So when Katie Price (formerly known as Jordan) produced her own children's book, I was all for it. The Times gave it a not-so-enthusiastic thumbs up but a thumbs-up nonetheless.
This is a world away from the vividly imagined worlds of Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson. This is not a literary book in any way. But it isn’t terrible. As a factual book, it is crisp, girly, practical and full of good advice about owning ponies ... Indeed, it is so nuts and bolts it doesn’t matter so much that she didn’t write it all.But wait a minute, the news is just out that the book has now been shortlisted for WH Smith Children's Book of the Year. (Kids vote from a list put up by publishers)
Naturally, there is a lot of upset from anyone who has spent years in garrets typing up manuscripts as opposed to reclining on magazine covers and centrefolds, displaying their assets.
This from Joanne Harris (Chocolat):
If this is an award for people who write books then it should be open only to people who write books, not to somebody who lends their name to a book, or who would have written a book if they had time but didn’t.You can read all the arguments in the Times Online article — but I was rather interested that the response of Katie Price's publishers was to point out that Katie Price is a very strong "brand" — indeed, Random House has made Katie Price a bestselling author with not one but three memoirs and her third novel due out in July.
When I give my talks about authors and the internet, I always point out that one of the reasons publishers tend to have such crap websites is they are trying to push not just one brand but as many brands as they have authors.
Look at any publisher's website. They are all effectively lists. Lists and lists and lists of books and authors. Kassia Krozser at the Booksquare blog had a little rant about the crapness of publisher sites the other day:
It is no secret that I hate publisher websites. The vast majority of them can be best described as “suffers from multiple personality disorder”. And I’m not just talking about the fact that publishers can’t figure out who the target audience of their site is. Visiting a publisher site means being subjected to bad design, bad search, and — yes — bad content. Not a single one of these is forgivable.Which is why websites and online promotion are a no-choice thing for authors.
Authors can't rely on a publisher to do their brand-building for them. Publishers already have their hands full trying to make brands out of the thousands of authors on their list, a task so mind-boggling that it's sometimes easier to buy a proven brand that's already out there.
Like Katie Price.