Sunday, October 01, 2006

Misery Makes Money

That's a horrible heading, isn't it? But there can be no doubting its veracity.

Take the rash of celeb biogs, for example. (I mean that literally - you can take them. I don't want 'em!) Then compare the pulling power of Kerry Katona with, say, Anthea Turner. Damaged childhood and drama-filled adulthood vs middle-class girl does quite well for herself. See what I mean? There's even a name for these unhappy goldmines ... 'misery memoirs'.

I started thinking about my own experiences in publishing. When my books first came out and were being publicised, this is what I got:

* 'You were made homeless when you were 7 months pregnant? Oh that's wonderful!'

* 'You wrote 2 books, while holding down 2 demanding jobs and raising 2 demanding children and living on a council estate and it nearly did you in? That's great - we can definitely use that!'

* 'You lived through a war? Fantastic! It was 20 years ago? Never mind, it's still useable.'

* 'You didn't have a dreadful childhood? Oh ... shame ...'

OK, I'm paraphrasing a bit, especially on that last one, but honestly, not a lot. And you have to bear in mind that this was about me, not my books. I've never written about those experiences!

Anyway, surely the lowest point in the commercialisation/exploitation of misery has to be the case of 18 year old Natascha Kampusch, who recently escaped after 8 years captivity in a tiny basement in Vienna.

No sooner had she stumbled, blinking and confused, back into the real world, than the literary vultures began circling, cackling their responses to the horror that was her life.

'Completely fascinating, extraordinary,' cackled one. 'The biggest misery memoir there's going to be,' said another, audibly salivating.

Just as well her interests are in the hands of a sensitive PR agent, Dietmar Ecker, then. Here's what he said.

'From a purely capitalist point of view, this woman is a goldmine.'

Excuse me. I think I'm going to be sick.


Anonymous said...

Pass the bucket, I'll share.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, I've read that the young lady had a planned idea of which PR agent she wanted when she became free and also that she's currently considering a new one. Not that that makes her any less of a victim. I suspect she's a very mixed up young woman and recovery will take some years. (With the best support for that not being a PR agent!)

As for celeb books, I've been squealing about this almost weekly for a while now, in between mentioning crime fiction. Publishers and possibly booksellers too are getting so excited about this stuff for the Christmas purchase rush. Zzzzzzzzz.

What about decent fiction and crime fiction in particular?

Debi said...

Yeah - that article I linked to suggested she was in control of the process and had planned it all. I'm assuming that's simply more cynical manipulation to justify exploitating her. I don't believe a word of it!

Debi said...

duh! Exploitating??? So much for my proof reading skills ...

Anonymous said...

While a lot of the tragic childhood novels are very worthy and am sure they help the author to come to terms with what has happened and that they've got on and moved on is great. But celebrties like Anthea Turner writing their 'poor little me/how wonderful I am' novels, really gets my goat on two points. Firstly, it's all a PR con for Christmas (as crimfic so accurately
points out). Secondly, a lot of these people are only in ther 20's/30's/40's, for Pete's sake your lifes only beginning.

Was thinking of doing a Confessions of a 45 1/2 year old, but I think Sue Townsend's got it covered. Again, with crimfic on this one with some decent crime fiction. If anyone buys me one of the Celeb things it'll be proping up my iffy kitchen stool!

Debi said...

My dad uses my books for propping up his iffy lamp! It's good for me - keeps me grounded - not that the hideous machinations in the state of publishing give an opportunity for flying ...