That loud sound you may have heard last week was the collective gnashing of agents’ teeth all over New York when it was announced that Amy Schumer’s memoir sold to Simon and Schuster’s Gallery Books imprint for somewhere north of $8 million. The only agent who was unequivocally NOT doing any gnashing was Miss Schumer’s, David Kuhn, and to him all congratulations are due. (Her original agent, Yfat Reiss Gendell of Foundry Literary + Media, also deserves a shout-out for the groundwork she had lain getting the book sold the FIRST time around—in 2013, to HarperCollins, for the already-impressive sum of $1 million. Miss Schumer eventually did an about-face and bought back those rights.) The whole tangled saga of the sale was told in this article in the New York Times on October 1: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/01/books/for-amy-schumer-multimillion-dollar-book-deal-is-all-in-the-timing.html
I’m a huge fan of Schumer and her brash, satiric eye. I regularly watch her TV show and made sure to catch the wildly funny TRAINWRECK during its opening weekend. But while Schumer and her camp are popping the champagne corks, I have to wonder what her enormous advance means in the context of other things.
I don’t think any aspiring memoirist, no matter how fine a writer, expects to make that kind of money right out of the gate. Fame and following, and a huge public platform, count for much in the publishing business. But when a publisher spends such an astronomical fee on an advance, how will this affect the amount they’ll be able to offer other writers who are far less well known than Schumer? If future celebrity memoirs start going for that much or even more, will it cut further into the much smaller advances that other writers are offered?
The irony is that there’s no guarantee that Schumer’s book will ultimately earn back such an enormous advance. But as the Times article points out, even if it doesn’t, Gallery will still have plenty to gain from all the exposure and enhanced reputation they will derive. Let’s hope they will still be willing to allocate to lesser-known writers the advances they deserve.