Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt passes...but don't take it personally.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has just passed on all publishing manuscripts ... but don't take it personally. It's strictly an economic decision. While HMH will focus on publishing (and, presumably, promoting and selling) books that are already in their "very robust pipeline," the executive editors have orders to decline all new manuscripts until further notice.

So says a November 24 article in Publishers Weekly which starkly paints the bad news: This will be a "not-so-merry holiday season for publishers."

Well, okay. Times are tough. But that doesn't mean authors have to sit on their butts and lament the fact that no one will buy their books, or that their publishers don't have the budget to promote the books they've already sold.

Authors can self-publish, and it's not so hard to do. Books, Web sites, and listservs devoted to self-publishing abound. Services like LightningSource and CreateSpace make it possible to get a book into some, or even all, of the traditional distribution channels far more quickly than Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, on its best day, could.

Also, for books that are already in that "very robust pipeline," it's possible to promote a book even if the publisher allocates little of its budget toward the cause. Authors can embark on a self-directed book promotion campaign by contacting media outlets themselves or hiring a book promotion specialist to help.

Publishing and selling books doesn't depend on such major houses as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt anymore. HMH has admitted it. It's time for authors to accept it and move on. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has problems ... but that doesn't mean the world of publishing books has come to an end. On the contrary ... a whole new world of possibilities is opening for us all.