While no single title has emerged as the hot book of this year’s London Book Fair, a number of titles were generating buzz as the fair kicked off on Tuesday.
One of the hottest of those titles is, arguably, a memoir represented by William Morris Endeavor’s Bill Clegg called Darling Days. Dan Halpern at Ecco acquired North American rights to the book in the States about a week before the fair in a deal insiders have said was worth $700,000. Halpern won the book in a nine-bidder auction and the title, by iO Tillett Wright (whose various credits include being a TED speaker and the founder of an indedependent photography magazine), chronicles the author’s unusual childhood in the East Village. Raised by hippy, yet neglectful, parents, Wright chose, from age six to 14, to live life as a boy. The proposal is only 30 pages, but publishers remain interested. As of this writing, the book has also sold in the U.K., to Virago, and Clegg has also accepted a pre-empt from the French publisher Le Seuil.
Another buzzed-about book which sold for a rumored six figures is Jax Miller’s Freedom’s Child. Miller made headlines in the European press shortly before the fair for selling this book to Harper U.K. in a six figure deal. Now the novel, which Claudia Ballard at WME represents, has also sold to Crown's Zack Wagman. Crown called the book a "propulsive, raucous thriller" about a woman in the witness protection program who "risks everything" to save the daughter she gave up for adoption. Miller, a pen name, now lives in Ireland, but grew up in the States. Under her real name, Aine O Domhnaill, she was shortlisted, last year, for the CWA Debut Dagger for unpublished writers.
A second nonfiction title generating attention is The Telomere Solution, which Grand Central acquired in a major deal shortly before the fair. Karen Murgolo at GCP took North American rights in a 12-bidder auction for a sum the publisher declined to discuss, but that agent Doug Abrams at Idea Architects called "quite high." The subtitle of the book is How the Nobel-Prize-Winning Discovery Can Help You Fight Cellular Aging and Improve Lifelong Health and the author is Ph.D., and Nobel prize winner, Elizabeth Blackburn. The book, which Blackburn is writing with fellow Ph.D. and colleague Elissa Epel, is about fighting the aging process through simple changes in things like exercise, diet and stress management. One insider said the book is particularly hot because the material it covers is based on the research for which Blackburn won her Nobel. The book has also sold in a six figure deal in the U.K., where Weidenfled & Nicolson acquired at auction.
Another novel on a number of radars is The Luckiest Girl Alive. It was acquired well before the fair in the States by Sarah Knight at Simon & Schuster, but its acquisition was announced just before the fair. Knight bought world rights to the book—it was originally shopped under the title Girl Ed—in a six-figure deal at auction. Written by Self Magazine editor Jessica Knoll, Luckiest Girl follows a New Yorker named Ani FaNelli, who seems to have at all: a dream job, a handsome fiancé and an apartment in trendy Tribeca. But, Knight explained, Ani is actually "clinging desperately to a veneer of perfection" that is about to come undone because a documentary film threatens to reveal "a violent, sordid incident from her past." Some have compared the book to Gyllian Flynn’s bestseller Gone Girl, and Knight confirmed that the comparison is not off. (Knight, incidentally, edited Flynn’s second novel Dark Places, and acquired, but did not edit, Gone Girl, before leaving Crown for S&S in 2010.) Knight elaborated: “I’m hesitant to compare anything to Gone Girl these days, because the comparison has been so overdone. But that said, the minute I started reading this novel I knew I was in the presence of a Gillian-level talent, and when I finished [the manuscript], I emailed the agent and said: ‘It’s absolutely the most ‘Gillian Flynn’ of anything I’ve ever read that purports to be ‘Gillian Flynn-esque.’” Lance Fitzgerald at S&S, who is handling foreign rights for the book, said he is currently "fending off preempts" because he does not plan on submitting the book widely until S&S has an edited manuscript this spring. However, S&S has sold rights to the book to Rocco in Brazil, but only because, as Fitzgerald couched it, the offer "blew us away."