Galley Girl: The Week in Publishing

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Stacie McChesney / NBC / AP

Kris Jenner discusses her book during an interview with Tonight Show host Jay Leno on November 8, 2011.

Once a week, publishing reporter Andrea Sachs will recap the most interesting news in book publishing.

IT’S ALL GREEK TO ME

A high-school classics teacher sends a manuscript of her first novel to an agent in Manhattan, where it lands in the slush pile. The jaded agent reads it reluctantly but falls in love with it immediately. A week after the book is put on the market, a major publisher buys it for a handsome sum. If a Hollywood screenwriter proposed that plot, he’d be laughed out of the studio for piling on the clichés.

But in this case, the tale is true. Madeline Miller, 32, worked on The Song of Achilles for ten years before it was discovered by agent Julie Barer — who also represents Joshua Ferris (And Then We Came To The End) and Paula McLain (The Paris Wife) — and sold to Ecco/HarperCollins editorial director Lee Boudreaux last year. Says the Yale Drama School-educated author, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., “Everyone told me not to get my hopes up. My expectations were very low… I feel like I won the lottery.”

In September, Miller went on a triumphant publicity trip to the U.K. where the book had just pubbed. The Times of London described it as “a remarkably fresh take on one of the most familiar narratives in western literature… quite an achievement.” A month later, Miller found herself in New York City, being feted at Periyali, a glam Greek restaurant, by Ecco, which will publish the novel in the U.S. in March. Amidst heaping platters of Greek salad and octopus and phyllo-wrapped sweets, the author shyly mingled with the roomful of journalists who typically frequent these event..

First out of the gate this week, Publisher’s Weekly made The Song of Achilles its Pick of the Week, writing in a glowing starred review that the book portended “remarkable things to come as Miller carves out a custom-made niche in historical fiction.” What more could a first-time author want? Wait! Towards the end of the meal at Periyali, Miller was spotted in intense conversation with Sara Nelson, the books editor at O magazine. You don’t suppose that Miller’s book could also end up being feted by Oprah, right?

MAMA MIA

With PEOPLE magazine selfishly skimping on its Kardashian koverage as of late (eight covers and counting), the publishing industry has generously picked up the slack. Now it’s Mama Kardashian who is frantically gushing family secrets, in Kris Jenner…and All Things Kardashian (Gallery/Simon & Schuster). Fortunately for the momager, the book, which pubbed last week, came out at the same time as news of the heartbreaking demise of Kim K.’s short-lived marriage. Kris’ stock as a TV guest immediately rose, and she was featured on both Today and Good Morning America, a rare occurrence for the two dueling programs. The book will debut at number 13 on the 11/20 NYT nonfiction list.

Mom’s celebrity predated her daughters’ reality-TV reign. As the former wife of Robert Kardashian, a member of O.J. Simpson’s legal Dream Team, and as the current wife of Olympian Bruce Jenner for more than 20 years, she has hob-nobbed with top-tier celebs for years. The gossipy book chronicles her close friendship with Nicole Simpson, right up to the time of her murder; the book also covers the infamous Simpson trial. Concludes Kris: O.J. did it. Mom also tells the startling truth — yes, the overexposed clan has more familial secrets — about life with Kim, Kourtney and Khloé, as well as her three other children and four stepchildren and grandkids.

But still, you say, isn’t there is a deficit of Kardashian news? Well next week, Morrow fearlessly rushes into the breach with Dollhouse, a novel by the three sisters. The book introduces the Romero family, whose daughters are (you can’t make this stuff up) named Kamille, Kassidy and Kyle, and whose mother naturally is named Kat. The publisher breathlessly reveals that “the sisters painfully discover that being a celebrity in L.A.’s gilded Dollhouse isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” Well, it’s amusing to imagine the three real sisters vying for the notepad to write their noms de plume.

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