Witte, SMP Close Two
St. Martin’s Press editor-in-chief George Witte bought world rights from Lorin Rees of the Rees Agency to the first book by Nicco Mele, a pioneer in Internet fund-raising and political communication, who has worked with Howard Dean and Barack Obama. The book, The End of Big: The Consequences of Radical Connectivity, describes the power of technologies to disrupt the balance of power in societies. The book is set for an early 2013 publication.

Witte also bought world rights from Henry Dunow of Dunow Carlson Lerner for Lookaway, Lookaway, the first novel from Wilton Barnhardt since 1998’s Show World. According to Witte, Lookaway is a family epic set in Barnhardt’s native North Carolina, where the new money of Charlotte’s banking and real estate boom meets the old money, mores, and closet skeletons of the established South. Barnhardt’s first three novels were published with St. Martin’s and were also reprinted in paperback under the Picador USA imprint by Witte.

Amazon Acquires ‘Idaho’
Amazon’s literary fiction editor Ed Park acquired world rights to Shawn Vestal’s debut collection, Godforsaken Idaho, at auction from Renée Zuckerbrot at Renée Zuckerbrot Literary Agency. In Vestal’s book, the northwestern landscape becomes a place where pasts can be sloughed off and blighted lives reimagined; drawing on his Mormon upbringing, Vestal also explores early episodes in the history of the church. Stories from the collection have been published in Tin House and McSweeney’s, among other publications.

Messenger’s YA Novels Get Six Figures at S&S
Laura Rennert of Andrea Brown Literary Agency sold North American rights for Shannon Messenger’s debut young adult novel, Let the Sky Fall, and a sequel. The six-figure advance was offered by Liesa Abrams, executive editor at Simon & Schuster for the Simon Pulse imprint. Let the Sky Fall, slated for March 2013 publication, is about a 17-year-old boy who has no idea how he survived the category five tornado that killed his parents. Though his memory has been erased, he is haunted by dreams of a beautiful, dark-haired girl. Now, years later, he finds out the girl is real: she’s his guardian sylph, an air elemental, who harnesses the power of the wind.

Hyperion Serves Up Some Frat House Cuisine
Chef and food blogger Darlene Barnes will chronicle her immersion into the appetites of men in Hungry Boys: Five Years in a Frat House, which sold in a North American pre-empt to Elisabeth Dyssegaard at Hyperion from Christy Fletcher of Fletcher & Co. Described as Pledged meets Julie & Julia, Hungry Boys is about Barnes’s departure from her job as a private chef to become the cook for 80 fraternity brothers, where her dishes became a point of pride and, despite her tough love, the boys wound up turning to her for all types of advice.

Berkley/Penguin Lands Antebellum South Epic
Joelle Delbourgo at Joelle Delbourgo Associates sold world English rights to Berkley/Penguin for The Writing Box by Elaine Neil Orr, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee in both memoir and short fiction. The Writing Box is set in the antebellum South and among the Yoruba of Africa, following missionaries Emma and Henry Bowman (inspired by historical figures), who are deeply in love with their faith and each other. In the book, they carve out a life of purpose and spiritual redemption in a land they find both strange and glorious.

Unbridled Goes for Geye
Greg Michaelson at Unbridled Books has purchased world English rights for Pete Geye’s novel The Lighthouse Road, scheduled for release in fall 2012. The book was sold by Laura Langlie and tells the story of a young Norwegian immigrant woman and her misbegotten son at the turn of the 20th century. The story explores the themes of love and family and what it means to make an honest living in a suspect world. Geye’s first novel, Safe from the Sea, was a PW Indie Sleeper selection and was just optioned by Lenny Beckerman and Michael Karbelnikoff at Hello! via Bill Contardi on Geye’s and Langlie’s behalf.

Burnes Sells Two
The Gernert Company’s Sarah Burnes made two deals in the last week. In the first deal, she sold Kate Manning’s novel My Notorious Life by Madame X to Alexis Gargagliano at Scribner in an auction for North American rights. My Notorious Life is the fictive memoir of Axie Muldoon, a near-orphan girl who becomes one of the most successful—and controversial—midwives of her time. In the second sale, Burnes closed a deal with Farrar, Straus and Giroux publisher Jonathan Galassi, who bought North American rights to Mary Kay Zuravleff’s third novel, Man Alive! The book tells the story of a pediatric psychopharmacologist who is struck by lightning on his way to dinner with his family; the work is a portrait of the family as an alternately fragile and resilient ecosystem.