Publishers are kicking off 2016 with débuts they hope to launch as the next big thing.
Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld, is hoping that Fiona Barton’s The Widow (£12.99) will be its successor to Paula Hawkins’ wildly popular The Girl on the Train, which was published into the equivalent week last year. Frankie Gray, Barton’s editor, acquired the book at auction from the Madeline Milburn Agency after Barton was shortlisted for Richard & Judy’s “Search for a Bestseller” competition and TV rights have just been optioned by Playground Television.
The book was inspired by Barton’s experiences as a journalist and is focused on Jean, the widow of a man accused of terrible crimes. Gray said: “It’s such a fascinating idea and taps into the eternal curiosity we have for that intimate detail behind the news stories we see on the public stage.” Gray has bought three books from Barton “that will be in a similar vein”.
Corsair is pinning its hopes on Merritt Tierce’s Love Me Back (£14.99). Texan Tierce was shortlisted for the 2015 PEN Literary Award for début fiction. The book has already been published in the US and Tierce’s editor, Sarah Castleton, had heard “good things” on a trip to New York so when the book was on submission from Clare Alexander at Aitken Alexander Associates Castleton bought it “with a lot of love and a bit of money”. The book tells the story of a Texan single mother, Marie, who Castleton describes as“smart and self-destructive with an appetite for casual sex, drugs and self-harm who needs control but wants obliteration”.
Joanna Cannon is the author that the Borough Press is focused on. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (£12.99) was bought by Katie Espiner before she moved to Orion and is now being edited by Cassie Browne and incoming publishing director Suzie Dooré. Espiner met Cannon through novelist Kerry Hudson’s WoMentoring scheme that pairs aspiring women writers with mentors in the publishing industry, and the book was later bought from Cannon’s agent, Sue Armstrong at Conville & Walsh. The book is set in 1976 as two girls set out to try and solve the mystery of the disappearance of their neighbour. Browne describes Cannon’s style as “warm, funny, quirky and uniquely British”. Cannon has just spent two weeks touringBritish bookshops giving out proofs and meeting booksellers.
Headline’s big début is Sarah Duguid’s Look at Me (£12.99) acquired from Lizzy Kremer at the David Higham agency. Imogen Taylor, Duguid’s editor, had seen an early version of the book and bought it after being “impressed by the changes she’s made to improve it in the intervening months”. It tells the story of a young woman dealing with the repercussions of her mother’s suicide and the secrets that unfold afterwards. Taylor said: “I love the north London boho feel, the explosive sexual affair and the very poignant sense of letting grief go and growing up.”
Taylor has signed Duguid up for an unspecified number of future titles. For Taylor the key factors in successfully launching a début are: “A good book first and foremost, an energetic author, a wonderful jacket and a brilliant publicist who is key in generating lots of early chat.”