Tuesday 25 March 2008

Katie Price Furore: Are Pneumatic Models Allowed to Win Book Prizes?

I've always had great sympathy for models. I mean, it's just another job isn't it? Why I even once called on mothers to show more sympathy for Liz Hurley when she revealed a flat tummy mere weeks after having a baby.

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.


  1. btw i thought the comment of Jordan's publishing director Mark Booth was hilarious! "I don't see what the fuss is about. It's no different to the way the recordings of The Monkees were done."

  2. I thank goodness I was a marketing and communications and brand manager in my previous life. Now I just have to get past the aversion to marketing myself as a hot hot authorial brand! Hmm, maybe I should go back into marketing - helping authors who don't yet have a brand profile brand themselves. Whatchafink?

  3. Sarwat Chaddah (who recently signed a two book deal with Puffin — woo hoo!} sent me this comment:

    "The argument is that celeb books attract 'reluctant readers' who
    (hopefully) go off and explore the beautiful wide world of literature thereafter (though I'm not convinced someone reading, say, David Beckham's autobiography will then pick up War and Peace)...I like to believe, no matter what, talent will out. Let's just hope someone worthy (or at the very least, has actually written the book)wins, and the prize helps boost THEIR sales rather than the already inflated Jordan."

    that's a really good point.

    if the book wins, will the true author be recognised?

    makes me wonder about authors who write-for-hire on series like the ones spearheaded by working partners. if ever there was a one that won - will they get acknowledgement? or is that kind of book really such a communal work?

  4. Play truth or dare...would you write for a celeb if it got you published?

  5. As an SEN specialist of some years, my feeling is that reluctant readers will go off and look at the pictures, tell you that they're reading Harry Potter and then go and play a video game or surf the net. Is it this nation in microcosm? The uber-rich, celeb class primp and reward themselves whilst the rest of us pedal a bit faster just to stand still never mind make progress! Cor! That was a bit glum wasn't it? Maybe it doesn't matter! Maybe Sarwat is right and talent will out! I hope so.

  6. ooh that is hard.

    i wrote a few scripts (as in lines to say when people asked you questions) for airhead celebs in my starving writer days. but novels?

    some terrific authors - like Scott Westerfeld - were ghost writers in their beginning days ... but they never say WHOSE books they penned.

    btw Scott Westerfeld (Uglies, Midnighters) is in London - signing books in ILFORD of all places. I've just rearranged my childcare to try to make the trek. But a helpful neighbour uses the word 'devastating' to describe the journey to Ilford from North London.

  7. Like most bonafide writers, I am incensed that pneumatic Jordan, using a ghost writer, should have even been considered for an award.

    My recent self-published children's book, with positive comments from fellow published authors, cannot even enter these competitions.

    Having learned my craft over the years, and been taken off the slush pile three times by major publishers, sadly to fail at the final hurdle- a contract, I despair. However, I have won the Wales Region for another children's book and will be published this summer.

    Sadly, not being a celeb, I shall have to work damn hard to get publicity and success.

    Brian Lux

  8. >The arguement is that celeb books attract 'reluctant readers' who(hopefully) go off and explore the beautiful wide world of literature thereafter (though I'm not convinced someone reading, say, David Beckham's autobiography will then pick up War and Peace).

    If it is any reassurance to all of you my boyfriend reads many sports biographies (including football) he also reads novels and law journals and anything else he can lay his hands on – he is a partner in a law firm. I'm no sports fan but, out of curiosity, have read some of these books myself.

    They can be an interesting insight into what drives a top flight sportsperson or they can be dry as dust and full of stats (yawn).

    There are reluctant reader ranges of books specifically designed for people who struggle to read.

    Some of these books are simplified versions of sports biographies. Reluctant readers may not go onto other books because of their special needs – War and Peace may be out of reach for many reasons. Reading is fundamental to living an independent life – reluctant reader books serve a purpose by helping people build up the skills necessary to be able to read, say, a letter from a doctor or from a child's school.

    I must declare an interest in this. My five year old daughter has communication difficulties which make following storylines difficult. She has been helped by specially designed books (none of which were written by Wayne Rooney!).

    She may still struggle as an adult – I would be delighted to see her reading anything at all provided it doesn't promote anything harmful to her or to others.

    Sometimes a recognisable face from a TV programme or the world of celebrity provides a hook for someone who will have to work extremely hard to understand written text.



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