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The ol’ ‘College’ try; bidders take a ‘Shot’

DEEP RIVER PRODS. and Bona Fide Prods. are teaming up to develop “Joe College,” the latest novel by “Election” author Tom Perrotta.

The novel is about a Yale student who struggles to reconcile his cosseted life in the groves of academe in New Haven, Conn. with his blue-collar roots in suburban New Jersey, where his father drives a “Roach Coach” lunch truck.

Bona Fide has a longstanding relationship with Perrotta. The company produced “Election,” tapped the author to adapt his own novel “The Wishbones” for New Line and is developing another Perrotta project, “Hometown Boys,” as an original feature for MTV.

Bona Fide brought “Joe College” to Deep River Prods., which optioned the book and will cover development costs through its $25 million overhead and development fund, in keeping with what Friendly calls the shingle’s agenda to pursue “independent fare that has the potential to break through as mainstream entertainment.”

Deep River partners David Friendly and Marc Turtletaub and Bona Fide partners Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa will produce; Ed Solomon is attached as exec producer.

“We always wanted to do a college social comedy,” says Yerxa. “This had many of our favorite themes, with a working-class-rooted character in a rarified hot-house environment of college intellectual posturing.” “Joe College” was published by St. Martin’s Press in September.

A ROBUST MARKET FOR REALITY programming, fueled by producers’ anxiety about the development slowdown that could be caused by a Hollywood work stoppage may have helped electrify the auction for “Another Shot,” a book by Men’s Health repoter Mike Kita.

The book recounts how Kita, in the throes of a mid-life crisis, set out to address his 20 greatest regrets. He tracks down the high school girl he always wanted to ask out, tries out again for a high school basketball team from which he was cut and tries to contact his dead father through seances. The book will be published by Rodale Press; Men’s Health is also a Rodale Publication.

Turtleback Prods. prexy Howard Meltzer optioned the book via his overall deal with Alliance Atlantis, and while he has yet to determine whether it will be developed for TV or as a feature, at least one producer who took an early interest in the book saw it as a vehicle for a reality skein.

“They could go in any number of directions,” says William Morris agent Bill Contardi, “because the material is pretty high-concept.”

AMERICAN PUBLISHING MAY BE a truly global business, dominated as it is by giant transnational concerns like Bertlesmann and News Corp., but the London Book Fair, which came to a close last week, revealed just how hard American houses have had to fight recently to control global rights to the books that they publish.

Runaway book advances have left publishers ever more dependent on foreign rights deals to defray the cost of acquiring big-ticket books. Foreign sales have already allowed Simon & Schuster, for instance, to shave close to $3 million off the $8 million advance it paid Hillary Clinton for her memoirs. “If you’re smart about it,” says one publishing exec, “you can buy a book and have it paid for without printing a single copy.”

But agents are increasingly loathe to sell such rights, and some of the costliest book acquisitions of recent months — including the memoirs of G.E. topper Jack Welch and the next two Michael Crichton novels, were limited rights buys (Warner paid $7.1 million for North American rights to Welch’s book only; while HarperCollins coughed up $40 million just for world English language rights to the Crichton books).

Agent Robert Gottlieb, who runs Trident Media Group, says authors like Elizabeth George and Dean Koontz can count on seven figure deals for their books in territories like England and Germany. Gottlieb, reached in St. Petersberg, where he’s organizing deals for his authors to secure access to Russian archival material, is characteristic of lit agents determined to milk foreign rights for all they’re worth. “Generally, more foreign rights are controlled by literary agents than in the past,” he says. “If you go to the Frankfurt Book Fair, there’s a smaller American publishing presence because they have less to sell.”

Publishers still look to London to lock up millions of dollars in rights deals. But like many film markets, the fair serves more as a meet-and-greet occasion than as a place where deals actually take place. As agent John Brockman points out, big deals are done more and more away from the fairgrounds, thanks in part to on-line communication between buyers and sellers.

“Everything is electric,” he says. “It’s incredible that people will still stand at the Xerox machine, photocopy manuscripts and send them by Fedex at $35 a pop. It could only happen in the publishing industry, where people are proud to live in the past.”

A FORMER SCRIPT READER at Columbia, Jeff Stockwell is carving a name for himself as a screenwriter with a penchant for literary fare.

Stockwell’s latest assignment is an adaption of a Jack Finney novella, “A Woodrow Wilson Dime,” for 3 Arts and Paramount.

“Woodrow” is a time travel love story about a man who enters a parallel world and becomes famous for composing Oscar Hammerstein musicals and inventing the zipper.

Stockwell isn’t the first writer to take a shot at the project. Dennis Potter, creator of “The Singing Detective” completed an earlier draft before his death in 1994. Finney, most famous for books like “The Body Snatchers” and “Time and Again,” wrote the novella in 1968.

3 Arts’ Stephanie Elaine and Erwin Stoff are producing “Woodrow.” Deal was brokered by UTA.

Stockwell has also just signed on to adapt Eoin Colfer’s “Artemis Fowl” for Miramax Films and Tribeca Prods. and has adapted Chris Fuhrman’s “Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys,” which is expected to preem at Cannes.

SEVERAL TOP PUBLISHING EXECS played musical chairs Tuesday. William M. Shinker, publisher of The Free Press, a unit of Simon & Schuster, has ankled. He’s been replaced by Martha K. Levin, who was publisher of the Disney-owned imprint Hyperion. Levin will be succeeded at Hyperion by editor Will Schwalbe.

Meanwhile, HarperCollins has promoted HarperCollins exec editor Robert Jones to be editor-in-chief of that imprint; he’ll report to Susan Weinberg, who’s also just been promoted to be editorial director of the HarperCollins, Perennial and Quill imprints.

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