Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: CBS Films just closed a movie option deal for the young adult novel Level 2, right around the same time its sister company Simon & Schuster Children’s Books closed a publishing deal. Value of both is around $500,000, and there is a second book in the publishing component for the author, Lenore Appelhans. Some scouts and execs in the film buying community are pissed. Why? They said the lit agent, Foundry Literary + Media’s Stephen Barbara, asked publishers to sign a non-disclosure agreement before getting the manuscript late last week. Editors who do that usually don’t share the info with the movie crowd. Word in the lit community is that Hammer got the goods over the weekend, made a take-it-or-leave-it offer that Foundry and CAA took.  All before other buyers got a peek. “Next time Foundry tells us there’s an NDA, we’ll take it as a sign that the NDA is not valid and there are no repercussions for an editor flipping the book,” said one.

Lit agent Barbara denied that there was any NDA or that any protocol was breached: “I did not require editors to sign an NDA.” Insiders from the buyers’ side also denied there was anything unscrupulous, denying that S&S even signed an NDA. They said the CBS Films buy was based on a reader report from its sister company–which they share all the time–and then being aggressive. They believe they weren’t the only movie buyers who got the material.  For his part, Barbara acknowledged that some studios might not have gotten to evaluate the material. In his mind, everything was proper. He said that he hand delivered manuscripts to some publishers and asked them to be discreet. That didn’t necessarily mean they couldn’t clue in the movie crowd. Barbara said the interesting part of the deal for him was getting both the book and movie offers in tandem. They are being papered separately as we speak. The deal for the Lenore Appelhans book was made by S&S senior editor Alexandra Cooper and CBS Films COO Wolfgang Hammer.

I’m told the book focuses on a young woman who awakens in the afterlife, which is called Level 2. She’s unable to recall details of her life or her demise, but she lives in The Hive, a place where occupants can tap into a Facebook-like computer system that allows them to recover past memories. She discovers two fascinating men from her life, but when one finds a way to crack Level 2 in an attempt to bring her back to the living, she wonders about his motives and how she got there in the first place.