Deal of the Week: HC Invests in Newly Discovered Plath

In a North American rights acquisition, Terry Karten bought a short story by Sylvia Plath for Harper Perennial. “Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom,” which is just over 40 pages, will be released in January 2019 in e-book and hardcover. The story, written in 1952 while the author was an undergrad at Smith College, was recently discovered by a Plath archivist, who brought it to U.K. publisher Faber & Faber. Karten struck the deal with the London-based house, which will release a U.K. edition next January, as well. HC said the story is “a mythic tale of the assertion of female agency.” Karten added that it “vividly portrays” Plath’s “rebellion against convention and her struggle to forcefully seize control of her own fate.”


Taylor Spooks the “Ghost” for RH
New Yorker and n+1 contributor Justin Taylor sold Riding with the Ghost to Samuel Nicholson at Random House in a world rights deal. Nicholson preempted the novel from Noah Ballard at Curtis Brown. Taylor, whose debut, The Gospel of Anarchy, was published by Harper Perennial in 2011, here follows a man on a trek across America. The publisher said that, as the protagonist travels, he tries to “come to terms with his father’s successes and failures, as well as his own,” and that the book highlights “the complicated legacy that each generation hands down to the next.”

Nonagenarian Justice Decides for LB
Former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens sold The Making of a Justice to Vanessa Mobley at Little, Brown. The 98-year-old, who was represented by Amy Bernstein and Peter Bernstein at Bernstein Literary Agency, retired from the high court in 2010. The book, subtitled Reflections on My First 94 Years and slated for May 2019, will, the publisher said, offer “an intimate and illuminating account of Stevens’s service on the nation’s highest court,” touching on such things as his youth in Chicago and his early career as an attorney in private practice.

Pennington Memoir to Zondervan
Extreme Home Makeover star Ty Pennington inked a world rights agreement with Zondervan for Life to the Extreme. The memoir, subtitled How a Chaotic Kid Became America’s Favorite Carpenter, is set for May 2019. Zondervan’s Matthew Baugher and Andy Rogers bought the book from Bill Stankey at Westport Entertainment. Life, Zondervan said, will feature “parts of Pennington’s personal story” that he’s never before shared, such as his ADHD diagnosis during college. Pennington is writing the book with Travis Thrasher.

CIA Man Talks for Celadon
Former CIA director John Brennan sold world English rights to a currently untitled memoir to Jamie Raab at Celadon Books. Set for 2020 and sold by David Black at the David Black Agency, the memoir will cover Brennan’s three-decade-plus career working in government. Raab said it will allow its author to “provide candid accounts of the milestones and events that have shaped his life and career, [and share] the lessons in integrity and leadership that have always informed his actions.”

‘Charlie Hebdo’ Survivor to Europa
Europa Editions acquired a memoir by Philippe Lançon, a journalist who survived the 2015 terrorist attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Sandro Ferri and Sandra Ozzola Ferri at Europa took world rights to Le Lambeau from Anne-Solange Noble at Gallimard and will publish the English-language edition in 2020. The book was released in France in April and has won a number of literary honors there. Europa said it is “a literary work that focuses on one man’s experience of the events of January 7 and their aftermath, the way they changed his life, and his experience of the world through all his senses.”

S&S Nabs Feng’s ‘Importance’
Simon & Schuster’s Zachary Knoll nabbed North American rights, for six figures, to Linda Rui Feng’s The Importance of Floating. Caroline Eisenmann at Frances Goldin Literary Agency represented the author and said her novel, scheduled for a spring 2020 release, is set in 1986 in a rural Chinese village. There, 10-and-a-half-year-old Junie learns that her parents, then in America, intend to return to the village on her 12th birthday. “What Junie doesn’t know,” Eisenman said, “is that her parents are estranged from each other in America, each holding close tragedies and histories that have created an unbridgeable silence between the two.” The novel, she went on, “unfurls very personal stories of heartbreak against the upheavals of the period” and “tenderly reveals the compromises and improvisations that make up the lives of immigrants.” Feng is a professor of Chinese cultural history at the University of Toronto.

Behind the Deal
Following two years of renewed interest in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic The Handmaid’s Tale—which saw a jump in readership and cultural relevance after the 2016 election and after the popular TV adaptation began airing in 2017—the author has announced a sequel.

The Testaments, set 15 years after the final scene of The Handmaid’s Tale, will be published on Sept. 10, 2019, by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, which acquired U.S. rights from Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown, with an announced first printing of 500,000 copies.

Atwood said the inspiration for The Testaments comes from the questions readers asked her about Gilead [the fictional setting of The Handmaid’s Tale]. “The other inspiration,” she added, “is the world we’ve been living in.”

The Handmaid’s Tale, first published in 1985, was shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize. Since then, eight million copies of the title have been sold globally in English, including over the past two years, during which the book spent 88 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.


  • In the U.K., 4th Estate preempted a memoir by playwright Joe Hammond 24 hours after the manuscript was submitted. Hammond was recently diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), and the book, A Short History of Falling, chronicles his experience living with the debilitating illness and coming to terms with how it will inevitably cut short the time he has with his young family. [The Bookseller]


  • Netflix has optioned multiple titles by Roald Dahl, including such classics as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG. The deal, done with the Dahl estate, will see the adaptations air on the streaming platform as early as next year. [New York Times]

  • “Benito Cereno,” a novella by Herman Melville published in 1855, has been optioned for series adaptation, with Steven Katz set to co-executive produce. The story is about a revolt on a Spanish slave ship, but the series will be set in space. [The Hollywood Reporter]

  • A recently discovered book by Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”, has been optioned by Lionsgate and Freedom Road Productions (the production company owned by rapper/actor Common). The book is set to be adapted into a limited TV series. [Ebony]

For more children’s and YA book deals, see our latest Rights Report.