The world of celebrities seems to be far removed from the literary world. Celebrities are seen and heard; their primary mediums are screens, where we meet and consume their content. We see them on televisions, hear them on Spotify playlists, and scroll past them on Instagram feeds. So, when we think of a celebrity, we often do not think of books. There is a fine—but not simple—line when it comes to celebrities and books. Can a celebrity really be a respected author? Can authors become celebrities on the same level as the stars of the screens?
We often recognize books written by celebrities as memoirs with glossy portraits of a familiar face on the cover. These memoirs are abundant and often declared best sellers, making every other film and television star an official bestselling author. The problem with these memoirs is that they give the celebrity all the credit and acclaim while oftentimes the celebrity barely puts pen to paper; many are written with “collaborators,” which really means they were written by ghostwriters. This is not to say that the information presented in the book is false, but the name on the cover may not reflect who wrote the words.
Some celebrities, after gaining fame, decide to write their own non-fiction books themselves or even new works of fiction. Some examples include musician David Byrne, author of How Music Works, or actor Chris Colfer, who wrote an entire Young Adult series called The Land of Stories. In these cases, their successful careers in other fields do not take away from their written works. The books stand on their own without needing any boosts from the celebrity’s existing fame. These situations are a respectable crossover into the literary world, and the same can be said for many humorous books you would find at a bookstore.
Comedians who are already famous end up writing books about personal experiences in their industry or in their life in general, like Mindy Kaling, who has written three non-fiction books outside of writing for television. These new memoirs or works of fiction seem more genuine than some celebrities who “write” a book for sales.
So, what about when authors become celebrities in their own right, through their literary work? It happens from time to time when an author is so successful that they cross the line into the celebrity world. Authors like Stephen King could be considered a celebrity. Contemporary writers like Rupi Kaur appear on late-night talk shows. This line between celebrity and author is complex and often brings the work at hand into question. At the end of the day, regardless of how a book makes it onto the shelf, someone has put time into it; the celebrity aspect can hardly be controlled.
Associate Arts & Entertainment Editor (Volume 48) — Ciera Couto is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto, she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Drama and Dramaturgy, with minors in both Cinema and Women and Genders Studies. She has been writing creatively for years and has recently been published in different Canadian magazines and journals. Ciera spends her time reading, writing and listening to Taylor Swift on repeat. You can see her portfolio here, connect with her on LinkedIn, or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.