Foreign rights deals roundup

I recently realised that foreign rights don’t get a lot of love on this blog, except at book fair time, which is a shame. After all, foreign rights are half of my job, and also the bit of my job that I’ve been doing the longest – I’ve been an agent since 2014, but I’ve been selling foreign rights in various capacities since 2008. I love spending time with foreign publishers, love selling books in translation, love seeing them come back to me transformed, with new titles and new covers to fit their new markets. So I just thought I’d do a quick round-up post of the foreign rights deals I’ve done since Bologna in April.

– Turkish rights to Laura Nowlin’s If He Had Been With Me, to Aspendos Yayinevi. Laura’s debut came out back in 2013 and is still going strong in English – a few months ago it became a NYT ebook bestseller. So far Brazilian and Turkish rights have been sold, and I’m hoping for more sales in future, both of this and of her second book, This Song is (Not) For You.

– French rights to Kate Blair’s Transferral, to Editions Michel Lafon, as described on Kate’s blog. My wonderful French co-agent, Lora Fountain, really got behind this one, and we secured a deal within just a few weeks. And now the TV option has been sold, so that will give me something fun to talk about at Frankfurt!

– German rights to Beck Nicholas’s Last Days of Summer, to cbt at Random House Germany. This is Beck’s fifth book since she first signed with us a few years ago, and her writing just goes from strength to strength. I see a few editors at each book fair whose first question is always ‘what’s Beck Nicholas working on next?’, and I’m always so excited to tell them – so I was delighted to finally secure a German home for her writing.

Congratulations to Laura, Kate and Beck! I can’t wait to see your first foreign editions.

In some ways I feel like I’m still in post-Bologna mode, but preparations for Frankfurt are already underway – my diary is filling up with appointments and I really ought to start thinking about the catalogue. Post-Bologna just means pre-Frankfurt, after all. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Here’s what’s happening this summer

Okay, here we go! I am now officially closed to queries for the summer, to give me more time to focus on reaching out to marginalised authors. Queries sent to me between now and September 1st will be deleted, with one exception: if you count yourself as a member of a marginalised group and write the kind of thing I tend to represent, please feel free to query me through the query form on my blog (not through the Rights Factory website), and mention this blog post in your query.

The definition of ‘marginalised group’ I will be using is the same as Beth Phelan’s from #DVpit: including but not limited to ‘Native peoples and people of color; people living and/or born/raised in underrepresented cultures and countries; disabled persons; people with illness; people on marginalised ends of the socioeconomic, cultural and/or religious spectrum; people identifying as LGBTQIA+; and more.’ I am particularly interested in hearing from indigenous people and people of colour (who may or may not also fall into any of the other categories), because until now the vast majority of submissions I’ve received have been from white people and I would like that to change.

I am taking recommendations from everybody, so if you know somebody who fits these criteria and is looking for an agent please let them know about me, or let me know about them.

I am 100% sure that I am also going to get a whole bunch of queries from authors belonging to dominant social groups writing about marginalised characters, because that’s how people belonging to dominant social groups tend to roll. Just to make it clear, when I say I am looking for ‘marginalised voices’, this refers to the identity of the authors, not to the identity of the characters they write.

This doesn’t mean I’m only looking for #ownvoices manuscripts – if you’re a member of a marginalised group but your characters are not, that’s fine by me. I am looking to support authors to create whichever kind of characters they feel like creating.

Closing to new queries does not mean that I’ll be deleting all the queries I already have. If you do not fit the criteria above, but your query or partial manuscript is in my inbox right now, I promise I will respond to it.

Okay, let’s do this thing.

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A different way of doing things

The first time I saw this tweet thread from Sarah Hannah Gómez on Twitter, I scrolled past it thinking ‘well, I already solicit manuscripts from marginalised authors sometimes. I’m doing okay’.

Then I thought ‘when was the last time I actually approached an author to request a submission from them?’. I’ve been pretty busy since Frankfurt last year, and finding and approaching new authors takes time. Especially when you’ve got a brimming slush pile – how can I justify going out to find new authors when I have all these nice ones right here waiting far too long to hear from me? I thought about a closed, empty slush pile, and about how much more time I would have to find new authors if I didn’t have to deal with it, just for a few months. So I decided to accept the challenge – this summer, when publishing is quiet and I’d usually be concentrating on my slush pile, I will instead be closing to queries for three full months and spending my slush-pile time reading short stories by marginalised authors online, getting more involved in Twitter discussions and generally trying my very best to connect with marginalised authors and get them to send me their writing.

