With the Frankfurt Book Fair now well underway, and still no big book in sight, there was another dizzying round of deal-making that has left fair-goers tracking an ever-growing list of books gaining buzz.
Adding to the crop of notable titles we wrote about earlier is the psychological thriller Behind Her Eyes by British author Sarah Pinborough. The book, which has been drawing comparisons to The Girl on the Train, was preempted by HarperCollins UK imprint HarperFiction (which bought U.K. and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada) in a six-figure deal.
Agent Veronique Baxter at David Higham represents the book which, at press time, had been preempted in Holland and was being sold in ongoing auctions in Germany, Brazil and Sweden. Offers on the book were also in from publishers in Serbia and Greece. Set to be released in the U.K. in spring 2017, the novel, which features a touted plot twist, follows a single mom who gets involved with a man she then discovers is her new boss. Adding to the complicated situation, the heroine then meets, and befriends, his beautiful wife, only to find out that her new lover is a controlling and demanding husband.
Pinborough is a lauded horror author who also written children’s fantasy titles under the pen name Sarah Silverwood. Speaking about the novel, U.K. acquiring editor Natasha Bardon said it “makes you think differently about your relationships and the people around you. Plus it has a twist that will knock your socks off.”
Fletcher and Co.’s Grainne Fox is handling U.S. rights for the book, and film rights are with Sean Gascoine at United Agents.
Another book sparking a flurry of foreign sales, and film interest, is one that was announced back in May. Little Brown U.K.’s big book in Frankfurt, announced around the time of the London Book Fair, is a novel called A Boy Made of Blocks by the games editor at The Guardian, Keith Stuart.
Ed Wood, editorial director at LB UK imprint Sphere, commissioned the book after reading a Guardian piece Stuart wrote in March about the unexpected way he was able to bond with his autistic son over the video game Minecraft. Wood, who also has an autistic son, was touched by the article and contacted Stuart about turning the piece into a novel.
News of the acquisition hit the U.K. trades shortly after Wood and Stuart had sketched out a synopsis. But, with little more than that to show potential foreign publishers, Sphere decided to wait to shop the book until Frankfurt. At this year’s show, where Sphere has been promoting the title with a pitch poster (pictured), editors have been receiving a much fuller package—a 65,000-word partial manuscript, along with a full synopsis.
And, because the idea was conceived in-house, Sphere controls not only world print rights to the book, but also the film rights. On the print side, Sphere has closed deals—predominantly in preempts—with publishers in Germany, Spain, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Brazil, Serbia and Sweden. While no film deal has closed yet, the publisher said it has been fielding “strong proactive interest” from a number of studios.
Set for a September 2016 hardcover release in the U.K., Blocks is being pitched as About a Boy meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. It follows a newly divorced father of an autistic son who is trying to piece his life back together. As the father begins awkwardly dating and trying to master the art of part-time parenting, his son begins playing Minecraft. The game, the publisher explained, makes the boy’s imagination come alive, allowing “father and son to find a new way of communicating that transforms both their lives.”
A novel from Little, Brown U.S. is also getting some love in Germany. The literary sci-fi/fantasy work Spaceman of Bohemia, which Ben George acquired world rights to last week for, we hear, a rumored sum of $500,000, was preempted in Brazil as well as Italy with, the publisher said, offers coming in from a number of publishers in other countries.
The 27-year-old author, Jaroslav Kalfar, is a Czech-American who arrived in the U.S. at 15 and, according to Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch, who has been talking the book up at the fair, learned to speak English partly by watching The Cartoon Network. The novel is about the first astronaut from Czechoslavakia who, on a solo mission in space, is trying to deal with domestic issues back home, among them his crumbling marriage.
Kalfar has an MFA from New York University, where he studied under Jonathan Safran Foer, and Pietsch likened the book to works by Foer and Gary Shteyngart. The publisher has been pitching the novel as The Martian meets Life of Pi and the film Castaway.
On the foreign side, an Italian debut novel which sold in a six-figure deal (in euros) after a six-bidder auction to RCS Libri, has been inspiring chatter. Evita Greco’s debut, The Sound of Things Beginning, has been pitched by agent Vicki Satlow as “Follow Your Heart meets Amelie.” About a young woman who falls for an engaged man while tending to her dying grandmother, Satlow, who has an eponymous shingle based in Milan, said that “the wisdom, observations and voice” are what make the book stand out.
The 30-year-old author, who Satlow noted is dyslexic, comes from a small town in Italy and has worked as a lifeguard and supermarket cashier. In additional to the Italian deal, the book has been preempted in France, Germany and Brazil with, at press time, submissions underway in both the U.S. and the U.K.