In a time when print media is plodding to a slow death, publishing houses are faced with shrinking markets, bookstores across the world are shutting down, and fewer and fewer people have the patience to read; there is one genre that continues to thrive: Celebrity Books. Ranging from autobiographies and memoirs to fiction and poetry, publishers seem to jump at the chance to publish any book with a famous name on its spine.
And this enthusiasm rarely results in a well-written book. Despite the fact that many celebrity books are written by ghostwriters, they often seem to lack finesse or a worthwhile message and feel more like a self-absorbed pat on the supposed author’s back. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good memoirs from prominent celebrities, like Tina Fey’s ‘Bossypants’ and Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming.’
But when you usually combine a famous name, a bunch of pointless anecdotes, a confused ghostwriter, and a rich and famous person with no writing talent, the results are usually disastrous. Here are the top 5 reasons why celebrity books suck so bad:
1. The Ghostwriter
When it’s clear that a certain celebrity book is written by a ghostwriter, we’re sometimes inclined to think: “Why did the ghostwriter do such a terrible job? Aren’t they supposed to be a professional?” But the reality for ghostwriters is often more complicated than that.
Unlike independent projects in their own name, the ghostwriter’s job is to be the person who does the hard work of writing down everything the celebrity wants to include in their book. Although the exact process varies from book to book, the ghostwriter tries to organize everything the celebrity says, usually in an interview with the writer, into a complete book. They have little to no control over what actually goes into the book.
The ghostwriter must also try and sound plausibly like the celebrity they’re writing for. This includes casual language if the celeb is known for it, jokes like the ones the celebrity is known to crack, or phrases the celebrity popularised. They contribute almost no actual input to the book but only exist to do the writing the celebrity can’t be bothered to do. Yikes.
2. The Vanity Project
Often when celebrities write books, whether memoirs, fiction, or poetry, they write them knowing they could never fail. The fan followings these celebrities have earned through their day jobs are more than enough to sell enough copies regardless of how bad the book actually is. So whether it’s a vapid ego boost or a half-baked idea rushed to the press, any celebrity probably feels validated by the “success” of their book, undeserving or not.
While we may know what to expect from the memoirs, more or less, it’s the fiction books that are most obviously bad. Assuming that any prior experience one has with fiction was written by a competent writer, it’s hard to get on board with a celebrity’s passing attempt at the craft. Some (dis)honorary mentions include ‘Modelland’ by Tyra Banks that follows a teen protagonist through magical ‘model land,’ a YA dystopian novel by Kendall and Kylie Jenner called ‘Rebels: The City of Indira: The Story of Lex and Livia’ that doubles down on not only colons but clichés, and Lili Rinehart’s poetry book ‘Swimming Lessons’ that discusses groundbreaking themes such as love and break-ups.
3. The Cash Grab
Let’s be honest; celebrity books are easy money. That’s why celebs pretend to write them and why publishers tie up their editors in a basement long enough to publish them. Celebrity books can be sold to people who don’t even consider themselves readers simply because they’re fans. The selling gets even easier when the books are targeted to a young and devoted audience.
For most celebrities, their book is just another revenue stream – and an easy one at that. They give it almost nothing but still get royalty payments for lending their likeness to a ghost-written mess. Celebrities are also given huge advances for book deals that can be as high as 8-10 million dollars or more. So why wouldn’t they write a book?
4. Fandoms Blinded By Love
Yes, celebrities sell books because they already have established fan bases. That’s not rocket science. But the unwavering devotion of fans, especially young fans, means that the bar for what is considered publishable is in hell. This is especially true with YouTubers who already have a dedicated young following who want to ‘support’ their idol in every way they can and will defend these terrible books to their deaths.
The huge influx of YouTuber books in the 2010s could only sustain themselves because these YouTubers had child and teen fans who would buy absolutely anything with their name on it. How else could have abominations like ‘How to be a Bawse’ by Lilly Singh, ‘Adultolescence’ by Gabbie Hanna, and ‘You Gotta Want It’ by Jake Paul exist?
5. It’s Not That Deep
The reason why we loathe celeb books, more than their lack of talent with words, is the fact that most of them have nothing to say. There are a good number of memoirs written by people with exceptional lives, certainly. But for every decent celebrity book, five terrible ones seem to pop up with it.
When publishers refuse to publish authors who have spent years honing their crafts and perfecting their manuscripts and offer book deals to celebrities who have nothing to write about, the whole thing ends up feeling rather hollow. Especially when celebrities write fiction, it feels like they’re stealing an opportunity from someone who truly deserves it.
When a celebrity in their 20s and 30s writes a memoir, even if they had a truly exceptional life, it’s hard to take it seriously. After all, who anthologizes their life before most of it hasn’t even happened yet? How can their experiences come across as educational or insightful when they’re written down just to hit a page target?
If you’re a fan of any of the people I mentioned here, I’m sorry for confirming what you already knew deep down. Celebrity Books suck. They should not exist. But like garbage arriving at a landfill, they never stop coming.
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