Holt Kids Pays Seven Figures for Debut

YA debut The Firekeeper’s Daughter sold for a sum rumored to be in the seven figure range, after a 12-bidder auction. Author Angeline Boulley, an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, was represented by Faye Bender at the Book Group, who sold North American rights in a two-book deal, to Tiffany Liao at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. Liao described the novel as an “indigenous Veronica Mars”; in it, the teenage heroine, who is of mixed heritage and lives near her local reservation, witnesses a murder, changing the course of her life. The crime, as Bender explained in her pitch letter, forces her to “choose between saving those she loves, helping the FBI, and protecting the tribal community.”


Ruhl’s ‘Smile’ Goes to S&S for Seven Figures

At Simon & Schuster, Marysue Rucci paid a rumored seven figures for a memoir by Pulitzer-nominated playwright Sarah Ruhl (The Clean House) titled Smile. William Morris Endeavor’s Dorian Karchmar sold North American rights to the book, which chronicles the author’s contraction of Bell’s palsy and the aftermath of living with the condition (which causes paralysis on one side of the face). Comparing the title to memoirs such as Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, S&S said the book is “an illness narrative” that also explores “the nature of femininity and smiling.”

Jean’s ‘Tokyo’ Draws Seven Figures

Flatiron Books’ Sarah Barley preempted Emiko Jean’s YA novel Tokyo Ever After for seven figures, avoiding a potential 10-house auction with the bid. The North American rights agreement, for the novel and a planned sequel, was brokered by Joelle Hobeika, Sara Shandler and Josh Bank at Alloy Entertainment on behalf of Erin Harris at Folio Literary Management. Tokyo, Flatiron said, is about American teen Izumi Tanaka who, while going through a ho-hum senior year in her Northern California town, discovers that she is Japanese royalty. Dubbing the novel “The Princess Diaries meets Crazy Rich Asians,” Flatiron said it follows a young woman who “finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never ‘American’ enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s ‘Japanese’ enough.” At press time, rights to the novel had sold in “significant” deals, per Flatiron, in Brazil, Finland, Germany, Israel, and Italy.

Dorman Accepts Rose’s ‘Kindness’

After a preempt for a sum rumored to be in the high-six-figure range, Pamela Dorman bought North American rights to the debut novel A Kindness. Dorman, acquiring for her eponymous imprint at Penguin Random House, brokered the agreement with Helen Heller at the Helen Heller Agency. The novel, which wound up in Heller’s hands after the agent responded to an unsolicited pitch, is about an accusation of date rape that unmoors a New England family. Heller said the book explores “elements of mystery, tragedy, doubt, and justice.” The author is a lawyer based in Maine who is writing under the pseudonym Regan Rose.

Morrow Buys a Tale of Apple’s Ive

Tripp Mickle, a technology reporter at the Wall Street Journal, sold a book about the legacy of Apple’s chief design officer, Jonathan Paul “Jony” Ive. Mauro DiPreta at William Morrow acquired world rights to the currently untitled book, for mid-six figures, from Daniel Greenberg at Levine Greenberg Rostan. Morrow explained that Ive, an industrial designer known as Steve Jobs’s “spiritual partner,” is credited with developing the aesthetics behind some of Apple’s most iconic products. He is also tethered to the various challenges Apple faced in the wake of Jobs’s death, when new CEO Tim Cook “sought to transform the company from a hardware colossus into a services and entertainment contender.” Ive announced his impending departure from Apple earlier this year.

Woon Says ‘Hello’ to HC

After a six-figure preempt, Katherine Tegen won North American rights to Yvonne Woon’s Hello, World. The YA novel was acquired in a two-book deal for Tegen’s eponymous imprint at HarperCollins Children’s Books. The coming-of-age novel, explained Woon’s agent Ted Malawer at Upstart Crow Literary, follows a 16-year-old named Xia Chan who, after winning a spot in a tech incubator for “teen tech prodigies,” finds herself competing against classmates for funding. Malawer elaborated that it’s a story “set against the dazzling tech world about a young girl discovering her voice.” Woon (the Dead Beautiful series) has an MFA from Columbia and spent three years living in Silicon Valley as a dog walker. The novel is slated for summer 2021.

Schaffert’s ‘Perfume’ Tempts Doubleday

In a six-figure deal for a sixth novel, Timothy Schaffert’s The Perfume Thief was nabbed by Doubleday’s Margo Shickmanter. The world English rights deal was brokered by Alice Tasman at Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, who said she pitched the novel as “The Danish Girl meets Moulin Rouge.” The WWII–set tale follows, Tasman explained, “a queer American expat” who heads to Paris to become a perfumer. There, while crafting scents for members of the city’s “underground nightlife,” she hits a crossroads when the Nazis seize the city “and seek her expertise for a sinister purpose.” Schaffert (The Coffins of Little Hope) is the director of creative writing at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and is the founder of the Omaha Lit Fest.

Celadon Welcomes Rock and Garten

Celadon Books signed titles by two bold-faced names, nabbing a memoir by culinary star Ina Garten and an essay collection by actor/comedian Chris Rock. Deb Futter at the Macmillan imprint bought both books from ICM’s Esther Newberg, taking North American rights to Garten’s currently untitled memoir and world English rights to Rock’s essay collection, My First Black Boyfriend. Garten, star of the Food Network’s The Barefoot Contessa, has penned 11 cookbooks; she said her memoir will “inspire readers to find their own unique story.” Rock’s book, slated for fall 2020, will, Celadon said, feature “funny essays about relationships and race.”

Viking Welcomes Shapiro’s ‘Amelia’

After a five-house auction, Emily Wunderlich at Viking won a narrative nonfiction book titled Amelia and George for a rumored mid-six-figure sum. The author, Laurie Gwen Shapiro, was represented in the North American rights deal by Peter Steinberg at Foundry Literary + Media. The title documents the decades-long relationship between Amelia Earhart and George Palmer Putnam (a publishing magnate) and focuses not on the whereabouts of her plane but on why she died. As Steinberg explained, the book shows that her death was caused, in part, by “her clandestine lover turned husband’s disregard of danger in the face of maintaining financial success during the Great Depression.” Steinberg added that he feels the book will “change history’s view on Amelia Earhart’s life and death.” Shapiro is a documentary filmmaker.

Forget ‘Hygge,’ HMH Has ‘Niksen’

With a six-figure preempt, Deb Brody at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt bought Olga Mecking’s nonfiction book Niksen: Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing. Brody took North American rights to the title from Julia Foldenyi at the Netherlands-based Shared Stories Rights Agency. The book, slated for early 2020, grew out of a story the author wrote for the New York Times in April that went viral, titled, “The Case for Doing Nothing.” In the Times piece, Mecking explained the Dutch’s affinity for, well, doing nothing, locally known as niksen. Foldenyi said the book will “explore the benefits of those sweet moments of letting your thoughts wander” while also detailing the documented health benefits of the titular practice.

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