As Frank Lampard, George Galloway and Cara Delevingne land big-money book bargains, established novelists look on from the fringes or turn away altogether
Another day, another celebrity announces they are to pen a childrens book. Already the coming week, Jamie Lee Curtis has announced a selfie-themed tome, Chelsea Clinton a scene volume about inspirational women and the Black Eyed Peas a graphic novel featuring zombies.
They join a slew of celebs cashing in on a burgeoning market. In the past month, model-turned-actor Cara Delevingne, TV presenter Dermot OLeary and even politician and professional motormouth George Galloway have joined Frank Lampard, Danny Baker, Julian Clary and Fearne Cotton in vying to be the next JK Rowling.
Though publishers are notoriously cagey about money, industry sources say the advances get paid to celebrities are considerably higher than the amounts usually doled out to childrens novelists, whose contracts are won on talent rather than reputation. Which explains the bitternes many writers feel towards these incomers.
One prize-winning writer, who didnt want to be named, left her last publisher after a new media starring received a huge advance for a ghostwritten fiction that consequently bombed. The massive advances mean publishers set all their marketing into stimulating these volumes work in order to earn back the investment, she says. So when they fail , not only have they taken fund for advertising that could have helped the rest of us, but there is no fund left.
Celebrity-penned children volumes are nothing new. From Madonnas English Roses and Sarah Fergusons Budgie the Helicopter, stars more very well known Hello! than Harry Potter have landed bargains that seem tied to status rather than storytelling ability.
Some have done very well. Though there was a degree of sniffiness in the publishing world when comedian David Walliams signed a book bargain, few would now deny that HarperCollins made a smart investment. His stratospheric sales have constructed him one of the three highest-earning writers in the UK, clocking up print sales of 11 m.
But such success have just been led to more dominance, says kids writer Fiona Dunbar. Some years ago I blogged on this topic, saying, Its fine, everybody chill out, its good for the industry generally, the Divine Freaks author recollects. But now its different, because the scale has increased so much.
Lucy Coats, who has written both picture and tale volumes for children, concurs: The number and frequency of recent deals is stimulating many of us hold our participation in the business. Its depressing to say the least.
Authors understand the attraction of starring names: celebrities have built-in reach through TV and social media platforms. If even a fraction of their adherents buy their volume, they have a hit on their hands.
And some writers are doing good business as ghostwriters, which can promote their own work, too. Though Walliams writes his own fictions, others, such as Olympic cycling champion Chris Hoy, openly use ghosts. Hoys Flying Fergus series has ridden to the top of the charts powered by Joanna Nadin, a former Labour party speechwriter and the author of a series of her own.
Employing an established kids writer as ghostwriter can have a double consequence: the writer benefits from exposure to a bigger audience, while the star benefits from the writers credibility. No wonder Delevingnes people were emphasising the involvement of Rowan Coleman bestselling author of We Are All Made of Stars with the models forthcoming YA novel Mirror, Mirror?
But the balance of such bargains remains tipped steeply towards the celebrity. Some are undoubtedly well crafted but others are little more than another addition to the personal brand, to go alongside the perfume, fitness DVD and fashion label.
Surely youngsters volumes which help form our outlook on life, which we carry into adulthood and old age deserve better?
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