If there was any question about the ability of books to generate excitement among the attendees of this year’s BookExpo, one need look no further than what happened at Wednesday night’s Buzz Panel, where booksellers pushed and shoved their way into a scrum to get galleys of the five books touted at the event. Though the show floor was much more serene, booksellers were still scrambling to get galleys by marquee authors and newcomers.
Among the new names generating excitement was A.J. Finn, the pseudonym for publishing veteran (and HarperCollins v-p and executive editor) Dan Mallory. A buzz panel selection, Mallory/Finn’s The Woman in the Window (Jan. 2018), has all the trappings of a big book: it’s already sold for film (to Fox 2000) and was acquired (by William Morrow) just before the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair for a rumored seven figures. Drawing comparisons to Hitchcock and Hawkins (Paula, that is), the novel follows a recently divorced woman with agoraphobia who spies on her neighbors. Liate Stehlik, senior v-p and publisher at HarperCollins, said everyone she gives the book to is enamored with it. “It’s a special book with the kind of magic you cannot manufacture.”
Another buzz panel selection being talked up on the show floor: Gabriel Tallent’s debut, My Absolute Darling. Riverhead, which publishes the book in August, gave away over 500 galleys at the show; the imprint’s associate publisher, Jynne Martin, said the book is “an absolutely huge one for us this year.” Anne Holman, co-owner of the King’s English bookstore in Salt Lake City, Utah, said everyone at her store is talking about the novel, which they’re comparing to A Little Life. Holman said the book is “at once horrifying and beautiful” and “completely unforgettable.”
Among the books at the show being compared to The Handmaid’s Tale (and there were a few), one stood out: Leni Zumas’ Red Clocks. Lee Boudreaux, who is publishing the novel through her eponymous imprint at Little, Brown, in January, said the book, set in an America where abortion is illegal, is about “what it means to be a mother.”
Debut authors were not the only ones on booksellers minds. John Grisham’s latest, Camino Island (Doubleday), which he signed finished copies of on Thursday (since the book just went on sale), is something of a love letter to the bookselling community. About a rare books dealer in Florida, the novel is the first title he’s touring for in 25 years. Why now? A rep at Doubleday said the tour is meant to be a “gift” to booksellers, for all the support they’ve given Grisham throughout his career.
Books by three other heavy hitters were being stuffed into numerous totebags: Jeffrey Eugenides’s Fresh Complaint (FSG, Oct.), Nicole Krauss’s Forest Dark (Harper, Sept.) and Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach (Scribner, Oct.). Eugenides’s first story collection, Fresh Complaint, was written over 30 years, according to FSG publicity director Jeff Seroy. As Seroy put it, the collection allows fans of the Pulitzer Prize-winner to dip in and out of his work: “It’s like having Eugenides tapas, instead of a full course meal.”
Forest Dark is the “most anticipated” book of the fall season for Anmiryam Budner, at Main Point Books in Wayne, Pa. Harper sales rep Carla Parker said the novel, about a 68-year-old retired lawyer going through various life changes, is something people were asking about all day. “The first question I got this morning was: ‘When can I start lining up?’”
At Scribner, in addition to Manhattan Beach, the other galley flying off tables was Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing (Sept.). Ward, who signed 200 ARCs Thursday afternoon, was called “the new Toni Morrison” by Betsy Burton, the ABA’s outgoing president and a bookseller at the King’s English. A rep at the S&S imprint said the reception of Ward and Egan's books “has affirmed that we're publishing two of the most anticipated novels this fall.”
Click here to see the big children's and YA books at the show.
Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to an S&S rep talking about the reception of books by Jessmyn Ward and Nicole Krauss. He was speaking about the reception of books by Ward and Jennifer Egan. Additionally, an earlier reference to Leni Zumas' novel, Red Clocks, being a debut has been updated; the novel is not a debut.