Let’s Talk About Celebrity Authors

Let’s Talk About Celebrity Authors

Hi friends! 👋🏻 If working in a library has taught me one thing about books that I didn’t already know (which is kind of impossible), it’s that there are a lot of books that are written by celebrities. Or books that have celebrity names on them.

I am not entirely opposed to celebrities writing books but that tiny little snob who lives in the deepest depths of me does like to rear her little head and wonder how a certain celebrity got a book deal and how much their ghostwriter wrote as opposed to the celebrity. I don’t think I’ve seen anybody talk about celebrity books for a very long time in the blogosphere because that weird little boom of everyone and their mother getting a book deal has come and gone and been replaced by five other things. Just looking at YouTubers alone we’ve gone from books to paid sponsorships, makeup palettes, plushies, vinyl figures, and now (depending on the person) NFTs.

But this is something that has crossed my mind recently because I see a lot of celebrity books, especially some from authors who I would never have thought of as being someone who would want a book deal.

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Non-readers are more likely to read books that are written by names they recognise.

For those of us who have been reading our entire lives, it can be very easy to just pick up a book by someone we’ve never heard of and just start reading it. People who haven’t read in a long time often have no idea of where to start and tend to go for the big names like Danielle Steel or James Patterson, or their favourite TV presenter, actor, singer, reality TV personality, whoever.

I don’t want to say that this is a bad thing because it’s really not. Increasing literacy levels is something that we should want to happen and if that means someone picking up a general romance fiction novel by some lady off the telly, so be it. At least it’s better than nothing because once they get the reading bug, they’ll branch out to books by professional authors.

Famous names bring in more money to publishing houses.

Just like everything else in the world, publishing all comes down to money. Publishers will do anything to sell more copies of books, and that often means bringing in a celebrity to collaborate with an established author to write a book (think Dolly Parton and James Patterson) or they ask what they want to read about and assemble a team of uncredited writers to put together a book with someone else’s name on it. It’s just another part of capitalism, I’m afraid.

Ghostwriters are a thing.

Are ghostwriters a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t really know, but they are a thing and that can be a point of contention for a lot of people.

I remember a few years ago there was a scandal involving Zoella who got outed as having a ghostwriter for her series Girl Online, which was a little odd because the acknowledgements in the book stated that she had people help her but a lot of people still felt like they had been lied to when they found out that she hadn’t written the book entirely by herself.

Ghostwriters are common for celebrity-written books because the vast majority of these celebrities do not have the time to sit and work on their novel that they got paid big bucks for in between their day jobs, red carpet events, press things and whatnot. Well, Kendall and Kylie Jenner likely had the time to write their book but didn’t anyway because they had people paid to do it for them.

When Dave Grohl had announced his book it was kind of a big deal that he refused to use ghostwriters and did all of the work himself, but I haven’t read it myself so I can’t comment on whether his writing is any good or not. But I will commend him for wanting to do it himself when he’s already doing so much.

Being famous doesn’t automatically make someone a good writer.

It’s something that kind of has to be said, really. A lot of people get famous for a reason, usually because they have a talent of some sort, but having a talent doesn’t necessarily mean that the talent can transfer over into other kinds of crafts. This leads me right to my next point…

Being good at writing one type of thing doesn’t always mean that someone will be a whiz at another kind of writing.

I have a BA in Creative Writing and part of my course was to write things other than just prose. I had classes on poetry and also playwriting, which I barely enjoyed in the slightest because those are just not my bread and butter. What made the playwriting class so bad for me was that before then I always prided myself on being able to write good, believable dialogue and plays are pretty much all dialogue, right?

Not necessarily. There is more to writing a particular medium than just being able to string together a coherent sentence that sounds good or crafting good dialogue. Writing is about how your reader feels when they read your work. Do they agree with your essay or do they think your argument is garbage? Do they think your poetry is beautiful or do they think it’s no better than a greeting card? Different types of writing use different skillsets so someone who is really good at writing screenplays may not be very good at a novel.

Two examples I can think of (in my opinion, I might add) are Stephen King and That Wizard Woman. Stephen King has done some pretty good screenplays for movies and TV, but he couldn’t replicate that quality when making his own movie, Maximum Overdrive, which is based on one of his own short stories. King was on a lot of drugs during production so that probably didn’t help. The Wizard Woman, on the other hand, seems to just not be able to get the hang of anything other than kidlit (which I don’t think she did all that well either, but that’s just me) and that could potentially be the other reason why her current movie series isn’t doing very well outside of people who idolise her for some reason.

There are still writers out there who are fighting to get published.

Publishing is a business and just from looking at it from an outside perspective, it seems to be a pretty cutthroat one. Writers can spend years trying to get their first novel published and get turned down so many times, and even when they do get that final ‘yes’, it still may be the only yes that they hear because the publisher might just not be interested in anything else they have to offer or their book just didn’t sell well enough.

An unfortunate reality for a lot of writers is that unless you’re someone like Stephen King or Danielle Steel, you can’t live off of a writing career alone, and this is why we encourage people to not pirate books or ask them to use their library. Seeing someone who just got a book deal given to them based on their name alone when you can barely afford to survive can’t feel good.

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talk to me!

What are your thoughts on celebrity authors?

7 Comments

  1. April 23, 2022 / 9:59 pm

    “Just like everything else in the world, publishing all comes down to money.”

    To me, this is the most important reason why celebrity authors are a thing. Celebrities are well-known, they have fans who will be interested in reading their book, and the publisher knows they will get at least some return on their investment from that fanbase.

    It might be nice to help an unknown author achieve their dreams by offering them a publication deal but that comes with some risk as it’s also unknown how well their books will sell.

    I’m curious about how much of the book business is actually taught among writing programs, or discussed in writing spaces, for those who are interested in getting published. Given how publishing works, it seems like it’d be super important for aspiring writers to be equipped with the tools they need to face the world of publishing and things they’ll encounter like the privilege of celebrity authors.

  2. April 24, 2022 / 3:48 pm

    Yeah, celebrity authors are never going to go away for the reasons you mentioned. Like you said, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when it brings in non-readers. I’ve read some celebrity books that were pretty darn good and some that weren’t so good, but I suppose you could say that about all books, right?

  3. April 28, 2022 / 1:13 am

    It’s funny, if a book is written by a celebrity I’m less likely to read it >.< The idea of a ghostwriter also kind of bothers me, except for a few very specific situations. That's part of why I don't really read books by celebrities or those popular authors that utilize ghostwriters.

  4. May 7, 2022 / 6:35 pm

    Celebrity authors definitely bring in money so authors can publish other books; they offer low hanging fruit because of the name recognition and so many people will just pick it up regardless of the topic. Ghostwriting though should be noted? Like idk why it bothers me so much lol

  5. May 15, 2022 / 7:57 pm

    I understand why celebrity authors get deals, but also…I am highly skeptical of any celebrity author and I usually avoid their books if I can. It just bothers me that some can write these really mediocre books and get huge advances for it, and then other people probably have better stories and they don’t have a chance.

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