Thanks to the media obsession with celebrities, most people think that authors are rolling in dough. I’m here to tell you that although most authors may occasionally plunge into a bowl of cookie dough ice cream, they are definitely not cavorting around in Olympic sized pools filled with the likes of Ulysses S. Grant and Benjamin Franklin. (Okay, so maybe JK Rowling, James Patterson, and Stephanie Meyer are, but there are exceptions to every rule.)
It seems a week doesn’t go by that we don’t read about another celebrity -- or parent, spouse, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin or next-door-neighbor of a celebrity -- being handed a huge chunk of money to write anything and everything from tell-alls to memoirs to diet to exercise to fiction to kids’ books. Even fantasy. What else would you call a parenting book by the mother of Britney and Jamie Lyn Spears?
The latest celebrity -- and I use that term loosely -- to land a book deal is Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, one of the stars -- and I use that term loosely, as well -- of Jersey Shore. Snooki, who has admitted she’s read all of TWO books in her life (Twilight and Dear John) is writing a romance novel. Title of the book? A Shore Thing. According to Simon and Schuster, the book will include “big hair, dark tans and fights galore.”
Of course, celebrities really don’t write their books themselves. That’s what ghost writers are for. But the only items that make the gossip pages are the 6 or 7 figure advances the celebrities are getting. Someone told me Snooki’s receiving over half a million dollars in advance for her literary masterpiece (or should that be messterpiece?), but I can’t verify that.
So it’s understandable, I suppose, that the vast majority of the population would think the rest of us writers are doing equally well. After all, we’ve written real books. They come complete with covers and pages with words, and they’re sitting on the shelves at Borders and Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores across the country. So of course, we’re making gobs of money -- NOT. At least not most of us.
I know authors who have made it to the NY Times bestseller list. Most of them can’t afford to quit their day jobs, but few people are aware of that fact and even fewer believe it when you tell them. (“Oh, I thought you still worked at the diner because you love being on your feet eight hours a day, serving burgers, fries, and shakes to your adoring public!”)
So every time I read about someone like Snooki being handed a fortune for “writing” a book, I get a little steamed. Can you blame me? And just to add insult to injury, she and her Jersey Shore cohorts -- only one of which is actually from New Jersey -- are adding to the stereotype of my state. You should come visit sometime. We’re really nothing like what you saw on The Sopranos or see on Jersey Shore. Well…at least not most of us. There are those Real Housewives of New Jersey, but they’re probably not really from New Jersey, either. At least, I hope not.