|Self portrait in a mirror on the sidewalk: Greenboro, NC|
In the list of 13 book deals and/or books from the year just past, Mr. Shaffer spews snark and righteous indignation at the lowbrow and the absurd. I have no idea who "Snooki" is beyond someone who has spun her fifteen minutes of reality TV fame into something closer to 30 minutes, but she got a book deal last year. Someone else from the same reality show did as well. So did Chelsea Handler's dog. So did Justin Bieber (or Beiber or however he spells it). Oh, so did Ms. Refudiate herself, Sarah Palin.
These books fall into a category I'll call CeleBooks®. These are books written either by or for celebrities, for incredible sums of money. These are celebrities who don't necessarily need the additional fame and fortune but, who, nevertheless then get their names on the jacket and go out on expensive, highly publicized book tours.
I say this is great.
It's not great because these books raise or lower the intellectual public discourse. It is not great because these titles might bring in customers who might buy these titles along with some other, less publicized titles. It's not even great because they, theoretically, get people who might not otherwise read, to read.
All of those are valid reasons. However the simple truth is this:
CeleBooks® make money for their publishers.
The minute you forget that this is a good idea is the same minute you have lost your bearings in today's publishing industry.
Publishing today is just that, an industry. Publishers are extremely aware of their bottom line--if their books don't make money, they go out of business. If a proposed project is not expected to make a profit, the chances of it getting published are next to nil.
However, for every CeleBook® that comes out that makes a ton of money, publishers have that much extra cash in their coffers with which to take a chance on yet another untested, first-time author.
This, I think (speaking as yet another untested, first-time author) is a good thing.
Are most CeleBooks® anything I'm interested in reading. No. However, I'm the kind of person who thinks if you're against abortion, you shouldn't have one. Therefore, if you don't like "Snooki" or Chelsea Handler's dog got a book deal, fine: don't read their books.
Should life and society and publishing be different? Maybe--but it isn't. This is the world we're publishing in and it's the world we need to acknowledge.
What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know--and why-- in the Comments!