Monday, January 24, 2011

NY Times Best Selling Author?

I've said in the past that it doesn't bother me when celebrities get million dollar book deals, because as long as the book earns out the advance, and the publisher makes money, it's good for everyone. But a couple of books lately have made me question my thinking.

The first is from the Jersey Shore, umm, "star", uhh, Snooki. Now I have never watched even 30 seconds of the show, or seen any interviews of Snooki, so I'm kind of going by my basic impressions, but a NY Times Best Selling author??? Really?? That just seems to cheapen the list for me somehow. It feels like a sellout by the publisher.

Now, I'd be happy if the publishers make money on the book, because again, money that flows into publishing is good for all writers, but this one feels like the proverbial fingernails on the chalkboard.

The second was written by someone I met at Thrillerfest this year. The author is not a well known celebrity, but it was clear that their status is what allowed them to get a book deal.

So again, as long as the publisher makes money, everybody's happy, right? Not so fast. In this case because the book was less than perfect, in fact it pretty much sucked, I don't think that anybody is going to make money. Well, other than the author, which again, isn't such a bad thing for us authors, but here's the problem. Because the publisher is going to lose money on this book, there is one less slot open for us budding authors to get our book published. Because the publisher took on this book, they won't take on another book, even if they wanted to because they don't have the money. And that's a shame. It just makes it that much harder for one of us to get our work published.

What do you think about celebrity books? Or books that are published purely because the author is well known?


  1. I support publishers doing what it takes to make money and keep the industry afloat.

    I also don't want to necessarily assume that Snooki's getting a book deal necessarily means someone else wouldn't.

    It's possible, but I also know that publishing isn't a perfect zero sum game and unscheduled books happen a lot. It's easy to assume they bump someone else, but I'm not sure they do.

    Love to see some data or at least some authoritative anecdotal evidence on that.

  2. I agree wit Nevets on this. I don't think Snooki getting a book deal makes it so someone else can't. And you're right about the money - more money floating into that publisher is good for the business. I don't think a lot of the readers buying the Snooki book are taking away from readers reading other literature, either. It's definitely a built-in audience.

  3. As long as money is making it's way around the industry, I can't really complain. But unlike the two comments above, I DO tend to think (cynically, I know) that bogey books put out by celebrities can affect those of us who are trying to break into the game. I'm not saying that EVERY celeb book knocks one of us down, and I'm not claiming that I personally have been knocked or anything ridiculous, but I think that in an economy this tight, this tentative, every single book sale counts.

    Part of my position is based off of feedback-containing rejections wherein agents told me specifically that while my work was 'commercial and sellable', in the current economy they had to be VERY selective in taking on new clients due to the how few books from unknowns that publishing houses were willing to invest in. Now, obviously not every agent who rejected me said this and not every agent would even agree with it, but I did get several responses that included some variation of this statement. And in good faith, I take those agents to be telling the truth, so that would indicate that yes, sometimes when it turns out that millions aren't drooling to read about Beiber's diaper exploits in his memoir, the rest of us feel the pinch.

  4. I agree that Snooki's book probably doesn't preclude other books from the publishers point of view, because as you said, it's a different crowd, however, I neglected to mention another problem. Time.

    In reading agent blogs they are extraordinarily busy with their current clients, and rarely take on more than 2-3 new clients in a year, simply because they don't have the time.

    Since agents are effectively the way in to the publishers, if they don't have time to deal with a new client, because they've taken on some new celeb client, then again, we lose out.

    Look, I'm not saying this to depress anyone, or cause you to stop writing. Just remember to write the best book ever. In this tough market, that's what it's going to take.

  5. That's a valid point about time. I will say that for my part, I don't suspect most of the agents I will be querying will be among those who take on Snooki and anonymous political hacks.

  6. I don't know. It sort of irritates me when I see books that are written or ghostwritten by or for a celeb. To me, it does not seem fair that they should be able to sale books and make the NY Bestseller's list soley based off of who they are.

  7. Publishers are simply responding to the public (our) interest. Sad, but true. If Snookie wasn't getting ratings, she wouldn't get a book deal.

    interesting thoughts, though. good to think and talk about.

  8. celebrity books will always be a smart idea for any publisher, although it makes me die a little bit on the inside.


Join the conversation, add insight, or disagree with us! We welcome your thoughts.