Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Coming Out Party

By Neal Comment

susan-canavan-headshot.jpgWednesday night, we stopped by the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt offices, just off Union Square, where they were throwing their first party since the union of the two venerable publishing houses late last year (or early this year, depending on where you want to set the benchmarks). Shortly after arriving, we were introduced to Susan Canavan (left), who was the talk of the Publishers Marketplace deal wire for having signed The Power of Half, a story about WSJ editor Kevin Salwen and his daughter giving up half the family’s material wealth. We got to chatting about another of Canavan’s big acquisitions, a collaboration between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and the inevitable question came up: How will HMH work out the billing on that one? We took the rare opportunity to put our knowledge of 1970s Hollywood to use and recalled how the producers of The Towering Inferno handled Paul Newman and Steve McQueen—their names went side by side on the posters, but the one on the right was elevated slightly, so McQueen got top billing if you read left to right, but if you read top down it was Newman. But another editor had a better idea: “They should go one-on-one for it.”


Amog those on hand to greet guests were Houghton Mifflin Harcourt executives Laurie Brown (senior vp, sales), Rebecca Saletan (publisher), Paul Von Drasek (director of field sales), Gary Gentel (president), and Bridget Marmion (senior vice president and director of marketing).


While Saletan spoke to the crowd of literary agents (and a sprinkling of media types) in the main party cluster, the most popular side attraction was the office of editor Anjali Singh, who had brought her four-week-old daughter, Vrinda. Singh told us she had ventured out on her own to the buffet table early in the evening, while her husband took care of Vrinda, “but everybody wanted to meet the baby,” she admitted, “so I came back here.”

(photos: Anna Crowe, Ron Hogan)