In advance of the sale of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s trade division, senior executive editor Rick Wolff recently accepted a voluntary buyout package, and he will leave HMH in mid-December. Wolff, “who has no plans to retire, was a minor league baseball player in the Detroit Tigers organization before entering book publishing.”
At Harper Christian and Harper Focu, Jerri Helm was promoted to vp of digital marketing and analytics, continuing to lead the marketing operations team while also assuming responsibility for the corporate analytics team.
Politics and Prose is looking to change the paradigm around author events, from free promotion to a revenue channel of its own. Liz Hottel has been named to a new senior position for “pursuing new models of paid programming and content creation with an eye toward forging partnerships with publishers and media companies.” She says in the announcement, “Events will always be the cornerstone of Politics and Prose, but the current revenue model is no longer sustainable. We’re still producing world-class conversations every night, yet there’s so much under-utilized content and so more we can do with it. Networks have subscription models. Why don’t we? How can we build on our customer trust and wealth of internal talent to create new revenue streams? P&P has always led the way on bookstore programming, and now is the time for us to push forward to create a more flexible, independent content model.”
As result, Brittany Kerfootwill moves up to director of events, while Lori Brister becomes director of marketing.
Earlier this week Poets House announced it would “suspend operations immediately as a result of pressures stemming from challenges presented by the pandemic.” They said staff had been retained until the suspension “out of loyalty and respect,” and noted, “the Board has chosen to act before our limited reserves are depleted so that we can offer staff severance packages and vacation pay.”
But a group of former employees assert in a statement that “the closure follows months of staff-led organizing to hold management and the board accountable in light of frequent complaints of workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, and exploitative labor practices.” They add, “While we recognize the dire financial situation that arts organizations across the world are experiencing, we believe the closure and layoffs are a direct, retaliatory response to our efforts to form a union at Poet’s House with UAW Local 2110 and to address discriminatory and exploitative practices at the institution.” Their letter chronicles issues they say were first raised at the end of February.
Dan Rather will be the 2020 spokesperson for the ABA’s Indies First campaign in support of independent bookstores that takes place on Small Business Saturday, November 28.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will publish THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH, a previously unpublished collection of writings by J.R.R. Tolkien, in the U.S. on June 24, 2021, and subsequently worldwide. HMH vp and publisher Deb Brody says, “It is well known that J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit in 1937 and The Lord of the Rings in 1954–5. What may be less known is that he continued to write about Middle-earth in the decades that followed, right up until the years before his death in 1973.”