Bookish News: Random House Prevails in Battle for Diane Keaton's Memoir — Comments by Chris and Carole

Random House Prevails in Battle for Diane Keaton's Memoir
by Leon Neyfakh
The New York Observer, February 10, 2009
A long competition over Diane Keaton’s memoir, which compelled some of New York’s busiest editors and publishers to clear their schedules last week and fly to Los Angeles to meet the actress, drew to a close Friday night.

The winner—sorry HarperCollins, Ecco, and Little, Brown—was the flagship imprint of Random House. David Ebershoff, who has edited Norman Mailer, Gary Shteyngart, and Charles Bock, will work with Ms. Keaton, who intends to write the book herself instead of using a ghostwriter.

William Morris agent Bill Clegg, who sold Ms. Keaton's book and presided over the meetings, said last Monday that Ms. Keaton's book "could be an enduring book about mothers and daughters and the choices that women of her generation and her mother’s could make and did." .....

No word as of yet how much Random is paying for the book, though as Crain's reported at the beginning of the process late last month, the first round of bidding—which determined who got to take those meetings with Ms. Keaton in Hollywood—inspired at least one house to offer an advance worth $2 million.

Oh, my stars. What is the publishing world thinking? Associated Press maintains the book will be about her relationship with her mother, who died of Alzheimer's disease last year.

That's a touching tribute, but is it worth a $2 million advance? Publishers are reducing their titles and laying off workers, retail costs for books are skyrocketing (Stephen King: 28.95!) — and an actor is being paid millions for her memoir. The story is tragic, yes, but not original or even unique.

Finally, I'm out of the loop and she's an enduring beloved mother or daughter figure, but that wouldn't be what I'd be looking for between the covers of Keaton's memoir.

Will we really pay that kind of money for anything penned by anyone famous or notorious? Are we that smitten by celebrity, or that desirous of lurid details of a private life of a non-private person?

What do you think?

Carole's Comment:

Sadly, it seems we will pay large amounts of money to find out what celebrities think about any one of a number of topics. This goes back to my pet peeve about celebrity moms (e.g., Kathy Lee Gifford, Jamie Lee Curtis, Madonna) who get to get their children books published, ahead of any other worthy children's books. Why do they get to jump to the front of the line? Their claim to fame is NOT writing children's literature and yet, there they are with a hot selling book.

I think that is the whole thing--the publishers know it will be a hot seller, so they publish it. Never mind if it's rubbish. Never mind if the celebrity didn't actually write it. Never mind that they have better proposals on their desks. So, I'm sure that if they forked over $2 million for Keaton's book, it's because they know that they'll make at least $4 million back.

Addendum 2/11/09:
FYI: Liz Kelly of the Washington Post agrees. (Thanks, Liz!)


wookyluvr said...

Wondered if you guys saw this in the Post this morning: "D-lister Kathy Griffin will receive $2 million for a memoir, reports the New York Observer. (And to think, Condi Rice gets only $2.5 million for three books!) The comedian got the deal from Random House; no word on a release date."

Chris said...

There are so many memoirs being published lately, I wonder if that will dilute the value of them even further.

The Cult of Personality still surprises me.... It most likely isn't any better in other countries, but I still worry about ours and what this demonstrates about our values.