The Good, the Bad, and the Celebrity Picture Book

An Open Letter to Celebrity Children’s Book Writers

By Paul Czajak

My wife did something shocking that rocked the foundation of our marriage. A betrayal so heinous I asked myself, “Et tu Tracey?” What was this Judas-kiss you ask?

She bought a picture book written by a celebrity.

Before the betrayal: Author and wife at an early signing

I know in the grand scheme of things, or in any scheme of things for that matter, this is small potatoes. But you have to understand, I am a children’s picture book author and the celebrity picture book is the bane of my existence. To give you a sports analogy, it would be like a husband being a Red Sox season ticket holder sitting next to his wife in the stands and she is wearing a Yankees jersey.

Wars have started for less.

You see, as a children’s picture book author I have painfully worked on my craft–attending conferences, workshops and critique groups. Writing and rewriting manuscripts in order to perfect them because the competition is so incredibly fierce in this world. Recently an editor from a major publishing house told me she received 15,000 submissions this year alone. Out of that batch, she may pull one for publication. To put this into perspective, she is one of several editors in that house and they all get the same number of submissions. The odds of publication are extremely slim.

Even as a published author, rejection is a way of life. You constantly hear, “I loved the story but I didn’t connect with the character,” or “I’m sorry but it’s not right for our list.” However, most times you do not hear anything at all. This is all part of the writing process. . . Unless you are a celebrity. I realize celebrities have faced rejection in their careers; however, a publishing house sees a celebrity as instant cash because of their fame. They already have a fan base and readers will buy the book solely based on the name and not the quality of the story. I don’t blame the publishers. They are in this business to make money. And I certainly don’t blame the celebrity. They see their picture book as a way of getting their name out in the public. But aren’t there better avenues for celebrities to take without interfering in my career? How about a scandal? There is always the ever-popular reality TV show; who doesn’t love Dancing with the Stars?

Celebrities, listen up: There’s no need to publish a picture book.

But I’m sure my request will fall on deaf ears. So Mr. Nathan Lane, Mr. Jimmy Fallon, and you too, Ms. Whoopi Goldberg, I am going to give you a taste of your own medicine. You’ve forced my hand in this. I do this out of necessity and not out of spite.

I have decided to become a mega movie star.

Just remember that, when your loved one says, “Let’s go see that new movie written, directed by, and starring that children’s picture book author, Paul Czajak.” Please understand, I didn’t create this terrible movie to make any money. It’s only to further my writing career.

Oh and Madonna, Kanye: you are going too hate my album.

This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

11 comments

  1. Yes! If I could triple-like this, I would. I’ve been known to rant about celebrity authors on my blog too. And it’s not just picture books – many a celeb turns their hand to writing a novel (I mean how hard can it be, right?) on a whim, or occasionally a casual sideways career move, and waltz into a publishing deal even though their magnum opus is usually somewhere between quite good and completely awful. Whereas the rest of us have to produce the most brilliant and amazing piece of literature in the universe even to get the merest whiff of catching an agent’s or publisher’s attention. Just so frustrating. Yes, publishing’s a business, but even so … and actually children’s books in general seem to be a particular target for celeb offerings right now, probably because it’s seen as a hot area. And children’s books are shorter so … easy, innit?

    Not that I’d want you to get the idea I’m at all bitter. Of course not. No no.

    By the way, if you make a movie I’ll pay to see it, if only to annoy the ‘proper’ movie stars!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Your humor shines through here almost as much as in your picture books. I think you should definitely try your hand at stand-up comedy. I’m sure Whoopi would approve and even mentor you. Just let her know you’ll critique her next picture book.

    Like

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