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Smith The Obscure

edited November 2013 in Writing
I make no apologies for returning to the subject of celebrity novels, prompted as I am by Richard Madeley's appearance on the box to promote his. (His wife has already done it.)

I wonder if people in the public eye ever think of submitting novels under a false name and see how far they get - but I don't suppose so for a second. If Richard Madeley had submitted his novel, however good, as John Smith, he'd probably still be knocking on doors. Surely he realises this.

When you think that publishers can produce only a limited number of new titles in a year, these pieces of cake handed to celebrities reduce even further the tiny chance unknown writers have of gaining acceptance. Coupled with the matters of promotability, word count, and genre, (which have nothing to do with writing ability), the chance must be virtually nil. No wonder so many people are resorting to self-publishing.

On the radio last weekend, Terry Deary, who I've previously admired for straight talking, made the ridiculous statement that "98%" of self-published novels are total rubbish. Of course, there'll be dross among the gold but 98%? Come on! What choice do even accomplished writers have now anyway?


  • Ninety-eight per cent might be right - there's thousands being released each month, if not more. Most don't get read beyond the free excerpts.
  • It be madness for anyone who wanted their book to sell, and who had some kind of advantage that'd help (such as fame in another sphere) to hide that advantage.
  • The upside for the publisher is that all that free publicity = sales = profits for them as well as the author - and publicity that didn't have to be paid for is not going to be discouraged.
    In fact, wouldn't you hope (in cloud-cuckoo land) that the resulting increased income for them would mean they could afford to take a punt on a lesser known individual?
    Publishers aren't altruists, and the bottom line matters, as in all businesses.
    There must be a section of the population, cynics that we are, who wouldn't buy a book by a celeb simply because they are celebs and we think they've got the contract for their name, not their talent - which can be an unfair judgement.
    Look at what happened when JK Rowling tried to publish under another name: someone leaked the fact to the press, and her attempt to be judged for her writing, not for her name, was scuppered.
  • edited November 2013
    And under another name publishers turned her down and the sales weren't great, until someone blabbed.

    Yes publishers are in business, and writers need to keep that in mind, writing is a business too-even though it's also essential for our sanity. :)

    At one time publishers understood that a writer would not be an overnight success, it took time and support. But now they have shareholders a profit has to be brought in, and that won't happen if you spend money on unknowns who you have to nurture.

    Celebrities have a ready audience built up, and sadly there's a portion of the that audience who will be led like sheep to buy the 'latest' book, because they don't want to be seen to be out of the loop with the latest celeb 'item'- just look at the magazines whose stories are mostly about this or that singer/actor's latest marriage break-up- or potential break-up, awful childhood, new start, marriage and so on...

    We don't have to like it. Nor do we have to buy into it ourselves.
    But it is how publishing works at the moment and when the change finally comes, we'll be the ones best able to weather it.
  • edited November 2013
    Yes, isn't it amazing how both partners have such literary talent?

    I'm reminded of Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley. It's a rare thing.
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