A rugby-like scrum for the advance copies of six debut novels at the end of the presentation on Buzz Books was so frenzied that one bookseller wondered, â€œIs this a fire hazard?â€
Editors are betting that, based on word of mouth, these under-promoted â€œsleepersâ€ catch fire and climb best-seller lists.
Among the Buzz Books, Liz Nugentâ€™s â€œUnraveling Oliverâ€ was already a No. 1 best-seller in her native Ireland â€” and Jackie Cantor, a senior editor at Simon & Schuster/Scout Press, hopes the book takes off following its August US release.
Nugentâ€™s main character is a â€œsociopathâ€ who knocks his wife into a coma.
Says Cantor: â€œNugent somehow manages to make her male antagonist into someone readers can care about.â€
When William Morrowâ€™s Jennifer Brehl first read the manuscript for â€œThe Woman in the Windowâ€ by A.J. Finn, she said she knew the author was using a pen name but maintained, â€œI was certain the book was written by a woman.â€
Brehl was stunned to find instead it was written by Dan Mallory, a colleague at William Morrow.
â€œI had absolutely no idea he was writing a book in his spare time,â€ Brehl said. â€œIt surprised the hell out of all of us.â€
The novel concerns a Manhattan woman largely confined to her Upper East Side apartment who begins snooping into the lives of the seemingly perfect family across that way â€” and she sees something that so scares and horrifies her that she is not sure if it really happened at all.
Putnam Editorial Director Sally Kim admits she is a â€œsucker for sibling storiesâ€ â€” and says that may help to explain why she fell in love with â€œThe Immortalistsâ€ by Chloe Benjamin.
The novel traces the lives of four siblings who visit a fortune-teller in Little Italy as kids and hear the dates they are predicted to die. The book traces their lives over five decades.
Although the book is not due out until January, Benjamin was drawing some of the longest lines on Thursday as autograph seekers queued up for advance copies.
â€œThe World of Tomorrowâ€ by Brendan Matthews, due out in September, is set against the backdrop of the 1939 Worldâ€™s Fair in New York as the Depression is ending but war looms. There, three Irish men, the Dempsey brothers, interact with a onetime IRA hit man and a Jewish street photographer facing deportation to Nazi-occupied Prague.
â€œThe reaction that a lot of people have when they get to the end is crying,â€ said Little, Brown Senior Editor Ben George â€” â€œnot because itâ€™s sad, but because itâ€™s such a tremendous relief.â€
â€œStay with Meâ€ by Nigerian-born Ayobami Adebayo centers around a woman and man who pledge to forgo polygamy in their marriage but are unable to conceive a child.
â€œItâ€™s the story of a Nigerian woman whose fertility comes to be the most important thing in her life,â€ said Jennifer Jackson, a senior editor at Knopf.
The mother-in-law of the main character, after four years without children in the marriage, introduces a second wife for her son. The first wife suddenly finds a way to become pregnant â€” and on that very day, the second wife is found dead.
â€œMy Absolute Darlingâ€ by Gabriel Tallent is a coming-of- age novel involving a teen girl, her first big crush and the strain it put on her close relationship with her own father.
Riverhead Books Editor-in-Chief Sarah McGrath predicts the debut novel is a book that will â€œconsume, challenge and change us.â€
The BookExpo for the trade ends Friday as BookCon, also at the Javits Center, opens its doors to the general public on Saturday and Sunday.