The news that Pippa Middleton, younger sister of Royal Kate, is to be paid £400,000 by publisher Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Books, to write a guide to being the perfect party hostess is bound to irritate many authors. After all, as far as we’re aware, Pippa isn’t known for any writing talent – although as previously she worked in the family business, Party Pieces, she must have picked up some tips there.
But it seems her publishers are already predicting big things for her book, which is likely to be launched next Autumn after the Queen’s Jubilee but in time to catch Christmas sales.
A report in The Telegraph quotes one literary agent as saying of the advance: “It is a massive amount of money, particularly in the current environment.” Indeed such an advance shows Michael Joseph, the Penguin imprint that won the auction over her book, is expecting high sales.
Apparently ‘everyone who was anyone’ in the industry was after the book. The Daily Mail says there was a ‘fierce bidding war’ and others who wanted the book included publishing giants such as Harper Collins and Random House.
One reason is privately educated Pippa, who is apparently not going to use a ghostwriter and is already immersing herself in writing the book herself, is impeccably placed to be an expert on the subject of parties. As well as working for the family firm Party Pieces, she also worked as a professional party planner at another company, Table Talk.
And undoubtedly the book will sell well. It is bound to be the sort of inspirational must-have book for anyone giving a party – from the mum who wants to give her child a birthday to remember to a corporate event. Parties – particularly childrens’ parties – seem to be one of the only things to have escaped the recession. A recent survey revealed four out of ten parents think nothing of spending between £100 and £500 on their child’s birthday party. And what to do for a party, who to invite and how to make that party special is one of the most discussed topics on parenting websites, such as Mumsnet.
Although Pippa is reportedly keen to not be seen to be cashing in on the fact her sister is the Duchess of Cambridge, one glance at the publisher’s other bestsellers clearly shows it believes celebrity does equal sales. After all, on the Penguin website, Michael Joseph is described as ‘being principally interested in publishing Top Ten Bestsellers’ and other authors include Stephen Fry, Michael McIntyre, Jamie Oliver, Jeremy Clarkson and Ant and Dec.
Generally of course, over the past decade, the publishing industry has been busy tightening its belts, dramatically reducing the number of new concepts or authors – particularly unknown ones – it takes on. Instead there has been a rise in celebrity-led books.
The reason of course is it is much less work – and is much less costly – for publishers to promote a book written by a well-known celebrity than it is for them to push forward a previously unknown author.
And it’s another reason why for most unknown authors – who might well be extremely talented – getting a book deal is proving even harder and why so many are now turning to self-publishing.
You might also like: How I published my own Chick-lit novel