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Hot Deals: Math Books Adding Up
Judy Quinn -- 7/6/98
If Fermat were around to observe book publishing today, he could write a new theorem: if a small press develops a good idea, then a trade house will grab it. Walker &Co. and Four Walls Eight Windows, which published Simon Singh's Fermat's Enigma and Amir D. Aczel's Fermat's Last Theorem, respectively, had up to mid-five-figure hardcover sales and good paperback reprint deals (Aczel's to Delta, Singh's for a rumored $300,000 to Anchor), but both have now lost their authors -- at least for a time -- to bigger houses.
Last week, in a mid-six-figure, U.S. and Canada rights deal, IMG agent David Chalfant sold Singh's next book, The Code, a historical look at code-breaking, to Peternelle van Arsdale, the Doubleday paperback executive editor who earlier acquired the Enigma reprint, which is coming this fall. Earlier, Harcourt Brace executive editor Jane Isay developed a world-rights deal for Probability 1: Why There Must Be Intelligent Life in the Universe with Aczel (who has no agent); the book will be released this fall.

But both Walker publisher George Gibson and Four Walls Eight Windows publisher John Oakes have other aces up their sleeves. Gibson still has Longitude author Dava Sobel's next book, Galileo's Daughter, now set for publication sometime in 1999, before she g s to Viking, for a one-book-only commitment to write a book about the planets. He's also signed Cod author Mark Kurlansky for two more books -- one on the Basque people and the other on salt. Both are actually connected to Cod, since Basques are traditionally cod fishermen and salt is integral to preserving the fish. At Four Walls Eight Windows, Oakes has Aczel under contract for an upcoming book on infinity, and an upcoming three-book short-format science series to be written with physicist and science writer Richard Morris, last published by Holt. And in a final publicity coup, Gibson is getting more play for his November 1997 hardcover release, David Blatner's The Joy of Pi; it was an unofficial book tie-in to promote the just-released film Pi.
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