John F. Baker -- 7/17/00
Millions for Big-Money Guys | Online Deals--Print and Other
The Gender-Bending Doctor | Short Takes
Millions for Big-Money Guys
It seems that no one in nonfiction other than men associated with really big money would be likely to pull down the kind of advances that were the talk of publishing last week. Whether the books are likely to earn out at these stratospheric advance levels was a moot question--especially since, unlike high fiction sales, there is little prospect of further revenue from foreign rights or movie options--but certain editors and publishers were prepared to bet the farm on the appeal of former Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and General Electric CEO Jack Welch. In both cases, the authors (or rather coauthors, since each has a journalist helpmate) demanded the right to discuss marketing plans before they decided on the winning publisher. Rubin eventually chose Random's president and publisher Ann Godoff, who bore him away for more than $3 million in a world English-language rights hard-soft deal (with Modern Library) worked out with Mort Janklow and Tina Bennett at the Janklow & Nesbit agency. Rubin, who worked for Goldman Sachs before becoming a Washington player as chairman of President Clinton's National Economic Council and, later, the Treasury Secretary who is given much of the credit for the country's current economic boom, plans to write a book, said Godoff, that is part memoir, part meditation on his decisions, part crystal-gazing about the future. His co-author is online Slate magazine's Jacob Weisberg, and the book is not scheduled for publication for two years.
Welch, who has already been the subject of several books from McGraw-Hill and John Wiley, had been bid up to more than twice as much--$7.1 million, offered by both Warner and HarperCollins--for his mix of memoir and how-to, and on July 13 decided to go with Warner, where his editor will be Rick Wolff. His agent is Mark Reiter at IMG, and his collaborator is Business Week writer John Byrne. The deal, believed to be the highest-ever advance for a nonfiction book, outdoing Gen. Colin Powell and the Pope, was reportedly for North American rights only; but is he a bankable name elsewhere?
Online Deals--Print and Other
Salon.com has sold its third anthology to a print publisher. It's Salon's Wanderlust: Real-Life Tales of Adventure and Romance, a collection edited by the online magazine's Don George, and it will feature essays by a range of previously published writers like Jan Morris, Isabel Allende and Po Bronson, as well as some previously unpublished pieces, including one by Simon Winchester. Villard's Bruce Tracy made the buy for editor Oona Schmid from agent Amy Rennert,and aims to publish as soon as October. The deal was for North American rights only; Abner Stein has sold U.K. rights to Pan Macmillan, and London's Marsh Agency is offering translation.
Meanwhile, book publishing veteran Annik LaFarge made her first major buy in her new spot at Contentville.com; appropriately, it's a property that was offered in an online auction by Laura Nolan at the Sobel Weber agency. Widespread Panic is a collection of fiction and nonfiction pieces by thriller ace James Ellroy that originally appeared in GQ magazine. Nolan offered it on a best-bid basis in an auction that concluded last Monday, for e-book rights only. Author and agent retain the right to sell print rights elsewhere. Yes, there was an advance and royalty rates involved, though no one is saying what they were. Still, it's a step closer to that brave new world of cyberrights.
The Gender-Bending Doctor
David Ebershoff, the publishing director of the Modern Library (and author of the sex-change Viking novel The Danish Girl) has bought an appropriate--for him--title from a London agent: the story of a South African doctor celebrated as the first man to perform a successful Caesarian operation, who was also the subject of some scandal as a free-living bohemian in his early-19th-century time--and who was discovered after his death to have been a woman. He was Dr. James Barry, and his story is told in a book British author Rachel Holmes is writing for Penguin UK. Ebershoff came across the author on a visit to London to promote his own book, and signed her preemptively for North American rights via agent Maggie Pearlstine.The book will bear the wittily ambiguous English title The Scanty Particulars of Dr. James Barry when it comes out here in 2002.
A book about a family that revolves around world-class poker has been bought by Pete Fornatale at Crown. It's Pokerface by Katherine Lederer,kid sister of Howie Lederer and Annie Duke, both among the world's top players. He took North American rights to the book, expected in 2002, from Peter McGuigan at Sanford Greenburger.... Public Affairs, continuing its interest in fiction by journalists, has bought paperback rights to four earlier novels by TV broadcaster Jim Lehrer, as well as to his current The Special Prisoner (Random House); meanwhile, Showtime is doing a movie version of Lehrer's The Last Debate, to coincide with the actual presidential debates this fall.... Houghton Mifflin's Rux Martin has bought, for six figures, world rights to Aquavit and the New Scandinavian Cooking by celebrity chef and co-owner of that New York restaurant; the deal was made with agent Angela Miller for publication in fall 2002.... Rodale has signed a three-book, six-figure world rights contract with its bestselling author Dr. Howard Shapiro to continue a series begun with Dr. Shapiro's Picture Perfect Weight Loss; agent was Mel Berger at William Morris and the books will be edited by Rodale series publishing director Gary Krebs.
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