How the Future Might Have Looked for HMH

Alison Morris - March 16, 2009

Well, shucks. In a world where publishing empires grow larger by the day, it came as no surprise to read in PW Daily last week that both Hachette and Random House were bidding to purchase the trade division of only-just-recently-merged Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The article mentioned that a third bidder was an "independent publishing house." But there was ZERO mention of who the fourth bidder might be.

Now that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is no longer for sale, I’ll confess: that fourth bidder was me. I was personally going to buy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Its new name was going to be Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Morris, or HMHM. (I wanted to use "Macmillan" but that name was already taken. Again.) If Gareth later decided that he too wanted to get involved we’d have changed the name to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Morris Hinds, or HMHMH, which has a nice ring to it, I think.

You might think a bookseller wouldn’t have the capital necessary for such an investment, but let me tell ya — living off ramen noodles for the past ten years is finally paying off, baby!! As of this week, I was gonna have me a publishing house. And a BIG one that!

BUT… no. Darn it.

IF HMH is up for sale up some point in the near future and I am then free (having not already bought another big publishing house), my first order of business will be to offer a whole BUNCH of talented people their jobs back. I say the more talent we have on board at HMHM(H), the better. Payroll, my foot. There will be no pink slips at HMHM(H)!! (But the lunch room will only serve ramen.)

My second order of business will be to publish MORE CYNTHIA RYLANT. And require everyone on the planet to read Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. And sign Margaret McMullen to write a LOT more novels. And plaster Curious George’s image on as many books as possible! (Oh, wait. That last bit’s already been done.)

My third order of business will be to mandate BIG BOOK PARTIES every month, here in Boston. You New York publishing types can head up here to party with US, for a change!

For now, though, I will have to set my sights on other horizons. Who knows how dreadfully long I’ll have to wait before another great publisher goes on the auction block! (A week? A month? Sigh.) In the meantime, let me know if any of you want to join me for a discussion of your favorite HMH books over a steaming hot bowl of ramen!

13 thoughts on “How the Future Might Have Looked for HMH

  1. Vicki

    After 20+ years experience in publishing, my husband thinks I should “Just start my own publishing company, and run it the way it should be run.” (Basically, he wants me to put my money where my mouth is!) So I think you’re being pretty discriminatory–is there room for a “V” in your company name? ; ) p.s.–I LOVE ramen!

  2. Kat B

    No, really? I <3 Wrede, and so does my daughter. I am going to put that firmly on my to-buy list right now!!! Thank you for sharing. And, Alison, you are a goose. 🙂 Thank you for a smile on a Monday.

  3. Four Story Mistake

    When you acquire your own publishing house, be assured that I will be first in line with a resume! I’ve already read “Sorcery and Cecilia” more than once… does that guarantee me the second interview?

  4. Jason

    If you haven’t seen Cynthia Rylant’s latest picture book ALL IN A DAY illustrated by Nikki McClure I am happy to send one to you! -JW

  5. ShelfTalker

    You are ALL HIRED! And, Jason, thanks for the offer. I am definitely familiar with All in a Day (which I love). In fact, there are several copies featured face-out in our store’s picturebook section right now!


    Until not too long ago I was the marketing director for children’s books at Harcourt. Please do buy the company, give me my old job back, and reopen the San Diego office!

  7. Jazz

    Good luck getting your own publishing house! I really hope it happens for you. Since I might go to graduate school in Boston, the book parties are even bigger incentive to go there.


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