Rachel Dolezal, the embattled former leader of the Spokane, Washington, chapter of the NAACP, may be the media darling of the week. But capitalizing on her current moment in the spotlight with a lucrative book contract could be a struggle, publishing insiders say.
“It’s a fascinating story but it’s already gotten too much coverage,” a longtime literary agent told TheWrap.
Jennifer Robinson, VP of publicity for Gallery Books, agreed. “There’s a lot out there,” she said. “I don’t think people want to hear more from her.”
In addition to overexposure, insiders said Dolezal would face other challenges in trying to win over publishers, starting with her likability.
“There’s nothing sympathetic about her,” the agent said. In order for an author to land a memoir contract with a major publisher, this insider said, “You need to be able to root for the person. What is there for me to even identify with?”
Added Robinson, “I don’t know who the audience would be.”
Then there’s the matter of Dolezal’s believability — especially since both her parents and her brother have publicly challenged the substance of many of her claims about her racial identity and her experiences growing up.
During her NBC News interview on Tuesday, Dolezal admitted darkening her skin and perming her naturally straight, blond hair. She’s also claimed to have been the victim of several hate crimes, claims that the Spokane Police Department has not been able to verify. On her application to join the city’s police oversight commission, Dolezal identified herself as multiracial, even though her Montana birth certificate lists both of her parents as Caucasian.
“There seem to be a lot of issues with credibility,” Emi Battaglia, director of marketing for Regan Arts, told TheWrap.
“If I sent [a Dolezal book proposal] to an editor, first of all they would frown upon it because it’s so down-market,” the agent said. “Plus, she’s a liar. What are the potential legal ramifications? If she’s talking about her family, it sounds like her parents or her brother could sue her.”
At this time, there is no indication that Dolezal has hired a literary agent or approached publishers with a proposal for a book.
But many said they would not be surprised if the former civil rights leader and adjunct professor of Africana Studies did so — particularly given the massive public attention she has received since last week.
Timing any book would be critical. “The news cycle moves so quickly,” Dori Weintraub, VP of publicity at St. Martin’s Press, said. “It would have to be a very serious book about identity, that incorporates gender identity as well as racial identity, that could withstand the very, very quickly shifting news cycle.”