We must send our congratulations to ex-Atomic Kitten warbler Kerry Katona. Ebury Press has just signed her up as a "major fiction brand" in a three-book deal. First in this trilogy of celeb stamped literature is Tough Love. She will work on the books (described as “a fantastic blend of Footballer's Wives and Shameless”) with an unnamed co-author. Rough Justice and High Stakes will follow in 2008.
With glamour model Katie Price's new novel, Crystal - set in the exciting world of reality TV and "co-authored" - just out and at No 37 in the Amazon.co.uk hit parade as I write, this latest publishing trend in "branded fiction" is certain to bolster the profits of an industry that disdains writer self-publishers on the grounds of its own unparalleled good judgement of what's publishable.
Yet, the swine behind all this certainly know their market. Its feeds are the weekly celeb magazines such as OK!, New!, Now, Closer, Star, heat, Grazia, etc, and the daily pop goss pages in the tabs - in all of which Katona is a regular. The gender target is overwhelmingly female. These media focus almost entirely on TV/WAG/model/pop music names - fresh from sex/drug/illness hells, preferably - and TV soap storylines, creating its own limelight star system of bling-a-ding-ding ordinariness. The prole glamour of TV serials, WAGs series, rich 'n' famous fly-on-the-walls and celebrity/nonentity reality now dominate the TV schedules, our newspapers and the mag racks: fact and fiction seamlessly cross-pollinate in a bloom of media hyperbole. So Ebury Press has made a smart move.
Even smarter is the honesty. The publisher is not pretending Katona can write - she is a brand. In other words, it is self-confessedly surfing her name for fiction product designed for her fan base and adjacent who dream of glamour redemption after a dreary start in life. It might be regarded as a demerit if Katona could write: a committee-created brand must be true to itself and writers of talent tend to veer. An image of cluelessness that's nonetheless rewarded with mag at-homes and photo ops in the tabs is the perfect tabula rasa upon which to download current dream bait. There will be more career openings for actual writers to ghost these kerching fictions - and then long after the books are forgotten, the actual writers can produce rich memoirs of working with celebrity, know-nothing monstres sacrés.
Suddenly, the world of books seems a brighter place. And Madame Arcati has fiction brand proposals of her own:
1. Duck, Bitch! with Naomi Campbell: A coke-deranged employee-abuser, given to hurling household appliances at the staff, sees the error of her ways after a court orders her to do personal assistant duties for Mohamed Al Fuggin. Love grows en route to a lucrative department store each morning ...
2. What Are You Looking At, Dickhead? with Jodie Marsh: Our heroine Page 3 girl meets international football star Phil Cocker who says she's got to put her big conk under the knife before their fairytale wedding at Windsor Castle (actually, outside where Charles and Camilla got hitched). She starts to wonder who the fuck he thinks he is. She gets a knife, but it ain't for her conk ...
3. Cell Block H(ilton) with Paris Hilton: Poor-little-rich-girl Cassandra faces a custodial sentence for some trifling reason; then her identical twin Anastasia offers to swap identities and serve the term for her - but at a price. In return, Cassandra must hand over her fiance, well-endowed Prince Ari, to her wicked sister. Is freedom worth the loss of a big cock? A tale of modern dilemmas.