Writing Nowadays–Celebrity Who You Know

Last week I mentioned my gratitude to all those awful celebrity novels.  You know the ones–self-indulgent pieces of garbage that only get published because the author is famous.  The most recent egregious example is forthcoming from Tyra Banks.  Even the premise sounds ludicrous:

“The story happens in a make-believe place called Modelland,” Banks said. “Every girl in the world wants to go there because it’s where ‘Intoxibellas’ are trained. Intoxibellas are drop-dead beautiful, kick-butt fierce and, yeah, maybe they have some powers too. . . . The story follows a teen girl and her friends who find themselves magically transported to Modelland, even though they’re really not supposed to be there.”

I’m so glad she’s doing it.

Yes, I know the writing will be awful, the story will suck, that Banks will go on the talk show tour and rake in big bucks in royalties for a piece of shit while other delightful, fantastical books barely get noticed.  I know that the only reason she’s getting published is because she has contacts. But this really is a good thing.

See, publishing doesn’t make much money.  The profit margin is scarifyingly low.  And publishers have almost no way of knowing what book will become a best-seller.  A great deal of publishing, weirdly, involves throwing a lot of stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks.  As a result, most books lose the publisher money.

So how do publishers stay afloat?

Ah, I see you’ve arrived there ahead of me.  I love talking to intelligent people.

If Tyra Banks writes a YA novel, it’s a sure bet four or five million people will buy it just because it has her name on it.  If the book goes for $8, and Banks gets 10% (which is more than most authors get, but hey, she’s high-and-mighty Tyra Banks), the publisher will get back–what?–$35 million.  Even if most of that goes for expenses like editorial, overhead, printing, shipping, insurance, yada yada yada, the publisher stands to make several million in profit.  Some of that will go to stockholders and such, but a chunk of that will go to . . . (drum roll please) . . . other authors.

“Hey,” the publisher says, “we have a lot more in the kitty this year.  We can afford to buy a couple more novels from first-timers and see if they turn into something.  And that new series Steven Harper just proposed?  The one we loved but weren’t sure we had the cash for?  We can afford that, too.  Snag it!”

Without Tyra bringing in the bucks, those novels would be rejected.

So yeah–I’m happy to hear about stupid celebrity novels.  They bring in more money for the rest of us.

–Steven Harper Piziks

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Writing Nowadays–Celebrity Who You Know — 7 Comments

  1. Ho ho! I was curious as to how you’d make this work but I can see you’re the kind of guy who takes lemons and turns them into margaritas! 🙂 Well done, Steve, and thanks for the reality adjustment. I needed that.

  2. Whenever I hear people railing about all the crap that’s published and selling like hotcakes, I think, “Hey, you know what? That crap pays for my advance!” Go, crap!

  3. The problem is that many of the celebrity works are given such big advances that they never earn out. (The publisher loses money.) The infamous Jay Leno book comes to mind here.

    Despite this, the publishers continue to go after these books with big bucks for the bragging rights, and the advances for non-celebrity authors continues to fall.

  4. There are some that fail, true. (Newt Gringrich’s SF book comes to mind–shudder!) But enough of them do bring in the bucks that it makes it worth the publisher’s while to keep it up.

  5. Newtie’s book is Undead, continuing to drain the life fluids from the industry. The rumor is that all those dud novels are warehoused somewhere in Jersey, instead of being pulped as most unsold books are. The publisher is gambling that Newt will make big in his Day Job somehow (i.e. run for president in 2012) and then the publisher can offload all these First Editions at a fine price to unenlightened Tea Partiers.

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