One of my pals on Facebook posted a story about how Pope Benedict is writing a children's book. This inspired lots of anti-celebrity writer comments (and some Catholic-bashing ones for good measure).
This happens on forums every time a celeb children's book is announced. "Real" kids book writers tend to get het up about it, whether the celeb in question is a sports star, pop singer, or in this case, pontiff. "How dare they! They should stick to what they are good at and leave children's book writing to people who really care about children and the art of writing books!" Then come the insults about that celebs suitability as a role model, alleged scandals, questionable morality, looks and lack of intellect.
I understand some of the ire, particularly when the celebrity in question says something dumb like "there just weren't any good kids books out there, so I had to write one!" ... but I guess I can't get too worked up about it.
a) How do we know that celeb isn't an awesome writer? Don't get me wrong, I have my doubts, but still. I'd be bummed if somebody said I couldn't or shouldn't write a book because I have a totally different day job. Wouldn't you?
b) Yay for selling books! The buyers for celebrity books are probably not people who buy a ton of kids books anyway, but who knows, maybe this will bring them into a store to buy something else as well. Or maybe the kid who gets that book will love it and want more books. Goodness knows, I loved the Berenstain Bears when I was a kid, and you'd be hard-pressed to find something more didactic that THAT - but my love of those dumb bears turned into a love of books, which got me to keep reading.
c) If it sells well, that publisher will have more dough with which to buy books from debut and non-celeb authors. A rich publisher is a happy publisher.
And insulting Catholics or priests, or pop-music fans or singers, or sports enthusiasts or players, because they have an interest in these books? Poorly done. Look, many millions of people are Catholic and wonderful, many hundreds of thousands of priests work their whole lives to help children, not hurt them, and many if not most of those people care about what the pope has to say. Many millions of people are Madonna fans and wonderful, and Madonna seems to care deeply about children and their issues. Many millions of people love Michael Phelps, and he is a role model and hero for many many children.
We can assume that these people are probably not evil people. Sure, many celebs are suddenly in the writing business for some cash, just like some start perfumes or clothing lines when you know they aren't exactly chemists or designers. So what?
That means that somebody out there thinks that many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of consumers, will be interested in what that person has to say. So maybe instead of thinking of these books as "books" the same way that your books are, think of them as merchandise.
If you don't like the pope, or Madonna, or Michael Phelps, or any celebrity, you are quite free not to purchase their merchandise, whether that be books, or perfume, or leggings.
Insulting these public figures and their fans is not actually helping you, or advancing your own career or writing in any way. Their book being published isn't taking away your chance to be published. They are not taking away "your slot" -- that slot is the "celebrity merchandise" slot, you probably aren't a celebrity, that slot wasn't going to be filled by you anyway.
So take a spoonful of sugar, and make your book as great as it can be, so that you have a shot at one of the slots you DO have a chance to fill.
And if you are a celebrity, or God's Voice on Earth, and you happen to be reading this?