MATCH GAMES The dating-guide genre may be tricky to translate to the silver screen (Forrest Gump producer Wendy Finerman’s $250,000 option on The Rules remains writerless and directorless), but that didn’t stop Danny DeVito’s production company, Jersey Films, from optioning the film rights to the story about an elite dating service called First Impressions — before the book proposal even circulated. One of DeVito’s proxies apparently spotted a tips-laden article in Mademoiselle (”I Went to Date School”) about the company, which sets up clients on simulated dates and then analyzes their behavior for a $200 fee, and quickly proffered a high five-figure option against a high six-figure purchase price, leaving the Zachary Shuster agency scrambling to throw a proposal together for publishers. Next up, no doubt: a sci-fi epic called Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.
TWICE-SOLD TALES Short stories are hot again: According to publishing insiders, Knopf will pay 28-year-old Nathan Englander $350,000 — a huge amount for literary fiction, let alone short stories — for two books, beginning with his collection For the Release of Unbearable Urges. (The title story concerns a married Hasidic man whose rabbi advises him to see a prostitute.) The collection, which is drawing comparisons to Bernard Malamud and Chekhov, elicited two six-figure offers before Knopf snapped it up. And Viking just spent $275,000 for Melissa Banks’ book of stories, A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing. ”The greatest growth in our business is in trade paperbacks,” says Susan Kamil, editorial director of the Dial Press. ”And one hopes [these books] will have a long shelf life in trade paperback.”
RIMES OR REASON Country-music star LeAnn Rimes is having a rocky time in the book world. After her debut fable, Holiday in the Heart, turned out to be a major Christmas disappointment for Doubleday, the house decided not to go forward with a $2 million deal for two more novels. ”We’re trying to come to a friendly agreement,” says Rimes’ agent, Al Lowman. ”We never had an agreement,” responds Bantam Doubleday Dell spokesman Stuart Applebaum. Lowman ”may wish that we had one, but we never did.”
— Alexandra Jacobs and Matthew Flamm