Deal of the Week: New Morgenstern Lands at Doubleday
Erin Morgenstern, author of the 2011 bestseller The Night Circus, sold North American rights to The Starless Sea to Jenny Jackson at Doubleday in an exclusive submission. The sophomore work from the author, whose debut has sold more than three million copies, follows, Doubleday said, a graduate student who discovers a book in his school library featuring a tale from his own childhood. Intent on finding the origins of the book, he “uncovers a series of clues... that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a subterranean library.” Starless, which is slated for November 2019, with a 500,000-copy first printing, was sold by Richard Pine at Inkwell Management.
FROM THE U.S.
Buzzy ‘Bad Deed’ Nabbed by Morrow
For a rumored mid-six-figure sum, David Highfill at William Morrow bought North American rights to Heather Chavez’s debut novel, No Bad Deed. Peter Steinberg at Foundry Literary + Media, who represented Chavez, said the thriller is “in the vein of Harlan Coben” and follows “a mom who’s on the hunt for her missing husband while she’s trying to protect her kids from a killer who knows too much about her own dark family history.” A buzz book at last month’s Frankfurt Book Fair, the novel has also sold at auction in Germany (to Blanvalet), the Netherlands (Karakter), and the U.K. (Headline).
Lee Opens Up “Scars” for Atria
Michelle Herrera Mulligan at Atria preempted North American rights to Laura Lee’s A History of Scars. The publisher described the book, slated for fall 2020, as a “genre-bending, identity-hunting memoir in essays” that explores a range of topics from “caregiving for a parent with early-onset Alzheimer’s” to “stumbling toward intimacy and sexuality.” Johanna Castillo at Writers House represented Lee, who has an MFA from Purdue University.
Ballantine Listens to Kara’s “Rumor”
Kate Miciak at Ballantine preempted North American rights to Lesley Kara’s debut thriller, The Rumor. The book is loosely based on the case of Mary Bell, a 10-year-old British girl convicted of murdering two boys in London in the late 1960s. Ballantine said the novel, which has been optioned by Cuba Pictures (a U.K.-based production company run in partnership with the Curtis Brown literary agency), explores how “a careless rumor repeated to a group of young mothers can wreck lives.” Amanda Preston at LBA Books brokered the agreement.
Neal Porter Lands Mr. Rogers Book
For his eponymous imprint at Holiday House, Neal Porter took North American rights to a picture book about Fred Rogers, titled Hello, Neighbor! by Matthew Cordell. Rosemary Stimola, who has an eponymous shingle, sold the book, noting that it marks “the first and only authorized picture book biography” of the iconic children’s TV personality, who was the host and creator of PBS’s long-running TV show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Stimola sold the book in conjunction with Matthew Shiels at Fred Rogers Productions.
Knopf Anoints Momplaisir’s ‘Queens’
In a world English rights acquisition, Carole Baron at Knopf preempted Francesca Momplaisir’s debut novel, My Queens. Victoria Sanders at Victoria Sanders & Associates represented the author, calling the book “an arresting and forthright exploration of the American experience of Haitian immigrants and the broad and sweeping reach of male dominance.”
Rozzo’s “Psychodrama” Plays Out at Ecco
Ecco’s Dan Halpern bought North American rights at auction to Mark Rozzo’s Psychodrama City for a rumored six figures. Ecco said the book, by the Vanity Fair contributing editor, offers “a chronicle of the cultural, artistic and political revolution of 1960s L.A.” The nonfiction title tells this story through the lens of the relationship between Dennis Hopper and Brooke Hayward. (The latter is the daughter of producer Leland Hayward and actress Margaret Sullivan; she is also the author of the 1977 bestselling memoir Haywire, about her famous but dysfunctional family.) David McCormick at McCormick Literary represented Rozzo.
Smith’s ‘Word’ Taken by LB
After a 17-bidder auction, Vanessa Mobley at Little, Brown won North American rights to Clint Smith’s How the Word Is Passed. The book, which Alia Hanna Habib at the Gernert Company sold, tells the story, the publisher explained, “of black America through place—from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation to Confederate monuments taken down in New Orleans—exploring how this living history shapes our world to this day.” Smith is an award-winning poet and essayist.
Behind the Deal
To the children’s publishing community, Amy Krouse Rosenthal was a beloved picture book author. To millions of others, she is the name behind a heartbreaking “Modern Love” essay that went viral 10 days before her untimely death last year. In “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” Rosenthal crafts a dating profile of her husband, Jason, in hopes he can meet a wonderful woman after she passes. That essay was not the only literary project she completed just before she died, though. Dear Girl, a picture book co-written with her daughter Paris, was published by HarperCollins in December 2017. That book, which has sold more than 300,000 copies, is now getting a sequel, of sorts. Dear Boy, by Jason Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal, was acquired by Margaret Anastas from agent Amy Rennert. Illustrated by Holly Hatam, the book, set for April 2019, will be, HC said, “equal parts love letter, inspirational note, and life guide for the special boy in your life.” Perhaps more presciently, it will be, as an HC spokesperson noted, “perfect for a market that is in great need of a message of kindness and compassion when it comes to raising boys.”
- Transworld in the U.K. preempted a debut novel called Shelf Life by an Italian writer living in London, Livia Franchini. Lizzy Goudsmit at Transworld took world rights to the book, along with a second title, from Zoe Ross at United Agents. The publisher called the title a “heart-wrenching story of a woman rebuilding herself on her own terms.” [The Bookseller]
- Polish author Dorota Masłowska’s debut novel, Snow White and Russian Red (published in the U.S. by Grove Atlantic in 2005), has sold to Chinese publisher Shanghai Foreign Language Educational Press (SFLEP). The book was originally published in Poland in 2002. [PW]
PAGE TO SCREEN
- Heath Lee’s forthcoming The League of Wives (St. Martin’s, Apr. 2019) has been optioned by Fox 2000 and Reese Witherspon's company Hello Sunshine. The nonfiction book is about a group of military housewives who, after their husbands become POWs in Vietnam, form a lobbying group to bring them home. [Deadline]
- Michael Lewis’s The Fifth Risk (W.W. Norton, Oct.) has been optioned by Barack and Michelle Obama. The duo are said to be exploring a production deal at Netflix. [Rolling Stone]
- ABC has “handed a script commitment to” Lori Gottlieb’s forthcoming memoir Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Apr. 2019). [Deadline]
For more children’s and YA book deals, see our latest Rights Report.