“If you follow me on Instagram, you thought this book was going to be written in emojis, didn’t you?” Britney Spears asks at the end of her memoir, “The Woman in Me.”
She has said that completing the recently published book — an account of her journey from Louisiana to the top of the pop charts and on to a conservatorship that denied her control of her career and finances — required an enormous amount of therapy. And to get the story on the page, she had the help of “collaborators,” as she called them in the book’s acknowledgments.
“You know who you are,” she writes, without naming names.
According to two people close to the project, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, three writers — all successful authors in their own right — made significant contributions to Ms. Spears’s memoir.
Ada Calhoun, the author of four nonfiction books, including “Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me,” helped create the first draft, the two people said. Sam Lansky, an editor at Time magazine who wrote the memoir “The Gilded Razor” and the novel “Broken People,” was the next to join the project. The book was completed with the assistance of Luke Dempsey, a ghostwriter and editor who has published books under his own name and worked with Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley on “Elvis by the Presleys.”
It is common practice for celebrities to work closely with proven authors when they decide to tell their life stories, said David Kuhn, the co-chief executive of the literary agency Aevitas Creative Management.
“How many people do you think work on a presidential memoir, or one of Michelle Obama’s books?” said Mr. Kuhn, who has represented the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Liaquat Ahamed and the comedian Amy Schumer. “Because if you’re Michelle Obama, part of what I imagine you might want from your collaborator or your editors are different perspectives from different readers.
“You might want a 30-year-old’s opinion,” he added, “because you want millennials to relate to the book. You might have a male editor offer his perspective, because you want it to appeal as much as possible to a male audience, as well as the more obvious female audience.”
The creation of “The Woman in Me” was thus not unlike that of contemporary pop hits, which typically rely on the contributions of numerous collaborators.
The New York Post’s Page Six column first reported the news of the “bombshell deal” for Ms. Spears’s memoir in February 2022. It was acquired by Gallery Publishing Group, a Simon & Schuster imprint that has taken many entertainers and personalities to the best-seller lists — among them Chelsea Handler, Tiffany Haddish, Olivia Newton-John and Omarosa Manigault Newman.
A principal person involved in the acquisition, according to three people with knowledge of the deal, was Cait Hoyt, a literary agent at CAA, who is thanked in the book’s acknowledgments. Another key figure was the lawyer Mathew Rosengart, a partner at the firm Greenberg Traurig, who helped Ms. Spears extricate herself from the conservatorship in 2021. (Ms. Hoyt and Mr. Rosengart had no comment.)
After the deal was signed, Ms. Spears traveled to Maui, a trip she chronicled on Instagram. While there, she wrote extensively about her life in notebooks and met with Ms. Calhoun for a series of lengthy interviews, the two people close to the project said. The draft Ms. Calhoun helped put together was completed in the spring, shortly before Ms. Spears married the actor and personal trainer Sam Asghari in a ceremony at her home in Los Angeles. (Ms. Calhoun did not reply to requests for comment.)
Ms. Spears came to believe that the book’s voice did not sound enough like her own, according to a person close to the project. In came Mr. Lansky, a client of Ms. Hoyt’s whose first book was published by Gallery.
Mr. Lansky’s background seems to have made him a good fit for the project. A decade ago, he wrote for the music website Idolator, where he served as the “resident Taylor Swift apologist, diva enthusiast, and snark monster.” In his memoir, “The Gilded Razor,” he writes of being “caught somewhere between a child and adult — grown up enough to get things right from time to time but still young enough not to know that wouldn’t always be enough.”
Those words might also describe Ms. Spears, who started working in show business at age 10 and released the song “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” at 20. Before diving into the draft, Mr. Lansky did another round of interviews with her over Zoom and by phone, the two people said. (Mr. Lansky had no comment.)
In the fall, Mr. Dempsey came aboard, the people said. A constant collaborator throughout the process was Lauren Spiegel, an editor at Gallery who edited Anna Kendrick’s best-selling book, “Scrappy Little Nobody.” (Mr. Dempsey and Ms. Spiegel had no comment.)
Ms. Spears has given only one interview timed to the publication of “The Woman in Me,” with People magazine. She does not describe the nuts and bolts of being a first-time author, but is clear on why she decided to tell her story.
“It is finally time for me to raise my voice and speak out, and my fans deserve to hear it directly from me,” she said. “No more conspiracy, no more lies — just me owning my past, present and future.”
A correction was made on
Nov. 2, 2023
An earlier version of this article referred imprecisely to the writer Sam Lansky. He is a current editor at Time magazine, not a former editor. And only one of his books was published by Gallery, not both of them.
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Jacob Bernstein is a reporter for the Styles desk. In addition to writing profiles of fashion designers, artists and celebrities, he has focused much of his attention on L.G.B.T. issues, philanthropy and the world of furniture design. More about Jacob Bernstein
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