Publishers High on Marijuana Books

Former actresses are doing it. New York Times journalists are doing it. Screenwriters are doing it. Writing about marijuana, that is. With the changing legal times, and the jaw-dropping reality that pot has become a $35 billion legal industry in the U.S., the subject is drawing a motley crew of authors exploring everything from agriculture and big business to socioeconomic norms and the joys of toking. Agents say the surge in books about pot speaks to the fact that the subject matter is that rarest of things: serious and fun.

Ben Greenberg, a senior editor at Grand Central who recently acquired New York Times reporter Emily Brady’s The Emerald Triangle, said there is no doubt that the burgeoning legality of marijuana has allowed, even encouraged, writers to produce books on the subject. While noting that most of the books about marijuana touch on some element of culture, politics, or money, Greenberg said what attracted him to Brady’s book—which profiles a declining California logging town that rebuilt its economy by growing and selling pot—is that it looks at the marijuana industry through an unexpected prism. The book, Greenberg said, “is a story of the decline of smalltown America as much as it is about the marijuana trade.”

Personal stories of pot enthusiasts who decided to try their hand at farming and dealing are also cropping up. Mollie Glick at Foundry Literary + Media recently sold Heather Donahue’s memoir, Growgirl, to Gotham. Donahue, who decided to try her hand at marijuana farming after her Hollywood acting career flatlined (she starred in the breakout indie hit The Blair Witch Project), has a story that Glick thought touches on the cultural zeitgeist as much as the news cycle. Citing the popularity of shows like Weeds—in which Mary Louise Parker plays an upper-class, widowed, suburban mom who starts selling pot—Glick also pumped Donahue’s proposal with mentions of political upheaval, noting that with more states planning to legalize medical marijuana, the farming issues and laws are becoming more crucial.

Alex Glass, an agent at Trident Media Group who sold Ryan Nerz’s Marijuanamerica to Abrams Image last September, was also pitching a story with both personal and political implications. Glass said Nerz, whose 2005 title, Eat This Book, explored the world of competitive eating, “is a lifelong marijuana enthusiast” and used that background to look at the pot industry “in the context of his own use and experience.” For Glass, the most interesting things Nerz stirs up in the book are questions about addiction and marijuana’s place on the drug food chain, so to speak. Glass said Nerz is asking a number of compelling questions: “Are we a nation of addicts? What does it mean to be addicted?… Is regular marijuana use fun and recreational, healthier and safer than alcohol? Or is it something darker?” Glass thinks the book has appeal because it “pops the lid off of a very quirky subculture” in a serious way. And, as Glass noted, there is the added benefit that pot books sell. Glass also represents the pot enthusiast magazine High Times and sold its first branded book to Chronicle, The Official High Times Potsmoker’s Handbook; that book has sold more than 60,000 copies since its 2008 release.

That some people think general use of pot may be legalized in California in 2012 didn’t escape certain agents. Michael Strong at Regal Literary, who sold Doug Grad’s Trimming Bud to Avery, played up this possibility in his pitch for the book. (Grad looks at the various facets of the industry—law, botany, business—by focusing on the journey a single marijuana seed makes from field to market.) Strong also noted that the pot industry is now the biggest cash crop in the country, yet the revenue on it is still going untaxed; “it makes for a meaningful tax and therefore political narrative.”

Other recently acquired nonfiction pot books

Book: Heart of Dankness
Author: screenwriter Mark Haskell Smith
Publisher: Broadway
Agent: Mary Evans, Mary Evans Literary

Book: Reefer Gladness
Author: Michael Konik
Publisher: Huntington Press
Agent: Uwe Stender, TriadaUS

Book: War in the Woods: Combating the Marijuana Cartels on America’s Public Lands
Author: John Nores Jr. and James A. Swan
Publisher: Globe Pequot
Agent: Barbara Moulton, Moulton Agency

Book: Pot of Gold: A Marijuana Virgin’s Adventures in the Land of Magical Weed
Author: Greg Campbell
Publisher: Union Square Press
Agent: Ayesha Pande, Collins Literary

Book: Stash
Author: Greg Campbell
Publisher: Union Square Press
Agent: Ayesha Pande, Collins Literary

– Article originally published at Publishers Weekly

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