Busy schedules and a strong presence from US publishers in an "upbeat" mood were reported on the first day of the Bologna Book Fair.
Hodder Children's Books publishing director Anne McNeil said the fair was busier than it had been in the last two years: "There's a sense people are out in force and there's a willingness to trade." But there were cancellations from publishers and agents from Japan, still dealing with the effects of the country's devastating earthquake.
She bought three books by Zack Satriani on the fair's first morning, doing the deal with Hothouse Fiction for an undisclosed sum. The series will open with a novel titled Trinity, acquired on a partial manuscript. McNeil calls it "Harry Potter in space", with international rights sales destined for Frankfurt.
Start-up Nosy Crow concluded "major" rights deals for its full storybook apps range on the first day of the fair with German publisher Carlsen and French house Gallimard Jeunesse. Carlsen Germany publisher Klaus Humann said the partnership was "an important new element in the strategic development of our digital publishing", praising Nosy Crow as "outstanding", while Gallimard Jeunesse president Hedwige Pasquet said the independent publisher had developed "the best picture book app ever published" with The Three Little Pigs.
Nosy Crow m.d. Kate Wilson said she was "delighted" by the deal, with the digital "co-edition" model helping publishers manage their financial risk while exploiting their expertise in the local market.
There was strong international interest in middle-grade time-travel adventure The History Keepers by Damian Dibben, which Random House Children's Books will publish in September.
Usborne announced its first iPad app, for its Sticker Dolly Dressing series. The app, produced with games developer Popleaf, will be released in English in May, with French and Spanish versions to follow.
Sticker Dolly Dressing fans can create and name six dolls on the app, customising their hair and eye colours, and dress them up for different occasions using stickers from a "wardrobe" of clothes. Scenes can be saved and emailed to friends, or an Usborne online gallery.
Meanwhile Puffin announced a new Eoin Colfer series. WARP, described as "Oliver Twist meets 'The Matrix'", will feature a Victorian boy, Riley, who goes on the run in 21st-century London to escape an assassin pursuing him from his own time, with the aid of a young FBI agent. Puffin editorial director Sarah Hughes bought UK and Commonwealth rights in the first two books in the series from Sophie Hicks of Ed Victor Ltd, saying the new series had "gripping adventure, a villain to die for and a fabulous contrast of characters from two very different worlds coming together".
Colfer's final Artemis Fowl novel, also acquired by Hughes, will be published in spring 2012.