Children’s author slams publishers constantly commissioning celebrities like Duchess of Sussex


Leading children’s authors have hit out at publishers for giving celebrities like Meghan Markle ‘whopping advances’ on books based on their fame and regardless of the quality of writing. 

The Duchess of Sussex, 39, announced earlier this month that she has penned her first book The Bench, and said it was inspired by Prince Harry and her son Archie which would explore the ‘special bond between father and son’ as ‘seen through a mother’s eyes’. 

It is not known if Meghan has received an advance for the book and whether any of the proceeds will be donated to charity, a branding expert previously told FEMAIL it could have already netted the Duchess £500,000 following a ‘bidding war to secure her first venture’. 

But now British children’s author Gareth P. Jones, who penned the Dragon Detective Agency book series and in 2012 won the Blue Peter Book of the Year award for The Considine Curse, has criticised publishers for priotising ‘celebrity over quality’.

Leading children’s authors have hit out at publishers for giving celebrities like Meghan Markle, 39,  ‘whopping advances’ on books based on their fame and regardless of the quality of writing

He told The Telegraph that Meghan ‘isn’t unique’ in wanting to write a children’s book – and while many parents try their hand at writing, it’s rare they’ll get a book deal unless they’re famous.

He said:   ‘Most celebrity authors get such whopping advances for their efforts that I’m not sure book sales or longevity are important factors for them.’

Meanwhile author of children’s thriller Waiting for Murder Fleur Hitchcock said quality should be prioritised over celebrity.

She said: ‘There have been some absolute disasters over the years – remember Madonna’s? – some sell on the name, and fizzle out, but some are so aggressively marketed that they swamp the competition.’ 

Earlier this month the Duchess of Sussex announced she has written a £12.99 children's book called The Bench which will go on sale on June 8 and is illustrated by bestselling Californian artist Christian Robinson

Earlier this month the Duchess of Sussex announced she has written a £12.99 children’s book called The Bench which will go on sale on June 8 and is illustrated by bestselling Californian artist Christian Robinson

In March Idris Elba signed a global deal to write a series of children’s picture books and fiction inspired by his teenage daughter Isan – joining a long list of famous faces flexing their star power with their own book series.  

The list includes royalty like the Duchess of York, Hollywood A-lister Natalie Portman and even up-and-coming stars like Emerald Fennell. 

Other stars to release children’s books include Oscar winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, whose bestseller Sulwe is going to be made into an animated musical by Netflix. 

Pop culture and branding expert Nick Ede previously revealed writing a children’s book has become a status symbol for celebrities who feel it is a ‘savvy way to make money, maintain fame and secure years of royalties’. 

Gareth P. Jones penned the Dragon Detective Agency book series and in 2012 won the Blue Peter Book of the Year award for The Considine Curse

Gareth P. Jones penned the Dragon Detective Agency book series and in 2012 won the Blue Peter Book of the Year award for The Considine Curse

Nick suggested the popularity of the celebrity author had been spurred on after many saw the booming success of comedian David Walliams’ book empire. 

 ‘The appeal for celebrities to write children’s books really has started with the David Walliams phenomenon’, said Nick. 

‘He saw a market where his books could sell but also would have many off shoots from theatrical interpretations, animations, audio books and merchandise. 

‘This allows the author to maximise in only a way someone like J. K. Rowling could imagine.’ 

A branding expert previously said the popularity of the celebrity author had been spurred on after many saw the booming success of comedian David Walliams book empire

A branding expert previously said the popularity of the celebrity author had been spurred on after many saw the booming success of comedian David Walliams book empire

Presenter Fearne Cotton has penned several children's books, while the Duchess of York is also an acclaimed author for kids

Presenter Fearne Cotton has penned several children's books, while the Duchess of York is also an acclaimed author for kids

Presenter Fearne Cotton has penned several children’s books, while the Duchess of York is also an acclaimed author for kids (left, and right) 

At more than £100 million, Walliams’ book earnings outweigh his showbusiness income and when WH Smith listed its most popular children’s books of 2020, three of his were in the top ten, beating even JK Rowling.  

The branding expert said Hollywood stars could secure ‘years of royalties’ by writing a children’s book which could become a classic for young readers.

He explained: ‘Celebrities like Idris Elba who have mass appeal in movies and TV who can write compelling narrative that children learn from is a savvy way of making money and keeping your fame and securing years and years of royalties. 

‘I think it’s a savvy way of staying relevant, building a new fan base and making money and also building a legacy like famous authors from Enid Blighton to Roald Dahl who still have their intellectual properties used for modern adaptions.’

The Bench – which will come out in the UK and US simultaneously – was inspired by a poem the Duchess of Sussex had written for Harry on Father’s Day the month after Archie was born. 

The Duchess of Sussex, 39,  wanted the story to be told through an 'inclusive lens' and will feature a 'diverse group of father and sons' (pictured with Archie and Harry in 2019)

The Duchess of Sussex, 39,  wanted the story to be told through an ‘inclusive lens’ and will feature a ‘diverse group of father and sons’ (pictured with Archie and Harry in 2019)

In one illustration, a red-headed soldier wearing an American-style Army cap is seen holding his young son aloft as a woman watches on crying from a window

In one illustration, a red-headed soldier wearing an American-style Army cap is seen holding his young son aloft as a woman watches on crying from a window

The story, which will be published on June 8 by Random House Children’s Books, will be illustrated by bestselling Californian artist Christian Robinson, who was brought up by his grandmother in a one-bedroom flat also shared with his brother, two cousins and aunt.

Popular culture expert Nick Ede told FEMAIL that the Duchess of Sussex would’ve likely been paid between a £250,000 to £500,000 advance to write the book. 

A publicity release said Meghan, who chose to use her title on the cover of the book, wanted the story to be told through an ‘inclusive lens’ and will feature a ‘diverse group of father and sons’. 

Meghan will also narrate the audiobook costing $4.99 (£3.54)- which together with the hardback version could earn her millions from sales.

In one illustration, a red-headed soldier wearing an American-style Army cap is seen holding his young son aloft as a woman watches on crying from a window. 

This is a likely reference to her and Harry, who served in Afghanistan with the Blues and Royals. The words read: ‘This is your bench, Where life begins, For you and our son our baby, our kin’.   



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