#020 – Celebrity authors – what’s going on here?


As a hard working author, if you think that capturing a fair and equitable publishing deal is becoming more and more difficult ... you would be right. There is now a new money making vehicle for those in the book trade trundling along the block and it's called 'Celebrity Publishing'. This is not remotely related to the expected odd 'auto-biography' here and there supposedly written by a twenty two year old and full of little gems to spur us all on a path to success ... and end up just like them! No, this is the near daily announcements that this 'pop-star' or that 'actor, stroke comedian,' has suddenly become an award winning fiction novelist or massively successful writer of children's books.

So, if you have just spent a year writing your first thriller, a further several months going through an expensive and painful editing process and then even more months submitting to publishers, we feel for you. The game today unfortunately is called PROFIT and as more and more small publishing houses become 'consumed' by the giants of the business, then more and more of such publishing houses become 'consumed' by PROFIT!

The math is easy to figure out. First you find someone who is currently popular with the public and has a substantial following on social media. This person we will call 'the target'. It matters not whether they are young or old as long as they have done something to bring them sharply into focus in the eye of the public and have a million views a day across all the popular SM platforms. Then you make your approach, offering a substantial lump-sum to write say a children's book or a James Bond type thriller. Naturally, these 'target's' will not actually be writing this marvellous piece of work; that will be done by a ghost writer in the pay of the publisher. The amount on offer to the 'target' can vary from a hundred thousand dollars to a few million dollars. This is money the publisher can ill afford ... but it will guarantee success for the title ... and so a new star author is born.

So, what's the problem with a publisher 'buying' a name to slap on the front of a book and making it an immediate commercial success! Well, it used to be that publishers, when there were a lot to choose from, ran their profit and loss accounts on the basis of paying out for a small stable of profit making but hard working popular authors alongside promoting the often loss making work of new, young and unpublished writers. We think that because of this new 'get rich quick with a guarantee' marketing philosophy, some quite dramatic pressure has been placed on the budget for their existing signed-up authors and more or less wiped out completely any worthwhile budget for new writers.

Well, where do today's young writers go then to have their work read and critiqued by a mass audience? Someone who received this message some years ago was Amazon ... and they made a fortune from providing a service that was open to everyone with a level of talent that could be judged purely on the words within the page and not some multi-million pound promotional junket

The situation is so bad that springing up around this new 'profit only' model are the circling sharks of the 'vanity' or 'assisted publishing' business spreading their word with slick videos and hiding their true message, which is to take as much money from the new un-established writer as they possibly can. To put a manuscript together with a cheap computer generated cover graphic they will be happy to charge the young writer several thousands of pounds all on a promise of success. There are many in the market place now and new ones are turning up every day.

Where this will all end up ... we do not know! However, one thing for sure is that the business of getting a book published today is a lot more precarious and time consuming than it once was. In the constant quest to find new sources of money, contracts being issued by publishing houses ... even traditional publishing houses ... are also becoming much more slippery and our advice is if you're fortunate to be offered a publishing deal that costs you no money whatsoever, please make sure you have a lawyer cast his eye over the contract. It will be a few dollars well spent!