Celebrity Books

Before we get to the topic at hand, allow me to note the very nice review of OMW from Professor Bainbridge. Thank ye kindly, sir.

Also, yes, I realize that I’ve been mostly writing about writing here recently, with only the occasional off-topic post to leaven the mix. This very much has to do with the fact that I’m intensively re-editing Rough Guide to Science Fiction Film chapters and doing pieces for an upcoming Uncle John book, and both are taking up pretty much all of my brain cycles at the moment, leaving little time for trivialities like world events. I’m all about writing, and probably will be for at least another week or so. Fair warning.

Now, as long as we’re on the subject of writing, let me answer a question posed in one of the comment threads, which is:

As a writer, what is your perspective on the sensationalist books that are released and just absolutely bought up by the truckload by the general public? Case in point. The Amber Frey book that came out last week, where she’s documenting her relationship with Scott Peterson. Anyone that doesn’t know who that is, hasn’t had a television on, read a newspaper, or visited a news web site in a VERY long time. Anyway, how does that make a published author feel? Someone who has worked years at their craft to get published and recognized, and yet this person is in it for “15 minutes” and gone. I realize publishers don’t care about the content as much as the earning potential. I was just curious as to an author’s perspective.

As a writer, I’m almost entirely unconcerned about it. To begin with, most of the time the books folks like Amber Frey write (or more accurately, someone else writes so as not to make the putative “author” look like a total idiot) and the ones I write aren’t really addressing the same audience; it seems really unlikely that there’d ever be a time when someone is in the bookstore agonizing over having to choose either Old Man’s War or Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson. So I don’t really gnash my teeth with each sale, thinking “that could have been my book.” It wouldn’t have been my book. Nora Roberts or John Grisham, on the other hand, might be annoyed — the whole melodrama of the Scott Petersen case is right up their respective textual alleys. But you know, they’re not exactly hurting.

Secondly, life is capricious and weird, and there will always be someone who does not seem to deserve the fame and wealth thrown at them. Amber Frey’s great claim to fame is being huckstered by Scott Peterson into having an affair. Is this a firm foundation upon which to build a lasting career in the public eye? No, but it’ll do, and to be flatly honest about it, someone would have written up a lurid tell-all about Frey’s relationship anyway, so why shouldn’t she get the money for it? I mean, I’d rather she get the payday for her trouble than some hack spinning out the tale from newspaper clippings and court transcripts. Soon it’ll all be over for Ms. Frey, and she’ll go back to doing whatever it is she does when she’s not known for being a murder’s moll. Hopefully, she’ll manage her money well.

Ms. Frey’s fortunes — or the fortunes of any person who suddenly erupts out of nowhere, makes a bundle of cash for dubious reasons, and then returns to obscurity as quickly as they arrived — affect me not in the least. The fact she can get a book deal in the snap of her fingers while other people toil for years to do the same is monstrously unfair, but there are so many other things in the world that are monstrously unfair — and of genuine consequence — that this one example of unfairness is quaint by comparison. If other people want to be bothered by it, they should by all means worry that mental scab until their irritation is assuaged. But don’t see why I would want to bother.

13 thoughts on “Celebrity Books

  1. I will put this straightforwardly, even crudely:

    There’s a whole publishing market out there for people who don’t really read books. That is, they don’t read real books–they read Amber Fey books or the Left Behind Books or the book about the guy who had to cut his arm off. Or Chicken Soup for the Soul or Bill O’Reilly’s screeds or yet another Tiger Woods bio. Of course, some of us who like real books have all read some of these non-real books, and found them pleasurable, well written, or even fascinating. But let’s face it, we are different than the people who ONLY read these non-real books.

    Which is fine. As John states–although less globally and snobbily than I have–these sales don’t cut into real book sales; it’s generally different people doing the buying. And maybe, just maybe, a few of those folks will switch to reading real books, after their textual appetites are whetted and page-turning reflexes tuned by the act of reading non-real books. This will always be a net gain, as I am certain that NONE of us who like real books will ever give them up for Amber Fey . . . not for longer than it takes to get a sun tan, anyway.

