Locked BooksAlthough most media attention has focused on the tribulations of the auto and finance industries, the current economic troubles have not left major publishers unscathed: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, publisher of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work and one of the United States’ largest educational publishers, announced a “freeze” on manuscript acquisitions last month.  

Although company spokespeople have generally described the “freeze” as a hard suspension, Josef Blumenfeld, Harcourt’s VP of Communications, has been reluctant to take such a strong stand.  As reported in the New York Times*, Blumenfeld preferred the description of Harcourt’s policy as a “freeze-lite”  under which “Every new manuscript that comes in is going to be subjected to a higher degree of scrutiny and consideration than has previously been the case.”

Nevertheless, Harcourt’s announcement is being widely interpreted as a simple and fast suspension on acquisitions.  Our opinion is that guild members (and any readers!) considering Harcourt as a possible publisher for one of their works should take Harcourt’s policy into sober consideration.

*Rich, Motoko. (2008, November 24) Book Publisher Suspends New Acquisitions. New York Times