Profile has pre-empted a book on perfectionism, Imperfect, from behavioural psychologist Thomas Curran within hours “in one of the largest commitments ever made by the publisher” while the US rights went in a six-figure overnight pre-empt.
Helen Conford, publisher of Profile, pre-empted UK and Commonwealth rights from Chris Wellbelove of Aitken Alexander. The deal was struck within hours of submission “in one of the largest commitments ever made by the publisher,” the publisher said. North American rights went to Daniel Loedel at Scribner in a substantial six-figure overnight pre-empt. Profile has not disclosed the sum paid for the UK deal.
The debut non-fiction title on “our favourite flaw” from the 32-year-old LSE academic has also sparked a string of international deals. “The rights team have had instant and enthusiastic responses all over the world,” Wellbelove told The Bookseller. “Brazilian rights were pre-empted by Companhia within 12 hours of submission, a Dutch auction is underway after the fastest first offer the agency has ever received in that territory, and there is an auction in Italy and Germany too. There is interest in a number of other territories and we expect lots more offers this week.” Lithuanian rights have been pre-empted by Baltos Lankos in Aitken Alexander's biggest-ever deal in that territory.
“It’s become our favourite flaw, the stock answer to the tricky final interview question: aiming for perfection demonstrates motivation, pride in one’s work and determination,” the synopsis to Imperfect reads. “In a world that has become increasingly competitive, increasingly motivated by optimisation and efficiency and where productivity trumps all, the quest for limitless perfection has many subscribers – for more and more of us our best is not enough, our successes could always be bigger, our lives that bit closer to the Instagram ideal.
“But here’s the kicker: in more than a decade of studying perfection, using data from more than 40,000 respondents in the US, UK and Canada, behavioural psychologist Thomas Curran has found that perfectionism is dramatically on the rise in young people – up from 9% in 1989 to 18% in 2017 and projected to reach 33% by 2050 -– and that those who identify as perfectionists are struggling under the weight of their relentless work ethics.”
The book explores laboratory tests which reveal that perfectionists suffer a “near-pathological aversion to failure that correlates with psychological turmoil that comes from tying one’s self-worth to achievement”. Curran traces the quality back to the 1970s and, showing it to be a “socially-prescribed pressure, an unforeseen consequence of decades of unrestrained capitalism” rather than an innate human trait.
“Imperfect will permanently change how we see perfectionists – and how perfectionists see themselves – and show that happiness and success are to be found in self-actualisation rather than others’ ideas of perfection.”
Cornford told The Bookseller: “Imperfect has the potential to change everything. To give tired, anxious, stressed individuals hope and an avenue for change, an understanding that the failure is not in them, and change the political language and the social fabric of our world. So I am very very happy that we bought it. I had been waiting for this book for a long time.”
Curran is an assistant professor in the department of psychological and behavioural science at LSE. His primary area of expertise is perfectionism, and his work on the subject has been covered by publications including the Guardian, Telegraph, and Ariana Huffington’s 'Thrive Global' campaign.