Riverrun scoops Phelps-Roper memoir in three-publisher auction

Riverrun scoops Phelps-Roper memoir in three-publisher auction

Riverrun has scooped the “inspirational” literary memoir from Megan Phelps-Roper, former member of the Westboro Baptist Church and the focus of a recent Louis Theroux documentary, in a three-publisher auction.

The Quercus imprint’s commissioning editor Richard Arcus bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Dorothy Vincent at Trident Media Group. Unfollow: A Journey from Hatred to Hope will be published in October. backed by a high-profile publicity campaign and book tour.

Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church, a homophobic and antisemitic fire-and-brimstone religious sect. It was the subject of Theroux’s BBC documentary “The Most Hated Family in America” and this weekend’s follow-up, which centred on Phelps-Roper and her life since leaving the church.

After years of taking part in the church’s picketing and spearheading its social media, she left in November 2012, aged 26. Since then she has become an advocate for ideas she used to despise and her TED talk on why she left the church has racked up seven million views.

Phelps-Roper, also represented in the US by Melissa Flashman at Janklow & Nesbit, said: “I am thrilled to be working with riverrun, whose enthusiasm for this book is exceptional and encouraging.”

Praised by Jon Ronson as “exceptional and inspiring”, the book will be published simultaneously with Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the US. A film about Phelps-Roper’s life is also on the way, with Nick Hornby writing the screenplay and Reese Witherspoon attached to produce.

Arcus said: “Unfollow is a story about the rarest thing of all: a person changing their mind. It is a fascinating insight into a closed world of extreme belief, a biography of a complex family, and a hope-inspiring memoir of a young woman finding the courage to find compassion for others, as well as herself. I could not be more proud to help tell Megan’s story.”