UTA, Book Publisher Atria Turning Digital Stars Into Best-Selling Authors
The agency's new partnership is already seeing success with books from YouTubers Connor Franta and Shane Dawson.
This story first appeared in the May 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
A partnership between UTA and book publisher Atria is turning digital stars into best-selling authors. Keywords, as the venture is known, had its second big success in as many months with the April 21 launch of YouTuber Connor Franta's book A Work in Progress, which followed the March 10 publication of Shane Dawson's I Hate Myselfie. Both books jumped straight to The New York Times' paperback best-seller list as well as Publishers Weekly's overall list, where Franta is No. 2.
Keywords' focus on new-media stars means that Atria gets "access to new intellectual property rather than just waiting for somebody to ring me up and offer me things," says publisher Judith Curr. Meanwhile, UTA scores a direct line to a publisher to get these online talents in print. (Keywords doesn't just publish UTA clients; Dawson is one, Franta isn't.)
Even with the success of the first few titles, the plan remains to publish just six to 10 a year. "We think it's the right amount for the market," says Curr. UTA digital media head Brent Weinstein hopes to diversify Keywords' offerings, first with younger-skewing books (Action Movie Kid, out May 5) and more fiction. He says Atria's expertise in production, distribution and marketing have been crucial so far. Curr adds that one of the goals was to publish "real books" that look "physically smart." Booksellers initially were hesitant to order many copies but changed their tune when Franta and Dawson drew standing-room-only crowds to signing events. "It's a communal experience," says Curr. "All these kids are in bookstores, and they have a book. It's become like a book club."