From Small Acorns

Sometimes a book takes on a life of its own, with results that surprise everyone involved. Take The Sultan's Seal,a debut mystery by Boston University professor Jenny White, set in remote 19th-century Turkey and starring a rather unlikable sleuth. An assistant at Writers House plucked it from the slush and interested agency head Al Zuckerman. After some revisions, he sent it around: eight rejections. A second round attracted only Norton's Amy Cherry, who bid a cautious $10,000 for world rights. Not nearly enough, said Zuckerman, and got her to $25,000. After that the novel, with further suggestions from Cherry, took off. It sold in Greece; went for 30,000 euros in France; and two London houses got in a bidding war for two books that ended at $130,000. Sales in Turkey, Germany, Holland and Spain followed. At this point Norton, too, wanted a second book, and White roughed out a one-page outline; this went for $150,000—and the first book isn't even published yet.

Five Card Stud

Publishing is always a gamble, but not many are as ready to acknowledge it as PatWalsh, founding editor of San Francisco's MacAdam/Cage, who is making his own poker obsession the subject of his next book. He's already the author of a bluntly genial book called 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might,due from Penguin next month. His new effort is equally open-ended: How to Win the World Series of Poker—or Not. In it Walsh describes how he developed from a hopeless novice to a high-stakes player. Caroline White at Penguin got North American rights from agent AmyRennert.

'This I Believe' Redux

A radio series with that title was a huge hit under Edward R. Murrow's editorship in the 1950s, and NPR has recently brought it back. Now the series' award-winning producers, Dan Gediman and JayAllison, have signed with Viking Penguin's PaulSlovak to do a book containing 100 essays from the old and new series; both celebs and everyday folk will be included. The North American deal was signed with LynnNesbit at Janklow & Nesbit for publication in fall 2006.

Short Takes

Jon Stewart and his DailyShow team has just signed a new deal with their Warner editor, JamieRaab; title, subject and release date all under wraps for now, but North American deal was signed with Trident's Dan Strone.... PeterHedges (What's Eating Gilbert Grape?) has signed for a new novel, The Heights, with Dutton's TrenaKeating; EricSimonoff at J&N was the agent.