No book fair gets slapped with the tag of traditional more than Frankfurt. And yet few fairs have changed more in recent years. In the early '90s, a partial from an unknown went out just before the fair and was snapped up by Delacorte's Carole Baron on the show's opening day. Back then, an American publisher could make the discovery of a lifetime—indeed, Baron did. That book turned out to be Nicholas Evans's TheHorseWhisperer, the blockbuster of 1995.
These days, an American editor is unlikely to first come upon that kind of book in Central Germany; too many of the proposals make the rounds well before the show. But that doesn't mean the bidding is less fierce—only that most of the big Frankfurt books that have been sold Stateside are now grabbing international play.
So while the big editors may not come like they once did, the agents—increasingly with control over world rights—turn out in ever-growing numbers to peddle to the Brazilians, the Dutch and anyone else who's interested. "While the U.S. market has gone through troubles," says veteran Frankfurt agent Andrew Wylie, "other markets in Europe strengthen. We're seeing history really catch on in places like Italy and Spain. We wouldn't have anticipated that several years ago."
This year, the international-U.S. distinction is heightened as the show starts unusually late (October 18), ensuring that more big post—Labor Day deals are getting done in Stateside. Veteran scout Maria Campbell described an environment in which "all hell broke loose" when it came to big proposals in the U.S. this fall.
We sifted through some of the industry's biggest names and the fall's biggest books to come up with a shortlist. So below, listed by agent, is our selective (but hardly exhaustive) cheat sheet of the books that will be keeping fairgoers awake long after they return from drinking at the Frankfurter Hof.
The Short List
Andrew Wylie, The Wylie Agency
The biggest news so far is that the new Philip Roth, titled Everyman,just hit the agent's office last week. Wylie expects it will be published by Houghton Mifflin in the U.S., and of course it will draw huge international interest at the fair. (Roth's last book, The Plot Against America, sold hundreds of thousands of copies in France, Germany and many other territories.) Wylie will also be flogging Beasts of No Nation by a new Nigerian author, the 22-year-old American-born Uzodinma Iweala, whose mother is the finance minister of Nigeria. The novel is about a child soldier in an unnamed African country, and Wylie calls it "visceral, fierce and shockingly good." He'll be shopping to Europe and other continents; it's being pubbed here by Harper in the spring. Also on tap for international action: the Royal Shakespeare Company's comprehensive, scholarly collection of the bard's plays; The End of Iraq,a book by Peter Galbraith, former ambassador and now New York Review of Bookswriter, which just went to Alice Mayhew at S&S; and a posthumous work by Susan Sontag that FSG has already signed.
Suzanne Gluck, William Morris
International interest for Jed Rubenfeld's Freudian tale The Name of Actionwill still be high, even though the book about the psychoanalyst's time in Manhattan already has sold to Holt in the U.S. and to many large foreign territories.
Robert Gottlieb, Trident Media
Most prominent for the agency will be mystery writer Elizabeth George. George is extremely popular in the U.K., and she is expected to re-up with HarperCollins in U.S. around the time of fair, with other territories still up for grabs. The agency also has a number of big nonfiction titles, including official collaborations with the Soviet Tass News Agency and, continuing the Russophilic theme, with the Bolshoi Opera.
Danny Baror, Baror International
Baror made the sale of his life before the fair, successfully shopping Gordon Dahlquist's Glass Books of the Dream-Eaters to Bill Massey at Doubleday in what was termed a huge deal. The book has gothic elements and is described by one person who's seen the manuscript as a thriller in the vein of The Traveler that is "not a graphic novel but it could be." (See Hollywood Reader, Sept. 26.) Baror should have no trouble getting it into the hands of international editors; one of his main gigs is selling agencies' books to foreign houses. But the manuscript came in at a record 1,500 pages. No post-fair beers for interested pubs.
Eric Simonoff, Janklow & Nesbit
Actually, the agent-cum-camp-book editor won't be there to sell the new Vikram Chandra novel that he made a lot of noise about in the States for a few weeks (see Deals in this week Foreword, p. 20) . But several members of his office will be, with the agency's Dorothy Vincent selling foreign rights from New York. As we went to press, Chandra's book went to Terry Karten at Harper, who bested Scribner and option-publisher Little, Brown, and also sold to Faber in the U.K. Chandra previously wrote an East-meets-West novel called Red Earth and Pouring Rain (PW called it "an astonishing and brilliant debut") that involves magical and fabulist elements, including a monkey who is the reincarnation of an ancient mystic. Strong international interest is expected for his new work.
Jenny Meyer, Jenny Meyer Literary Agency
Meyer handles foreign sales for a wide number of authors and agencies. Her author with the greatest cachet? James Frey, whose My Friend Leonard is just wrapping up sales in several European countries and will likely be sold all over at the fair, along with some extra foreign sales for A Million Little Pieces. Look also for action on The Cliffs of Despair, journalist Tom Hunt's take on a noted English suicide point that's out from Random in January.
Ira Silverberg, Donadio & Olson
High on the dynamo's list is the latest Mario Puzo sequel, The Godfather's Revenge by Mark Winegardner, which recently went to Putnam. Silverberg also is selling new client Heather McGowan, whose new novel, Duchess of Nothing, has been bought by Bloomsbury in the U.S. And he has plenty of other stuff with international written all over it, including Ishmael Beah's Memoir of a Child Soldier, about a man who, as a teen, fought in Sierra Leone, and Abha Dawesar's new novel, That Summer in Paris, already bought for Scribner.
Zoe Pagnamenta, PFD
The agent made a huge sale to Knopf before the show, selling Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic Signals to the house's Andrew Miller for a reputed $500,000+ and to Penguin Press in the U.K.; an unofficial survey of editors tapped it as the big Frankfurt book. The title is described as a highly thoughtful inquiry into the psychology of traffic.
David Vigliano, Vigliano Associates
The agent to the stars has music on his mind this fair. Titles from Alanis Morissette—a memoir, actually, bought by Simon Spotlight—as well as Willie Nelson and music journo Stephen Davis are all on tap.