Jennifer Astle

October 5, 2009

November 17th: The day a lipstick-clad pig will fly.

Books Palin Cover

You can add one more book to the list of literature that Sarah Palin hasn’t read; Going Rogue by Lynn Vincent…oops, I mean Sarah Palin.  I mean, there really is nothing that demonstrates your ability to run a country more than having to hire someone to tell your life story.  It’s not that she couldn’t write it though, it was just that her hands were too busy with her rifle now that hunting season has started.

You’ll probably find the book right next to Glenn Beck’s Common Sense.  If you find it, you might want to let Beck know where common sense is, I’m sure he’ll be looking.   But I digress…

So what does Palin get for nothing?  Well, aside for the $150,000 designer wardrobe, and the  fame (infamy?….please let it be infamy?), she was advanced $7, 000, 000 for the “work” she did.  Any speculation as to why she quit as governor of Alaska is undoubtedly washed away, just like Palin’s problems, washed away in a sea of cold-hard cash.  I’m guessing (or hoping, at least) that her ghostwriter, Vincent, will receive about $1, 000 ,000 for, you know, writing the book.

Now, I don’t have an issue with ghost writing per se, if you look at my services offered as a freelancer, I do ghost write under strict confidentiality from time to time.  No one’s cutting me a $7M check, so one does what one must.  I do take issue with someone of Palin’s stature, who although having left office, still seems to claim to have answers, taking credit for a measly 400 page memoir.  Remember, the book is about her life.  If you can’t write 400 pages about your life at any point after the age of 30, I suggest you consider how boring your life is.  But I suppose Palin was too busy quitting her job and running off to China to write it, so she needed help.

So on November 17th, the literary world will lose just a touch of credibility by demonstrating that they are no more interested in literature than Nike or Walmart.  No one even seems to be pretending that Palin wrote the manuscript, except her publisher, HarperCollins, who insist she was  “hands-on at every stage“.  Someone should tell HarperCollins that touching the manuscript does not constitute a hands-on approach.  Although it would be a first for Palin (unless of course, you believe she actually read the Bible).  I can’t wait to see the press tour footage.

But I must concede a single point, Sarah Palin does prove one claim about America; anyone can make it big here.  You betcha!

March 6, 2009

The Celebrity Book Deal and the Struggling Writer

The book business as we know it will not be living happily ever after. With sales stagnating, CEO heads rolling, big-name authors playing musical chairs, and Amazon looming as the new boogeyman, publishing might have to look for its future outside the corporate world.

hilton_bookOminous words coming from respected magazine, New York.  With the publishing industry flailing, a writer has got to question her future.  Let’s just forget for a moment, the challenges of finding let alone the right agent, but any agent at all.  Then there is the query letter, and the waiting.  All of that, considering you have your book written first.  The challenges facing a struggling writer in the beginning of their career are steep, and that is under the best of conditions.

So, what does this mean for struggling writers and the publishing industry? It seems that there is a spike in celebrity book deals.  I have no statistical data to support this, only my observations from my daily morning online meandering.  James Franco has just signed with Simon & Schuster to release a collection of short stories.  That’s just the beginning.  In 2008, as the economic crisis that has challenged the publishing industry loomed, Miley Cyrus signed a seven figure book deal with Disney.  At least James Franco is an MFA candidate studying creative writing at NYU and Columbia.  Miley Cyrus is 15 and famous because her daddy had an achy-breaky-heart back in the 1980’s (although it must have got fixed sometime in the 1990’s).  Is it possible to still take the craft seriously when there are thousands of talented writers out there who are sending short after short to literary magazines, searching for an agent, and hoping for any advance at all, while Miss Cyrus gets a million dollars for her memoirs?

Let’s not forget Britney Spears’ $20 Million book deal to spill all of the sordid details of her recent crazy years.  Excuse me, but that is not literature, it’s voyeurism…and not very well cloaked.  What about Kanye West? Or Paris Hilton? Or Kathy Griffin? Or even Sarah Palin?  Musicians, actors, politicians…it seems anyone but a writer can get a book deal these days.

Is this really the way to save the publishing industry; by offering celebrities who already blog, Twitter, star in YouTube videos, films and television, appear on news and talk shows, and are the topic of paparazzi and media everywhere seven or eight figure book deals to write their memoirs?

Of course, I am biased considering that I am a “struggling writer” and not a celebrity.  I understand why the publishing industry is increasing its affinity with celebrities.  They come with a built in audience, just waiting to spend their allowances on the next unauthorized Lindsay Lohan tell-all.

But what of the struggling writer then?  Where will the future of publishing take us? To the Internet? Vanity publishing and self-promotion?  Is this just the right moment for writers to take reins away from powerhouse publishers by getting wise to the opportunities offered by services like Amazon (e.g. Kindle, CreateSpace), blogs, online lit mags, and a new generation of news media like the Huffington Post? No one knows for sure, not even the publishing industry.  One thing is for certain; enough with the celebrity book deals.

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