Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Celebrity memoirs

According to a report in Saturday's Guardian, Dawn French has been paid a £2,000,000 advance for her autobiography in the hope that it will become this year's Peter Kay. I haven't heard Century's justification for this ridiculous sum, but I suspect that the phrase much-loved comedienne appeared somewhere and a reminder that The Vicar of Dibley is the most successful comedy show ever. Apparently.

I'm not a betting man, but I'm pretty sure that Random House have made a huge mistake. Who buys celebrity memoirs? Let's not beat about the bush - it's largely working-class people who are buying them as Christmas presents. And if you look at the best-selling celebrity memoirs of the last few years: Peter Kay, Shane Richie, Martine McCutcheon, Victoria Beckham and Jordan they all have one thing in common - they're written (or at least ghost-written) by working-class celebrities. In other words, chavs want to read about chavs.

I would have thought that Dawn French is too middle-class to be a bestseller at Asda. I can't see readers warming to accounts of her exploits at the Central School of Speech and Drama. But on the other hand she is married to Britain's much-loved comedian Lenny Henry and if she give an honest warts and all account of their marriage (including the Australian blonde in the hotel), then tabloid serialisation is guaranteed.

I could be wrong. If she writes a witty Alan Bennett-style memoir with chav-appeal then Random will have both the chattering and grunting classes covered, but it is a huge gamble and even if the book is a bestseller, how much money will they actually make? Poor old Ricky Tomlinson was virtually frog-marched around the country to sign the paperback version of his memoirs after the underwhelming performance of the hardback. This was sad enough, but as any bookseller will tell you, the paperback editions never sell In one shop I worked in the sales for Martine McCutcheon's autobigraphy were 450 in hardback. The following summer it came out in paperback and we sold six. Therefore we can safely conclude that whilst celebrity memoirs make great Christmas presents, nobody actually reads them (apart from the Bookseller to the Stars)

January 2009 - Dawn French's autobiography went on to become one of the bestselling autobiographies of Christmas 2008, in spite of poor reviews. I stand corrected.


John Self said...

Private Eye's 'Worstsellers' list is always interesting. I was delighted to see that Chantelle and Pete of Big Brother 'fame' (sigh) have both done tremendously badly. It actually makes me angry when I see autobiographies in shops by nobodies who are famous for not being famous. Turn their faces to the wall. Shame on them. (And further shame on 'us' for buying enough of just a couple of the titles to ensure they keep getting snapped up.)

Rivs said...

As I'm the only person never to have been on any kind of 'reality' show I was thinking of writing my memoirs.

I could call it 'The life and times of a geordie no-mark' and market it on the back of my non celebrity.

Break all records wouldn't it?