Rights Roundup: Thrillers by Women, and Garden Travels

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This Rights Roundup features work from France, Finland, India, the United States, Denmark, and Italy.

Authors and illustrators represented in this edition of Rights Roundup are, upper row from left, Martta Kaukonen; Matthieu Ricard; Rijula Das; and Gloria Fossi. On the lower row, from left, are Gertrude Kiel; Gunvor Rasmussen; Farah Heron; and Nicolas Jolivot

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Suspense About Thriller Sales
On Wednesday (September 1), we reported on NPD Books’ look at a yearlong softening of thriller and suspense sales in the United States. NPD book analyst Kristen McLean pointed out that categorization may be moving what once would have been called a thriller into other categories such as women’s contemporary fiction, general fiction, and YA fiction.

She also flagged the fact that women are being spotted as authors in leading titles in the field, which in the past has been led by men. “The rising profile of women authors,” McLean says, “indicates that there may be a market for more female voices in this genre,” in the American market. That jibes with the frequent appearances of women authors of thrillers and suspense in our Rights Roundups.

So we start today with an example, Martta Kaukonen’s Follow the Butterfly, a debut that features a serial killer named Ida. No relation to the hurricane. And we’ll finish with Nicolas Jolivot’s Travels in My Garden, in which the author-illustrator spends a year at home (sound familiar?) that coincides with the 200th anniversary of his family seat.

As in each roundup, we use some of the promotional copy supplied to us by agents and rights directors, editing that copy to give you an idea about a book’s nature and tone. If you’d like to submit a deal to Publishing Perspectives, see the instructions at the end of this article.

A detail from Nicolas Jolivot’s ‘Travels in My Garden.’ Image: Syllabes Agency


Follow the Butterfly

By Martta Kaukonen

  • Publisher: WSOY, Helsinki
  • Rights contact: Elina Ahlback, Ahlback Literary Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – UK and Commonwealth: Pushkin Press (two-book deal at auction)
  • Germany: Heyne Verlag, 2-book-deal
  • Estonia: Hea Lugu
  • Greece: Psichogios, 2-book-deal

Also known as Guide Me, Butterfly, Martta Kaukonen’s book is described as “a debut thriller about a young female serial killer, Ida, who goes to therapy to avoid an inevitable jail sentence, and becomes entangled in a psychological game of cat and mouse with a celebrity therapist who has her own secrets to hide.”

Kaukonen is a film critic with a master’s degree in the arts. And interviewer who has covered Robert Downey Jr., Justin Bieber and others, she has a sequel to this book coming.


Notebooks of a Wandering Monk
(Carnets d’un moine errant)

By Matthieu Ricard

  • Publisher: Allary Éditions, Paris
  • Rights contact: Marleen Seegers, 2 Seas Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Brazil: Associação Palas Athena do Brasil

These are the memoirs of Matthieu Ricard, born in 1967 into his spiritual selfhood at the age of 21 in Darjeeling, India. His spiritual father, Kangyur Rinpoche, was a revered Tibetan teacher who enthralled Ricard with his extraordinary quality of being.

“Five years later, with a doctorate in genetics from the Pasteur Institute and a promising career before him, Ricard gave it all up to go live in the Himalayas. That was, he says, a choice for which he’s been grateful daily for the past 50 years.

“His first life, in which his time was divided between the city and the countryside, had made him into a young man who loved both nature and classical music, who was open-minded about spirituality, and who hoped to unlock the mysteries of molecular biology.

“His second life led him on the path to enlightenment, following in the footsteps of his teachers, models of coherence between their words and deeds. For 12 years, he lived alongside Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the Dalai Lama’s admired teacher and a source of endless inspiration.”

This book is scheduled for release in October.


A Death in Shonagachhi

By Rijula Das

  • Publisher: Picador India, Delhi
  • Rights contact: Maria Cardona, Pontas Literary & Film Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • World English, excluding the Indian Subcontinent: Amazon Crossing

Das’ book is “set in Shonagachhi,, Calcutta’s fabled red-light district, in which the murder of a young sex worker in a bustling brothel reveals deceit and violence that disturb the fragile stability of life for the dead woman’s street-smart friend and neighbor. She soon finds herself following the same dangerous path to the same nefarious end.”

A debut for Das, the story is set against the rising clamor of the local sex workers’ collective, protesting government and police inaction and calling for justice for the murdered girl.


Object of Mystery
(L’Oggetto misterioso)

By Gloria Fossi

  • Publisher: Giunti Editore, Firenze
  • Rights contact: Valentina Mazza, Giunti Editore, v.mazza@giunti.it
  • Book info: Read more here

No rights sales reported yet.

Scheduled to be published on September 22, this book is by an author we heard from last November when her On the Trail of Van Gogh: Capturing the Life of the Artist Through Photographs and Paintings was in Rights Roundup. That book, we’re told, has sold well.

It’s being released in the United States this month, on September 21, as a matter of fact, by HarperCollins in a translation by Elettra Pauletto.

The prolific art historian Gloria Fossi—she has a dozen or more books with Giunti—specializes in early modern and medieval art and worked with the journalist and historian Federico Zeri (1921-1998) in the early part of her own career. She takes a populist approach, creating books that follow familiar devices for communicating about art to lay readers.

