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Celebrity Children's Books--Is It Fair to the Rest of Us?

      I can sing a little, act a little, even hold my own in a political debate, but I won’t be entering Hollywood or politics any time soon, and you won’t catch me playing in the Super Bowl. Why? Because I’m aware that I wouldn’t be good at any of those careers. I can’t say the same for the legions of actors, singers, politicians and athletes who pen children’s books. Without trying to be too snarky, only Julie Andrews, who does everything well, and Jamie Lee Curtis, have published decently written children’s books. So why, then, if I’m not barging in on any celebrity’s territory, are they barging in on mine? Not to mention the thousands of other promising writers who actually have (hopefully) studied a thing or two about the children’s book publishing industry and are going through the old-fashioned channels: approaching editors as unknowns in the hope they’ll one day be a child’s oft-requested author. 
      Setting aside Madonna’s very snarky—and erroneous—comment that she had to write children’s books because there was nothing good enough out there to read to her son, the fact remains that these celebrities approach publishers because they know their name alone will get them a contract. I’ve spoken with editors at major houses who say they dislike working on these books because it means they really have to work, since the books are often poorly written. And I’ve chatted with well-known children’s authors who seem to be in two camps: the philosophical and the aggravated. The former suggest that celebrity books bring people into book stores who may not otherwise go, and while there may buy other authors’ books as well. The latter group says that publishers only have so much money to go around each publishing season, and if they hand over a large chunk of the advance budget to John Travolta or Colin Powell (who, many of us will add, probably don’t need the money as much as the average writer), there will only be change left over for the rest of us.
      What gets my snark up is that, like Madonna, most of these people seem to think that writing for children is easy to do, and therefore, why shouldn’t they be a part of the industry as well? Those of us who have struggled for days or more over just the right way to phrase a bit of dialogue, and have suffered the blows of rejection letters, know perfectly well it isn’t easy. But apparently even the likes of mobster John A. Gotti thought that it was. Fortunately, his is another career I’m not likely to try. I’ll stick with my day job. Now if only all those celebrities took my lead.
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      What do you think about celebrity children’s book writers and their impact on us regular writing types? 
Liza N. Burby
Liza is an award-winning journalist for some of the top publications in the country, a magazine editor, parenting speaker, children's book author and a motivational speaker/expert on getting your work published.