As the first day of the Frankfurt Book Fair neared an end, no one title was dominating the conversation, but a number of books were creating buzz, ranging from those from familiar names including Dave Eggers and Keith Richards, to debut novelists. The upbeat mood among American publishers was fueled further by the late afternoon announcement of the National Book Award finalists.
The Eggers book, an adult novel based on Maurice Sendak´s classic Where the Wild Things Are was actually acquired by Ecco last winter, but kept quiet until now. Foreign rights are in play at Frankfurt and Ecco publisher Dan Halpern is predicting, "I think it`s going to be his biggest book. I think it´s going to be huge." Ecco is publishing the book in fall 2008, to coincide with the Spike Jonze movie adaptation based on Sendak´s book, for which Eggers wrote the screenplay.
Another household name creating excitement is Keith Richards, whose literary agent Ed Victor is selling foreign rights at the fair after getting an estimated $7 million for the autobiography from Little, Brown earlier this year.
But a lot of the talk is about relative unknowns, such as Iranian-American Laleh Khadivi whose debut novel The Age of Orphans is the first in a Kurdish trilogy being represented by Ellen Levine at Trident Media. Rizzoli preempted Italian rights on the eve of fair in a "very significant six-figure deal." At FSG, Lorin Stein is touting How Sell a debut novel by philosophý professor Clancy Martin, for which he bought North American rights in a preempt earlier this week. Another high-profile debut novel in play at the fair is Dr. Josh Bazell´s Beat theReaper, which Little, Brown´s Reagan Arthur won with a seven-figure bid for two books during a hotly contested two-day auction last week.
Little, Brown publisher Michael Pietsch says agents have--even more so than in previous years--created excitement at the fair by holding back their best stuff until the two weeks directly preceding the fair. "We were seeing a lot of sales, a lot of auctions, a lot of really good stuff." Pietsch and Arthur were in particularly good moods Wednesday afternoon, having just gotten the news that a previous book fair darling, Josh Ferris, had gotten an NBA nomination for his novel, And Then We Came to the End. And Pietsch proved to be a gracious competitor when FSG´s Jonathan Galassi stopped by his booth, congratulating him on his three fiction NBA nominations.