Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chasing ambulances

by Miriam

Every once in a while a celebrity news story morphs into a veritable hydra-headed monster of a tabloid saga. And, given my love for that particular brand of infotainment, I am usually sucked in right along with the other readers of Us Weekly, People, and, yes, Star. So, you know I’ve been bouncing from one blog to another for the last couple of weeks following the supernova of a meltdown that is the Tiger Woods saga. Same thing happened with the Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford and John Edwards gossip fests. The rubber necking fascination for grown men behaving badly never seems to wane, despite the fact that at this point it seems more the norm than the exception. Fame/Money + Unbridled Ego = Tabloid story in the making.

So, whenever one of these events turns into the usual circus, my colleagues and I immediately think “Is there a book in this?” And, of course, there usually is. In fact, there are usually 10 books. So, how do you decide whether to jump on the ambulance chasing wagon, track down a writer and loose them on the story or take a chance on the “insider” account by one of the members of the disgraced figure’s entourage, his ex-whatever, or his second grade teacher or simply keep watching from afar. The answer is tricky and it depends on what kind of agent/agency you are.

Generally speaking, we take on books that we think we’re going to be able to sell because we don’t get paid for our efforts unless we do. Given that simple premise, it doesn’t make sense to run through hoops in order to try to make a book about one of these scandals happen unless (a) that book is going to offer revelations that are truly not to be found in the 24/7 coverage by blogs, magazines, newspapers, and tv shows (b) there is serious analysis of the situation and its more universal implications by a writer who has strong credentials and who is not just going to do a clip job restating the obvious and (c) one of the main players is willing to sell out his mother for a book deal and really does know where the bodies are buried. Ultimately, though, it’s one thing to be titillated by these kinds of stories while eating your Cheerios and quite another to spend the time, energy and dedication it takes to get a book published on a narrative that will soon be supplanted by the next celebrity/politician/sports star behaving badly. And, sometimes, despite the potential monetary windfall, the subject is just too distasteful to pursue--I don’t think anyone here would have repped OJ Simpson’s book (except perhaps Jim), even though we all would strenuously defend an agent’s choice to do so.

If you were agents would you try to sell a Tiger Woods book right now?


  1. No. I would instead be on the lookout for brilliant new fiction by unknown authors like me.

    And I would use the time I might otherwise spend selling a trashy Tiger Woods book requesting and reading fulls from just such people, and then offering them representation and helping launch their careers.

    And I'm being tongue-in-cheek, because I know you guys have to make money, but with an undertone of sadness, because there is no "serious analysis of the situation and its more universal implications" from any of these celebrity least none that can't be done as well if not better through fiction.

  2. If I were an agent I sure as hell try and sell a photo heavy point, touch and giggle pamphlet of Tiger and the Tiger-ettes!

    I mean, this is only gonna last so long.

    Wait 'till the dust settles and in a few years mosey alongside Elin and have her spill the beans. Now there's a book!

    Haste yee back ;-)

  3. I wouldn't, mostly because I'm not interested in the story. Like you agents say, writing is subjective, and if I've I'm not interested in your story, no matter how famous you are, I'm not going to rep it.

  4. No, but I wouldn't have repped O.J. either.

  5. I couldn't do it. Maybe if times were hard enough I'd rep one book like that to put food on the table. But I just know that afterwards I'd be taking showers every few minutes for the rest of my life, trying to wash off the stench that comes from profiting off one of the ugliest facets of the race.

    I'm critical of the many women coming forward to get their media-whoring on while they can. It'd be far worse to be the sad lump lapping up the scraps from their table.
    -Colin Hill

  6. I've been so busy (and so out of it), that I only heard about Tiger Woods today, from a colleague. I understand why people are curious about things like this and I'll bet a good book would sell like mad if the writer started cracking away on it immediately -- and put in lots of photos. I wouldn't go out and buy the book. But I'd probably read it.

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