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No Publisher Wants to Get Beaten to 'Pulp'

November 06, 1994|Judy Brennan

The book world has rarely seen anything like it.

One of the hottest properties at last month's Frankfurt (Germany) Book Fair was not the latest novel from Stephen King or Norman Mailer, or the newest academic tome by Harold Bloom--but the screenplay of Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction." And this, before the film has even hit European screens.

Agents who visited the annual fair say that interest in the screenplay--not a novelization--eclipsed bidding on most other works presented there.

"In my 17 years at the agency, I have never seen the interest level so strong on any one work," says Robert Gottlieb, head of William Morris' literary division and one of Tarantino's representatives. "We go to Frankfurt with a hot list of maybe a dozen books and every 15 minutes to half an hour we meet with a publisher from a different country about buying them. Well this year, it was amazing. The first question every one of them asked was if 'Pulp Fiction,' the screenplay, was available for publication and translation."

While Tarantino's agents won't disclose what amount the screenplay was ultimately sold for, they claim that he's receiving a novel rate--which is generally much higher than that for a screenplay--and that he retains approval rights on all translations. At this point there are no plans for a novelization.

The buyer countries for the fair included Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Holland, Canada, England and Australia. Marcy Posner, William Morris' director of foreign rights, expects France and Germany to publish within a month.

"To give you an idea of the interest," Posner says, "I barely sell anything in Greece-- they've even asked for it . Quentin's strong international reputation as a screenwriter and filmmaker is what caused all of the interest."

In a few weeks, Hyperion Publishing expects to have the U.S. version available in major book chains, including Barnes & Noble and Waldenbooks.

"We'll start out with about 25,000 copies," says Miramax's senior vice president of communications Donna Daniels, "but if this takes off like 'The Piano' as we expect, that should double."

Screenplay and novel versions of last year's "The Piano," Daniels says, sold more than 100,000--and 70,000 of those were the screenplay.

"Quentin Tarantino has become such a cult figure," Daniels says, "the curiosity is to see how he writes screenplays, not books."*

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