1. In January 1995, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus meet at NYU’s Gallatin School. Both are moonlighting as nannies for Manhattan families. Five years later, they collaborate on a book satirizing the dysfunctional lives of their privileged employers.
2. Agent Christy Fletcher lands the pair a modest $25,000 advance for The Nanny Diaries from St. Martin’s Press. They fire Fletcher a few months later.
3. In May 2001, banking on the success of chick-lit hits like Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, Miramax buys the movie rights for $500,000.
4. The Nanny Diaries is published to rave reviews—“perfectly pitched social satire” (Times); “a hilarious novel that pulls no punches” (Publishers Weekly)—in March 2002. It remains on best-seller lists for more than 30 weeks and goes on to sell nearly 2 million copies. Kraus and McLaughlin achieve fame—and trigger a wave of assistant lit.
5. In September 2002, the writers fire their second agent, Molly Friedrich, and sign on with Suzanne Gluck of the William Morris Agency. They then land a lavish deal with Random House president Ann Godoff for an original work of fiction. The reported price tag: $3 million.
6. In February 2004, Kraus and McLaughlin deliver a draft ofCitizen Girl to Random House. The company shocks the literary community by rejecting the reportedly shoddy manuscript. Godoff is fired a few months later, according to reports, in part because of her authorizing the deal. Kraus and McLaughlin are subsequently dropped by the publisher, and their advance is rescinded.
7. In February 2004, the authors sign a deal with Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books for a reportedly modest $200,000. This month, Citizen Girl, which tells the story of a downtrodden young office worker in the do-gooder nonprofit sector, finally gets published. Atria calls it “sharply observed and devastatingly funny.” Advance reviews are much less kind.