Sorry Sir Paul, do you have to be a (paperback) writer?
- Credit: Dan Harr/Invision/AP
Writer Chris McGuire says celebs penning books for children are using their name to sell to parents and stopping genuine authors breaking through
I'm a huge fan of The Beatles.
Their songs are part of my DNA. I mean, for me, Revolver was an album long before I had any idea who Smith & Wesson were. Similarly, I can't hear someone shout "Help!" without replying "…me if you can I'm feeling down" - which is probably why my career as a lifeguard never took off. And Paul, now Sir Paul, was my favourite - I love his sentimental ballads, I really do.
The thing is Sir Paul has just taken a foray into children's books. Paul's Hey Grandude (do you see what he did there?) has hit the shelves and, if I'm honest, I don't think it's a good thing.
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What's my beef?
I'm a little bit bored of celebrities jumping on the bandwagon and releasing children's books. Actually bored doesn't quite cover it. I feel the glut of actors, actresses, singers and presenters using their fame to dominate the world of children's literature is actively unhelpful. They're all at it, Fearne Cotton, Miranda Hart, David Baddiel… the list really is endless. And you know what? Some of these books are really quite good. My point, however, is whether these books are good or not is a complete afterthought. They sell because of the fame of the writer - we're in a horrible position where parents and grandparents are buying into brands when purchasing literature; rather than looking at the content of the books themselves.
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Why is this a problem?
Imagine if you will that the same thing happened with that bastion of our society: football. What if the Premier League was suddenly filled with celebrities; placed into teams not because of their footballing ability, but dependent upon how famous they were. The quality of games would drop immediately. And what would happen to the naturally gifted footballers? Where would they learn and develop - if all the places were filled by TOWIE cast members?
It's the same with writing. It's hard enough to get a kids' book published as it is - trust me, it's something I've struggled (and failed) to do myself. The new writing voices that used to come through the system based on merit are being drowned out - they're not getting the agents, or the publicity that they need because all the oxygen and money is being sucked up by 'thingy' who used to be on 'that programme'.
It really isn't fair.
Now I'm aware that I'll be accused of whinging. I can cope with that. And people will throw David Walliams at me, as he is 'the new Roald Dahl'. All I'd say is, in my view, he's a good kids' writer. Is he the new Roald Dahl? Only time will tell. What I do know is there may be many other, equally skilled writers out there, that don't get a look in - those who don't appear on the telly every week (something which can't hurt Mr Walliams sales).
I've a feeling that the ship has already sailed and that kids' books, from now on, will always be the output of already well known people desperate to show another string to their bow - but frankly that's a bit sad. If the same attitude had been used in the music scene in the early 60s I've a feeling Messrs Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr would have struggled to get a record deal: "I'm sorry lads, you're great - but nobody's ever heard of you. Could you get jobs on Coronation Street and come back when you're famous?"
What a tragedy that would have been…
Chris McGuire is a writer and stay-at-home dad. Follow him on Twitter @McGuireski