Big-ticket book contracts—and in one case, a film deal—for young debut novelists show that publishers are taking risks on fresh voices.
Title:The Girls (Random House, June 14) The contract: $2 million for a three-book deal. The story: A teenage girl is drawn into a Manson-like cult. The buzz: Random House beat out 12 other publishers to acquire the novel, which has already received praise from the likes of Lena Dunham and Richard Ford, with producer Scott Rudin securing film rights before the book even went to auction. “Emma Cline’s story is so powerful, as are her startlingly acute psychological portraits of girls and their families,” says Kate Medina, EVP, associate publisher, and executive editorial director at Random House. “I love her writing, her language.”
Title:Sweetbitter (Alfred A. Knopf, May 24) The contract: A high-six figure, two-book deal. The story: A young woman comes to New York for the first time and experiences all the seductions of the city through food and wine. The buzz: “It recalls early 20th-century classics—crisp, anthemic, yet elegiac novels like The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises,” says Danler’s agent, Melissa Flashman, referencing narratives of the “smalltown wallflower moves to the big city” variety. “We are in a moment where stories must be urgent and have a strong emotional core,” adds Flashman. “If you can write a novel that captures this feeling—to be young and awash in the feast that is New York City—you are tapping a deep vein.”