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Gambling on celebs to sell

Those involved with publishing who have yet to lose their heads will be shaking them in disbelief at the price tag -- £5m (€5.51m) -- being paid to Cheryl Cole for her autobiography.

Three big-name publishers this week battled it out in a bidding war for a story that could be boiled down to a few tabloid pages.

Judging by industry grumbles, the publisher of Cheryl's wee story is certain to be taking a huge gamble, because with sales of celebrity titles down 30pc last year, many publishers have decided to return to traditional titles to bring sales back up.

There are even strong rumours that Wayne Rooney's £5m advance for his memoirs -- five of them to be delivered at various stages through his career -- has been quietly renegotiated; Carol Vorderman's biography has been 'postponed'; ditto both Russell Brand and actor Simon Pegg.

However, literary fiction is not necessarily the way out. While sales of Martin Amis' books last year (excluding his latest book, The Pregnant Widow) totalled just over £200,000 (€220,000) Alan Titchmarsh's ever-growing catalogue of gardening books reaped £1.7m (€1.9m).

It's looking increasingly like a question of credibility.

Tony Blair has managed to secure £5m for his memoir, which is due out in September and should do very well. And Barack Obama's two titles last year, The Audacity of Hope and Dreams From My Father brought in profits -- profits -- of £2.6m (€2.2m) for a publishing house once thought underground, Scotland's Canongate.

Canongate had its first taste of success with the book that every director is still trying to find a way to film, Yann Martel's Life of Pi, which won the Booker in 2002.


Nick Cave considered Canongate respectable enough to offer them his second novel, The Death of Bunny Munro, which appeared in 2009. And this week, the Edinburgh publisher announced it had bagged rapper Dizzee Rascal, who will pen his bio by October. And just as Canongate did with Cave, Rascal's book will have various audio tie-ins and is sure to sell in buckets.

So while many publishers are throwing millions at any celeb they can, those who keep their heads and choose wisely look certain to survive.