Friday, 6 November 2009


By Richard Jay Parker

This week I read an article that predicted that not only would the Christmas non-fiction list be dominated by celebs but the fiction list would be as well.

So that’s fiction written by celebs but not actually written by the celebs but by someone else.

Which means that the only informed judgement a purchaser of this book is making is based purely on the face on the cover. They’re buying the cover and probably few are even glancing at the back to get a taster of the most vital part. It’s the equivalent of buying an album with a different recording artist on the disc. That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it?

It’s impossible to write a blog like this without coming across as bitter but I’m after something more basic here – sanity. Aren’t books about unique voices? It’s why I have a rack of autobiographies on my own shelf. Aren’t books about being in the expert hands of a storyteller or being enticed by an engaging synopsis on the back cover? Covers are important but ultimately they’re eye-catching, complimentary packaging and not the sole reason a discerning reader takes a gamble on a new name.

Discerning is a very relevant term here. I don’t blame the ghostwriters. Its well-paid work and bizarrely the only way some authors can get their work exposed. I also don’t blame the publishers. People will buy these books – in greater numbers than they will established writers, let alone new writing talent. But it can’t be the readers fault, can it?

Question is, are these readers the sort of individuals who normally go for a Trollope but instead this Christmas decide to plump for a McCutcheon? Any discerning reader will surely grimace as they pull something so manufactured and soulless off the shelf.

Is this a new breed of 'X Factor' reader and do the books actually get read bar the first few pages? And does it matter about this new breed if there are still the same amount of readers buying genuine fiction? The answer is - I really don’t know. The fact that people part with their hard-earned for these ‘books’ beggars belief. Let’s just hope it’s a trend that is as transitory as the careers of the celebs who have agreed to put their names to them (and we can’t blame them for making hay while the sun shines). If it isn’t it means that the careers of talented authors who exist only to write and not monopolise every form of entertainment will probably have as much longevity.

Somebody – other than a real author – has got to step up soon and tell the emperor that he’s butt naked.


  1. Are alot of celebrities putting their names to books in this fashion. Maybe I am out of touch, but I didn't realize that. I won't buy a book just based on who's name is on it unless it's an established author that I follow. The books have to have a synopsis that catches my eye and draws me in. The celebrities name might get me to pick up the book and read the synopsis, but its not going to ensure that I am going to buy it.

  2. I've gone the other way ... all my novels are actually ghost-written by Cheryl Cole. She's a talented little lass, that one ...

  3. Richard, I agree with you.

    When I buy a book, I want it to be the work of the author totally. The idea that the likes of Katie Price can just give a basic outline of a story and a characters name does NOT make her an author.

    Ok, some people have a great story to tell but their ability to put it down into a book is missing, this is different story altogether, its not a deception to the reader.

    I buy books because I like the authors, I make selections by reading the back cover, even looking at readers comments on sites like Amazon. I want to read what has been written by the person whose name dorns the front cover.

    I don't want the Mills & Boon recycled format, same story, different names, etc. I don't want manufactured work, I want to read something new, inspiring, from an author that has put his heart into writing it.

    Natalie Bullock.