Earlier this week Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced that Daniel Nayeri has been appointed to the newly created position of digital editorial director of the HMH Children’s Book Group. PW caught up with Nayeri, who is finishing his job as editor at Clarion Books, an HMH imprint, to talk about his new post, which he starts on May 27.
As the author of Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow (Candlewick, Oct. 2011), a collection of short stories he wrote on his iPhone, and as a former bookseller at New York City’s Strand Book Store, Nayeri emphasizes that he doesn’t see his job, or HMH’s digital strategy, as a case of e-content versus books. Instead he views it as an opportunity to support HMH’s publishing program much like the paperback program does. “We want to follow the trail blazed by Julia Richardson, our head of paperbacks. I’d like to learn from her. My goal for the digital is to be like a paperback division: to support hardcovers and to look for backlist gems.”
Nayeri says he views his new job in thirds. “The first third is to make sure our frontlist digital catalog is as good as it can be. And, to use a metaphor from my days as a pastry chef, it’s to make sure our e-books are gourmet-quality. The second third is plucking out projects, the cream of the crop in children’s fiction and nonfiction.” Once those pieces are in place, Nayeri will work on the last third: acquiring original e-content. “We’re not quite there. Things that are more experimental will be down the line.”
For Nayeri, who will report directly to Betsy Groban, senior v-p and publisher of the HMH Children’s Group, it’s exciting to be at a company that’s “tech forward” at a time when many talk about publishing being dragged kicking and screaming into the future. If he expresses any frustration, it’s that some authors prefer to separate e-book and enhanced e-book rights in their contracts. “No one is going to make an enhanced e-book without the e-book rights,” Nayeri says.
Perhaps once they see what he has in mind by giving HMH’s digital a strong editorial point of view, they’ll change their minds. That’s part of his new job, too.