Literary Agent Roundtable: 'Even the Bad Movies Sell Editions'
New York's top book agents on Schwarzenegger's flop, the Lena Dunham-Gawker spat and why Hollywood loves "The Fault in Our Stars."
THR: Do rock stars write better memoirs than actors?
HARRIS: Great collaborations make for great rock memoirs. Look at Keith Richards' Life and how much that book reads like his voice and the amazing recall for detail out of a guy who spent his whole life having a good time.
WITHERSPOON: It's a much safer bet if you can work with the celebrity or the subject who can truly write their own memoir.
HARRIS: But those are extraordinarily few and far between.
WITHERSPOON: They are, but they're the ones to keep your eye out for.
GOTTLIEB: Right now, it's very hard to get big sales numbers for a celebrity memoir because Arnold Schwarzenegger's book is not doing well.
THR: Kim, Lena Dunham recently sent a legal letter to Gawker after it posted her book proposal. Has that been resolved?
WITHERSPOON: Well, Gawker has it out for Lena, but I was definitely surprised by that decision.
THR: Has the dispute been resolved?
WITHERSPOON: Gawker took it down; that was the resolution.
THR: Do you think the upcoming Amanda Knox book will sell?
GOTTLIEB: I hope so, for HarperCollins' sake.
REAMER: It's a great story, right?
HARRIS: Will the Amanda Knox book sell? Absolutely.
THR: Would you represent someone like Casey Anthony?
WITHERSPOON: There are lines I'm not interested in crossing.
GOTTLIEB: It's not something that we would want to take on.
FLETCHER: So much really comes down to what are you personally interested in. The [book process] is like a three-year commitment at minimum, and you really need to make sure your interest is high enough to sustain it.
WITHERSPOON: You should be enjoying this. You only have 24 hours in a day.
THR: What do you consider the best media outlets for promoting and selling books?
WITHERSPOON: NPR is still excellent. Kate Atkinson got Terry Gross for her forthcoming novel Life After Life, and I stopped worrying.
SIMONOFF: There's still just enough old media left to really move the needle: the cover of The New York Times book review for a certain kind of book.
WITHERSPOON: Although sometimes not.
HARRIS: There are four or five daily Times reviews every year that really move the needle.
FLETCHER: 60 Minutes.
REAMER: In YA, it's definitely about the blogosphere, but it's also about the innate ability of the author to connect with their audience. You can't re-create what John Green [The Fault in Our Stars] does. His video blogs have connected to this fan base on YouTube. That's something that he created himself that feels natural and doesn't feel that the publisher decided he should do.
SIMONOFF: We get a lot of questions from clients, "Do I have to tweet?" If you have to ask the question, the answer is, "Don't."
THR: Is it now necessary for an author to have a relationship with his or her fans online?
REAMER: When it's real, it's effective.
WITHERSPOON: The most exciting thing about the way the business has evolved since we started is the ability of writers to interact directly with fans.
FLETCHER: They know who their readers are. Publishers by and large do not know who actually buys their books.
THR: Do you feel that the social-media activity helped get a bigger movie deal for The Fault in Our Stars?
REAMER: It's so intertwined with who John is and how he connects with his audience. People loved that book, and so Hollywood loved that book.