Hot Deals
John F. Baker -- 12/20/99

Thump! Another Wrestler Book
Bill Goldberg
It probably began with Jesse Ventura, but suddenly big-name wrestlers are making book deals as fast as their opponents are hitting the mat. The latest to sign up with a publisher is Bill Goldberg (professionally he drops the Bill), who is planning to do his memoirs for Crown's Pete Fornatale. As an added wrinkle, the wrestler will be working on the book with his savvy older brother, Steve. According to agent Matt Bialer at William Morris, who signed with Crown for a mid six figures, Goldberg wants the book to have a light touch--as he put it, "My story is much too cool and bizarre to keep to myself." He was born into an upscale Jewish family in Oklahoma, began his sporting life as a pro footballer until sidelined by injury, and has been wrestling less than three years; during this time, the hulking Goldberg has also made some TV and movie appearances. Crown publisher Steve Ross credits Fornatale with turning the house on to the sales possibilities of wrestling books, which have been doing well of late. "I didn't believe there was an audience there, but he's proved us wrong." Plans are to have the Goldberg book, tentatively titled Who's Next? (Goldberg's battle cry) ready for next fall. (Fornatale, by the way, has a book of his own coming out from Plume: Say Anything, a movie quote game book coauthored with Frank Scatoni.)

Baseball's Oldest Rookie

In the latest twist of a story that seems made for the movies, Field of Dreams division, senior editor Bill Phillips at Little, Brown has signed up Jim Morris, who made his pitching debut in major league ball last season at the crusty old age of 35 after losing a bet with the high school team he was coaching. He even made a hit of his appearance for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, striking out Royce Clayton when he came on in relief. No fewer than 14 publishers were interested in the project when agents Dean Williamson and David Vigliano of Vigliano Associates, along with the player's baseball agent, Steve Canter, took Morris around to meet them. Phillips won the book, which will be co-written with J l Engel, for a high six figures. Briefly, Morris's story is that he started out in the minor leagues as a 20-year-old pitcher, injured his arm and had to give up the game. He married, went to college, began teaching physics at a West Texas high school and eventually to coach the school baseball team. The kids made him promise that if they won the local league championship, he would try out for the major leagues. They did--and he did. Could anyone make this stuff up?

Nietzsche Returns--for Norton

Just in case life in the fast publishing lane looks like all sports, Norton executive editor Robert Weil is on hand to redress the balance. He has just laid out not quite six figures for a published-in-Germany biography of the great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, which he plans to bring out here next fall, the centenary of Nietzsche's death (he died just as the century was beginning). The work of Rudiger Safranski, a noted Berlin-based scholar who has already penned studies of Schopenhauer and Heidegger, it first surfaced at the Frankfurt Book Fair on the stand of Karl Hanser Verlag, where it was a pet project of publisher Michael Krueger. More than one American publisher was interested in the book that, according to Weil, is sure to become a standard work on its subject, and he had to outbid them to secure world English-language rights. Norton's rights director, Lucinda Carter, will be fielding bids from elsewhere in the English-speaking world for a translation to be done by Breon Mitchell. The agent who made the American sale was Jennifer Lyons at Writers House.

In the Woods, a Mentionable Sequel

At the end of the 1980s, Ten Speed Press in California bit the bullet and published a book called--gasp!--How to Shit in the Woods. Its author, Kathleen Meyer, had written more than just a handbook, however. Her musings on humans and nature had extra, albeit humorous, resonances, which gained the book a cult following and led ultimately to sales of a million and a half copies plus several translations. Meyer is now about to make a comeback, with a book of reflections on rural life in Montana, where she has been living, called Barefoot Hearted, and this time a mainstream publisher, without a scatological title to worry about, has taken the plunge. Editor Oona Schmid at Villard paid what agent Robert Stricker of California's Kul'cha agency termed a low six figures to beat out a couple of other interested houses. Schmid took world rights for the book, which both she and Stricker think will remind readers of a female Thoreau.