Following a "hotly-contested" 13-way auction, Canongate and Audible have acquired two "major" books - a memoir and a first novel - from comedian and actor Robert Webb.
Francis Bickmore, publishing director at Canongate, and Henna Silvennoinen, business affairs manager at Audible, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Ivan Mulcahy at MMB Creative.
In a simultaneous publication in autumn 2017, Canongate will release the as-yet-untitled memoir in hardback and e-book editions alongside Audible’s publication of the audio edition, which will be narrated by the author. It is the first time Audible has done a joint deal of this kind.
Webb, one half of the double-act Mitchell and Webb, is a UK comedian, actor and writer best known for award-winning sitcom "Peep Show". The memoir will introduce Webb as a "major literary talent", the publisher said. A "sincere" but "highly entertaining" insight into Webb’s childhood, the book is to explore themes of masculinity and gender stereotypes through personal stories about his relationships with his father figures. The memoir will form a "valuable" part of the ongoing national conversation about gender, according to the publisher.
Webb said: "After two years of casually mentioning that I've got a great idea for a book, the people at Canongate and Audible are now proposing to make me write it. Of course, I have responsibilities to those who will find themselves featured in this memoir. To my dead relatives I say, chillax - you're dead. To living relatives I say, look - it could be worse, you could be Adele’s ex-boyfriend. I hope that reassures everyone."
Bickmore said: “The brilliantly talented Robert Webb is about to land in the world of books in a big way and everyone at Canongate is thrilled that we are his UK publisher. His memoir promises to be an exceptional and even game-changing book. It is funny, moving and controversial, and will appeal to anyone who remembers the eighties, and anyone who is - or knows - a dysfunctional male. We look forward to working with Audible to make this a major event publication in the second half of 2017. We’re also thrilled to have signed up a novel to follow, which will further develop Rob’s career as a writer.”
Tracey Markham, country manager for Audible, said: “We are thrilled to have acquired audio rights to two titles by one of the UK’s best loved comedians and writers. This is a landmark deal for us, and we’re really excited to work closely with Canongate on a major publishing and marketing campaign to bring Webb’s writing to as wide an audience of listeners and readers as possible.”
Mulcahy said: ‘The impact of Rob’s book on those who read it is striking. I had anticipated strong publisher interest but it was a delight to see 13 publishers offer, and in the process of meeting several of them it was a pleasure to see the instant emotional impact of his story. We couldn’t be more pleased with Canongate’s response to the book and their passion for ensuring that it reaches the widest readership. Audible also pursued the audio rights with an exceptional level of energy, and we are thrilled by the potential impact their release of Robert’s reading of his book will have.’
Webb’s debut novel will follow in 2018.