Every once in a while a celebrity news story morphs into a veritable hydra-headed monster of a tabloid saga. And, given my love for that particular brand of infotainment, I am usually sucked in right along with the other readers of Us Weekly, People, and, yes, Star. So, you know I’ve been bouncing from one blog to another for the last couple of weeks following the supernova of a meltdown that is the Tiger Woods saga. Same thing happened with the Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford and John Edwards gossip fests. The rubber necking fascination for grown men behaving badly never seems to wane, despite the fact that at this point it seems more the norm than the exception. Fame/Money + Unbridled Ego = Tabloid story in the making.
So, whenever one of these events turns into the usual circus, my colleagues and I immediately think “Is there a book in this?” And, of course, there usually is. In fact, there are usually 10 books. So, how do you decide whether to jump on the ambulance chasing wagon, track down a writer and loose them on the story or take a chance on the “insider” account by one of the members of the disgraced figure’s entourage, his ex-whatever, or his second grade teacher or simply keep watching from afar. The answer is tricky and it depends on what kind of agent/agency you are.
Generally speaking, we take on books that we think we’re going to be able to sell because we don’t get paid for our efforts unless we do. Given that simple premise, it doesn’t make sense to run through hoops in order to try to make a book about one of these scandals happen unless (a) that book is going to offer revelations that are truly not to be found in the 24/7 coverage by blogs, magazines, newspapers, and tv shows (b) there is serious analysis of the situation and its more universal implications by a writer who has strong credentials and who is not just going to do a clip job restating the obvious and (c) one of the main players is willing to sell out his mother for a book deal and really does know where the bodies are buried. Ultimately, though, it’s one thing to be titillated by these kinds of stories while eating your Cheerios and quite another to spend the time, energy and dedication it takes to get a book published on a narrative that will soon be supplanted by the next celebrity/politician/sports star behaving badly. And, sometimes, despite the potential monetary windfall, the subject is just too distasteful to pursue–I don’t think anyone here would have repped OJ Simpson’s book (except perhaps Jim), even though we all would strenuously defend an agent’s choice to do so.
If you were agents would you try to sell a Tiger Woods book right now?