Celebrity Children's Authors: What do you think?

Friday, July 25, 2008
I'm not a big fan of celebrities, who are writing children's picture books and getting them published. I don't think I'm alone in this opinion. I bring this subject up today because this week, I received a children's writers' newsletter and was informed of yet another "star" who has written a RHYMING picture book. Josie Bissett, best known for her stint on Melrose Place, has a book on the market called Tickle Monster. Some of the verse is on her website, http://josie-bissett.com. Let's just say she rhymes "a matter of factLY" with "exactly."

Anyway, since reading this newsletter and Bissett's picture book, I can't get the subject of celebrity authors out of my head, which is why I thought I would post on it today. Why does it make me so mad? Is it jealousy? That's probably some of it. I work on my picture books, take them to workshops and my critique group, and go to conferences to meet editors and agents--and I still get rejections. Do these stars ever get rejections? Anyone want to bet?

Is it because I think their writing is terrible? Sometimes, it is. But sometimes, it is not so bad. Jamie Lee Curtis and John Lithgow are good writers, and I love their children's picture books. But others, and I'm not going to name names because I wouldn't want someone to name MY name if they thought my book was bad, are horrible and terrible! If their names hadn't appeared on movie billboards first, their book manuscripts would be collecting dust in their desk drawers.

Stars get all sorts of unfair treatment--free meals, ridiculously expensive gift bags--these people get free things when they are the ones who could afford to buy stuff themselves. So, why does it make me so angry when they use their star power to get a children's book published? I'm not sure. But it just irately ticks me off. I feel like they should go through the trenches just like the rest of us. And do parents really buy these books because their favorite actress from Melrose Place now has a picture book? Really, do they? Do you?

One last point, everyone thinks it is so easy to write a children's picture book. It's not easy--and it's especially not easy to write a rhyming one. I know wonderful, un-celebrity-type, children's authors who took years and years to get an agent or their first picture book published by a New York house. I know authors who have spent a year trying to find the right combination of words to express what they want to say to children. So, all I can say about MOST celebrity picture book authors at this point is, "UGH!"

Am I alone out here? Does anyone else feel this way? Anyone know what to do about it?

Thanks for listening. I'm going back to try to find some rhyming words for a new, picture book idea I have called, Backyard Bonanza. I should be back out in public in about a year.

Until then,
Happy Writing!
Margo Dill


Annie said...

You are not alone, not by a long stretch. Every time I hear that yet another "star" has published a children's book I want to scream. Everyone should have to pay their dues!

Anonymous said...

I agree! But it does my heart good when I see them on the shelves at the local dollar store -and I have seen that with many of them.

Anonymous said...

You are right - Jamie lee Curtis does a great job with children's books. As for the rest - blech! (mostly) It is unfair - I hope someone points all the children's-book-author-wanna-be movie stars to this post, so they will be too embarrassed to follow through on their cute ideas.
The dollar store thing is pretty funny, though.

Anonymous said...

Ha! I'm curious to know what all the sour grapes are about? What exactly does Annie mean by "everyone should have to pay their dues?" And qugraine---instead of criticizing people for following through on their creative ideas, why not encourage them? The world needs more follow through and less criticism. I've written nearly 100 children's books over the past 32 years, several of them best-sellers. I have also read Josie Bissett's "Tickle Monster" and think it's easily among the best children's books I've seen all year. Josie has written two other books (that I know of) and I believe both of those have been reprinted several times. That doesn't happen simply because you've been on a TV show. She's a mother of two, she's an accomplished actress, she's a successful author. Personally I think she's probably paid her dues. The question is, have you?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but to say that "Tickle Monster" is among the best children's books of the year is an insult to children's writers. Just because you have creative ideas does not mean you should be able to make a call and publish a book. I love to paint, but your not going to find my work in a gallery. Looks like somebody knows Josie.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Interesting and wonderfully controversial post, Margo! :o)

It's not only celebrities that have "instant access." I was just reading on mediabistro about Christopher Ciccone's new book about his sister, "Life With My Sister Madonna." This book was sold "blind" to retailers, meaning they purchased the book without knowing the author, the subject matter, or whether it was well-written. Can you imagine??? Of course it's ranking well at Amazon. Sometimes it's even the celebrity status of the subject matter that gets you the ins.

Unknown said...

Albeit somewhat simplistic, there are two types of people who get published and are successful (i.e. sell books): (a) those with true talent who stand above the rest and (b) those with a name which has instant access to a market and sells "some" books. Celebrities fall in to the latter category, but that obviously doesn't mean that they can't have talent, right??? I don't know who the "anonymous" post on Josie is that praised her book, but if that person actually published all of those books over a long timeframe, I would surely give them some credit for their opinion. But, that is not my point. My real point is that successful authors who are NOT celebrities and do not find success should maybe take a harder look at themselves. Perhaps they aren't as great as they think. Or, at least, they aren't great enough to rise above the rest. That's what competition is all about. It doesn't mean that person isn't a good writer. It just means that they aren't a good writer AND able to get their book marketed. It takes both. So quit whining about celebrities and focus on the marketing side that is going to take your supposedly "excellent" writing to market successfully.

Margo Dill said...

I appreciate your comments on the WOW! blog. And I have to say I was with you, and I wrote this post, until the whining comment. That's the thing about an argument. As soon as you throw some sort of insult in there, the arugment loses its value. In my post, I recoginized some GREAT celebrity authors. I happen to love Bill Cosby's Little Bill series, Jamie Lee Curtis, and John Lithgow (as I think I mentioned in my post.) I also think there are some terrible celebrity books and some terrible non-celebrity books that have gotten published. Yes, it ticks me off that people get published because of their name. But I know it is going to happen and I know why--it's about the buck. And that's fine. Due to companies making bucks, we get our books published, too.

But instead of whining about it, it actually makes me and most children's writers I know, work harder at publicity, writing good quality books, educating themselves, and sharing marketing tips with each other. It's quite a lovely community.

Thanks again for leaving a comment.


Angela Mackintosh said...

Hi Margo,

I think it's healthy to talk about the things in the publishing industry that 'turb us. I don't think it's "whining," I think it's honest.

Seth Godin wrote a post today titled, "When you notice it, it's news." I think that applies here. We need healthy discussions like yours or else there would be too much cotton candy. ;)

I also think your point was clear and is a great reminder that we 'normals' need to promote even harder.


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