Thursday 26 May 2016

Simon Cowell can write a better kids book than you (or so he thinks). Time for a wake-up call - A ReadItDaddy Editorial

When I'd stopped laughing, and wiped the tears from my eyes after reading Simon Cowell's opinion on children's books (see the Bookseller article) I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone with that big an ego. Someone who has such an unshakeable sense of their own worth that they think they can turn their hand to anything, and be a roaring success at it.

Obviously, Mr Cowell's success in the music industry is undeniable. From humble beginnings as a sort of weird synth-playing dog act, he's moved up in the world and now holds the music industry in an iron grip.

I can safely say that I've never actually contributed to Cowell's net worth myself, but zillions have, and each time a new series of X-Factor or Britain's Got Talent starts up, or whatever the US equivalents are, there's a huge amount of press and it feels like the whole country gets wrapped up in it.

Can he really muscle into the children's book market?

Of course he flipping can't. Because Simon Cowell has made the mistake so many other celebrity authors (or would-be authors) have made.

He's started out with the assumption that writing for children is easy. The poor, deluded fool.

What's worse, he's made the sweeping generalisation about children's books that will prove to be his undoing. He describes them as "Boring" which is his first mistake. That smacks of a person who obviously has not read nearly enough children's books.

At last count, Charlotte and I have read (at least) 2500 books that we've written up for review. We've read countless more that haven't found their way onto the blog. We've seen books of every shape and size, books that are beautifully subtle in the delivery of their stories and their messages. Books that are darkly tinged and live on in the memory. rightfully becoming classics. Books that cause such an outpouring of love and affection that collectively, booky folk are in total synchronisation with their opinions on them and when they meet in person, they almost hug each other with glee at the mere mention of them.

Can you honestly tell me, with a straight face, that Mr Cowell could write an animal book that impressive straight out of the gate?

I couldn't. Nor could I write a book that instantly impressive either, because I'm under no illusions about what it takes to create something that kids will take to their heart, read with relish, and perhaps even obsess over a bit.

Merely being famous does not guarantee that the balance of sale will be met purely by association. I get the feeling that Cowell has set himself up for a fall before he's even put pen to paper. Savaging a genre that people openly love and write enthusiastically about has to be one of the stupidest moves you could make if you want people to approach your work without an initial bias against it.

When it arrives, when it finally makes it through a sympathetic editor, when an illustrator takes on the job of trying to imagine Simon's book world and visualise it (assuming - hah - that the idiot really doesn't think he can do the illustrations himself because kids have such a low expectation when it comes to the pictures in their books), when it's finally published I'd really love to read it and try to write about it without wanting to completely tear it apart. It might miraculously be good (I remember the low expectations I had about Russell Brand's first children's book, which actually wasn't atrocious and Brand was VERY lucky to land the awesome Chris Riddell as illustrator).

If it is good, I'll probably be strangely upset because it will just prove something I already believe. People like Simon Cowell just seem to get away with being that monstrously egotistical AND successful whereas folk who quietly beaver away writing, drawing, trying their very best to get a book out there and read, and published, often fall at the first hurdle. There really is no justice is there.