Monday, July 24, 2017

Do we need Celebrity Authors?

I recently went to a very interesting Children’s Book Circle Event discussing the increase in the amount of celebrities writing children’s books. The panel consisted of:
  • Children’s reading consultant, freelance editor and blogger, Clare Zinkin
  • Award-winning picture book author, Michelle Robinson
  • YA author and ghost-writer, Siobhan Curham


Children's editor of the Bookseller magazine, Charlotte Eyre was the chair.

Charlotte explained publishers are actively seeking out celebrities to write books and this is not isolated to only books for children. She told us that if a publishing house has success with a gimmick such as a celebrity author the trend is for the others to follow as it brings in the money. It was quite significant that there were no celebrities or publishers on the panel.

We must never forget that publishing is a business and all businesses want to make money. Although, whether they make money is dependent on age-group and who the celebrity is. David Walliams’ books sold over 56 million books last year whereas Chris Hoy did not even sell 5000 copies. As authors we should want our publishing houses to do well as it means there is more money to spend on debut authors.

However, the marketing can be frustrating. It is disheartening when celebrities are higher in the charts because they are getting bigger budgets and higher billing at events and festivals. In a way it is cheating because the stars are being given a head start. Authors like David Walliams are always in the review round-ups regardless. It is sad that even the Summer Reading Challenge book sorter mostly recommends celebrity books and traditional best sellers like Roald Dahl and Jaqueline Wilson. In the same way, large book shops like WH Smith and Waterstones tend to stock only the big name authors. But Michelle is proud she has got to where she is ‘the hard way’.  

On the whole, books by sports people and other celebrities are a good thing because it gets children reading; many who may never have picked up a book before. Celebrity books tend to be light-hearted middle grade with a great illustrator. The children do not care that it is a celebrity without a background in writing all they want is a great story with amazing characters to read.

We are getting to a stage where there may be a saturation of the market with celebrity books and some are not making out their large advances. There has been a tendency for publishers to depend too much on celebrity authors. There is also a fear that because a gold medallist can also write a book in their spare time it makes writing seem easy and not hard work at all. Claire compared it to being like the celebrities creating a perfume. We need to remember Literature is a craft and we should see it as a craft. It is true many celebrities are actually writers with a proven track record and those who are not tend to have a ghost writer. As a ghost writer Siobhan sees her role as helping the celebrities tell their story.


Many authors in the audience felt that if a book had been written by a ghost writer they should put the ghost writers name on the books to make it clear who has written them. Siobhan explained ghost writers do not care if their name is not on the book, it is the nature of the job and anything that gets a book into a child’s hands is a good thing.

There was an overall feeling from the audience that celebrities should do more to get involved in the industry. They should make an effort to mix with other children’s book authors. It was suggested that in the same way as there are ghost writers, celebrities could advice authors on performing at events or make book recommendations to increase sales of all books and not just their own.

So my answer to the heading of this post, do we need celebrity authors, is…

…NO …we do not need celebrity authors. What we do need is great stories for children no matter who has written them.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Vera Morris' Research Secrets

I read a lot of crime fiction but I have a guilty confession at a certain point in the book I will always be tempted to read the ending before I have finished the book. I love to work out how the author has weaved in all the clues and red-herrings into the plot and sub-plots. It is like a jig-saw puzzle.

Some of the best crime fiction I have read are those where the author has spent time on the atmosphere and setting of the book. In my Research Secrets slot in Writers' Forum for July 2017, Vera Morris explained to me how she used her research to do just this. In her two riveting crime thrillers, Some Particular Evil and The Temptation published by Accent Press, she definitely captures the flavour of the era and area her novels are set.


Vera talks about how she found newspapers of the period invaluable. She checks what the weather was like, times of sunrise and sunset, sports results and TV / radio schedules. All this helps create a very authentic backdrop for her novels.

To find out more about Vera and her novels check out her website: www.veramorris.co.uk


Monday, July 10, 2017

Writing 4 Children - Tommy Donbavand

Tommy Donbavand is one of my children's book author heroes. Not only has he battled with cancer and documented his experiences for other cancer sufferers at www.tommyvcancer.com, he is also so generous with his time and advice.

He is a legend and I was lucky enough to interview Tommy for my Writing 4 Children slot in the July 2017 issue of Writers' Forum. He told me about his Scream Street series and how it was adapted for TV.




In the feature he talks about how he ensures his fantasy world is as 'real' as possible. He recommends other aspiring authors who are writing series fiction to spend time getting all the rules and details correct. He likes to fill notebooks with scribbled ideas for character types, names, story plot ideas, themes and the differences between reality and his fantasy world.

You can find out more about Tommy Donbavand's books and writing career at:



Monday, July 03, 2017

NAWG Writing Festival

I will be teaching this year at the NAWG Writing Festival on the 1st - 4th September 2017.



I will be doing four workshops in total. Two on the Saturday and two on the Sunday. Here is an outline of what they will involve.

Writing Children’s Books Starting with Theme
This workshop will give you the opportunity to explore writing a picture book looking in depth at picture book structure, layout and theme as a basis to writing your own picture book. The aim is to plot and start writing a new picture book idea by the end of the workshop to take home and polish.

Writing Children’s Books Starting with Character
The focus of this fun workshop is to create a children’s book character and get to know them thoroughly by looking at dialogue and finding your character’s voice through role play and games. The aim is to come away with a new idea for a children’s story.

Creating Conflict in Children’s Books
Conflict is a storyteller’s best friend. The stronger the problem, the stronger the story. This workshop will suggest ways of developing conflict in your children’s stories using real life case studies as a way to develop your plots.

Creating Emotion in Children’s Books

This workshop will give you an opportunity to write a wide variety of emotional scenes by exploring your own senses. Play with all five senses to keep your readers involved, maybe off balance, but always interested in what is coming next.

To book see the NAWGFest2017 website.