Deal of the Week: Iranian Writer Answers the Call

In January 2017, only three months after Jessica Craig hung her agency’s shingle, she signed on to the Open Call for Muslim Writers initiative launched by American agents in response to the Trump administration’s ban on refugees and immigrants from Muslim countries. Amir Ahmadi Arian responded to Craig, who said that “Amir’s was the only manuscript that I read entirely in one sitting.” Last week, in her first deal of the year, Craig reported the sale of Arian’s first book in English, Then the Fish Swallowed Him, a novel about Iran’s infamous Evin prison.

Described by Craig as a “1984 for the 21st century and a stark warning about the psychological impact of totalitarianism,” it will pub in winter 2020. Executive editor Juan Milà signed the deal for world English rights for Harper’s new, still-unnamed imprint for international publishing. French rights have also been sold in a preempt to Jean Mattern of Editions Grasset & Fasquelle.


Little, Brown Buys Madonna Bio

Asya Muchnick at Little, Brown laid down six figures for a biography of Madonna from Mary Gabriel, the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and author of Ninth Street Women. Madonna Risen: A Feminist Tale takes an in-depth look at the star through a contemporary lens. Gabriel reveals Madonna to be not just a pop icon but an artist and cultural figure who has played an important role in shaping modern feminism and challenging racial and anti-LGBTQ bigotry, according to the publisher. Brettne Bloom at the Book Group negotiated the deal for world rights.

PEN CEO Pens Primer for Dey Street

Suzanne Nossel, the CEO of PEN America, who is at the forefront of the current debates surrounding free speech, sold Uncensored to Alessandra Bastagli at Dey Street. The book, which the publisher calls “an urgent and necessary primer,” will center on 12 principles for navigating free speech today. Nossel argues for the value of breaking through echo chambers while acknowledging the need to check one’s assumptions. Larry Weissman brokered the world English rights deal for his eponymous agency.

Beacon Takes Follow-up from DiAngelo

Following the success of Robin DiAngelo’s critically acclaimed, bestselling, and controversial White Fragility—a phrase the author coined in a 2011 academic article— Rachael Marks at Beacon scooped up world English rights to her follow-up, Niceness Is Not Courageous: How White Progressives Uphold Racism. Planned for publication in late 2020 or spring 2021, the book, the agent said, will examine the role white progressives play in maintaining racial inequality and describes how they might align their actions with their professed values. Lauren Abramo at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret represented the author.

Diversion Gets the Inside Scoop on Fox

In a preempt, Keith Wallman, Diversion Books’ editor-in-chief, acquired world English rights to Foxocracy: Inside the Network’s Playbook of Tribal Warfare, by former Fox News host, contributor, and guest anchor Tobin Smith. The book, Wallman said, “addresses the tactics of today’s cable news media and their incredibly harmful effects on our democracy,” and it promises to bring “incendiary proof, from an insider and on-air talent, of audience-psychology and production tactics that are now even being used by Fox News rivals such as MSNBC and CNN.” According to Wallman, Smith argues that “for too long, the media has only reacted to the extreme right-wing bias of Fox News as a now-obvious GOP propaganda operation.” In the book, Smith makes the case that great damage has been done to the country by this new “social-media-intensified form of psychological warfare.” Steve Rossnegotiated the deal for his eponymous agency.

Korean Hit Goes to Harper

Barbara Zitwer, who has an eponymous shingle, discovered Won-pyung Sohn’s Almond just before Christmas and immediately sold rights in eight countries. Now she has closed a preempt world English rights deal with Tara Parsons, associate publisher for Harper’s forthcoming international imprint. It’s moving fast: just before press time, Zitwer sold rights in Mainland China. The coming-of-age novel, translated into English by Sandy Joosun Lee, has sold more than 200,000 copies and received numerous literary awards in South Korea, where it was published in 2016 by Changbi. The book follows an emotionless teenage boy who meets a hotheaded troublemaker and learns from their unlikely friendship to connect with humanity. Zitwer described it as “The Emissary crossed with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Behind the Deal

Rosemary Stimola, of Stimola Literary Studio, may have made the most unlikely deal of the week. She sold world rights to Simon Boughton at Norton Young Readers for a middle grade biography about an under-the-radar artist by a first-time author.

In It’s My Whole Life, Susan Wider tells the story of Charlotte Salomon, a German Jewish refugee in Nice, France, during WWII. After being released from a French concentration camp and before being deported to Auschwitz, where she was murdered, Salomon created a masterwork of nearly 1,000 paintings, titled Life? Or Theater?, which has often been compared to Anne Frank’s diary for its depiction of life under the Nazi regime. Life? Or Theater? has been shown in numerous museums and is the subject of an opera and a ballet, but there has been “absolutely nothing for young readers,” Wider said. “The art alone is amazing. A bright gouache palette of primary colors along with words, musical notes, and a sickly yellow used to depict the Nazis make Salomon’s story of Nazi repression and everything she went through accessible to younger readers.”

Wider points out that the issues the artist explores—which include suicide, infidelity, and physical abuse—are subjects that young people often grapple with. “Art is a place for young people to turn to find inspiration and solace,” she said. The book is scheduled for winter 2021.


  • A behind-the-scenes book about the hit play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts 1 and 2 will be published by Little, Brown in the U.K. on September 17 and will be released in collaboration with Scholastic in the U.S. The Blair Partnership secured the rights to the book, titled Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: The Journey and assembled by Harry Potter Theatrical Productions and writer Jody Revenson. [The Bookseller]


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

Liz Hartman will be writing the Deals column while regular columnist Rachel Deahl is on maternity leave. To submit deals for the column, email