The Case Against Celebrity Authors

It happened the other day when I was in Barnes & Noble. As I walked past the Young Adult section, sandwiched in the limbo between New Age and Erotica, I saw it. Chris Colfer, notably "Kurt" from Fox's "Glee" came out with another book. Perhaps it was the burrito bowl I ate at lunch, but something came back to bite me.

More and more celebrities are getting book deals. While celebrities getting book deals is nothing new (memoirs and autobiographies have been published for years) this new breed of celebrity is taking on fiction. Chris Colfer, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Madonna and Lauren Conrad are just a small roster of the offenders. It does not help that publishers like Judith Regan are fanning the flame of this holocaust. Regan, notorious for her celebrity acquisitions (she was the publisher of O.J. Simpson's 2006 If I Did It) is also a large publisher of the often mindless, blatantly sexist "chick lit" genre whose covers are often always slapped together on glossy paperback or hardcover with a picture of a Louboutin stiletto, a diamond ring and a cupcake (to name a few).

My case against celebrity authors is very simple: it shows the tasteless side of the publishing world. In a world where we face the inevitable fiscal cliff bright on by politicians who claim to be fixing the problem while still employing the crooked Larry Summers and Mary Schapiro, and where the Big Six publishers have become the Big Five, everything seems tarnished by the corruption of greed. The once structured, syndicalism of this country has been tainted by a monolithic oligarchy that bleeds into the world of literature, thus allowing the vapid prose of celebrities (so often ghostwritten) to become recognized while the next great American novelist remains nameless and faceless in the void.

This is why "Chicago Literati" exists. There are too many incredible authors yet to be known, and I am passionate about bringing these authors to the fore. There will be a paradigm shift in the literary world, and I want to help usher it in.

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  • I already love you. Agreed 100%. I might actually kill to get a book deal and it's something that is supposed to be esteemed. But now Britney Spears has a book - what, are they just handing them out now? Are my dreams even real anymore? Why does God make sick baby kitties and storms?

  • If an author so believes in his or her work, self-publish and market and sell it. It worked for Ben Franklin and countless others since.

    The problem with "literati" is that they often write what nobody wants to read. This is not to say that there are not good and great authors out there, but some never get their just dues, just as one restaurant will make it and another won't.

    It is easier now to get whatever you want published, either in paper or online.

    Sorry, don't mean to sound harsh, but I have found that most of today's "serious" novelists and writers are writing minutia and a little too self- absorbed. Does the world need another "coming of age" story from anybody -- female, male, transgender, dog? No! How about a mid-life crises story? No!

    Many writers go to "writers schools", such as the one at Iowa, and tern out predictable small-themed, formulaic stories and novels, forgetting that there has to be some drama and some interesting characters and a beginning, middle and end.

    Many of the best writers, write. And then they push to get their story out there, because in their hearts they know that it is worth telling. Ain't nuthin' guaranteed to anybody because they can string words together.

    I really hope that the good story teller can find larger audiences, because reading the same old garbage is like having to listen to old rock stars rehash their same boring songs, crowding out newer talent.

  • @Richard Davis: So you're saying you believe that celebrity authors are writing Earth-shatteringly good prose?

    The premise of this blog is to bring to mind the Chicago Literary community which encompasses authors like Joe Meno, Nami Mun, Cyn Vargas, Eugene Cross, Aleksander Hemon, Sam Weller, Patty McNair, Sahar Mustafah, Robbie Q. Telfer and Lauryn Lewis--just to name a few.

    Their stories, sir, are anything but formulaic. As you will see in the coming months, there is a community in this city that will flip the literary world upside down.

    While I agree wholeheartedly with you on self-publishing, there are incredible indie publishers (Akashic, Dzanc, Curbside Splendor and Elephant Rock) that give "The Big Five" a run for their money.

    I stand by what this blog stands for.

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    In reply to Abby Sheaffer:

    Richard has a point, but you do as well. He never said celebrities had quality work, he said they just got their work out there. To your credit, he said there were many quality works that don't get published. I also think there are a lot of pretentious "arteests" in all genres of art, but that doesn't blanket everyone. I think celebrity authors are crap, but crap has a way of selling to the masses. You just have to decide whether your definition of success as an author is writing quality work or selling more books than 50 Shades of Grey.

  • @Jenna K. I know. This is why indie publishers are so incredible. I believe there's a new great wave coming to the literary world. Writing SHOULD be taught and nurtured, it's a craft. I say, keep going for your dream, search for an editor and hold fast to your dream. Everyone has a story. If you're bored with literature, you're doing it wrong.

  • Franklin had a good explanation for "celebrity" authors:
    "He that is of Opinion Money will do everything
    May well be suspected of doing everything for money."

  • I very rarely buy those books but they must make money, yes? Like many things in life, the rich get richer, they get book deals, movie deals, etc. I guess it is because of our society's overall celebrity worship? The books are an extension of that nonsense.
    Interesting topic, thanks for posting!

  • I love you more than Jenna does, .
    I'm a novelist and a Chicagoan, and I groan and gnash my teeth every time I hear of another celebrity getting a book deal. (Madonna, anyone?) It happens because they have a built in platform--they're already famous and therefore, supposedly, have a built-in market. The big publishers are so afraid to take risks anymore.
    Thank you for your awesome post!!

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