Free Press captures diaries of Civil War

Free Press captures diaries of Civil War

NEW YORK — A Civil War soldier has just won a book deal — posthumously, of course. With a $355,000 world rights bid, Free Press senior editor Bruce Nichols beat out 13 other publishers to win world rights to the diaries and detailed map and battle depiction drawings of Robert Knox Sneden, who served as a topographical officer with the 40th Battalion in New York and spent time in the dreaded Andersonville prison.

The Virginia Historical Society, which acquired the materials from dealers as well as an anonymous Sneden family member, now owns the documents and thus benefits from the deal.

Julian Bach of the IMG-Bach agency, who conducted the two-day auction, said Nichol’s offer was the second highest (another publisher bid $380,000), but had the most favorable royalty structure on what will be at least one if not more books with four-color illustrations throughout.

Higher returns

While typically illustrated books of this sort net a royalty in the 7% range, Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, will offer 10% royalty on the first 5,000 sold, 12.5% on the next 5,000 and 15% thereafter.

Nichols plans to publish the book, tentatively titled “Eye of the Storm,” in fall 2000 and hopes for a documentary or other dramatic tie-in for the book. Bach said there has been interest in dramatic rights, but he’ll wait for an edit of the book to do a deal.

* * *

Airline mogul Richard Branson’s Virgin Cola may have been the inspiration here, but the name has certainly changed: “Fukk” is the soft drink brand in question in “Syrup,” a first novel by Maxx Berry just won by Viking senior editor Carolyn Carlson in a rumored low-six-figure world rights deal. Berry, a marketing professor in Australia, sets his tale in a Los Angeles-based cola company with a hero named Scat, “a wannabe buzzmaker who has a million-dollar idea but is too naive to hold onto it.”

Jane Dystel Literary Management agent Todd Keithley, who likens Berry’s comic style to that of Nick Hornby and Bruce Wagner, conducted the two-day auction, which included six publishers. Carlson plans publication for next summer.

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