Lena Dunham Book Deal: Why Not That Kind of Girl is Worth 3 and a Half Million Dollars

In the pilot episode of Girls, Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah Horvitz, tries to ask for a paid position at her publishing internship and ends up getting fired. As she is gathering her things to leave after an awkward hybrid of a hug/handshake with her middle-aged boss she says to him, “you mentioned that when I was finished with my book I could send it to you?” to which he replies “well, we wouldn’t have you here to read it for us, now would we?”

This example in itself should clear up any critiques that Dunham is too much like her character Hannah. The real Dunham is clearly not a struggling hungry writer; she signed a book deal with Random House this week for $3.5 million. That’s a lot of money. To give it some context, I could buy about 700,000 five-dollar foot longs from Subway for that much money, or pay my rent for 3,000 months. I will probably never see that much money at once in my lifetime, unless I win the PowerBall office pool like my cousin Randy did. Just kidding. I don’t work in an office.

Jason Pinter of the Huffington Post explains here why this $3.5 million advance is actually not that unreasonable. I would try to explain this in my own words but the 2 math equations I did above required a graphing calculator. What I do know is that Sarah Palin, Tina Fey and Chelsea Handler received similar amounts for their recent memoirs and Dunham has very loyal following that can be expected to shell out the $25 for the hard cover book. It’s hard to calculate the precise amount of fans she really has because people watch Girls in all types of mediums and as Vulture recently reported, only 14% of the estimated 4.1 viewers watch when it airs at 10:30 p.m. on its Sunday HBO time slot. Surprisingly, the same article mentions that Providence, Rhode Island, and New Bedford, Massachusetts, are the number one markets for the show (not New York City as I had assumed). 56% of the Girls' audience is male, and 22% of those men are over 50 years old. I know this because I just Googled “how many people watch girls?” and it yielded very, very creepy results.

I’m not sure how many older white dudes will be lining up to buy Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned or turning to the chapter where Dunham advises on how to wear "red lipstick with a sunburn: how to dress for a business meeting and other hard-earned fashion lessons from the size 10 who went to the Met Ball.” But it is a crazy world and anything is possible; after all, something called a five-dollar foot long exists and Randy won the lottery.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t know why everybody is tripping. Dunham has emerged as a major celebrity in the last year; with Tiny Furniture, her debut film and the first season of Girls under her belt she has proven that she can write. Her tweets are very amusing (I know this because I casually stalk her) and she wrote a very moving eulogy for her friend and inspiration Nora Ephron in the New Yorker earlier this year. 

Can’t we just be happy for a millennial’s success and not try to decide whether or not she is “worth” it? Maybe the quote Hannah says to her parents in the first episode of Girls, "I don't want to freak you out, but I think that I may be the voice of my generation — or, at least, a voice of generation," applies to Dunham as well. Middle-aged white men: here comes the voice you’ve obviously been waiting for!  Everyone else, buy the book anyway.

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Grace Gallagher

lover of short stories, yoga, people watching, summer and places where it always feels like summer.

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