Deal of the Week: Editorial Assistant Lands Six Figures for Debut Novel

After a six-figure preempt, Putnam’s Sally Kim and Gabriella Mongelli nabbed world rights to Emily Neuberger’s debut novel, A Tender Thing. The 1950s-set work, sold by Christy Fletcher and Sarah Fuentes at Fletcher Company, follows the mounting of the Great White Way’s first integrated musical. Inspired, as Putnam put it, by the “history of radically shifting norms on Broadway at the time,” the book follows a fictional production created by “a famed composer who is determined to cement his legacy by depicting a taboo romance between a white woman and black man.” The author, who is an editorial assistant at Viking, has more than a fan’s passion for musical theater: she has a degree in music from NYU and, per Putnam, “sang for Stephen Sondheim at the Music Institute of Chicago.”

FROM THE U.S.

Harper Pays Up for Clayton’s ‘London’

Harper’s Sara Nelson bought world rights, in a two-book deal, to Meg Waite Clayton’s Last Train to London. Noting that she paid a “healthy six figures” for the novel, Nelson described it as an “immersive” work about “two precocious children in Vienna on the eve of Kristallnacht.” Their story is intertwined with that of Gertruuda Wijsmuller-Meijer, who was behind the Kindertrain, which helped Jewish children flee Nazi-occupied areas of Europe for England. Harper is comparing London to novels such as All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale. Clayton, who was represented by Marly Rusoff at Marly Rusoff Associates, is the author of six previous books.

Curtis Sells Picture Book

For his eponymous imprint at Holiday House, Neal Porter bought world rights to a picture book by Jamie Lee Curtis titled I Saw, He Saw. The book will be illustrated by Barney Saltzberg whose agent, Rosemary Stimola at Stimola Literary Studio, explained that it “relies on photos taken by Curtis to create unexpected surprises, proving two friends can look at the same things, see them differently, and still remain friends.” Curtis was represented by Phyllis Wender. The book is slated for a fall 2020 publication.

Cult Survivor’s Memoir to Morrow

Los Angeles attorney Faith Jones sold her currently untitled memoir, about being raised in a cultlike religious group, to William Morrow’s Liz Stein at auction. The world rights deal for the book, which is slated for 2021, was handled by Becky Sweren at Aevitas Creative Management. Jones’s grandfather founded the Children of God, an extremist religious organization that she fled in order to attend college and then law school. Jones, who has a BA from Georgetown and a JD from Berkeley, found in her education, Stein said, a way to “discover self-ownership through the pursuit of truth.”

Auletta Pens Weinstein Bio

For Penguin Press, Scott Moyers took North American rights to Ken Auletta’s currently untitled biography of Harvey Weinstein. The press said the book will be a “frank” work that will “reckon with the long arc of his career, from Queens to Miramax, to his movie legacy, to his impact on the larger culture, in Hollywood, New York, and Washington, D.C.—a culture that tolerated his darker side until that became impossible.” Auletta was represented by Sloan Harris at ICM Partners.

SMP Nabs Canadian Bookseller’s ‘Austen Society’

After a six-bidder auction, Keith Kahla at St. Martin’s Press won Natalie Jenner’s debut historical fiction, The Jane Austen Society. Kahla took North American rights from Mitchell Waters at Curtis Brown Ltd. after what SMP described as a “heated” contest. Set in the English town of Chawton, where Austen actually lived, the novel follows a group of locals who, after WWII, come together “out of their mutual passion for Austen’s work to preserve what remains of Austen’s legacy.” SMP is comparing the book, which is set for a spring 2020 release, to historical fiction bestsellers such as Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Jenner, who was born in England and raised in Canada, is the owner of Archetype Books, an indie bookstore in Ontario.

Rutenberg Book to Godoff

In a North American rights sale, Ann Godoff at Penguin Press bought a currently untitled book by Jim Rutenberg about the forces behind the public’s low regard for the mainstream media. Rutenberg, the media columnist for the New York Times, will, Penguin elaborated, offer a “sweeping narrative” that serves as “a deep dive into the maelstrom of forces, some coincidental, some orchestrated, that resulted in the rise of ‘alternative facts’ and the death of common sense.” The author was represented by Elyse Cheney at the Cheney Agency.

Behind the Deal

Mark Greaney, an emerging star of the thriller space, re-upped with Berkley in a three-book deal. The Penguin Random House imprint called the author’s Gray Man series “the fastest-growing franchise in the male-thriller genre.” (Berkley said sales, of late, have been particularly strong; the most recent book in the series, Agent in Place, hit both the PW hardcover fiction and New York Times combined e-book and hardcover fiction bestseller lists, at #8 and #7, respectively.) Through his new North American rights agreement, brokered with Berkley’s Tom Colgan by Scott Miller at Trident Media Group, Greaney will write three more Gray Man titles.

The series, which launched in 2009, follows a hitman named Courtland Gentry. To date, seven Gray Man books have been released, with #8 set to drop in February.

For Greaney, the Gray Man success is a nice solo validation, since he honed his chops working on another author’s franchise, cowriting the final three books in the Jack Ryan series with Tom Clancy. Then, after Clancy’s death, he penned four more Ryan titles.

INTERNATIONAL

  • Tina Frennstedt’s Cold Case Sweden: Taken has been acquired by Bastei Lübbe (Germany), Gyldendal (Denmark), and Like (Finland). Alisabet Brännström at Bonnier Rights, who handled the sales, said the thriller focuses on a 16-year-old unsolved case involving the disappearance of a teenager in south Sweden. “Now,” she went on, “a killer attacking women in their own homes is terrorizing Malmö.”

  • British Labour politician and former actor Michael Cashman sold his memoir, One of Them, to Bloomsbury’s Alexandra Pringle in a U.K. and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) deal. Cashman was representd by Robert Caskie at Caskie Mushens. [The Bookseller]

PAGE TO SCREEN

  • CBS TV Studios, PatMa Productions, and Keshet Studios have bought a spec script by Michael Chabon and his wife, author Ayelet Waldman, based on Chabon’s 2007 novel, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. According to Deadline, the project “will be taken out shortly to premium cable and streaming networks.” [Deadline]

  • Screenwriter Eric Heisserer (whose film credits include Bird Box and Arrival) closed an option on his short story “Simultaneous” with Hulu for potential series adaptation. The story, Deadline said, has been described as “a cerebral detective thriller involving regenerative past lives.” [Deadline]