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I only like book fairs when I am at book fairs.

I have this problem with book fairs, which is that I hate them at all times unless I am actually at them. It doesn’t matter how many fairs I go to (and I’m well into double figures now), and it doesn’t matter that I’ve had a marvellous time at all of them. As soon as I’m on the plane home I forget everything that’s excellent about book fairs, and adamantly dislike them until the next time I step into an exhibition hall a few months later – at which point I promptly go ‘oh yes, I remember, these are one of the best parts of my job!’.

So I’ve decided this time is going to be different. This time I’m going to remember all of the excellent things about book fairs, and I’m going to be excited in the run-up to Bologna instead of hating the preparations and just getting excited the moment I step into the Fiere (that main entrance with all the flags, and the illustrator displays as you step in…oh good, it’s working already!). To that end, here is a list, in no particular order, of a few of the things I like about book fairs, and that I liked about this Frankfurt in particular.

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Deal announcement: HOLLY FARB AND THE PRINCESS OF THE GALAXY, by Gareth Wronski

Exciting announcement! North American rights to Gareth Wronski’s brilliant middle-grade science fiction novel, HOLLY FARB AND THE PRINCESS OF THE GALAXY, have been sold to Amy Cloud of Aladdin (Simon & Schuster). Publication is scheduled for Summer 2017.

HOLLY FARB is a hilarious, Douglas-Adams-esque work about a schoolgirl who gets kidnapped by alien space pirates when they mistake her for the missing princess of a far-away galaxy. Lost in space, she must band together with her eccentric science teacher and a mysterious new student to find her way back to Earth. It contains space cruise liners, bounty hunters, giant worms, terrifying blobs, perky holograms, cosmic board games, sinister insectoid librarians, government clones, vacuum cleaners, the President of the Universe and a robot who is learning how to lie. It’s about bravery, friendship, and finding out that your world can be bigger than you ever imagined. It’s about a nerdy, lonely girl finding her place in the universe. It’s funny and wonderful and I adore it.
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Happy book birthday to REBELLIOUS SPIRITS by Ruth Ball!

It’s October 1st, and Ruth Ball‘s brilliant, highly entertaining debut, Rebellious Spirits, is out RIGHT NOW. It’s a delicious warm cosy book for the autumn, like sitting down with a good friend and a glass of something warming and listening to them tell fascinating stories by candlelight.

 

Rebellious Spirits cover

 

If you live in the UK and you want to have that experience in real life as well as in book form, sign up for one of these events! You’ll get to meet Ruth in person, try some of her favourite historical cocktails from the book, and share stories with a select few like-minded liqueur-lovers who I’m sure will be excellent people.


Drink Through History in London
series: October 28th-31st, November 4th-7th. 8pm at the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities in Hackney.

Ruth Ball at the Buxton Literary Festival: November 13th, 2pm. (NB I suspect there will not be cocktails at this one)

Rebellious Spirits Talk & Tasting in Cambridge: November 20th, 7:30pm at Quiver Company.

 

Oh, and here is what the book is all about:

For as long as spirits have existed, there has been someone doing something really naughty with them: selling gin through pipes in a London back alley; standing guard on a Cornish clifftop waiting for a smuggler’s signal; or dodging bombs and shrapnel running whisky in the Blitz. It is a history that is thrilling, utterly fascinating and uniquely British.

Packed full of historical recipes, from Milk Punch to a Wartime Martini, along with cocktails from contemporary bartenders, Rebellious Spirits is a treasure trove for the curious drinker.

 From the gin dispensed from a cat’s paw at the Puss and Mew shop which could have been the world’s first vending machine, to whole funeral cortèges staged just to move a coffin filled with whisky, the stories show off all the wonderful wit and ingenuity required to stay one drink ahead of the law. The accompanying recipes are just as intriguing: How did we drink gin before tonic? Was punch really made with curdled milk? Or breakfast served with brandy porridge, and gin mixed into hot ale? What did the past really taste like?

