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When asked what my thoughts were on Lena Dunham scoring a fat 3.5 mil advance from Random House for an upcoming book, my first thought was, “Who the heck is Lena Dunham?” Okay, maybe I’m alone and out-of-touch with this sentiment, but I had no clue. A quick Google search pulled up dozens of images of Dunham, but I was still drawing a blank!
After a little digging, I now know that Ms. Dunham is the creator, writer, and star of HBO's dramedy Girls, which has gotten a lot of buzz. Yes, I have heard of the show and I’ve actually caught a few minutes here and there, so shame on me for not recognizing Dunham.
Anyway, the book which earned her a big payday is tentatively titled Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's Learned, and according to Julie Bosman of the New York Times:
“Will cover topics like work, friendship, travel, sex, love, and mortality. One chapter is described as ‘an account of some radically and hilariously inappropriate ways I have been treated at work/by professionals because of my age and gender.’ [...] Another chapter, titled "Body," reads, "Red lipstick with a sunburn: How to dress for a business meeting and other hard-earned fashion lessons from the size 10 who went to the Met Ball.”
Hmmm, I’m intrigued. It sounds witty yet practical…but 3.5 million?! C’mon! Yes, it’s not uncommon for celebs to score ridiculous amounts for attaching themselves to projects. Tina Fey got a $6 million advance for her book Bossypants which went on to sell more than a million copies in the US – a major victory for her publishers – but Fey is arguably a much bigger name than Dunham, and big names sell lots of books.
But will Dunham have Fey-size success? Random House is clearly hoping Dunham’s book will see the same kind of success as Bossypants and resonate with a younger, hipper audience. While $3.5 sounds to me like they may have a little too much faith in Dunham’s ability to appeal to book shoppers, literary agent Celeste Fine of Sterling Lord broke down the math for Leslie Gornstein of E! Online and apparently it’s not such a ridiculous idea.
Her opinion was that there is a strong argument for Dunham’s type of seven-figure advance.
However, Jeff Bercovici at Forbes told TheWeek.com:
“Random House is taking a big chance by making such a big bet on an author whose fan base is concentrated in the under-30 demographic, which is a group not known for its willingness to pay for content of any kind."
Also, Dunham has gotten a lot of praise from critics and fans for her authenticity and creativity, and this type of high-profit endeavor might be perceived by some as selling out for the girl who has gone against the mainstream for most of her career.
But I say good for you, Lena Dunham. Whether Random House will end up with a bestseller on their hands or kicking themselves remains to be seen, but Dunham should be proud that the industry has this much faith in her, and she didn’t have to be Barbie doll to get it. I hope the book is a big hit.
Will you read it?