Object of Mystery, for example, teases consumers with intriguing questions, at least in the approach its marketing tack is taking.

“What was the genius maker of a lion-man thinking 35,000 years ago? Why was Disney inspired by an enigmatic German Gothic sculpture for the face of Grimilde, the evil queen of Snow White? Were Vanagloria’s braids really blond in Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s fresco in Siena? What melancholy thought hides the face of Ginevra de ‘Benci by Leonardo? Is it true that Caravaggio used a drawing by the naturalist Ligozzi to paint the vipers of the Head of Medusa?

“The book is dedicated to these and dozens of other ‘mysterious’ works.’ Some remain unsolved. On others, the author provides unpublished and surprising references and comparisons.”


Tales from the Sky: Science Stories for Children

By Gertrude Kiel
Illustrated by Gunvor Rasmussen

  • Publisher: Character Publishing, Denmark
  • Rights contact: Tine Nielsen, Babel-Bridge Literary Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Chinese Simplified: United Sky
  • German: Hanser
  • Italian: Gallucci
  • Spanish Siruela

“Written in the tradition of Sophie’s World, but for a middle-grade audience, this book offers insight into the scientists who have helped shaped our world-view through their tenacity and hunger for knowledge.

“William is fed up. It’s holiday time and his parents are away on work trips. He’s deposited at his mad aunt’s place and she has absolutely no clue about children. But crazy aunt Gudrun knows a thing or two about science and during the course of the week, she opens his eyes to a whole new world.”


Tahira in Bloom

By Farah Heron

  • Publisher: Skyscape, Amazon Publishing, Seattle
  • Rights contact: Hatty Stiles, Amazon Publishing
  • Book info: Read more here

No rights sales reported yet.

Heron’s book is described as “a YA coming-of-age romantic comedy that’s Schitt’s Creek meets Netflix’s The Big Flower Fight starring a 17-year-old South Asian Muslim heroine.

“Life is full of surprises in this novel about a girl dreaming big during one unexpected small-town summer. When Tahira’s fashion internship falls through, her parents decide that she’ll spend the summer working in her aunt’s boutique in the small town of Bakewell, the flower capital of Ontario.

“She just can’t deal with Rowan Johnston, the rude, totally obsessive garden-nerd next door with frayed cutoffs and terrible shoes. Not to mention his sharp jawline, smoldering eyes, and soft lips. Rowan is also just the plant-boy Tahira needs to help win the Bakewell flower-arranging contest—an event that carries clout in New York City, of all places. And with designers, of all people. Connections that she needs.”


Voyages dans mon jardin
(Travels in My Garden)

By Nicolas Jolivot
(author, illustrator)

  • Publisher: HongFei Cultures, Amboise
  • Rights contact: Galina Grekhova, Syllabes Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Italian: Orecchio Acerbo Editore
  • Korean: Dotbook

“After years of traveling the world, Nicolas Jolivot decides to stay at home for a year with the project of ‘traveling’ in his 200-year-old family home garden.

“Tracing portraits of all the memories and creatures living there, the author makes the reader slide into a loop of time. Going back to 1821 and to the deepest family memories, the author unfolds in parallel a year of life and activities in these lands shaped by the perpetual movement of nature. He takes the reader as close as possible to what happens on the ground or from the sky, along a tree or in the pond, under his footsteps as a traveler in the garden or under his gardening tool.”

A detail from Nicolas Jolivot’s ‘Travels in My Garden.’ Image: Syllabes Agency


Submitting Rights Deals to Publishing Perspectives

Do you have rights deals to report? Agents and rights directors can use our rights deal submission form to send us the information we need. If you have questions, please send them to Porter@PublishingPerspectives.com

Getting images to us. Please don’t send us images by Google Drive if the system will require us to ask your permission to retrieve those images. (It can take too long for our deadlines before that permission request reaches you.) Likewise, please don’t send us images by WeTransfer or a similar service. (Those expire, often before we can download your material.) If for some reason you cannot get images into our submission form, feel free to just drop them to us in an email (Porter@PublishingPerspectives.com) or in a Dropbox folder (non-expiring access) and send us a link to that folder in the submission form.

Categories. We get more submissions in children’s books than in others, and while we enjoy children’s books in the industry as much as anyone–please do keep sending them–we’d also like to see more of the following to help us balance our roundups:

  • Adult Fiction
  • Adult Nonfiction – particularly narrative nonfiction, political, historical, biographical, memoir, and philosophical categories
  • Young Adult

Repeat submissions. We receive great submissions from many parts of the world and once we’ve carried a title, we’d like to give other work a chance to be featured rather than repeating that title–unless there’s major news developing around that previously used title that makes it a good candidate for a second listing. If one of your titles has previously appeared in our Rights Roundups but there’s a good reason you think it should be listed again, please be sure to drop us an email and let us know (Porter@PublishingPerspectives.com).

We look forward to hearing from you.


More of Publishing Perspectives‘ rights roundups are here, and more from us on international rights trading is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As as an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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