What Could Book Advances Really Advance?

While pummeling the publishing industry, Rob Spillman spotlights the $3.7 million awarded to "Girls" creator Lena Dunham to write her first book. He brings up his "publishing hero" Barney Rosset, who published and fought for legendary writers such as Samuel Beckett, Henry Miller, and Pablo Neruda:

Imagine what Rosset would have done with $3.7 million dollars? Let’s say he paid 370 writers $10,000 advances each. Odds are that 20 years from now, a handful of those books would have been cultural touchstones, each outselling Dunham’s advice book. Right now, off the top of my head I could give you a list of 370 writers who would write books that would have longer lasting cultural impacts than Dunham’s 15 minutes of publishing glory. Or let’s be more generous and more selective: Let’s give 37 writers $100,000 advances. Most struggling writers I know would kill for that kind of advance and could easily stretch that amount out to finish their books. Let’s say only one of these writers turns out to be a Lorrie Moore, Dorothy Allison, Karen Russell or Denis Johnson. Over time, they would surely outsell Dunham. And if two of the 37 turn golden? Let’s be ambitious. What if there are five brilliant writers, or roughly one out of every seven writers we’ve chosen to invest in?

Alyssa believes Dunham deserves her millions and looks forward to reading her book:

Twenty-something women have a buffet of love, sex, and shopping advice at our disposal, but not often, or ever, with the humor and intelligence that Dunham can bring to any of those subjects. Dunham's work on television and in the movies may not appeal to everyone, aiming as it does for humiliating, raw experiences. But part of what's interesting about her book project, tentatively titled Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned, is that it appears to be about turning that grueling embarrassment and those profound fuckups into the kind of wisdom that can move a girl from flailing disaster into dignified success. I'm excited to read Dunham's writing on the subject. And I'm even more excited to see an ever-maturing Dunham move, someday, from Hannah Horvath and Girls, to tell stories about women.