The Truth About Celebrity Books, Or Why Publishers Are Evil Geniuses

November 6th, 2006 · 1 Comment
by Kassia Krozser

Though it won’t come as a surprise to anyone, our least favored reading material is a celebrity biography/autobiography/ghostwritten claptrap. Very few of these people are fascinating enough to sustain a feature-length article, much less an entire book. Why publishers continue to throw good money after bad books confuses us.

Oh right. Money. Power. Fame. Fortune. A lot of quick sales with very little effort.

By most accounts, celebrity books lose money. But just enough of them make just enough of a profit that publishers continue to throw unseemly advances in the path of the latest famous person. What publishers don’t seem to fully grasp is that in this day and age, everyone is famous to someone. As every writer who has ever attended a cocktail party can attest, there isn’t a soul alive on this planet who doesn’t believe their life story is book-worthy.

The problem is that celebrities actually get their boring childhoods, juvenile antics, and, uh, pain and suffering into print. Most people do not take this additional step — they stop at talking about it (for those who find themselves tempted, let us point you to Sylvia Smith’s Misadventures, either the world’s greatest literary hoax or the world’s saddest. Your call.) The constant barrage of dullness wears on the consumer soul.

Also, it’s so hard these days to decide which celebrity book to read, and they all seem to come out in hardcover. Do you really want to invest that much money in someone you’ll forget tomorrow? Plus, there are so many…a problem currently plaguing the UK:

“The problem is over-publishing. Across the board, books are suffering,” said David Wilson, editorial director of Headline, which published Cole’s book. “They are not getting the shelf space in the shops. There are just too many celebrity books out there – and a lot of the major sports memoirs are basically celebrity books too. A few rise to the top, but you can never predict which they will be.”

Ah, yes, the problem of dealing with a fickle public — since we get our daily fixes of celebrity gossip from a wide range of sources (and since said gossip is generally more salacious than anything these people bother to put into their books), there is little incentive to read these things. If only the blasted famous folk would stop coming out in People. Save it for the book, dude. Save it for the book.

So, if celebrity books are almost universally bad and don’t really sell all that well, what is the appeal? Do you want to be the editor who said “No” to Corey Feldman? Are you willing to take the accompanying ridicule? Of course not. It is far better to pay a fortune than suffer embarrassment. Or so we’ve been lead to understand.

Plus, it’s all just a game. Do not think for one moment that these books are exercises in anything but publishing genius:

“Publishers may make some dodgy judgements but they can do the maths and know how to operate in a tough market.”

See. It’s all part of the master plan.

File Under: Square Pegs

1 response so far ↓

  • Elizabeth // Mar 17, 2010 at 9:52 am

    I am fascinated by celebrities and their lives. It just shows that they are normal like the rest of us and that they also have issues. They are not invinceable like one might think. You need to continue to carry these books. Thank you.