghton Mifflin publisher resigns

Eoin Purcell

In what can only be described as the biggest unsurprise of the year, the acquisition pause @ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt brought about a departure at leadership level, (the AP has the story as does the NYT).

From the AP:

Saletan, ironically, had initially benefited when Houghton purchased Harcourt last year. Formerly publisher of adult trade books at Harcourt, she was promoted to head the combined adult trade divisions, winning out over Houghton publisher Janet Silver.

From the NYT:

Literary agents who knew Ms. Saletan were upset by the news of her departure. “I think that Becky is a woman of extraordinary integrity and had quickly become a terrific publisher,” said David Black, whose clients published by Houghton include the cookbook author Dorie Greenspan, the journalist Earl Swift and the sports columnist Ian O’Connor. “It’s a significant loss because I think that they need strong leadership now.” He added: “They now need to find leadership. They had it, they lost it.”

I’m beginning to think we are watching the prelude to the decline if a huge publishing house. Hopefully I’m wrong but I cannot see this ending well. Strikes me the only happy outcome now is a sale to another trade publisher. Otherwise HMH will limp along damaged by the “Freeze” and this new departure until it fails even more spectacularly.

I really do hope I’m wrong,
Eoin

Riverdeep buys Harcourt from Reed

Eoin Purcell

Talk about Doubling Down
This really is a remarkable move by Riverdeep & Houghton Mifflin (now one and the same since Riverdeep acquired Houghton Mifflin late last year): Publishers Weekly, Reuters/Yahoo News, Bloomberg and a bit of blog reaction from Martyn Daniels.

From the HoughtonMifflin’s own press release:

The combination of Houghton Mifflin’s and Harcourt’s elementary, secondary and supplemental businesses creates a provider that will offer customers more choices in educational publishing. The new entity will be well-positioned to make the investments required to deliver to teachers and administrators a more comprehensive and flexible set of K–12 learning solutions than is available today. The addition of Harcourt Trade to Houghton Mifflin’s rich library of literature and reference titles will create a preeminent publisher with one of the industry’s most distinguished lists of authors.

Despite the noise they are making about the trade list, I cannot help but feel that the real goal is to lock in as much educational content as Riverdeep can and to begin the process of moving education online as we have mentioned here before. It is really an exciting time in educational publishing. I think we may be seeing the growth of an online education giant.

Seeing the shape emerging or is that just the fog?
Eoin