Macmillan’s Feiwel and Friends imprint has acquired U.S. and Canadian rights to Cecelia Ahern’s debut YA books, Flawed and its sequel, Perfect, due out in summer 2016 and summer 2017, respectively. Jean Feiwel, senior v-p and publisher, brokered the deal with Ahern’s literary agent, Dublin-based Marianne Gunn O’Connor. HarperCollins Children’s Books U.K. will release the novels simultaneously.
Ahern, whose bestselling books for adults include PS, I Love You and How to Fall in Love, sets Flawed and Perfect in a future society where perfection is valued above humanity and “flawed” people who commit acts of disobedience or rebellion are branded with an F. “Not only does Cecelia always write from a feeling place,” O’Connor told PW, “but she also has something powerful to say in this series. She is questioning what is really perfect and what is flawed. I think teenagers will totally connect with these books, as there is so much pressure on them today to be perfect.”
Fortuitous publishing connections placed the manuscript for Flawed in Feiwel’s hands. Will Schwalbe was Ahern’s editor at both William Morrow and Hyperion before founding (with Katie Workman) cookbook and recipe website Cookstr in 2008. Macmillan acquired that company early this year, and Schwalbe is now executive v-p of editorial development and content innovation for the house. O’Connor had sent Ahern’s YA manuscript to Schwalbe; Schwalbe passed it on to Jon Yaged, president of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, who shared it with Feiwel.
“I read Flawed over a weekend and loved it,” Feiwel said. “The story felt very different to me – it is sort of like The Scarlet Letter meets Divergent. I loved that combination, and I think the idea of having one’s behavior monitored and being punished if you rebel will have a strong connection to the young adult audience, given the notion of teenagers being rebellious.”
Since other publishers were also interested in Ahern’s project, Feiwel knew she and her colleagues “had to think on our feet and respond quickly.” To that end, marketing staffers immediately read the novel and put together a promotional plan that drew from the series’ theme. “The marketing campaign they came up with is very thoughtful, and uses a lot of the author’s own messaging in the books, like the creepy idea of always being closely watched,” Feiwel said. “Both Marianne and Cecelia loved the plan, and I think were impressed by the speed with which we responded. I was able to swoop in before anyone else and put an offer on the table, and we won the day.”
Feiwel, who said that her offer for the two-book deal was “in the mid-six figures,” noted that she expects these YA novels will have strong crossover appeal to adult readers. “Cecelia comes to the party with a built-in audience, which is appealing and gives us a head start in the market,” she observed. “She’s clearly a very capable and talented storyteller – these novels have great characters, a good family story, and romance. She really gets it, and she definitely got me from her beginning premise.”