Simon & Schuster has made two new acquisitions for its digital-first programme for commercial women's fiction, Digital Originals, by signing a new Chester-based series from author Holly Hepburn and a new four-part "Up-Lit" novel from Waterstones bookseller Victoria Walters.
The deals for the books were struck by Emma Capron, editor at S&S UK, to publish the books in e-book first, months ahead of the print edition. A number of authors with titles on the Books and the City Digital Originals scheme such as Penny Parkes and Heidi Swain are now brand authors.
The first acquisition is a new four-book series from Hepburn, author of A Year at the Star and Sixpence and The Picture House by the Sea which together sold over 100,000 e-books. Capron acquired world all languages rights including audio to the Castle Court series from Jo Williamson at Antony Harwood.
The Castle Court series is centred around a boutique arcade in Chester where new arrivals Sadie and Cat dream of success for their shop, Smart Cookies. Hepburn said it "ticks all the boxes readers have come to expect from my books; a magical setting they'll long to visit, fascinating and funny characters, plus mouth-watering food and drink that I've discovered needs intensive, rigorous research".
Capron said Hepburn had been "a dream to work with" and she was looking forward to another "huge success" following the new four-book deal. Part one, Snowy Nights at Castle Court, will be published this November – the subsequent three parts following at two month intervals – with a paperback to follow in 2018.
"She has gone from strength to strength with her first two novels, and I know she will continue to do so over the next few years," said Capron. "The setting for her new series is Castle Court, a Tudor shopping arcade in Chester, complete with a cast of shop owners that will have you laughing, crying and falling in love. Back doing what she does best, this is sure to be another huge success for Holly."
The second acquisition is a novel in four parts, entitled Random Acts of Kindness, which Capron said would "restore your faith in human kindness", demonstrative of the so-called "Up-Lit" trend for uplifting reads. She acquired world English language including audio from Hannah Ferguson at Hardman & Swainson.
Its author Walters once worked as a business publisher and is currently a part-time bookseller at Waterstones in Surrey. She previously published her debut The Second Love of My Life with Headline. However she was first discovered in a short story competition that S&S ran for New Adult fiction via their social media community The Hot Bed.
Capron said: "I’m delighted to be working with Vicky again, and on such an exciting new project. This heartwarming tale will restore your faith in human kindness, and acts as the perfect escape from the horrors of life as we now know it."
Walters added: "I'm really excited to be working on this book with Emma and the team at Simon & Schuster. Kindness is something we could all do with more of in our lives so hopefully everyone will connect with the message in the book and help us spread the word."
The first part of Random Acts of Kindness will publish in December 2017.