Swarm Intelligence

Jeff Galas at Avery won an auction for National Geographic magazine editor Peter Miller's The Smart Swarm: How Ants, Bees, and Birds Teach Us to Copewith a Complex World via David McCormick at McCormick & Williams. McCormick turned down multiple preemptive offers before going to auction three days after submission. Miller's debut book, based on an article he wrote for National Geographic, will show how the intricate group behavior of insects and animals translates into principles humans can use to solve problems more effectively. For example, Miller will explore how techniques borrowed from an ant colony could alleviate airport congestion, or how schools of fish might serve as a model for terrorist-hunting robots that operate without human command. Avery plans to publish in hardcover in fall 2009.

Shapiro's 'Devotion'

Jennifer Barth at Harper has preempted a new book by Dani Shapiro, Devotion. Jennifer Rudolph Walsh at William Morris sold North American rights. In the book, Shapiro will explore and understand the anxiety that has governed her life, in the process grappling with questions of faith, meaning and identity. Shapiro is the author of five novels, as well as the memoir Slow Motion. HC will publish in early 2010.

Debut Auctioned

Sarah Branham at Atria won a best-bids auction for Suzanne Guillette's first book, Much to Your Chagrin: A Memoir of Embarrassment; agent Laura Dail sold world English rights. The memoir begins as the author, a 29-year-old grad student, is working on a book proposal to gather people's most embarrassing stories. She gets romantic with her agent, and as that relationship starts to fall apart, the collecting of these stories, so funny at the start, turns inward and darker. Guillette has an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence.

Paperback Deals

Tina Pohlman at Harcourt preempted North American paperback rights to Elizabeth Little's first book, Biting the Wax Tadpole, via Becky Kraemer on behalf of Melville House. In this exploration of the oddities of the world's languages, Little uses her favorite examples from languages dead, difficult and even made-up to reveal how language study is one way to travel the world without leaving home. Melville House publishes in hardcover this month, and Harcourt will publish as a Harvest trade paperback in fall 2008.

John Duff at Perigee acquired world rights to Destination Wildlife via author/agent Pam Brodowsky, who will write in conjunction with the National Wildlife Federation. This will be an international site-by-site guide to endangered, rare or otherwise fascinating wildlife habitats, featuring the expertise of naturalists from the NWF and contributions from a range of travelers, including Duff himself, who've visited the sites. Pub is set for spring 2009.

David Cashion just acquired North American rights for Plume to Insignificant Others: True Tales of Breakdowns, Broken Hearts, and the People Who Cause Them, an anthology edited by Algonquin Books publicity director Michael Taeckens. The book consists of original nonfiction pieces and includes contributions from Wendy McClure, Dan Savage, T Cooper and Amanda Stern. Doug Stewart at Sterling Lord made the deal.

The Briefing

Liz Gorinsky at Tor bought North American rights to A. J. Hartley's first two fantasy novels, Act of Will and Will Power, via Stacey Glick at Dystel & Goderich. The first book will introduce a medieval actor and playwright who flees one set of authorities only to find himself bound to a group of adventurers on a deadly mission. Hartley is the author of The Mask of Atreus and On the Fifth Day; Tor will publish as lead titles in January 2009 and 2010.