Writing Rant: Chewbacca Mom & Another Low in Publishing


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The Chewbacca Mom, Kristina Hagman and Another Pathetic Low in the Publishing Business

Comparatively speaking, like the movie industry that is saddled with reboots, remakes, sequels and prequels, due to desperation for big tent pole franchises to battle for box office supremacy each weekend in order to make enough money to offset the money losing movies, the publishing industry has fallen into the same trope. The majority of books lose money in print. The big name authors and movie tie-in books tend to make the majority of profits each year to offset all the debut and shrinking mid-list authors that didn’t sell well enough through the channel to take another chance.

In essence, with only a few major studios and a few major publishers left, they are in a business of risk aversion.

There have been countless autobiographies of unimportant people. With that, I mean those who don’t have a meaningful impact on the world in any way. I would argue politicians and thinkers (usually mutually exclusive) should have autobiographies to better understand their life’s work and achievements.

Over the last 30 years, there has been an evolution to make an instant buck by pre-empting the autobiography, for more of a “Here I am now” book. You know, celebrity autobiographies; usually actors and musicians and athletes/coaches, some with only a single “achievement” on their resume. Win a gold medal at 21? Let’s make an autobiography. Get 1M fans on youtube? Let’s make an autobiography. I’m sure agents have run down the Chewbacca mask lady begging her for her autobiography.

You see, I’m not naive. It is now about capitalizing while the iron is hot and making most of people’s 15 minutes of fame and temporary fandom.

But today, I saw something on yahoo news that showed just how much farther the publishing business has fallen. St. Martin’s Press (part of one of the big 5), published an autobiography of Kristina Hagman. Who the fuck is she? She is the daughter of Larry Hagman. Who the fuck is he? Well, he was on a TV show called Dallas, and was famously shot as JR in a cliffhanger. So let me get this straight, this was a publishable project because she is the daughter of Larry Hagman, a deceased celebrity from a TV show from the 1980s that few people remember, and she has more insight to him (Let me guess, it will touch upon abuses of sex/drugs/alcohol, because this adds just so much insight and helps the world cope in a meaningful way).

I was going to classify this as a new evolution of celebrity autobiographies, as the “relative of a celebrity autobiography” until I looked at the cover and was flabbergasted.

Kristina didn’t even write the book.

A new, ugly literary beast was created. They published a “ghost written, relative of a celebrity autobiography.” I guess it was too difficult for Kristina to write about her father, so she scribbled some notes for someone else to fill in the blanks on her relationship with her father. Yes, I know most autobiographies are not written by the person, but at least the source of interview material is from the actual person with the achievement or fanbase.

It is unbelievable that they killed a living tree for this book.

What’s next? An autobiography of the woman who sold the Chewbacca Mom her mask, ghostwritten of course. Imagine it … 225 pages going over the 2 minute transaction, starting with a slow replay as she put the mask in her cart and tried it on (maybe she did or didn’t, maybe dramatize it a bit) and walked few passes near the register (maybe she did, or didn’t) down the aisle and inter-splice a breakdown of the security camera footage at Kohls like the zapruder film. Maybe there can be interviews of everyone in line that day, especially the important toy clerk who brought out (a 60% chance he brought the mask out, because Dave and Shirley were on break, but let’s not get into facts) the Chewbacca mask that she bought. Maybe there was a bag checker at the door who was the last guardian for freedom.

To you authors out there struggling to get your Great American Novel sold to a publisher, don’t fret, there is still a chance you can track down a relative of someone famous 30 years ago.

Back to Kristina. Remember the book cover above? Do you see something noticeably different than the one below? Guess what Kristina removed on her website … yep, she the “Wood Block Print Artist, Painter, Writer” removed the ghostwriter name from the version on her site. Riddle me this, how would you fill in this blank: Kristina is a ____ Artist.

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