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Reading the McGraw Hill Tea Leaves

Thoughts on the announcement rocking publishers of business books.
Jul | 22 | 2023
  Jul | 22 | 2023
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BY Phil Simon
  Phil Simon

Reading the McGraw Hill Tea Leaves

Thoughts on the announcement rocking publishers of business books.
Phil Simon
Jul | 22 | 2023

Reading the McGraw Hill Tea Leaves

TL;DR: Thoughts on the announcement rocking publishers of business books.
Phil Simon
Jul | 22 | 2023

McGraw Hill set up shop nearly 150 years ago. It’s still solvent, but the publisher has stopped acquiring the rights to new business books.

Yes, for real. From Publishers Marketplace:

McGraw Hill Professional “has made the strategic decision to cease frontlist acquisitions in the business category.” Upcoming titles have been canceled, though authors can keep their first advance. As a result, the business editorial team is being laid off.

In a word, wow. A storied traditional publisher has exited the game—probably for good. Not long ago, hybrid publisher Scribe closed its doors as well, but questionable leadership seems to have driven that decision.

Lessons

The two decisions are independent. There may not be a common thread, but here’s what these events don’t mean: There remains a robust market for books, but the logo on a book’s spine has never been less relevant.

Ever.

The logo on a book’s spine has never been less relevant.

To wit, authors with strong followings who can quickly churn out quality prose aren’t facing existential crises today. (I should know.) The best ones can monetize their books via speaking, consulting, and writing gigs. By and large, these revenue streams evade traditional and even hybrid publishers. (Penguin’s speaker bureau is the exception that proves the rule.) An author’s occasional bulk book sales aren’t going to revitalize Wiley, Harper Business, and Morgan Kaufmann.

Don’t interpret one publisher’s unfortunate announcement for anything other than it is: The continued shift towards hybrid and self-publishing.

Will someone refuse to buy Dror Poleg’s forthcoming book After Office because an acquisition editor at a traditional publisher didn’t buy it? As long as the book’s design and editing are professional, the answer is no.

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