HarperCollins wins six-way auction for debut from S&S's Pronovost

HarperCollins wins six-way auction for debut from S&S's Pronovost

HarperCollins has triumphed in a heated six-publisher auction for the debut novel by Nita Prose, the pen name for vice president and editorial director at Simon & Schuster in Canada, Nita Pronovost.

Senior commissioning editor Charlotte Brabbin acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, for The Maid and one other book from Madeleine Milburn at Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency. US rights were won at auction by Hilary Teeman at Ballantine and Canadian rights are held by Nicole Winstanley at Penguin.

The book's synopsis explains: “Utterly charming and escapist, The Maid offers a fresh take on the cosy murder mystery, with a loveable and unlikely detective at the helm, Molly the maid. Molly is used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, tidying the guests’ messes and sweeping up their secrets, until she discovers an infamous wealthy guest, Mr Black, dead in his bed. And so she’s thrown into a Cluedo-style hunt for the truth, learning who to trust in a world where people often take advantage of her difference.”

Milburn told The Bookseller the UK auction had been “epic”, going straight to first bids in 24 hours with six publishers able to get their offers together in time. She said her rights team, led by director Liane Smith, sold the book in 20 territories over two weeks with Georgina Simmonds and Sophie Pelissier getting “record-breaking deals under their belt”.

She said: “The Maid contains so much charm it lifted me out of lockdown, and it’s reignited the publishing world with record-breaking offers from the UK, US, Canada and 14 international markets within the first week. Nita has masterfully blended an Eleanor Oliphant-esque, quirky protagonist with a riveting Agatha Christie-type murder mystery. What could be more appealing than an uplifting, voice-driven whodunnit?”

HarperCollins will publish The Maid as a lead title in hardback in spring 2022.

Pronovost said: “I’m tremendously excited that HarperCollins is publishing The Maid in the UK. This is a novel about what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different. I hope readers enjoy Molly the maid and this new take on the whodunnit, which reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.”

Brabbin commented: “The Maid completely swept everyone away at HarperCollins. Nita has an incredibly creative touch, blending Molly’s emotional narrative with the mystery of a dastardly whodunnit. It is as charming as it is original, as heartfelt as it is intriguing, and quite simply as comforting as a plumped-up pillow! Molly the maid is used to being invisible, but we’re hugely excited to make her seen by readers everywhere.”