Dystopia auction rounds off LBF fiction deals

Dystopia auction rounds off LBF fiction deals

As London Book Fair 2016 came to a close, Picador snatched rights to a much talked about, “deeply moving” debut, beating four other publishers to the title at auction.

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter tells of a new mother and her baby who are turned into refugees after the UK becomes "a place of danger" following a mysterious environmental crisis.

Picador senior editor Sophie Jonathan acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Emma Paterson at RCW, to publish in 2017.

Jonathan said of Hunter's "exquisite" debut: "It’s a book of real warmth and humour, it simply brims with love. But it also brings to the surface current fears about climate change, about what small event might trigger real disaster, and one particularly pertinent question: what if it was us who were the refugees?"

Rights have meanwhile sold in North America to Grove Atlantic, in French (Gallimard), Germany (Beck) and Holland (Hollands Diep).

The deal comes at the close of a bullish LBF, with confidence riding high on the back of a rise in print book sales in the first quarter of the year, which has seen several publishers jostling for big titles at auction and a foreign rights selling frenzy for the big books across Europe.

As The Bookseller has previously reported, among the prominent titles have been Chloé Esposito’s Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know trilogy, which reportedly fetched over £2m in advances from UK publisher Michael Joseph and foreign rights sales in 11 territories, Daniel Cole’s Ragdoll series won by Orion and sold into or under offer in 14 territories and Happiness for Humans by P Z Reizin (bought by Sphere) sold into 10 territories.

In a year that has seen Faber Academy graduates excel (Esposito, Felicia Yap's high-concept debut thriller The Day After Yesterday to Headline and The Feed by Nick Clark Windo, also won by Headline), a third graduate of the writing course, Harriet Cummings, has also signed a debut deal with Orion senior commissioning editor Jemima Forrester, who snapped up a UK rights for two books through Hellie Ogden at Janklow & Nesbit. The first title, Forgetting Anna, is a surreal tale of a figure known as “The Fox” breaking into homes in rural England in 1984, set for publication in 2017.   

Other deals sealed at the fair include a three-book series from New York Times bestselling author Karen Robards won by Hodder & Stoughton, featuring a "femme fatale Robin Hood" at their centre. Commissioning editor Emily Kitchin acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Claire Roberts at Trident Media, who made the sale on behalf of Robert Gottlieb, chairman of Trident Media Group. The "Guardian" series features heroine Bianca Saint-Yves - beautiful, high-end thief and master manipulator, whose forte is conning thieves out of the money to return to those who should rightfully have it. First in the series, All In, publishes in hardcover and e-book in early 2017.

Meanwhile HarperCollins’ new imprint HQ went on something of an acquisition spree, signing no fewer than six new titles.

The new imprint, headed by Lisa Milton, will now publish Melanie McGrath, previously published by other HarperCollins imprints Fourth Estate and Harper Perennial. Editor Clio Cornish acquired world rights from Peter Robinson at Rogers, Coleridge & White for two books, the first of which, Give Me the Child will be published in summer 2017. Cornish said: “Give Me the Child is a standalone psychological thriller set against the background of the London riots of 2011. It shows a city and a family in lethal meltdown and is one of the most powerful novels I’ve ever read. I’m delighted that Melanie is joining HQ.”

Cornish has also signed two books by Amy Gentry, the first of which, Other People’s Daughters, will be published later this year. Cornish acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Kate McLennan at Abner Stein, on behalf of Lauren Abramo at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

Sally Williamson, senior commissioning editor at HQ, signed three deals. She acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to "Arrowood", a series of crime novels set in late 19th Century London, by Brighton-based lecturer Mick Finlay’s. The deal for the debut was struck with Jo Unwin at The Jo Unwin Agency. The first novel is about a private detective and his assistant who operate in very different circles to Holmes and Watson and the first book in the series will be published in spring 2017.

Williamson also acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to A Pug Like Percy by journalist Fiona Harrison from Kate Burke at Diane Banks Associates, described as “a heart-warming novel about a small abandoned dog with a big heart”. It will be published in hardback in November.

Along with Milton, Williamson also signed a two book deal for a series of “high-octane” international thrillers by Jack Ford called "The Killing Grounds". UK and Commonwealth rights were acquired from Darley Anderson at The Darley Anderson Literary Agency, for publication in May 2017. Anderson said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Lisa Milton, with her great love and knowledge of the thriller genre, has recognised the talent and star quality of writer Jack Ford’s The Killing Grounds.”

Meanwhile, Anna Baggaley, senior commissioning editor at HQ, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to Tyrell Johnson’s powerful post-apocalyptic debut novel The Wolves of Autumn from Felicity Blunt at Curtis Brown. Set in the remote Yukon wilderness in Canada after a flu has wiped out most of America, the novel’s heroine is a young girl called Lynn McBride.

Other titles signed by HarperCollins include an “epic” science-fiction debut titled Noumenon by Marina J. Lostetter, about a mission to investigate an anomaly beyond our solar system and its impact on mankind, signed by HarperVoyager. Publishing director Emma Coode acquired UK & Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) to the title from Caspian Dennis at Abner Stein.

HarperFiction has signed a further four-book deal with saga author Dilly Court after publisher Kimberley Young acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in a six-figure deal with agent Teresa Chris at Teresa Chris Literary Agency. Young said: "We’re absolutely thrilled with the flying start we’ve had in our ‘Year of Dilly Court’ in 2016. We have ambitious plans to continue to grow Dilly’s phenomenal sales and loyal readership.”

Finally, deputy publishing director at HarperCollins, Sarah Hodgson, has acquired world English language rights in two novels by Alex Lake, author of After Anna (HarperCollins) from Rebecca Ritchie at Curtis Brown. The first title, Killing Kate, will be published this autumn. It tells the story of a young woman who returns from a post break-up holiday with her two best friends to discover that a serial killer is stalking her hometown – and the victims all look like her.

Independent publisher Sandstone Press meanwhile signed second novels by German crime writer Volker Kutscher and Scottish actor David McCallum. The publisher acquired world English–language rights to The Silent Death, second novel in Kutscher’s Gereon Rath series and UK & Commonwealth rights to Once Upon a Crooked Time (working title), the second title in McCallum’s Harry Murphy mystery series. Both will be published in 2017.

Arcadia Books has also secured a two book deal with author Lone Theils and a debut novel by Christopher Osborn. The publisher acquired UK & Commonwealth rights to Theils’ Fatal Crossing and The Blue Poet’s Wife from Lina Vozzi Salazar at Nordin Agency. Rights have currently been sold in 14 territories for this Nora Sands crime series. Editor-at-large for fiction Helen Francis secured world English rights as her first acquisition for Arcadia to Osborn’s On the Merits of Dying from Antony Topping at Greene & Heaton.

Scribe acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to Sara Flannery Murphy’s The Possessions, an "electrifying" literary debut novel about an Elysian Society which allows paying clients to reconnect with their lost loved ones through worker “bodies”, combining psychological suspense, erotic drama, and a murder mystery. The deal was struck by Philip Gwyn Jones, at editor-at-large Scribe, and Caroline Wood at Felicity Bryan Associates, on behalf of Alice Whitwham at the Zoe Pagnamenta Agency. North American rights have been sold to Jennifer Barth at Harper Collins who will publish in Spring 2017.