Monday 12 August 2013

Celebrity writers of children's books 'edge out talent' (The Sunday Times, 11 Aug 2013)

An interesting piece from the Sunday Times. The original is behind a paywall here

For some reason Blogger won't allow you to insert a pdf version - almost enough to drive you back to Wordpress - so here's a paste of the text. Read it and weep...

THE market for children’s books is being ruined by celebrities such as Frank Lampard, Katie Price and Holly Willoughby who force out talented authors, a bestselling writer has claimed.

GP Taylor, who has written 14 books, with three being made into films, said “thousands” of gifted children’s writers were struggling to get into print because publishers and bookshops wanted household names even though they penned “the literary equivalent of lift music”.

Taylor, who has been hailed as a rival to JK Rowling, said he had been “squeezed out” and turnedhis back on children’s writing. The father of three from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, added that the children’s book market was being wrecked by the trend to sign up celebrities regardless of whether they can write.

“Bookshops have gone for the lowest common denominator,” he said. “It’s not about the days of Philip Pullman and Philip Reeve, who were bringing out exciting new books and booksellers were wanting to tell people. Now it’s about big advertising campaigns and getting on the couch on a television show.”

A film of Taylor’s Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box, starring Michael Sheen, is due out in October, with its sequel filmed shortly afterwards. Production begins next year on a film of his first book, Shadowmancer. “I feel completely squeezed out,” Taylor said. “I don’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of getting published any more. I have three big films coming out and no children’s publishing deal. How weird is that?”

Taylor was “dubious” about Lampard’s book, Frankie’s Magic Football: Frankie vs the Pirate Pillagers. The Chelsea footballer admits that he came up with characters and story and wrote only “bits” of it. Willoughby, presenter of The Voice and This Morning, has written a book with her sister Kelly, called School for Stars: First Term at L’Etoile. Her website says the novel “combines Holly’s runaway imagination . . . with Kelly’s creative mind and love of writing”.

Price, who has published two book series, Perfect Ponies, and Mermaids and Pirates, admits she is “not a writer” and uses a ghost author.

Taylor said: “Book stores want an easy sell. If the celebrity makes an appearance, they’re going to be guaranteed queues of people. It’s depressing. There are thousands of talented writers who aren’t getting published.”
Simon Mayo, the Radio 2 presenter, this year launched his second children’s book, Itch Rocks. He writes his books himself and labelled authors who do not as “ghastly”.

Barry Cunningham, a children’s book publisher who discovered Rowling when he was an editor at Bloomsbury, said he would not publish a book just because it had been written by a celebrity. He said there were some good celebrity authors such as Mayo and the comedian David Walliams.

Random House, which published Price’s books, said: “If they introduced some children to the enjoyment of reading, then this can only be a positive thing.”

Terence Blacker, author of the children’s Ms Wiz series, said of Lampard’s book: “Boys who wouldn’t dream of buying a novel will buy Frank Lampard’s ghosted books. But children are never fooled. If a book is bad, they’ll give it up— however big the celebrity.”

No comments:

Post a Comment