We're hearing that Morrow just won the auction for The Lace Reader, a debut supernatural thriller from author Brunonia Barry. The deal — which was negotiated by Rebecca Oliver at Endeavor and is the first big sale by that agency's big new literary department — is for world English rights to two books and adds up to a cool $2 million*. We hear Laurie Chittenden at Morrow outbid Pam Dorman of Hyperion Voice and
Jamie Raab Caryn Karmatz Rudy* of Grand Central (formerly Warner Books).
The story follows a woman named Towner who returns to her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, when her great-aunt goes missing. Like all women in her family, Towner has the ability to tell the future through reading patterns in lace. The story includes a modern-day witch hunt, and one publishing person who's read the novel claims it's "pretty gritty, not at all frou-frou, despite the lace."
The deal is notable not only for the money involved but because the book is already out there; we're told Barry, a former screenwriter, self-published the book via tiny Flap Jacket Press in July, and has enterprisingly managed to get reviews here and there, including a starred rave in Publishers Weekly. Indeed, though one reader told us the book was a little "generic," another explained the whole plot to us, including the twist at the end, and then defended the book: "It's not as crappy as it sounds!" For $2 million, Morrow had better hope so.
*Update: We now hear it was Caryn Karmatz Rudy, not Jamie Raab, who underbid at Grand Central. We have also heard a rumor that the deal was for $2.5 million, not $2 million, but that hasn't been confirmed.
The Lace Reader [Official site]