Former Penguin Books publicity director Ashley Audrain’s debut thriller, The Push, has been snapped up in a string of record-breaking deals around the world with a seven-figure deal with Michael Joseph in the UK and a higher seven-figure deal in the US.
Agent Madeleine Milburn has secured a number of deals with Penguin Random House territories in the past few weeks and The Bookseller understands that the UK and US deals are the biggest Milburn has ever done.
Maxine Hitchcock, fiction publishing director at Michael Joseph bought UK and Commonwealth rights excluding Canada as part of a two-book deal from Milburn of the Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency. The Bookseller understands the UK deal is worth £1m ($1.2m) while the subsequent deal with Pamela Dorman Books/Viking in the US is a higher seven-figure deal. Milburn did not disclose the figures. The Bookseller sourced the figures from third parties.
The Push will be published by Michael Joseph in hardback, e-book and audio in early 2021. It will be published simultaneously with the US and Viking/Penguin in Canada in early 2021. Subsequently the Madeleine Milburn Agency’s director Liane-Louise Smith been negotiating a further 22 territories in under two weeks, breaking all records for a debut, Milburn said.
Milburn added: “The Push is an exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime novel that I believe will become a classic. It’s storytelling that sparks discussion, a crucial exploration of motherhood, nature versus nurture, and the depths of loneliness and madness when it doesn’t match up to your own expectations, or people’s expectations of you...My heart broke over and over. It’s the fastest-selling book I’ve ever represented at the agency and has sold at record-breaking levels.”
Audrain began writing the thriller after leaving her job as publicity director at Penguin Books Canada in 2015 in order to raise her two young children. In her role she had worked with internationally bestselling authors such as Khaled Hosseini, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Liane Moriarty.
“The Push perfectly blends a tense, psychological page-turning plot with masterful storytelling powered by a persuasive voice that made publishers around the world immediately take notice,” Michael Joseph said. “Described as a modern day We Need to Talk About Kevin and for fans of Celeste Ng and Leïla Slimani’s Lullaby, The Push is about the making and breaking of a family, told through the eyes of a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for. In fact, it’s everything she always feared.”
Audrain says, “I’m absolutely thrilled to be published by Penguin Random House in so many leading markets across the world. The iconic Michael Joseph imprint is home to many authors I read and admire, and I’m so excited to be working with Maxine Hitchcock.”
Hitchcock praised the author’s “most spectacular voice”. She said of Audrain’s book: “I felt almost hypnotised by it, chilled by its beauty as she gives us glimpses of a daydream and a nightmare all at once. The opening scene has the hallmarks of a classic and is only matched by the closing one. But this isn’t a book about twists and turns, though it has many – it’s a simply sensational story powerfully told with characters who hold up an uncomfortable mirror to ourselves.”
Hitchcock added: “The Push has all the ingredients of a classic, a book to set the agenda and provoke much discussion and heated debate.”
Smith said of the global reception to the thriller: “The international response to The Push has been absolutely mind-blowing. Everyone has been captivated by it, and we’ve been inundated with passionate emails and staggering offers since submitting. It has broken countless records for the agency, and we have already secured 22 translation deals in a week of unprecedented pre-empts and auctions. Ashley is a rare talent - one publisher describing her as “one of the biggest talents to have emerged in this century” - and it's truly exciting to be bringing her writing to so many readers around the world.”