Success of Into Thin Air and Perfect Storm gives hope to publishers of epics to come
Agent Stuart Krichevsky is already spotting plenty of proposals for books claiming to be in the tradition of current bestsellers The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger (Norton) as well as, of course, Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air (Villard).
"Some people are saying that adventure narrative is the next memoir," Krichevksy, agent to Junger, told PW.
It's certainly a trend publishers are banking on. After a heated auction, Anchor, which has seen its current paperback edition of Krakauer's earlier book, Into the Wild, also climb bestseller lists, recently paid an amazing $1.7 million for the paperback rights to Into Thin Air. The paperback auction for The Perfect Storm is set to start tomorrow, with a $235,000 floor already set since last fall, just as film rights to Storm were sold to Warner Brothers.
Neither Junger or Krakauer (both of whose works were excerpted in hot mag Outside) have firm next-book deals, but an upcoming book perhaps most benefiting from the current interest in "adventure" topics is Anatoli Boukreev's The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Mt. Everest, due out from St. Martin's in November. Boukreev, who was a guide on the fatal Everest climb, is featured in Krakauer's book, and SMP publicity director John Murphy told PW that due to interest the house doubled its original 25,000-copy first printing.
There are also signs that the Krakauer connection will extend to fiction. At presstime, Crown senior editor Karen Rinaldi closed a reported mid-six-figure preemptive deal with agent Susan Golomb to acquire The Descent by Krakauer climbing companion and novelist/screenwriter Jeff Long. The novel, which imagines a climb down into the hellish bowels of the earth, already has a Warner Bros. film option and is set to be Crown's lead fiction title this fall.
Long is also friends with David Breashears, part of the IMAX film crew on Everest at the same time as Krakauer. IMAX's account is part of Everest: Mountain Without Mercy, a 100,000 first-printing release from the National Geographic Society this October.
As for future nonfiction titles, producer/manager Jonathan Pillot of Link Entertainment and agent Jimmy Vines recently made a $600,000 deal with Bantam publisher Irwyn Applebaum for Sojourner: The Roads of the Earth, the story of Argentinean Emilio Scott, whose 10-year motorcycle journey took him to every country on the planet. Applebaum described Scott as "Odysseus in leather," whose travels -- including an encounter with cannibals -- "will make Krakauer's fascinatingly harrowing tale seem like a mild winter storm by comparison." A spring 1999 pub is planned.
And all those armchair travelers who read the Land's End catalogue are already getting reports of W. Hodding Carter's plans to retrace, in a replica of a small Viking sailboat, the 1900-mile voyage to North America that Leif Ericsson took 1000 years ago. Land's End is the expedition's sponsor, and Ballantine executive editor Peter Borland acquired the book from agent Sally Wofford-Giraud at the Elaine Markson agency. "We're definitely looking for more adventure books, and we hope people who liked Into Thin Air and The Perfect Storm will buy this book, although I acquired it before either of them hit," Borland said.