The cheery attitude among agents and other insiders at the London Book Fair this week may have been thanks to some very pricey sales that happened during, and just before, the three-day event. Two of the most talked-about books were both sold by William Morris Endeavor in the States days before the trade show kicked off. The Tools, a self-help book by Barry Michels and Phil Stutz, was acquired for over $2 million in a multi-language deal by Random House with the company taking world English, Spanish, and German rights. Julie Grau at Spiegel & Grau is handling the book in America and a coordinated push will be happening for the release. The authors were recently profiled by Dana Goodyear in The New Yorker—Michels is a Jungian psychologist and Stutz, a psychiatrist, is his mentor—where she quoted a source calling the pair "'an open secret' in Hollywood. The duo see a number of movie industry heavies and the book, WME said in its pitch, allows readers to use the authors’ approach to psychotherapy to “tap into a new source of power” and become “awake to the ways that anger, insecurity, and anxiety paralyze their spirit.” Not surprisingly WME references The Secret in its one-sheet at the fair on the book, noting that The Tools is “deeper than The Secret.” A rep for WME said there are currently auctions in Israel, Brazil, and Holland for the book, and it’s also sold in Italy, with offers in from houses in Croatia, Serbia, Korea, and Greece.
The other WME book drawing quite a bit of attention was Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams’s new novel. John Schoenfelder at Mulholland Books nabbed North American rights just before the fair for a sum rumoured to be in the $1 million range. Word spread that Canongate bought U.K. rights at the fair, but a WME rep would only say that the British sale has not been finalized. Mulholland has the book scheduled as its lead title for 2012 and not too much is known about what the book is exactly about—in its U.S. press release Michael Pietsch said the “story will explode the bonds of the novel in ways no book have ever done.” One insider said he heard the novel features a labyrinthine plot. The collaboration by Abrams (who created TV shows like Lost, Alias and directed high-budget films such as the recent Star Trek re-boot) and Dorst, who wrote Alive in Necropolis (which was a runner-up for the 2009 PEN/Hemingway award), was sold by Jay Mandel at WME.
Wael Ghonim’s Revolution 2.0, which we wrote about in yesterday’s PW Daily, has been keeping the team at Inkwell Management busy. A rep for the agency offered some more details on how the sale is working. Ghonim spent the first two days of the fair presenting his life story in 30-40 minute sessions in a conference room attached to the International Rights Center. The rep said that Ghonim gave eight talks and was seen by roughly 120 people. Since there is no physical proposal other than the agency’s one-sheet at the fair, it’s likely that sales will not be coming through for a few weeks. Ghonim is leaving London for Washington, DC, where he will collect his John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, and then he is slated to meet with publishers in New York. While the Inkwell rep said “talks of pre-empts are swirling” it is likely a writer will be assigned to the project in “the next week” and then deals will start closing once “people can see something on paper.” Ghonim is donating proceeds from the book to charity.
Terry McDermott and Josh Meyer’s nonfiction book The Hunt for KSM, about the search for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, also drew attention. Little, Brown took world rights to the title just before the fair from agent Paul Bresnick; the title is being pitched as “the definitive account of the decade-long pursuit” for one of Al Qaeda’s most notorious leaders. Meyer is the chief terrorism reporter for the Los Angeles Times and McDermott is a national correspondent for the paper.
The 19th century-set The Observations headed into the fair with solid pre-buzz, and Riverhead acquired North American rights to the novel, by Amy Brill, in a pre-empt from Julie Barer. Word at the fair was the book, about a forbidden romance between a 24-year-old Quaker woman and a black man in Nantucket in 1845, was drawing very positive feedback from early readers.
Another book, slightly more under the radar but which we also heard drew strong early-reader-response, is the debut novel from Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Djinni. Frances Goldin Literary Agency sold world English rights, at auction, to Terry Karten at HarperCollins for mid six figures and pre-empts have just come through from houses in Israel and Germany. Wecker, a Columbia MFA, chronicles a relationship between two unexpected parties: a female golem and a male djinni. A rep at Goldin said the book “brings together Jewish and Arab mystical traditions” and picks up with the two creatures as they arrive in New York in 1899 and both manage to pass for human.