Deal of the Week: Holt Signs NYT’s Gettleman

New York Times correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Gettleman’s The Mission, a chronicle of the life and death of American missionary John Chau, was picked up by Holt’s Paul Golob in a six-figure deal for North American rights. Todd Shuster and Justin Brouckaert of Aevitas Creative Management represented the author. Gettleman’s reporting detailed the story of the obsessive quest that drove Chau to a remote island in the Indian Ocean, where he hoped to convert the indigenous people to Christianity but was killed. Comparing the book to John Krakauer’s Into the Wild and David Grann’s The Lost City of Z, Golob said he was taken with the immediacy of Gettleman’s prose, which he said “jumps off the page” to reveal “how far a driven and obsessed person is willing to go in the service of their dream.” The book, which is due out in 2021, is part of Holt’s publishing partnership with the New York Times.


Harper Pays Up for a Debut

Erin Wicks, editor at HarperCollins, was obsessed enough with Micah Nemerever’s These Violent Delights, which she described as a “propulsive and gripping debut” set in Pittsburgh in the 1970s, to buy it for six figures at auction. Nemerever, who studied art history and queer theory at the University of Connecticut and wrote his MA thesis on gender anxiety in the art of the Weimar Republic, spins a tale about, per the publisher, two college students, each with his own troubled past, falling into an escalating obsession with each other that ultimately leads to an act of unspeakable violence. Caroline Eisenmann at Frances Goldin Literary Agency sold the North American rights.

Paul Rudnick Plays with Berkley

Berkley v-p and editorial director Cindy Hwang acquired, in an exclusive submission, playwright and screenwriter Paul Rudnick’s contemporary gay romance Playing the Palace for publication in trade paperback in 2021. Hwang, a longtime fan of Rudnick’s writing, calls the opportunity to publish “his wit, humor and pathos” a “dream come true.” Among Rudnick’s film and stage credits are Addams Family Values, Regrets Only, and Sister Act. The novel, the publisher said, features an openly gay prince of England falling for an American man. David Kuhn at Aevitas Creative Management brokered the deal for world and audio rights. The book adds to Berkley’s commitment to what it called “redefining romantic comedy” that sprung up last year with two debuts: Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date and Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient, which both featured multicultural romances.

Garbes Grabs Six Figures

In a six-figure deal, Julie Will at HarperWave snatched up world rights for Everybody, Every Body, Angela Garbes’s follow-up to last year’s attention-getting Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy. In Everybody, the publisher says, Garbes blends reporting, research, memoir, and cultural criticism to explore the physical reality of life in a female body and show how that reality impacts experiences with food, travel, music, health, wellness, sexuality, and cultural identity, as well as parenting and motherhood. Monika Woods at Curtis Brown represented the author.

Ecco Savors Victoria James’s ‘Wine’

Daniel Halpern, Ecco’s president and publisher, preempted wine wunderkind Victoria James’s Wine Girl. The agent described James’s memoir as “Educated meets Sweetbitter” and said it is about “a young woman breaking free from an abusive and traumatic childhood and into the glamorous but notoriously toxic restaurant industry.” James, who became a sommelier at the tender age of 21, is beverage director and a partner at Cote, a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City. She is also the author of Drink Pink: A Celebration of Rosé. Allison Hunter at Janklow & Nesbit negotiated the deal for North American rights.

Putnam Buys KJ Dell’Antonia’s ‘Chicken’

In a preempt, Putnam executive editor Margo Lipschultz scooped up The Chicken Sisters, the debut novel from How to Be a Happier Parent author KJ Dell’Antonia, who was a reporter for the New York Times and editor of its MotherLode blog. Lipschultz described the book as “a warmhearted story” about the long-standing rivalry between two Kansas fried-chicken dynasties and a reality TV competition that forces a new generation of sisters to face old secrets and new dreams. Caryn Karmatz Rudy at DeFiore and Company brokered the deal for world rights.

Penguin Gets ‘Artcurious’

Penguin executive editor Meg Leder won North American rights at auction to Jennifer Dasal’s Artcurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History, based on Dasal’s podcast of the same name. Curator of contemporary art at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Dasal reveals funny and fascinating stories about artists and masterpieces. According to the publisher, “This isn’t your mama’s art history text.... It promises to teach you something new, like the fact that the CIA funneled money to support abstract expressionism as a way to fight the Cold War.” The five-figure deal was brokered by William Clark for his eponymous agency.

Behind the Deal

In a three-way auction, Chelsea Cutchens at Overlook won world rights (excluding Canada) to Warrior Butterflies, the debut novel by Ava Homa, which both the author and her agent, Chris Kepner of the Kepner Agency, believe to be the first novel by a Kurdish woman available in English. “Kurdish literature is rarely translated, leaving the Kurds, a voiceless nation, too busy staying alive to create literary pieces in foreign languages,” Homa explained. She grew up in a Sanandij, the capital of Kurdistan Province in Iran, and later emigrated to Canada, where she wrote the book in English.

The novel was inspired by the life of Farzad Kamangar, a Kurdish teacher, poet, journalist, and human rights activist who was prosecuted on charges of moharebeh (enmity against God). Homa’s story begins in 1963 when a seven-year-old boy witnesses a brutal massacre of hundreds of Kurds. The story picks up a generation later with Leila, the daughter of that boy, now a broken man. Leila dreams of going to university, but that privilege is reserved for her brother. She is trapped at home, helping her mother. Eventually, she escapes with her brother, but his increasing activism puts them both at risk.


John Irving’s new publisher in the U.K. is Scribner, an imprint of S&S UK. Ian Chapman, CEO and publisher, signed a three-book deal for U.K. and Commonwealth rights with Dean Cooke of CookeMermaid. Darkness as a Bride, Irving’s 15th novel, will be the first book published under the new agreement and is due out in 2020.

Bret Easton Ellis’s first foray into nonfiction, White (an “incendiary polemic about this young century’s failings, e-driven and otherwise,” as Knopf describes it), is making its way around the world. Daisy Meyrick at Curtis Brown UK, on behalf of Amanda Urban at ICM Partners, has closed deals with Darkside Books (Brazil), Robert Laffont (France), Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Germany), Brainfood Media (Greece), Einaudi (Italy), Ambo Anthos (Netherlands), Etiuda (Poland), and Elsinore (Portugal).

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

Correction: This column initially referred to Ava Homa's hometown as "a Kurdish village in Iran" when it is, in fact, Kurdish Iran's capital city. Frances Goldin Literary Agency was also spelled incorrectly.