Book publishers are eagerly anticipating Graydon Carter’s next act.
When the editor in chief of Vanity Fair revealed earlier this month that he was going to leave the magazine at the end of the year, it didn’t just prompt speculation as to who will succeed him at the helm of the Condé Nast title. It also gave rise to another type of literary parlor game: How soon will he have a book deal? Who will publish it? And, more importantly, how much will he get?
That Carter will produce a book is practically a given. Sure, nobody has seen a proposal, but then, somebody of Carter’s stature rarely has to make the first move.
“I’m sure Graydon has already been approached by every publisher in town,” said Paul Bogaards, director of communication for Knopf.
“After all these years of working together and running in overlapping literary circles, executives practically had a responsibility to call up Graydon and find out about his book plans,” an industry insider noted. Most speculate that the publishers with deep enough pockets to land the deal are Knopf, Random House or Penguin Press (all under the same ownership). Other possible contenders are Simon & Schuster, Harper and Little, Brown.
And chances are the advance will be, to put it in industry parlance, “a major deal,” which is to say, upwards of $500,000. “With his self-esteem, he would probably expect more than a million. Or, at least, it will be close enough to a million and they will be able to round up,” said the industry insider. Others put the figure at a more modest “solid six figures.” Carter’s name, it’s worth noting, is on the roster of the literary agent Andrew Wylie, known in the industry as “the jackal” (and whose office declined to comment).
“It’ll be big, and if he’s willing to dish in a big way, and discuss the president from the Spy days, then huge,” a different industry source said. “But remember too, he’s not going to sell big in the Red states — he’s completely ‘Liberal Elite Master Snark,’ and so on inside publishing, so that could prevent it from being high seven figures.”
Of course, part of that calculus depends on how many books he agrees to write. “The big unknown, to me is whether he wants to do a one-off, or whether he’d opt to do a multibook deal. I’m assuming just a one-off — here’s my memoir and all the celebs I hung with. But he could choose to make a real go of it, and do a number of books on topics outside his life,” said yet another industry veteran.
Carter’s only concrete plan for his post-Vanity Fair life is to spend six months in a rented house in Provence. And, as he told The New York Times, he plans to pitch a different Condé publication during his time in France: The New Yorker. After reading that, Bogaards said he sent Carter a note joking that he should write a book, not an article for David Remnick.
But it’s hard to imagine that the book will be about Carter’s quaint life in a charming village in the South of France à la “A Year in Provence.” After all, he has a Rolodex of celebrities and a career-long, high-profile feud with Donald Trump upon which to draw.
“I’m not leaving. I’m going to come back. But just come back in a different form,” Carter told NPR Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal in an interview earlier this week.
When Ryssdell asked Carter whether he would continue writing about Trump, he replied: “If somebody offers me a job, yeah.”
A tome about all things Trump would perhaps be the easiest route – and would serve as the perfect companion piece to Carter’s last book in 2004, “What We’ve Lost: How the Bush Administration Has Curtailed Our Freedoms, Mortgaged Our Economy, Ravaged Our Environment and Damaged Our Standing in the World.” Given his attitude toward the current president, Carter wouldn’t even have to change the title that much.