    Plus, yes. I have written non-real books myself. For money.

  2. John,

    Thanks for answering my question. Your point makes sense, and I had a feeling that your answer would probably be along those lines. It’s just mind-boggling to me that there is an audience for this kind of stuff. I guess if you can live with yourself at the end of the day, then it’s no big deal. I just hate having this kind of crap shoved down our throats. All over every news site, television show, on the radio every 10 minutes, etc… It’s like MTV mandating what music is cool. The media telling us that this kind of stuff is newsworthy is just idiotic. Can’t people get fired for that too?

    BTW, I heard on the radio this morning that there will be a CBS TV movie about Amber Frey as well. Yeesh, more CRAP.

    Perhaps, I should just pick up my copy of OMW. It IS on my wishlist at Amazon.

  3. Randy,

    Don’t lose heart. This is the way I look at it: a person has to have *something* to read while taking a dump.

    There is a place for both “Old Man’s War” and “The Book(s) of the Dumb.”

  4. It doesn’t bother me at all that these people get rich off of their fame/infamy. Since I’m a READER, not a WRITER, what bugs me about these books is that they extend Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame” into 25 or 30.

    First there are weeks of tabloid coverage, followed by (or sometimes concurrent with) MSM coverage. It would all probably end there, but then someone decides to write a book. Now there’s “news” about the fact that they’re writing a book, “news” when the book comes out, and the obligatory tell-all interview for people who care, but not enough to buy the book.

    If it really becomes a media circus (circus, referring here to be something that goes in a *circle*), there’s still more “news” about the amount of news coverage the story’s been getting (see: OJ Simpson).

    With all the murders that happen in the U.S. every year, it boggles my mind as to why Laci Petersen’s is national news in the first place. The presence of story extenders like these books is just decreasing the signal/noise ratio in my life, and I wouldn’t mind one bit if they all vanished tomorrow.

    /soapbox

  5. These non-books are almost always printed in hardback. Given that the price of a hardback is hovering around 30 bucks these days, I’d rather buy a quality story, such as OMW.

    If you really want to read what Amber has to say, wait a few months and their will be piles of her book on the remainder table at B&N for less than 5 bucks.

  6. As a writer, my thought on stuff like the Amber Frey book is, “How do I get ghostwriting gigs, anyway, and how well do they pay?”

  7. “Anyone that doesn’t know who that is, hasn’t had a television on, read a newspaper, or visited a news web site in a VERY long time.”
    All I know of “Scott Peterson” is “Laci Peterson murdered in America” and “Scott Peterson trial” (for said murder I presume?). And that’s it. And it’s not that I don’t watch television or follow the news, but rather that I agressively avoid tabloid journalism (it tends to annoy and bore me). Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with watching crap, it’s just that this doesn’t smell like my type of crap.

  8. Try to avoid that tabloid journalism here in Fresno. We’ve had this case every day on the news since it began, it seems. Mostly has to do with them living down the road a piece and Amber Frey living here.

  9. Getting worked up over this seems like sour grapes to me. Is this directly adversely affecting you? Now if it were pre-empting your favorite TV program, I could understand it. After all, I never forgave Richard Nixon for replacing Gilligan’s Island for weeks at a time.

  10. submandave says “Getting worked up over this seems like sour grapes to me. Is this directly adversely affecting you?”

    I know your comment is about the Amber Frey TV movie, but…yes it is directly adversly effecting me! I can’t find a copy of OMW anywhere (4 different book stores close to home and work), and I’m assalted by all the dreck and crappage that fronts every book store. When I have to wade through all the literary slop to find something WORTH reading (not to mention worthy of my time in finding it and my hard earned dollars), I am adversly affected.

    I know the way to go here is Amazon and avoiding the local chain stores all together, but I like feeding my local economy.

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