Funny Ladies, Big Bucks: Amy Poehler, Judy Greer Nab Lucrative Book Deals

6:00 AM PST 02/14/2013 by Andy Lewis
Courtesy of Hachette Book Group

After Lena Dunham's $3.7 million advance, female comedians are the big get in publishing these days.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Book publishers are paying serious money for funny women.

In recent weeks, Amy Poehler signed with It Books to write a humorous diary, and Doubleday announced it had spent nearly $1 million to acquire the first book by actress Judy Greer (The Descendants), a collection of humorous essays. Terms of Poehler's deal were not announced, but given the success of pal Tina Fey's Bossypants (sales of more than 2 million since 2011) and the $3.7 million Lena Dunham received in October for her yet-to-be-published book, a seven-figure advance for Poehler seems likely.

Books by female comedians have been big performers for publishing houses since Chelsea Handler's surprise 2005 best-seller My Horizontal Life. Mindy Kaling, Ellen DeGeneres and former Saturday Night Live performer Rachel Dratch also have had hits with semi-autobiographical humor books, and Carol Leifer, Aisha Tyler and Twitter sensation Jenny Mollen recently have inked deals.

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It's a "golden age of women's comedy," says It Books executive editor Carrie Thornton. "It's not just about the one-liners. Women comedians dig deeper to tell stories that are both funny and personal and share the experience of life."

APA agent Steve Fisher, who negotiated Leifer's deal with Quirk, agrees. "There's a certain sameness to many of the offerings by male comedians now," he says. The demographics of the book marketplace are "stacked in [women's] favor," adds Fisher, noting that women buy far more books than men. 

Beth de Guzman, vp at Grand Central Publishing, which published Handler's recent Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang and set up the comedian with her own imprint in 2010, says she's seen a big uptick in proposals from female comedians. 

High on editors' wish lists as the next big book get? Kristen Wiig and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

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