Deals of LBF past

What happens to the ‘hot books’ at the London Book Fair, once the dust has settled and the ink has dried on those often lucrative contracts? Tom Tivnan delves into the annals of past LBFs to look at how acquisitions at the fair have fared, using the all-new barometer of success: the Julietometer...

LBF 2018 HC goes long with Walter
The last few LBFs have been full of The Bookseller Daily stories of trade professionals’ book deals, including Phoebe Morgan, then of Avon (and herself a novelist), inking a deal with Joanna Swainson of Hardman & Swainson for two thrillers from Waterstones social media co-ordinator Barnaby Walter, who writes as B P Walter. The two titles didn’t set the tills alight, combining to shift 7,500 print copies. But HC list One More Chapter’s Bethan Morgan (no relation) was impressed by Walter’s potential and inked a new three-book deal. His 2021 release, The Dinner Guest, has been his breakout, hitting the bestseller list and shifting 45,000 copies in April and May—helped by his Waterstones colleagues, who made it the chain’s May Thriller of the Month. Rating: Four Juliets.

LBF 2019 Sceptre dares with Daré
The biggest literary scalp in the last IRL edition of LBF was Sceptre’s Emma Herdman buying Abi Daré’s The Girl with the Louding Voice from Felicity Blunt at Curtis Brown, fighting off five publishers at a “fierce” auction. The Lagos-born, Essex-based Daré’s novel, about a Nigerian girl sold into a marriage who seeks a “louding voice” (i.e. an education), has been a critical hit since it was published last year, and was shortlisted for a number of awards. Curtis Brown has done 13 translation deals and the novel is a New York Times bestseller. In the UK it was released in hardback a week before Lockdown 1.0, and in paperback just prior to the autumn shutdown, but it still has sold 45,000 copies over the last 15 BookScan data-deprived months. Rating: Four Juliets.  

LBF 2018 Supervet roars
A rather small—in retrospect, too small—story in the last The Bookseller Daily of LBF 2018 noted that Trapeze’s Anna Valentine had won a “hotly contested” battle for two memoirs from Channel Four’s Noel “The Supervet” Fitzpatrick in a deal brokered by Paul Stevens at Independent Talent. The Irish veterinary surgeon had built up a huge following over 15 seasons of his uplifting, often tear-jerking show about injured animals coming into his practice, and the first book, Listening to the Animals, was a smash. It shifted more than 200,000 copies, the second bestselling Christmas 2018 non-fiction title behind only Michele Obama’s Becoming. All told, Fitzpatrick’s two memoirs have sold £3.7m through the UK TCM. Rating: Four Juliets.

LBF 2017 Mirror, Mirror
Some bushy eyebrows were excitedly raised when it was revealed that posho supermodel Cara Delevingne had penned a “gripping and twisty coming-of-age” YA novel “with” (wink, wink) novelist Rowan Coleman, as Trapeze’s Anna Valentine snapped up UK and Commonwealth rights from Matilda Forbes Watson at WME. Despite excellent reviews, a Trapeze campaign with plenty of welly and Delevingne being the “voice of a generation”—according to the book’s metadata—the tome head-scratchingly did not catch fire at the tills, shifting a decent but not earth-shattering 21,000 copies through the TCM, for £168,000. To put that in perspective, that’s about what Delevingne might earn from a one-day Burberry shoot. Rating: Three Juliets. 

LBF 2016 Hutchinson gets schooled
Five years ago, the non-fiction “frenzy” in the halls of Olympia was for Tara Westover’s memoir of overcoming her harsh and isolated Mormon upbringing in the Idaho hills, without any education, to go on to get a doctorate from Cambridge. Jocasta Hamilton from Hutchison bought Educated in a 24-hour pre-empt from Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown, and rights sales cascaded over the course of LBF and beyond. One of the vanguards of the “memoirs that matter” trend, to date Curtis Brown has conducted 48 translation deals for Educated, including into the crucial Uzbek (Asaxoybooks), Myanmar/Burmese (NDSP Publishing) and Krygyz (Oku Basma) markets. Published in 2018, Educated did the business, shifting £1.6m through BookScan UK, around nine million units worldwide, and claiming armfuls of prizes and awards shortlistings. Rating: Five Juliets. 

LBF 2016 Mann alive?
There was excitement on both sides of the Atlantic when it was revealed during LBF 2016 that Oscar and Emmy-winning director and producer Michael Mann—the auteur behind some of the best crime films of the past 30 years—was launching an imprint with William Morrow, the US HarperCollins division. Mann was signed up to write a couple of books himself, including a prequel to his 1995 classic “Heat”, and a title co-written with The Cartel author Don Winslow, rumoured to be based on American mobster Sam Giancana. Alas, all has been relatively quiet on the Michael Mann Books front, with one title released to date—Elaine Shannon’s Hunting Leroux in 2019. But metadata recently dropped on Amazon showing that Winslow’s enticingly titled Michael Mann Project 1 (Giancana) may be published in August 2022. HC will neither confirm nor deny... Rating: One Juliet.