You know that funny Web site Stuff White People Like, the one with the jokes? The Canadian guy who runs it just sold a book to Random House for an advance that publishing insiders said had reached at least $350,000 when it was at auction last week. Unclear how high it ended up climbing, but frankly, $350,000 is already a staggering sum for a paperback inspired by a faddish blog that launched just over two months ago.
The book, sold by William Morris literary agent Erin Malone, will be edited by Random House editor Jill Schwartzman, but according to a source familiar with the situation, Kurt Andersen—who serves at Random as editor at large—has taken an active interest in it and will play a role in its development. UPDATE: Barbara Fillon, the publicist from Random House who is working on the book, called this morning to say that the dollar amount we have is wrong. She would not specify whether the real number is higher or lower.
According to the announcement that just went out from Random House, the book will use some material that has already appeared on the Web site (which has accumulated almost 15 million hits since its launch in late January), though two-thirds of it will be new. The press release promises a book that "will present a provocative, wickedly funny ‘study’ of upper-middle-class white people, satirically exposing a culture that prides itself on individuality and diversity, yet manages to express these beliefs in exactly the same way." Topics to be covered: "Whole Foods, Wes Anderson, Starbucks, graduate school, kitchen gadgets, Barack Obama, Apple products, the movie Juno, expensive sandwiches, and vintage t-shirts, to name a few."
"White People" is only the latest Web phenomenon to result in a major book deal. Earlier this month, the person behind http://barackobamaisyournewbicycle.com signed a contract with Gotham Books, and before that, so did the person who runs LOLcat emporium I Can Haz Cheeseburger. As it happens, Gotham was also the publisher on The Truth About Chuck Norris, "an illustrated book of 400 farcical ‘facts’ about movie star Chuck Norris… based on the popular internet meme."
According to the deal wire at industry site Publisher’s Marketplace, Patrick Mulligan, an associate editor at Gotham, is overseeing all three of those books, and one wonders how eagerly, if at all, he pursued the "White People" contract. We have been leaving messages for Mr. Mulligan since we heard about the auction last week, but have so far not gotten a call back.
Follow Leon Neyfakh via RSS.