Inside the Flying Spaghetti Monster Deal

By Neal Comment

fsm.jpgI was pleasantly surprised last week by the announcement of a book deal for Bobby Henderson, the founder of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the centerpiece of an alternative “intelligent design” theory which, he petitioned the Kansas Board of Education, deserved equal time in classrooms: “one third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.” It’s the sort of geek humor that the Internet embraces with instantaneous fervor; I first heard about it on BoingBoing in June, and things kinda took off from there, to the point where Villard bought up an FSM book which they’ll be rushing into stores next Feburary.

Curious about how Henderson’s deal had come about, I contacted his agent, Paula Balzer of Sarah Lazin Books. Henderson had started receiving offers—from other houses as well as Villard—and was looking for an agent when a mutual contact referred him to her “After that initial connection, everything moved very quickly,” she recalls. “I dropped everything to look at his materials, and really liked what I saw. I laughed so hard when I saw his chart featuring the ‘global average temperature vs. number of pirates’ that I nearly choked on my coffee.” She gave Henderson time to properly consider the offers he’d already gotten, and widened the submission pool carefully. “I was thrilled to find that publishers were not the slightest bit skittish about publishing religious satire,” she says. “In fact, publishers were really creative with their offers. There was talk of eye patches, various noodle-shaped paraphernalia, contests, stickers…”

“As far as clients go, Bobby has absolutely everything an agent looks for,” Balzer adds. “He’s hilarious, imaginative and crazy smart—but he’s also very hard working, has a terrific platform and he obviously follows through with his ideas in a big way. He’s also quite simply a very nice and appreciative person—lots of fun and easy to work with.” And though she normally takes a very active role in shaping her clients’ proposals before editors see them, “for once, this actually didn’t really matter. Because Bobby had received so much media attention, and had a significant amount of interest from publishers when I met him, it just didn’t make sense for me to torture him by making him write more.”