Friday, December 4, 2009

Martin Amis, gentleman

That is Martin Amis above, and this is Katie Price, also known as Jordan, below:

The Times reports that literary authors in the UK are miffed at the attention paid to celebrity memoirs, and rejoice that the genre seems to be in decline. However, Tom Weldon of Penguin says that “the biggest selling authors this year will be Ant & Dec, while Jeremy Clarkson, Chris Evans, Frankie Boyle and Peter Kay will also be in the top ten.”

No, apart from Clarkson I don’t really know who these people are either, but they are clearly outselling A.S. Byatt. And if the genre is in decline, some of these non-books (as my late friend Andrew Mason called them) are still shifting units:
The literary career of Katie Price, however, has more often made such books worth the gamble. Her first memoir, Being Jordan, sold more than 720,000 copies and, despite some diminishing returns, the former model’s fourth-volume autobiography released in October is still selling relatively well.

This causes consternation among other authors who complain that the life blood of their profession, as well as their cash advances, are being sucked dry by celebrities.

In a speech to the Crime Thriller Awards this year, Lynda La Plante implored publishers to “stop spending your millions on this tripe ... on these reality TV writers who are here for their 15 minutes of fame”. Pointing out that Price’s book had outsold the Booker Prize list, she added: “She is a terrible thing for young girls who just want pink welly boots.”
Martin Amis, ever the gentleman, weighed in with this comment on Ms Price:
“She has no waist, no arse,” he said. “All we are really worshipping is two bags of silicone.”
What a charmer. Later in the article we learn that “sales of Martin Amis’s books totalled £200,000 last year”. The standard royalty rate authors receive is 10% of the retail price (yes, he has a top agent so could well be on 15% or more, but then his agent will be taking at least that, but just for the sake of argument…) which would indicate that last year Amis earned £20,000 in royalties.

That’s not a lot of money, really. Quite a few New Zealand authors earn more. Amis would get a hefty sum each year from the Public Lending Right which compensates authors for the loss of royalties because of library borrowings (even an obscure author like me gets enough each December to pay for a very merry Christmas), but still I think we can see why he is affronted. Many, many people would rather read her than him.

Monitor: Tim Worstall

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