900-Page Debut Novel Snags $2 Million

By Dianna Dilworth Comment

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 12.23.28 AMWriter Garth Risk Hallberg, a contributor The New York Times Book Review and The Millions, snagged $2 million for his debut novel City on Fire, a 900-page tome. This is a hefty score for a first time novel.

The New York Times has the scoop:

The book drew an advance that is highly unusual for a debut novel. In a two-day bidding war, 10 publishers bid more than $1 million. Knopf emerged the victor, paying close to $2 million, said two people familiar with the negotiations. Before the acquisition, Diana Miller, an editor at Knopf, wrote Chris Parris-Lamb, Mr. Hallberg’s agent, an email praising the book, saying it was ‘off the charts in its ambition, its powers of observation, its ability to be at once intellectual and emotionally generous.’

Hallberg’s first book is a novella called A Field Guide to the North American Family. He also teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence. According to his faculty bio, his work has been “anthologized in Best New American Voices 2008Best of the Web 2008The Late American Novel; Open Letters Monthly: An Anthology; stories and essays published in The New York Times Magazine and Book ReviewPrairie Schooner, Glimmer TrainNew York MagazineCanteen,  SlateThe Pinch,The Los Angeles TimesThe Millions (contributing editor); and in Germany, Mexico, Australia, and Brazil…”

He has also been nominated for the BelieverBook Award and the Pushcart Prize nominee. In addition, Hallberg was a finalist in the National Book Critics Circle Balakian Prize in 2011 and 2012. He was also the 2008 New York Foundation for the Arts fellow in fiction.