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London Book Fair 2013: Young Debut Authors Fetch Big Advances
Young authors come out on top at this years London Book Fair

It was all about young, debut authors at this year’s London Book Fair. Some of the most talked-about books were by writers whose own backstories—usually about emerging from anonymity to write the big book of the fair—were as talked about as the books they sold. One of the biggest books of the fair is by a high school math teacher. Another was discovered in the slush pile. Another is an ambitious nonfiction work by someone who’s worked as a reporter.

A number of the hot books in London sold, at least to U.S. buyers, before the fair got underway. This is nothing new, as more and more agents try to sell a potentially big book to at least one publisher before big rights fairs in order to drum up chatter and fetch bigger advances from foreign publishers.

One of the biggest books to sell before this year’s fair—in both page count and in advance size—was Matthew Thomas’s 700-plus-page novel We Are Not Ourselves.WME’s Bill Clegg sold North American rights to the book to Marysue Rucci for seven figures. (It’s rumoured Rucci paid $1.2 million for the novel.) Rucci bought the book after a two-day auction, as London-based WME agent Elizabeth Sheinkman, who was handling U.K. rights for the book, confirmed. At press time Sheinkman had not closed on the book in the U.K., but, as of Monday, there were seven bidders going after U.K. and Commonwealth rights. Other offers had also come in from France, Italy and Holland.

In its release about the acquisition, Simon & Schuster, which is planning a 2014 publication, called the novel a “sprawling portrait of the Irish-American Leary family—Ed, Eileen, and their son Connell—as they move from Jackson Heights, Queens to Bronxville, New York in pursuit of the American dream.” The publisher also touted the fact that Thomas teaches at New York City’s Xavier high school, and has been working on the book for over a decade.

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Source: Publishers Weekly