Here’s the thing: it’d be pretty great to get a book deal. I think it’s something that a lot of people who write online — either commenting on pop culture in publications like Flavorwire or writing about themselves on their personal blogs — are not-so-secretly striving toward. I know a handful of people who successfully parlayed their clever blog idea into a quick book. Sure, it’ll sit on a table in the front of an Urban Outfitters (every time I walk into that store, I feel like I’m looking at the Tumblr dashboard), but it’s still pretty nice to monetize one’s Google Image Search / funny caption skills. And it’s really no surprise that Stephanie Smith, who two months ago gained Internet infamy for a blog on which she chronicles her quest for an engagement ring through making her boyfriend 300 sandwiches, has signed a deal with Random House imprint Zinc Ink.
The news comes from the New York Post, where Smith is employed as a Page Six reporter. It’s also the media outlet that brought great attention to 300 Sandwiches; Smith posted a column “outing herself” as the woman behind the blog on in the New York Post. A day later, after plenty of people took to Twitter and other outlets (even here!) to criticize the project, Smith posted another column responding to her critics. “This project is not about me promoting myself as some gourmet chef, nor a desperate plot to win Eric’s love — or a movie deal or Internet fame,” she argued. “It’s an idea that made us laugh and made for a good, lighthearted blog with some drool-inducing sandwich photos.”
I mean, sure. I don’t buy it at all, but say what you have to, I suppose. That was almost two months ago, and considering that she was already halfway to completing her 300-sandwich marathon and already had a good chunk of content to repurpose into a book proposal, not to mention the notice she got across the Internet and in a spot on The Today Show, there was ample time for literary agents and editors who were interested in capitalizing on the widespread online scorn to approach her about turning the blog into a book.
The point is: this isn’t a big surprise, and one that will likely result in a lot of people getting ANGRY that this HORRIBLE WOMAN has found a way to market her ANTI-FEMINIST blog. I mean, the Internet is a place for knee-jerk, all-caps, 140-character responses like that, but what I’m suggesting is that it’s not shocking at all. After all, it’s those sorts of reactions that can fuel the publicity of a project like this, proving that Maura Johnston’s trollgaze theory applies to pop culture elements beyond the music industry.
Just take a look at the announcement today in the Post, which includes a statement from Zinc Ink heads David Zinczenko and Stephen Perrine:
“Steve and I are both longtime friends of Stephanie from her days covering the magazine business for Women’s Wear Daily,” said Zinczenko, a longtime editor-in-chief of Men’s Health and now consulting for Men’s Fitness through his Galvanized Brands consulting firm. “So when she told us about her romantic, passionate, and very funny quest to make her boyfriend 300 sandwiches, our first reaction was, “That’s a book.”
Of course it’s a book! And it’s a cheap one to make; it’s almost already written, and the beautiful pictures of sandwiches already exist. As a cookbook, it’s a pretty simple one that might actually appeal to people who don’t already know how to make very easy and cheap sandwiches.
But the real question is: will it sell? I’m going to say it won’t, based entirely on the fact that the vast majority of the things written about Stephanie Smith and her blog were incredibly negative. Sure, controversy makes for fame, but there’s a vast difference between people who hate-read a blog to make fun of it and people who actually pay money to buy a book. I live in a New York media bubble where the news stories that last all of an afternoon are enough to inspire the notion that everyone in the world cares about these dumb controversies as much as we do. But who exactly is the target audience for this book? Surely not the people whose hate-clicks are giving Stephanie Smith and 300 Sandwiches pageviews. After all, clicking on a blog link costs no money. Buying a cookbook from Urban Outfitters — one that the author still contends started as “a joke”? That’s very different.