by: Donna Whitehead
The annual Frankfurt Book Fair begins tomorrow in Germany, and as in previous years, prepare for Hollywood to take note. Though it caters to a worldwide publishing market, over the past few years Frankfurt has also become ground zero for big-ticket studio and TV rights buys, with an average of a dozen deals closing before the first day of the fair ends. Every major studio and network is hungry for their next big property, and Frankfurt has consistently delivered some of the hottest soon-to-be published books. Last year, we saw DreamWorks pick up John Twelve Hawks’ “Spark” and Paul Kix’s “Noble Assassin,” and 20th Century Fox TV snatch the rights to the Swedish thriller “De Redan Doda” before the end of the first day. This year has proven to be even hotter, with Sony picking up Noah Hawley’s “Before the Fall,” Scott Rudin picking up Emma Cline’s “The Girls,” Fox grabbing Anthony O’Neill’s “The Dark Side,” and Paramount landing Tommy Wallach’s “We All Looked Up”—all before the festival has even begun
For many authors, this is a decisive week in their manuscript or proposal’s journey. For properties like 25-year-old Cline’s “The Girls,” Frankfurt will be the icing on the cake, as Rudin has already won the film rights, but over a dozen publishers are lining up to fight it out in an auction for the publishing rights. For others however, not landing a publisher here could mean the end of the road for a project.
But this is also a pretty important weekend for Hollywood. There’s an ever-increasing demand in the industry that projects be based on existing properties; this week, we’ve already seen an “Uncle Buck” TV show, a Scarlett Johansson series based on an Edith Wharton novel, and the rise and fall of a “Say Anything” series—and it’s only Tuesday. Novelists have become the most prolific writers of original Hollywood content. For some of the major studios, a Frankfurt property is the closest thing to original material that they’ll even consider.
And there’s a lot of material to choose from. So, to better prepare you for this year’s festival, I’ve selected 10 properties hitting the market that I think deserve a look!
Random House just picked up U.S. publication rights for the Cameroon-born Mbue’s debut novel in a reportedly million-dollar deal. The story follows a struggling Cameroonian immigrant who becomes the chauffer to an executive at Lehman Brothers in the lead-up to the 2007 crash. There are a lot of novels at this year’s fair dealing with Wall St. excess and the Great Recession, but this one has the most interesting and pitchable hook, and the huge payout from Random House bodes well for the book’s future.
You know what else there are a lot of this year? Sherlock Holmes adaptations. “A Study in Charlotte” and “Lock and Mori” are both YA novels that reimagine Holmes as a school kid. “Charlotte” follows John Watson’s great-grandson Jamie and Sherlock’s great-granddaughter Charlotte as they solve crimes at a Connecticut prep school; “Lock and Mori” follows the early days of the relationship between Sherlock (“Lock”) and a female Moriarty (“Mori”), as they solve crimes and fall in love—until Mori’s secrets threaten to tear them apart. There seems to be an endless demand for new takes on Sherlock Holmes—witness the Guy Ritchie movies, “Sherlock,” “Elementary,” and the upcoming “Mr. Holmes”—so unless something changes very quickly, I’d say odds are good that at least one of these books (both of which are the first in planned three-book series) gets optioned. Personally, I hope it’s “Charlotte”; the world needs more angry, genius female detectives.
Wuertz’s debut novel follows a group of revolutionaries attending Seoul National University in the 1970s during the final years of a South Korean dictatorship. It’s very literary and doesn’t yet have a U.S. publisher, so it’s a long shot for film rights, but it’s set in a fascinating world, and readers have said that it’s wonderfully written, so I can see a possibility of it finding its way into the right hands.
“Disappear,” being published in the U.S. by Simon & Schuster, follows a woman who returns to her small town with her new rich and handsome fiancé, and becomes embroiled in the disappearance of two local girls. Miranda is generally a YA author—the book of hers I’m most familiar with is “Fracture,” which is similar to “If I Stay” in concept—so her work can obviously speak to the ever-important young movie-goer. And this summer’s films have proved that audiences are ready for more female-led thrillers. It’s not a sure thing by any means, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see this one get picked up.
Quick’s YA novel, from U.S. publisher Little, Brown Books, follows the buttoned-up, rule-following student athlete Nanette O’Hare, who, thanks to a cult classic novel called “The Bubblegum Reaper,” starts to get in touch with her wild side. But she soon learns there’s a price for rebellion. Though I’m kind of desperate to know what on Earth a book called “The Bubblegum Reaper” could be about, that’s not the reason you should keep an eye on “Every Exquisite Thing.” Quick is the author of the Oscar-winning “Silver Linings Playbook,” and it seems like everything he’s ever written is going to be a movie eventually; his most recent novel, “The Good Luck of Right Now,” is already in development at DreamWorks.
This YA novel follows a group of boys who team up to find their missing friend, whom they believe has been abducted by a troll from local urban legend. Given that del Toro is one of the authors, it seems inevitable that someone will pick up the film rights soon.
Simon & Schuster’s YA novel follows a boy who can create alternate worlds, in all of which he’s cooler than he is in the real world. In his favorite world, though, he’s just a slightly better version of himself, and his crush, Kylie Simms, is in love with him. One day, he mixes up the worlds, and accidentally kisses the real Kylie, and everything starts to fall apart. This is the kind of high-concept fantasy romance that just sounds too interesting to pass up.
The only nonfiction title on our list, “Beyond” tells the true story of Peter Diamandis, who financed the team that built the first space-ready passenger vehicle. It’s out from Penguin Press in 2016. Private space flight is a topic that captures people’s imaginations—just look at the hubbub over the Mars reality show—so this could catch some eyes in the entertainment industry.
Kirby’s YA novel follows a girl who tracks down the recipient of her dead boyfriend’s heart, and falls in love with him. HarperTeen is publishing in the U.S., and with the recent success of sad teen romances, there will probably some interest here.
HarperCollins picked up the U.S. publication rights to this in a reported six-figure deal. The novel tells a love story between two Ice Age teenagers from warring tribes. Though not technically fantasy, “Ivory and Bone” has the feel of a star-crossed paranormal romance a la “Twilight” or “The Mortal Instruments,” and the major money HarperCollins spent on it indicates they think so too.