Literary agent Sam Copeland has scooped a three-book deal for six figures with Puffin for his debut middle grade series Charlie Changes Into a Chicken.
Copeland, literary agent and director at Rogers, Coleridge and White, revealed he submitted his novel to fellow agent Julia Churchill at A M Heath anonymously before she agreed to take him on.
Puffin’s fiction publisher Ben Horslen, who has known Copeland for years, subsequently bought world rights to three books in a six figure pre-empt and will publish the debut, Charlie Changes Into A Chicken, in 2019.
Described as having “brilliant humour” and appealing to fans of David Walliams and David Solomons, the debut centres on schoolboy Charlie McGuffin, who changes into an animal in situations of heightened stress. With the school play approaching, his concerns are raised and he and his friends must figure out how to deal with his secret talent, and fast.
Churchill said Copeland submitted the manuscript to her anonymously and held his cover-story “right up until I went to pick him up from the office reception for our first meeting”.
“It was the greatest surprise to find that Sam was the comic genius behind this brilliant series character,” she said. “This was a book that every publisher wanted, and we’re delighted that we’ve found a home with Ben and the Puffin team.”
Copeland added: “Sending a book out to agents I know – even anonymously – was an excruciatingly embarrassing and nerve-wracking experience. Fortunately, it has paid off in ways I couldn't even have dreamed of. To see such a wonderful, positive reaction from publishers and to then end up with Puffin as my publisher has me in a state of utter disbelief. To say I am happy both to be published by Puffin and not to have become a laughing stock of the publishing world is an understatement.”
Horslen said he knew Copeland was a “funny guy”, but “had no idea he was this funny”.
“I laughed my way through his manuscript in one sitting and knew immediately that Puffin had to have it,” he said. “Charlie McGuffin is destined for greatness, and Sam is going to be a huge new voice in children’s books.”
Dutch rights were also sold in a three-book pre-empt, with several other international publishers already in discussions regarding translation rights, Puffin said.