Scandi psychological suspense novel A Nearly Normal Family, asking "how well do you know your own children?", has been won by Pan Macmillan in a six-figure deal for two books, while a number of publishers are bidding for UK rights to The Warehouse, about "big businesses and how they treat their workers" as London Book Fair draws to a close for 2018.
Rights to A Nearly Normal Family, an "explosive" break-out book by Swede Mattias Edwardsson, have now sold in 14 territories in deals brokered by Astri von Arbin Ahlander of the Ahlander Agency in Sweden, including the US (Celadon Books), Sweden (Forum), Germany (Blanvalet) and France (Sonatine). Auctions are yet to conclude in a further five territories. Billed as "the story of a crime and the unraveling of a seemingly normal family", its plot centres on a 19-year-old who stands accused of the brutal murder of a much older man, told through three different perspectives.
“We are absolutely thrilled to join Mattias’s ever-growing list of publishers," said Pan Macmillan publishing director Vicki Mellor, following the final four-way auction. "We devoured A Nearly Normal Family and I have no doubt that it gives readers everything they look for in a brilliant thriller. With its fascinating characters, fabulous twists and a race-to-the-end plot, we can’t wait to share this with readers in our markets."
Rob Hart's near-future dystopia The Warehouse, publishing in the US under Crown's editor Julian Pavia, meanwhile, has a number of UK publishers on tenterhooks. The HSG Agency said that in the past three days alone it had received offers from 11 countries, with eight auctions currently ongoing. A source with reliable knowledge of the auction said the US deal had been "at the major level, with some clearance" and there was a number of publishers involved in the UK auction, which is due to conclude imminently.
The Warehouse is about a company called The Cloud, set in a ZuckTown-like campus, and has been described by editors as "part 1984, part Citizen Kane". It follows the efforts of two workers - one a security officer, the other a warehouse picker - intent on bringing about the corporation's demise from the inside. Its author, Hart, wrote the Ash McKenna noir series of novels (Polis Books) and co-wrote Scott Free with James Patterson. The Warehouse (out 2019 in the US) will be his first standalone novel.
Another manuscript taking off following the fair is by a physicist, cancer researcher and science journalist, Dr David Robert Grimes. Entitled Trapped Doors of the Mind, it explores “how we can think like scientists to avoid pitfalls”. At a time when tussles for audio rights are fiercer than ever, Audible is said to have already made a “very big” play for audio rights, with bids for print rights flowing in.
Deals recently concluded have included a novel from "Twitter’s unofficial poet laureate”, Brian Bilston, scooped by Picador, while UK and Irish rights in three novels from French writer Annie Ernaux - The Years, Happening and I Remain in Darkness - have gone to Fitzcarraldo Editions via Silvia Stramenga at Seven Stories Press after a two-way auction.
Fitzcarraldo Editions' publisher Jacques Testard said after winning the auction for Annie Ernaux: "I cannot emphasise enough how excited I am ... It is a real honour and privilege to be able to add Ernaux to the Fitzcarraldo Editions catalogue; she is one of the most important French writers of the last decades, having spent her life writing about her own life as a woman in France in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”
Ernaux's writing - like several of the Fair's most-talked-about manuscripts - broadly explores topics of gender and power. Much-buzzed about books at the fair included The Illness Lesson, "a novel about women’s bodies and women’s minds” by Clare Beams, as well as Chandler Baker’s The Whisper Network (won by Sphere), Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s Vardø (scooped by Picador) and debut writer Joanne Ramos’ speculative novel The Farm (pre-empted by Bloomsbury for six figures). Ramos' feminist dystopia has by now sold in North America (Random House), Brazil (Companhia), Hungary (Libri), Italy (Mondadori), Norway (Vigmostad & Bjorke), Poland (Otwarte), and Russia (Eksmo), with offers currently on the table to publish in Spain and Portugal.
Also selling furiously internationally, 55 has been clocking up deals every day of the fair. Represented by Marilia Savvides at PFD, to date rights have gone in 12 territories: as well as to S&S in the UK, rights have sold in Germany (Heyne), Spain (Roca), Italy (Rizzoli), France (HarperCollins), Sweden (Norstedts), Norway (Gyldendal), Poland (Swiat Ksiazki), Czech Republic (Domino), Slovakia (Ikar), Serbia (Vulkan), and Hungary (Maxim).
“I’m beyond thrilled that editors around the world are falling in love with 55 and James Delargy’s writing,” said Savvides. “We’ve had a great time pitching it at LBF.”