Publishing is an industry that can move slowly. Books can take years to write, and then a few more years to publish. There are exceptions, though, and the case of Regan Rose, whose debut novel just sold to Pamela Dorman for high six figures, is unquestionably one.
A week and a half ago, Rose, a pseudonym for a lawyer based in Portland, Me., didn't even have a literary agent. She sent an unsolicited pitch letter to Helen Heller, who has an eponymous shingle based in Ontario, Canada. Heller was immediately struck by the pitch, and requested Rose's manuscript.
"I signed her up the day after she sent me the submission," Heller explained, adding that said submission was "one of the best I've ever seen." After staying up all night to reader Rose's novel, A Kindness, Heller knew she had something special on her hands. The industry reacted in kind. Less than 24 hours after sending the manuscript to editors, there was heavy interest.
Dorman, who has her own imprint at Penguin Random House, wound up preempting North American rights earlier this week.
Heller explained that she pitched the novel as Mystic River meets Unbelievable. In it, Heller went on, "a New England family is torn apart when the husband’s much loved younger brother accuses a man of date rape." She added that the novel explores “elements of mystery, tragedy, doubt, and justice.”
Speaking to the acquisition, Dorman said Heller "piqued my interest on Saturday night with the first 79 pages of the novel. Sunday night, I devoured the rest." She went on to call the book "atmospheric, tense, page-turning fiction" and "a whip-smart debut that is a rare combination of suspense and drama."
There is, unsurprisingly, heavy buzz surrounding A Kindness heading into next week's Frankfurt Book Fair. Heller, whose agency is handling foreign rights, said there's "a ton of interest" in the U.K., as well as a number other territories. With things moving so quickly, the only issue has been time; Heller said her team simply "hasn't had the chance to sell any [foreign rights] yet."
The author is using a pseudonym to keep her legal practice separate from her literary career.
Correction: The book was preempted earlier this week, and not late last week as the article initially stated. This article has also been updated to include a quote from Dorman about the novel.