On hearing the news that Aziz Ansari will make more money on one book than most of us will see in a lifetime, most of us had the same reaction: a rush for a fresh razor blade while drawing a final warm bath. But wait! Don't strip the safety plastic off your Venus Pro-Glide yet. After talking to multiple book agents, it turns out there's actually a method this madness, and if you follow them in order, you too, could get three mil for your dumb book.
1. Write a Good Proposal
It's easy to dismiss celebrity book deals as just that—Celebrity Book Deals [exaggerated eye roll; jerk-off motion with hand]. But the book agents I talked to all agreed: the book proposal trumps celebrity, and it has to be really fucking excellent to get you seven figures.
Say what you will about the eternal Human Centipede of Hollywood, but celebs like Ansari didn't just show up with a one-sheet and a smile to earn that kind of money. You may find Lena Dunham to be an insufferable narcissist made all the more insufferable now that she's $3.7 million richer (many of us certainly do!), but her book proposal was more than fully fleshed out. The 64 page doc, which quickly appeared on, and was just as quickly scrubbed from, the internet, provided a more than thorough understanding of what Not That Kind Of Girl was going to be.
Similarly, Ansari's been working on the material for his new book long before the actual sale—combining stuff from his recent Buried Alive tour with first hand accounts from academics, plus "original research."
2. Be Famous
I know I said not to dismiss celebrity book deals as Celebrity Book Deals [exaggerated eye roll; jerk-off motion with hand]. Buuuut.
People are obsessed with celebrities—whether its schadenfreude, Twitter stanning, or an over-valuation of potential. Shocked that television stars in ensemble comedies are commanding higher paydays than literary greats like Franzen or Brashares? Hate to break it to you kiddo, but TV is the Great American Cultural Product, and booksellers know it: Every time you like one of Mindy Kaling's Instagram's of unnecessarily beautiful and ridiculously unwearable shoe purchases, you're adding another dollar to the purchase price for her second book.
3. Get a really, really good agent.
Like, say, 3 Arts Entertainment's Richard Abate. Not only did he negotiate Ansari's $3.5 million payout, he earned Tina Fey her $6 million paycheck for Bossypants, negotiated for Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns. and recently banked seven figures for B.J. Novak. All four were brand new to the publishing world.
Of course, if you can't get Abate, there are great agents all around town: Jennifer Rudolph Walsh at WME, Lisa Bankoff at ICM... ah, fuck it, just go with Abate.
Got a tip? Send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Image via Getty]