April 28, 2005

Wonders Never Cease: $500K book deals AND Hahvahd?

Busy Mills woman Likhaari took a moment to point out this NY Sun article on a Harvard woman who just hit the big time in publishing. 17-years-old, no agent, unpublished, her H.S. diploma still blank in the printing cue. Wow. Pomp and Circumstance must seem like nothing after getting a call from The William Morris Agency.

This topic is really germane to the conversation we had at Chat last week about 'Chick Lit,' and how that genre itself has proved so capitalistically viable as to have spawned its own imprints, including Harlequin's Red Dress Ink, Pocket Books' Downtown Press, Random House's Harlem Moon, (a small romance imprint for women of color now trying hesitantly to expand into new avenues-- anytime you read the word 'Harlem' it's only gonna mean one thing in marketing, yo.); the imprint Strapless & the now defunct HarperCollinsUK imprint, Flamingo. A large part of the rousing success of the pastel, mass-marketed paperbacks publishers surmise, is purchase by readers who formerly didn't like to read, but are finding that it's not as bad as they thought, especially when often their novel is followed up by a blockbuster film. You can bet the film options are going to keep coming, strengthening once again the link between Lindsay Lohan and literature. Uh, yeah. Fashionistas and Gossip Girl to the rescue again.

While I wish Miss Viswanathan every success, I'm a little terrified for her. $500K and a two book deal for the germ of an idea on a college application... a plotline that's part of a trend that
may or may not be in its ascendancy by the time she's through... It's really risky for the publishers, and perhaps for Viswanthan's future publications (although, to be fair, she had determined that she was going to be an investment banker when she grew up.) Also, 'Chick Lit' as a sub-genre seems to be written mostly for and about the young, white, urban, upwardly mobile career woman -- and the YA equivalent about the children of same. Will an Indian woman find a way to fit, and retain her East Asian roots?

Stay tuned. This may be a story worth writing.



1 comment:

a. fortis said...

I wanted to just note that there is a growing market of South Asian chick lit: Goddess for Hire by Sonia Singh, as one example I read recently. I hate to lump Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni in there because she's definitely on the literary end of things, but literature by South Asian women seems to be on the rise. Part of me says, Go, girls! But another part of me wonders if this is just capitalizing on a market for exoticism on top of the chick lit trend....?