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Physics tops 'Posh Spice' at Frankfurt Book Fair
FRANKFURT, Germany (Reuters) -- A guide to physics on Friday topped the memoirs of pop star "Posh Spice" to become the biggest book deal of the Millennium Frankfurt Book Fair.
U.S. publishers Knopf, clearly convinced they could have a popular science bestseller on their hands, paid $2 million for the rights to Brian Greene's "The Fabric Of The Cosmos: Space, Time and The Texture Of Reality."
The deal was the big headline in Friday's Publishing News, a leading industry mouthpiece at the fair which this year has attracted almost 7,000 publishers from 107 countries.
Greene, a physics professor at Columbia University, has already been shortlisted for a Pulitzer prize and hailed by Newsweek magazine as "articulate, witty and totally non-geeky. His gravitational pull rivals a black hole's."
Hype and hope
Hype and hope always spring eternal at the fair, where 80 percent of the industry's rights deals are negotiated every year. The search is constantly on for the bestseller that will capture the world's imagination.
Clearly British publishers Penguin felt that Spice Girl Victoria Beckham had the pulling power as wife to football star David Beckham and member of Britain's most successful female pop act ever.
The rights to her autobiography were sold in a deal that could be worth more than 1 million pounds ($1.45 million), a record for a British celebrity.
Penguin's Tom Weldon, who commissioned the book that is based on her diaries, said: "Victoria Beckham is probably Britain's most famous celebrity today. She is Britain's new Princess Diana."
Instant fame can make an author suddenly bankable overnight.
Just one week after landing the Nobel prize for literature, dissident Chinese writer Gao Xingjian found himself bombarded with faxes from around the world offering to publish his works.
At the Frankfurt fair, U.S. publisher HarperCollins announced that it had acquired two of his novels, including his most recent, "Soul Mountain."
Talking up authors
Literary agents adore the fair. It is the chance to talk up their authors and get publishers to wave their checkbooks in a carefully choreographed public relations exercise.
A master of the art is British agent Christopher Little, who within four days of receiving a manuscript from first-time author J.K. Rowling had signed up the Harry Potter sagas that became a publishing legend.
"There is such a buzz at the fair," he told Reuters. "It is such a giant rights market. People keep their best for Frankfurt. There can be a buying frenzy."
"Today is about hype and perception. People put big money behind a book. But the quality must be there in the first place," he said.
Harry Potter has sold 57 million copies in 200 countries. Nothing at Frankfurt looks to be even remotely in the same league and Little concluded: "Everybody says there isn't a big book this year. That's the way it is."
Copyright 2000 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
Harry Potter sparks scrums in Germany
Frankfurt Book Fair
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