“I'm guessing he'd demand a 40/40 royalty split,” said Simon & Schuster senior editor Sarah Knight. “And I'm not sure I could say no to that, even though it makes no sense.”
“He's a business, man. And of course his own book was beautiful, and brilliant, and a big success,” said David Patterson, a literary agent with Foundry Literary + Media, who would welcome the mogul as a colleague. “But it would be great if Jay-Z started a publishing company instead.”
That’s an idea. Why settle for a literary agency when he can start his own publishing house? Rocawords. After all, moguls don’t negotiate over fees with building owners when they can afford the building. Rocawords would do things differently — issue rejections via choreographed video, print all books using only the Beyonce font, stop quibbling with book retailers over shelf placement and force novelists onto the sidewalks to sell their masterpieces to passersby.
“Jay-Z has the power to make publishing relevant again. He is that rare soul who perfectly blends artistry and business,” said Amber Dermont, author of the newly released story collection, Damage Control, and a confessed Jay-Z expert. “I believe in one Roc Nation under Hova with liberty and six-figure (make that seven) book deals for all.”
“If he started a publishing house,” added Wayne, “even Jay-Z would find a way to lose money.”
It’s not such an unprecedented idea. Indeed, Jay-Z would not be hip-hop’s first to enter the field. Young Buck’s Cash Money Content is a book label with such titles as Honor Thy Thug and Little Bad Girl. 50 Cent also launched G-Unit Books in 2007.
But Patterson pointed out that Jay-Z has a Midas touch when it comes to new endeavors. Perhaps he would shake things up, spawn an entirely new literary genre — young humorists sampling Sylvia Plath, crime writers sampling Walt Whitman, a William T. Vollman-David Sedaris duet about family vacations.
Maybe, as he will with music and sports, he would open shop and quickly draw the bestselling authors from every genre. Or maybe he would rep young, hungry, up-and-coming wordsmiths, like he once was, helping to mold the next generation of bards.
Literature might even adopt the gritty undertones of hip-hop, more beefs arising over a writer’s use of foreshadowing, another’s one-dimensional characters, authors calling each other out in their novels’ acknowledgement sections. And are book readings really ready for the posse, novelists arriving with an ensemble of security and groupies and copyeditors? Most readings entail two-dozen folding chairs crammed between the children’s and art history sections, possibly large enough for a small posse. But what if two posses show up to the same reading? Is there posse etiquette as to who sits and who stands? There will only be enough complimentary wine for everyone to get a sip.