Sessalee as Agent (It's No Fairy Tale)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that publishers usually try to make an entree to Sessalee Hensley, not the other way around. But when the B&N buyer talks, publishers listen. And so when Hensley tipped off a rep for S&S's Touchstone imprint that its Pride and Prejudice sequels by cult fave Elizabeth Aston had a self-publishing counterpart who does her own Austen reimagining, one editor took note.
The counterpart is Pamela Mogen, aka Pamela Aidan. The Austen junkie and fan site operator has written two books, An Assembly Such as This and Duty and Desire, which have as their conceit the retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy's point of view. (Aston's books are about Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's children.) When Touchstone senior editor Amanda Patten heard about Hensley's comments, author and editor began talking. "It did bode well that Sessalee was interested," Patten said in a mock-rueful tone.
The process did get a little knotty. The author had sold a lot of copies through her on-demand Wytherngate Press and may not have been ready to let go when the two started talking early in the year. She didn't even have an agent. But by this spring, attorney-cum-agent Lloyd Jassin had gotten involved, and last week came word that the S&S imprint will do a deal, bringing out the first book next spring and the second the following fall. Both will be paperback originals, with possible hardcovers later.
In one of several quirks, Touchstone has signed up a third book, but it will be self-pubbed first this summer before given wider release by Touchstone in 2007. (Aidan's life is quirky, too: she met her husband, Austen-style, through his improbable e-mail to her when he was a groupie across the country.) The purchase continues a trend at S&S where self-pubbing is a testing ground for mainstream release (c.f. Zane). "There are a lot of Jane Austen fans out there who are not on Jane Austen fiction sites," said Patten.
In recent weeks there's been an unlikely visitor to some of the high-powered New York agencies. Sarah Michelle Gellar, of Buffy and The Grudge fame, is making the rounds. Does she have a book to sell? Amazingly, no. (Could she be the only celebrity who doesn't?) Instead, she's shopping, looking for book properties to buy or get attached to. Says one agent: "She wants to take a more active role in her career. She wants to work on something more highbrow." Could this be a new era of stars getting their hands dirty? Scouts, beware.
Genre-bending nonfiction author Hannah Holmes—she combined memoir, humor and science in her previous books—has sold A Mid-Sized and Immodest Mammal to Stephanie Higgs at Random, via Michelle Tessler. "Hannah puts the human animal (and herself) through the same rigors applied to every other species," Tessler said. She'll help show how humans measure up to other creatures.... Some of the first dispatches ever sent from Nagasaki, written by the late George Weller and profiled in an earlier column (June 27), have been sold to Luke Dempsey at Crown by Henry Dunow. The Chicago journalist got into the city after the bombing but the army censored his account.... Time editor Christopher John Farley sold his bio of Bob Marley to Amistad's Dawn Davis. Caron Knauer agented; pub date is May '06, 25th anniversary of the singer's death.... Viking's Pamela Dorman has bought from Meg RuleyMoon Pies and Movie Stars by Amy Wallen, Southern humor that's described as containing trace elements of The Sweet Potato Queens and Lorna Landvik.... Ann Godoff goes culinary; she's bought a memoir-slash-cookbook from Kim Witherspoon called Blood, Bones and Butter: A French Culinary Education off the New Jersey Turnpike by restaurateur Gabrielle Hamilton, in what may be the subtitle of the year.