Monday, November 30, 2009

The bubble bursts for celebrity memoirs

After a week in which we have seen Borders collapse, amid reports of staff being assaulted by rude and aggressive customers, demanding ever higher discounts for books whose jackets have small tears in them (no doubt caused by the vulture like horde of which these customers are a part), I didn't think things could get much worse, but no, at last there is some good news from within the publishing world - celebrity memoirs have finally fallen from grace, amid tumbling sales.

Literary agents are reporting a disastrous autumn for the genre, while publisher Hachette UK has announced that it is trimming its celebrity roster (how will they boost their ego's now?). The total value of hardback celebrity titles in the UK top 50 this year has fallen by almost 25 percent from £4.6 million in 2008 to £3.3 million in 2009.

Jonathan Lloyd, Chief Executive of Curtis Brown, one of the larger London agencies, suggested that this season's memoirs, which include books "by" Peter Kay and Katie Price as well as autobiographies by Jo Brand, Chris Evans and Frankie Boyle, lack the sensational factor and (thank the Lord) their comparatively unremarkable sales may impact on the advances that such celebrities receive in the future.

Others have suggested that the genre has reached saturation point, with "bottom-of-the-barrel" celebrities riding the gravy train, while the publishers find that they have not delivered the meat and two veg (my words, not theirs). Publishers are beginning to find that the public are returning to more traditional fiction. It is particularly noticeable this year to find that the best seller lists are dominated by fiction, with the highest memoir at number seven, the opposite of what happened last year.

Echoing the thoughts of many, Liz Thomson, Editor of BookBrunch, said that she hoped this was the end of an era. "What really gets me" she said "with regards to many of these memoirs is that they claim to give the so-called celebrities a voice when they are so often the voice of their ghost-writers. It's the aspect of cynicism in these publications that I hate. People are being paid a huge amount of money to write this nonsense, at the expense of new writers and quality fiction." Here, here.

A spokesman for Waterstones claimed however that these books are still popular, and the public are simply waiting until nearer Christmas to buy them. He said "There will be an awful lot of people who will wake up with Jeremy Clarkson's or Frankie Boyle's autobiography on Christmas morning." I hope I am not one of them, so don't even think of getting me one! If you really want to though, you can buy yourself a copy of my own mastepiece ...