 

‘I’m forever fascinated by the underground, and the sub-cultural drinking habits of bad old Blighty are a rip-roaring read’ – King Adz, author of The Urban Cookbook and Street Knowledge

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Surprising insights from the slush pile

Having a teetering pile of queries in my inbox at all times has given me some interesting and unexpected insights into my taste as a reader. Every so often as I’m reading through them, I’ll notice myself going ‘ooh, more space archaeologists, YES PLEASE’, or ‘ugh, not more Celts’, and realise something new about what I like to read. Just for fun, I’ve made some lists of the surprising things I’ve noticed so far. I’ve left off things like ‘historical fiction with trans characters’ and ‘airships!’ and ‘the TV show Defiance but in manuscript form’ because obviously I always knew I was interested in those – these are just things that I didn’t know I was into/not into until I started reading queries. I don’t imagine this list will be even slightly useful, but I hope it will be entertaining.

Some things I apparently can’t resist for some reason.

– Books about the history of food and/or drink.
It started with Rebellious Spirits (out this Thursday!), of course. Ruth opened my mind to the fascinating history of spirits, and before I knew it I was spending hours on some of the internet’s foremost food history websites reading about the history of jelly and other interesting things. I think for some reason food and drink lends itself particularly well to the quirky, light-but-still-informative kind of non-fiction that I love most.

– Books about imaginary sports
I have no idea what this one is about. I have always hated playing sports, and the only sport I enjoy watching is hockey. But for some reason I am all over books about robot gladiators or werewolf wrestling or airship races or really any sport you can imagine (as long as you have imagined it and it’s not actually a real thing). The thrill of the competition! The surprising twists and turns of the race! The intriguing backstories of the competitors! The gritty determination of the hapless neophyte or plucky underdog or beleaguered champion or whoever it is that we’re rooting for this time! It’s all so exciting.

– Jews in science fiction
Entirely selfish. I like reading about futures that have Jewish people in them. Plus it means you get to phone up your client and say things like ‘so, the way that cloning works in this MS…what are the Jewish implications of that?’ and she says ‘I’m so glad you asked! I’ve been thinking about that for weeks!’ and it’s all very interesting if you like talking about the Talmud.

– SFF in which LGBTQIA+ characters have a nice time
Or have a terrible time but for reasons unrelated to gender or sexuality. I get a fair number of SFF submissions featuring LGBTQIA+ characters (probably because I keep asking for it – please send me more, especially if you identify with any letters of that acronym yourself), and I’m surprised at how often the characters in question are facing the same kinds of ill treatment and prejudice as they would in our world. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for that in SFF, but…surely there is also a place for not-that.

– Books about space archaeologists
I’ve seen a number of queries about space archaeologists (usually on fun, pulpy quests for mysterious alien artefacts) and I pretty much always request to see a partial, but I still haven’t signed any – I guess I’m still searching for the right space archaeology book. I think what appeals to me is the idea of a manuscript that has something of Rice-Burroughs’ swashbuckle and nothing whatsoever of his politics. The ones I’ve seen so far either seem to have both or neither.

– Magical or historical heists
From The Lies of Locke Lamora to Korean historical-fusion movie The Grand Heist, I rarely meet an SFF or historical heist that I don’t enjoy. I was not aware of this predilection until people started sending me heist queries – again, I still haven’t signed any, but I think it’s just a matter of time.

 

Some things I find offputting for no real reason

– Books where the human main character falls in love with an alien
I’m gettng SO MANY of these at the moment. I’m not sure if aliens are the new vampires or something, but whatever is happening here is not something I am on board with. It’s not so much that I’m squicked by alien sex (although I do have some questions about that) as that I’m bored by any book where Forbidden Romance is a significant part of the plot. So I guess actually I do have some sort of reason for this one.

– Books where the human main character turns out to secretly be an alien
But they don’t even know it, and the book is mostly about them coming to terms with the fact that they’re an alien. Or the Chosen One. Or the secret weapon that can destroy planets. Or the Key to unlock the doors between dimensions. None of that, thank-you, sorry.

– Urban fantasy.
It’s basically the real world but a bit of it is magical. I can see how that would be cool, but for some reason it doesn’t work for me and I’m not really sure why. I’m open to the idea that I might enjoy some historical urban fantasy if it were set in the right period, but I’ve pretty much stopped asking to see material for contemporary urban fantasy.

– Fantasy based on Celtic, Norse, Greek or Roman mythology
I don’t know why. I had no idea that I wasn’t interested in these mythologies before I started getting them in my slush pile. Maybe I read too much of them as a child? Maybe I just think there are too many books about them out there already? All other mythologies enthusiastically accepted.

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