When Geoff Shandler joined HarperCollins in January, he did so with the understanding that he would be leading an imprint for the Big Five house. Now, after months of waiting, that imprint has come into focus. Custom House, which will publish literary fiction and nonfiction, will launch in the spring with books by James Andrew Miller (Live from New York) and New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait.
Shandler joined HC after his position overseeing the adult trade division of Little, Brown was eliminated during a downsizing in summer 2014. While at Little, Brown, he was recognized for his acumen with nonfiction, having edited bestselling authors such as Malcolm Gladwell and Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens. Liate Stehlik, senior v-p and president of William Morrow (the HC division in which Custom House is situated), said she’s looking to the new imprint for books that “shape the conversation about where we’ve been and where we’re going,” books that “tell transformative, emotionally authentic stories.” Stehlik will also have a hand in Custom House, acquiring select literary fiction titles.
Shandler, whose title is v-p and editorial director, said the new imprint is named, in part, after the downtown Manhattan neighborhood where the U.S. Custom House was until 2001. That this same neighborhood is also the relatively new home of HarperCollins, which moved its New York City headquarters to the Financial District in 2014, was another factor in selecting the name. Lastly, Shandler added, the Custom House label is meant to reflect the “bespoke, customized publishing strategies” for each of the imprint’s titles.
Custom House’s inaugural list will feature books by the two aforementioned authors; Miller’s oral history of the powerful Hollywood talent agency CAA will be the imprint’s launch title. The book will look at how CAA—which represents actors, filmmakers, musicians, and athletes—has shaped the entertainment industry over the past five decades. HC promised that, in telling the tale of the super-agency, Miller will deliver “hundreds of never-before-told stories about some of the world’s biggest stars.” The second title, planned for next fall, is Chait’s book, which will be an examination of President Obama’s legacy; HC said the title is “sure to be controversial.”
Future lists from the imprint are set to include the new novel by PEN/Faulkner finalist T. Geronimo Johnson; Harvard professor Duncan White’s examination of literary figures’ takes on the Cold War, during the Cold War; and Wall Street Journal reporter David Enrich’s book about the Wall Street traders who have manipulated interest rates. HC expects that Custom House will eventually do more than 12 books a year with other in-house editors free to make acquisitions that fit the imprint’s mission.