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It is rumored that US publisher, Random House, paid, at least, a million dollars each to secure the US rights to two novels—The Girls by Emma Cline and The Longings of Jende Jonga by Cameroon-born Imbolo Mbue.

This all happened in Frankfurt a few days ago. Publishers came to Frankfurt ahead of the book fair, which begins today, to shop for new writers and promising manuscripts.

Publishers Weekly reports that David Ebershoff of Random House snagged the US rights for Mbue’s novel after a bidding duel with with Susan Golomb, the agent who discovered Jonathan Franzen.

If you’ve never heard of Mbue, it’s probably because she’s never published anything. At least, not yet. Her first ever published story will be out soon in the Threepenny Review.

The Cameroonian writer, who moved to the US in 1998, has written an immigrant novel that clearly has publishers very excited.

“Mbue’s The Longings of Jende Jonga…opens in New York City in 2007 and focuses on the West African immigrant of its title, who lands a job as a chauffeur for a high level executive at Lehman Brothers. Jende’s family becomes close to his employer’s—Jende’s wife is quickly hired by the exec’s wife—only to have both families thrown into disarray when the 2008 financial collapse hits.”

The way I see it, if publishers are willing to pay this much for a debut novel, the story must be of-the-charts amazing.

Golomb—a front runner in the bid for the novel—not only compares Mbue to Adichie but also notes that her novel is built around “some of the most delightful and refreshing characters seen in recent fiction.”

I’m guessing it won’t take much for Mbue to be admitted into the new elite African writers club where she’ll be in good company with the likes of  Chimamanda Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun), NoViolet Bulawayo (We Need New Names), Teju Cole (Open City) and Dinaw Mengestu (How to Read the Air), Taiye Selasi (Ghana Must Go), Lauren Beukes (Broken Monsters), and others.

Congrats to Mbue! We can’t wait for her novel to be published.

{Read the full report at Publisher’s Weekly HERE.}

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

10 Responses to “Cameroonian Novelist Signs Million-Dollar Book Deal at Frankfurt Book Fair” Subscribe

  1. StNaija October 8, 2014 at 5:06 am #

    Amazing stuff. Thank you for reporting this.

  2. Obinna Udenwe October 8, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    This is awesome. Happy for her!

  3. Fred Khumalo November 4, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    This makes me, as an African writer, very proud indeed. Thanks for reporting this.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Mega-Advance as a Marketing Tool for Debut Books | people who write - November 4, 2014

    […] incredible year for some debut authors. At the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, Random House paid $1 million and $2 million, respectively, to acquire Imbolo Mbue’s debut The Longings of Jende […]

  2. Imbolo Mbue, Cameroon’s Million-Dollar Novelist, Publishes First Story | Brittle Paper - January 16, 2015

    […] months ago, I broke the news to you that a Cameroonian author sold her debut novel, titled The Longings of Jende Jonga, to Random House for a million […]

  3. Tristar Acquires Movie Rights to Imbolo Mbue’s Million-Dollar Manuscript | Brittle Paper - July 29, 2015

    […] the news of this Cameroonian writer who snagged a million dollar book deal with Random House. [Read HERE if you missed […]

  4. Major African Literary News! | The Most Expensive African Fiction Manuscript Gets a Publication Date | Brittle Paper - August 14, 2015

    […] literary community when she signed a million-dollar publishing deal with Random House. [Click HERE if you missed […]

  5. Summer 2016 Reading List - Ayiba Magazine - July 13, 2016

    […] Jonga, a Cameroonian chauffeur working at Lehman Brothers before the 2008 financial crisis. With rumors that Random House paid over one million dollars for this stunning first novel, expectations are […]

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