SMP Goes Big for Boarding School Novel

Stanford graduate Emily Layden landed six figures for her debut novel, Legacy, which publisher St. Martin’s Press is touting as a work reminiscent of Curtis Sittenfeld’s 2005 bestseller Prep. The novel, which SMP’s Sarah Cantin preempted less than 24 hours after receiving it, follows a varied set of characters at an all-girls boarding school in New England. The girls, SMP explained, must “navigate the social mores of prep school life and the broader, more universal challenges of growing up” while dealing with “an alumna’s troubling allegation and the school’s efforts to ‘manage’ the ensuing crisis.” Lisa Grubka at Fletcher & Company represented the author, selling world rights in the deal.


Putnam Puts Up for Painter’s Debut

After what she described as a “lively” auction, Putnam’s Sally Kim won North American rights to Kate Russo’s debut novel, Super Host. Nicole Aragi represented Russo, a painter whose art is exhibited in galleries in the U.S. and U.K. The novel follows an artist named Bennett Driscoll who, after both his career and marriage hit the skids, decides to rent rooms in his London home to make ends meet. As Kim elaborated, “A year in, he’s reached Super Host status and obsessively monitors reviews of his home instead of his art. Just as he’s about to lose all motivation for everything he once held dear, three different renters arrive, unwittingly unlocking the parts of Bennett’s life that have been forgotten to him for too long.”

Bishop Re-ups at HarperOne

HarperOne’s Kathryn Hamilton nabbed world rights (excluding the U.K.) to five new books by bestselling self-help guru and self-described urban philosopher Gary John Bishop. Hamilton spent seven figures to get the author to pen the multibook contract after his past successes; his first book, Unfu*k Yourself, has, per the HarperCollins imprint, sold more than 1.2 million copies in all formats. His second book, Stop Doing That Sh*t, has moved more than 100,000 print copies since hitting shelves last month. The first title under the new deal, Do the Work, is set for October and will, HarperOne said, “expand on the lessons in Unfu*k Yourself with all new text, questions, prompts, and exercises to help readers put GJB’s no-nonsense self-help into action.” The deal covers two more books—Wise AF (set for 2020) and the relationship guide Bulletproof Love (which does not yet have a publication date)—as well as two currently untitled audio originals. Bishop was represented by Jenny Bent at the Bent Agency.

RH Preempts Jabr’s ‘Symphony’

In a rumored six-figure acquisition, Hilary Redmon at Random House preempted science writer Ferris Jabr’s debut book, The Symphony of Earth. The publisher said that Symphony, which Larry Weissman and Sascha Alper at Larry Weissman Literary sold, “will explore a major transformation in our understanding of how life evolves with the planet” and “makes the case that this knowledge can help us restore the planet’s ecosystems.” Redmon took North American rights in the deal. Jabr is a contributor to the New York Times Magazine and has also written for, among other publications, Harper’s, the New Yorker, and Scientific American.

Tarcher Gets ‘Fully Charged’

Marian Lizzi at TarcherPerigee bought Meaghan B. Murphy’s The Fully Charged Life for six figures at auction from Laura Nolan at Aevitas Creative Management. The April 2021–slated book from the executive editor of Good Housekeeping is, the publisher said, “an inspiring and action-oriented guide to cultivating positive energy, reframing obstacles, and focusing on what matters to you most—to fill every day with yay.” Murphy, in addition to her magazine gig, is a regular on various morning shows (including Live with Kelly and Ryan and Today) and also has her own digital series on Better, NBC News’ wellness vertical.

Plath Scholar Lands at Gallery

Alison Callahan at Gallery Books took world English rights to Sylvia Plath scholar Gail Crowther’s Kicking at the Door of Fame. The book, Gallery said, is a “dual biography” of the poets Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. The pair maintained a standing date at the Ritz Carlton where they “drank martinis, ate potato chips, and talked about sex, poetry, and suicide.” The publisher elaborated that the book, which is set for spring 2021, “weaves together the stories of these two women, placing them in their particular historical and cultural moment, and explores the maelstrom of their dramatic lives; the friendship, envy, respect, and ambition.” Callahan bought the book in an exclusive submission from Carrie Kania at the C + W Literary Agency, which is based in the U.K.

Behind the Deal

The adult short story collection that Grand Central Publishing has just signed by A Wrinkle in Time author Madeleine L’Engle is something her granddaughter first glimpsed, at least in part, as a seven-year-old. The posthumous work, which GCP will release in spring 2020, came to the house via Charlotte Jones Voiklis, the aforementioned granddaughter, who found the stories while going through old boxes in L’Engle’s study.

Currently titled The Moment of Tenderness, the book will include a mix of published stories and never-before-seen stories.

Voiklis said she remembers the early reading of a short story titled “Gilberte Must Play Bach”; the other stories were uncovered after hours spent sifting through material in her grandmother’s “Tower,” a room above the garage where L’Engle wrote. Most of the stories in the collection were penned by L’Engle in the 1940s and ’50s, GCP said, while Voiklis added that some “started as college papers.”

According to GCP, the stories feature themes such as “friendship, isolation, and faith but also include elements as far reaching as satire, science fiction, and horror.” GCP’s Karen Kosztolnyik acquired North American rights to the title from Lisa Erbach Vance at the Aaron Priest Literary Agency.


Abdi Nazemian’s just-published YA novel Like a Love Story (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray), about a closeted gay teen arriving in New York City at the height of the AIDS epidemic, has, according to Deadline, been optioned for feature film by Marti Noxon and Jessica Rhoades, the duo who executive produced the adaptation of Sharp Objects.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane (Scribner), which PW said “traces two families’ shared history over the course of four decades,” has, per Deadline, been optioned by Bruce Cohen and Scott Delman, producers of the Tony-winning play The Ferryman.


● In a world English rights acquisition, Dan Wells at Canadian publisher Biblioasis bought Emily Urquhart’s Wonder Tales: Essays on Belief. The book was sold by Samantha Haywood at the Transatlantic Agency, who said that its 13 essays “weave personal narratives into larger explorations of belief.”

● After a three-house auction, Bodley Head won U.K. and Commonwealth rights to journalist Julie McDowell’s debut, Attack Warning Red, according to The Bookseller, which said that the nonfiction work explores “the every-day impact of nuclear war in mid 20th century Britain.” McDowell was represented by Will Francis at Janklow & Nesbit UK. The book is slated for early 2021.

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