About Your Privacy on this Site
Welcome! To bring you the best content on our sites and applications, Meredith partners with third party advertisers to serve digital ads, including personalized digital ads. Those advertisers use tracking technologies to collect information about your activity on our sites and applications and across the Internet and your other apps and devices.
You always have the choice to experience our sites without personalized advertising based on your web browsing activity by visiting the DAA’s Consumer Choice page, the NAI's website, and/or the EU online choices page, from each of your browsers or devices. To avoid personalized advertising based on your mobile app activity, you can install the DAA’s AppChoices app here. You can find much more information about your privacy choices in our privacy policy. Even if you choose not to have your activity tracked by third parties for advertising services, you will still see non-personalized ads on our sites and applications. By clicking continue below and using our sites or applications, you agree that we and our third party advertisers can:
  • transfer your data to the United States or other countries; and
  • process and share your data so that we and third parties may serve you with personalized ads, subject to your choices as described above and in our privacy policy.
Entertainment Weekly

Article

Debut novels: Why new authors are making millions

Posted on

After reading just two pages of Emma Cline’s luminous novel The Girls — about the young women flocking around a Manson-like cult figure — Random House editor Kate Medina shut her door. “I said, ‘I’m not doing anything else. I’m not talking to anybody. I’m just reading this book,'” she recalls. And when she finished, Medina offered Cline a three-book, reported $2 million deal. (The book hits stores in June.)

Cline isn’t the only debut author who reportedly scored a whopper of an advance. Others include Stephanie Danler, whose coming-of-age novel Sweetbitter goes on sale in May; Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney, whose just-published dysfunctional-family romp The Nest is at No. 2 on the New York Times list; and Imbolo Mbue, whose novel Behold the Dreamers — the story of an immigrant couple working for a Lehman Brothers exec in 2008 — is due in August.

The biggest reason publishers are willing to pony up so much money for first-timers is the most obvious one—and why Medina couldn’t leave her chair that day: gorgeous writing. “I’ve been reading manuscripts for 15 years, and nothing slapped me in the face like this,” says Claudia Herr, Danler’s editor at Knopf, of Sweetbitter. “The energy and preciseness of her prose…it just completely blew me away.” Danler’s huge two-book deal, Herr reveals, was about taking the novel off the table — so that other houses couldn’t bid on it — and, more important, “telling her that we were serious about her, that we didn’t just want her sexy foodie novel.”

Still, you can’t count on selling a book on the writer’s talent alone—so while factors like being photogenic or savvy with social media won’t make or break a deal, they can definitely sweeten it. “I actually knew very little about [Sweeney] when I bought The Nest,” says her editor at Ecco, Megan Lynch. “I didn’t know that, for example, she knew Amy Poehler well enough to approach her for a blurb. That was a happy bonus.” Lynch stresses that while she would never “decline a book I loved because I felt like the author wouldn’t be able to handle an NPR interview, it would certainly affect how determined I might be: Am I going to hang in for another round at auction, or drop out?” Herr, for her part, acknowledges that an author’s appearance can affect an advance — “We look at all of that stuff” — but insists, “We would have paid her the same money if she weighed 500 pounds and was really hard to look at. That’s my firm belief.”

Given the amount of books a publisher needs to sell in order to make a profit, it’s possible that none of these novels will actually make money. But Random House publisher Susan Kamil believes that the honor of having a sparkling literary talent on your list can offset any financial loss. “We want to have the best writers in the world at Random House,” Kamil says. “Sometimes those writers come at a premium—and we have paid it.”

Outbrain

Tags