With a number of big deals closing the days and hours before Frankfurt got underway this morning, conversations have trended less toward pinpointing the big book, and more toward sifting all the mini-major deals that have already gone down. While It Books made a splash buying the forthcoming memoir from Amy Winehouse's dad, and Amazon Publishing made an arguably bigger splash nabbing Penny Marshall's memoir, it seems every agent is trying to take advantage of Frankfurt to make a big book even bigger. But one thing everyone is buzzing about is a new Swedish trilogy being shopped by the Salmonsson Agency, the outfit that represents Norwegian bestseller Jo Nesbo.
Amid a frenzied round of deal-making before the fair, Leyla Belle Drake, at Salomonsson, is selling a debut trilogy by Alexander Soderberg called The Andalucian Friend. The agency was going to hold off on selling the series until London, but, after the scouts picked up on the series, teh agency rushed a translation—in a week they got the first 100 pages of the book translated into English to have at Frankfurt. The trilogy was pre-empted in Sweden in what Drake called a “huge” deal, and significant auctions have also closed in Italy and Germany. A number of offers are in from other countries, but the agency is planning to hold off on a U.S. sale at the fair and, instead, to shop the rights in the States in November. A U.K. auction, the agency said, may or may not close in Germany. The trilogy is set in Sweden and the author used to be a screenwriter. The protagonist in the trilogy is a female nurse and Drake said the first book, which is written, is “very cinematic”and features “explosive action.”Book one in the trilogy will be published in Sweden in May.
Another book people are buzzing about is the sophomore novel from Laurie Frankel, Deadmail. Molly Friedrich, at the Friedrich Agency, has, we hear, coordinated a U.S. auction for the book today, from the fair. We heard the novel described as a melding of highbrow science fiction with Nicholas Sparks, and it is a decided departure for the author, whose debut novel, The Atlas of Love, was published by St. Martin's Press in August 2010 and sold very modestly. (That book, a women's fiction entry, put a female-friendly, and serious, spin on Three Men and a Baby, with two women coming to their friend's aid after her husband abandons her and their newborn.) Now, after three major foreign sales--in Italy, Spain and Germany--Friedrich, who has, it's rumored, already turned down one U.S. offer, will be auctioning the book to the highest American bidder in the middle of the fair.
After Canongate snatched up U.K. rights to Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, buzz on the title among foreign houses swelled. Lee Boudreaux at Ecco bought the novel weeks before the fair and, as one scout put it, people are even more curious now that Canonagate entered the fray. Fountain, a PEN/Hemingway winner who, like Frankel, does not have a significant sales record--his debuted in 2007 with the short story collection Brief Encounters With Che Guevera (which Harper Perennial published as a paperback original)--is now very much on the radar of foreign publishers. Curtis Brown is handling the book at the fair, on behalf of ICM, and the novel, which has surreal elements, is being pitched as "a Catch 22 for our times."
Also gaining some momentum is Scott Hutchins's A Working Theory of Love, which is a debut novel that Penguin's Colin Dickerman bought North American rights to, from Bill Clegg at William Morris Endeavor, days before the crowds arrived in Germany. Hutchins teaches at Stanford and the novel follows a young man in San Francisco going through his deceased father's stuff. While some insiders grumbled that the novel sounds like a standarad small literary debut, others pointed to the fact that Clegg orchestrated a 10-way auction in the States. WME, which said the book is their big title at the fair, has just taken a German pre-empt, and also closed in Holland; auctions in France and Italy are set to close soon.
The historical novel Amy Einhorn bought before the fair, Tanis Rideout's debut Above All Things, also has some people talking. The Cooke Agency brokered that deal, on behalf of McClelland & Stewart, which has world rights. About George Mallory's wife waiting to hear from the doomed explorer while he was attempting to become the first person to ascent Mt. Everest, the novel was pre-empted in Italy and a rep from the Cooke Agency said the U.K. auction is about to close, with offers coming "imminently" from Germany, Spain