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In the Chinese Lunar Calendar, 2011 has been the Year of the Rabbit, whilst the United Nations designated it the International Year of Forests and the International Year of Chemistry; all very well and good but I would argue, however, that it would be more appropriate to call 2011 the year of the born-again royalists.
On Friday April 29th, the union of Prince William and Kate Middleton melted cynical hearts across the globe and ‘monarchy-mania’ set in: fast-forward a couple of months and the younger members of the royal family seem to have re-conquered the country, regularly making headlines in both national newspapers and gossip magazines. They are stars of countless documentaries and one, albeit low budget, Hollywood film, and influence fashion’s most eminent designers and popular high-street brands. And, if that wasn’t enough, it seems that the royal family are set to make a splash in the publishing world as well, after it was announced today that Pippa Middleton, Kate’s younger sister, has secured a £400,000 book deal with Penguin’s commercial imprint, Michael Joseph.
Unfortunately for the Duchess of Cambridge, all eyes were not exclusively on the bride on the day of the Royal Wedding as April 29th saw bridesmaid Pippa Middleton make a splash almost as great as her sister. If the love between Wills and Kate captured the hearts of the nation, then Pippa’s rather excellent bottom caught their imaginations and she became a celebrity in her own right. The new book will be a ‘how-to’ manual on hosting parties and entertaining. This deal certainly seems to confirm Pippa’s currently immovable position on the celebrity radar.
Despite the recent fawning over the royal family, however, not everyone seems to be happy about Pippa’s publishing success. The main grievance of the global users of the World Wide Web seems to be the £400,000 advance Miss Middleton has secured before she has even written the book. As any writer will know, times are hard and money is tight in the publishing industry, with very few books receiving payouts even close to Pippa’s near-to half-a-million fee. Experienced authors who have been struggling for years, whose ideas are unique and stories sensational can only dream of a pay cheque so large, whilst Pippa Middleton sat back and watched leading publishers engage in a fierce bidding war for the rights to her writing debut, a book that was nothing more than a concept about becoming the perfect party planner. To be fair, Pippa does have an English Literature degree and a background in party-planning, so it would seem she’s adequately qualified to write a book on the topic but, for many people, it’s the fact that her name alone guarantees her success and a smooth ride at the publishers. That the book will probably be a best-seller too might seem a little unfair.
Celebrity authors have become a phenomenon in publishing over the last decade and they can be a force to be reckoned with. As of January 2007, Katie Price’s first autobiography had sold over a million copies, whilst her second autobiography reached number 2 in the hardback charts in 2006. She’s currently on her fourth autobiography, published in 2010. The glamour-model-turned-businesswoman has also branched out into fiction – at least, she works with a ghost-writer – and has published six novels, surpassing even J.K. Rowling in the speed of her UK book sales.
Katie Price is a perfect example of a celebrity having enormous success in the publishing world based solely on her name alone and she certainly isn’t the only one. Madonna, Ethan Hawke, Julie Andrews, Geri Halliwell are all famous names who have penned successful stories whose publication can only have been aided by their brand-like names.
Unfortunately, it’s just the way the world works today and it’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Celebrity books, whether they are how-to guides or a ghost-written novel, are big sellers, especially around this festive time of year when people are on a mission to find a fitting gift for an obscure relative. Perhaps I’m being unfair and too quick to criticise Pippa Middleton – as I have mentioned a couple of times, the book hasn’t even been written yet. For all I know, it may the best ‘how-to-host-a-perfect-party’ book ever written. And with a launch date set for autumn 2012, the book will come around just in time for my birthday: perhaps I’ll even put Pippa’s party guide to the test and plan my birthday using her expert tips. In my experience, however, as long as there’s good music, great company and lots and lots of alcohol, you pretty much have all the ingredients for a perfect party without Pippa’s help.