Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Emerging Cult of Celebrity Authors Moving in On The Industry

Recently, there has been an explosion of A-List celebrities and YouTube megastars gaining their own book deals, with the likes of publishing giants such as Penguin. From teen idols Kendall and Kylie Jenner to online sensation Zoe Sugg, announcements seem to be springing up from everywhere about a new piece of fiction, written by your favourite pop star. But how did this begin? For years we have been used to the standard Katie Price biography, and perhaps a David Walliams children's book, but recently celebrities publishing has become a completely new ball game.

I first became aware of the extent of this change when I saw an interview with Kendall and Kylie Jenner, the younger members of the Kardashian clan, who announced that they were writing a futuristic tale with two female protagonists they had named Lex and Livia. For me, it had never crossed my mind that two teenagers with modelling careers, sparkling celebrity status and a reality TV show under their name would ever be interested in book publishing. The fact that it wasn't even a biography, but a piece of fiction, was equally startling to me. How did they get interested in this? What did they want to achieve? Apparently, they had come up with the idea for their story in the back of a car, whilst discussing what kind of movie they would like to be in if they ever got the chance to. A seemingly far-fetched idea. But nonetheless, a mere couple of years later, Rebels: The City of Indria was flown across from the US and in my in-tray of books to review. Obviously, the Jenners had fulfilled their ambitions. 

When I finally got around to reading Kendall and Kylie's new book, I told myself fiercely that I was going to read it with an open mind, and treat it like any other book I was sent to review. Fair judgments, unbiased opinions, and an honest opinion. However, what I couldn't get out of my head was the fact that two teenagers (one of them the same age as myself), could get a book deal handed to them on a plate, without seemingly any recognition of how hard it was to get a book out on the market. The staggering amount of co-writers and editors also slightly swayed my opinion. As Kendall herself pointed out in an article, 'We obviously can't write a sci-fi novel on our own'. I couldn't quite sympathise. From the disheartening experience of sending manuscripts myself from the age of fourteen, I had always that was what unfortunately came with being a writer. It was something you had to do on your own. Thus, I found myself having already formed an opinion on the book before I had even read it. Although the names on the front cover read 'Kendall and Kylie Jenner', I couldn't quite believe that they had actually put as much work into the book as it made out to be. Rumours circulated as soon as the novel was released with suspicions of a ghost writer, and bad reviews spread across the internet like wildfire. It seemed an unhappy ending for two teenagers just wanting to have their name on a book. But, like most other people, I suspected the Jenner sisters had other motivations.

Another star with her name now in the literary limelight is twenty-two year old YouTube celebrity Zoe Sugg, known as Zoella to her millions of fans worldwide. Sugg has been blogging and making YouTube videos for six years, but just now has entered into the world of book publishing, and already has a huge number of pre-orders, before the book is even published. According to Miss Sugg, who shared the news in a recent YouTube video, publishing giant Penguin contacted her after reading her blog and liking her prose and style. The reaction to the news was unworldly. For a young debut author, a reaction like this would be incredibly rare; some may even say impossible. However, because of the number of fans that Zoe Sugg already has firmly tucked under her arm, a reaction like this to any new project of hers would be inevitable. Similar to the Jenners, Zoe Sugg lives a crazy lifestyle, as shown in her hugely successful vlogs, with business meetings, television and radio appearances and trips abroad to various YouTube conventions. Somehow, in between all this, she has managed to write a book, set to be released later in the year- the same situation goes for her boyfriend, Alfie Deyes, who has released his own book: 'The Pointless Book'. 

With all of these celebrities gaining publishing deals, seemingly at the click of a finger, it is worth asking the question: is this right? Is this affecting the publishing industry, and if so, for the better or for the worse? Should books be published for the creative and talented merit of the author, or because the publisher knows that they already have a huge, and passionate, following? The financial benefits are easy to see. However, the literary issues involved are a lot more complex.

Rebels: City of Indra is available to buy now.

Girl Online will be released on 25th November 2014

Comment below with your views on celebrities and publishing... Do you think they should be offered spontaneous book deals?