A Reality Show for Unpublished Authors
There are a lot of bad ideas for reality shows, but this one might be the worst. Italy has a reality show for unpublished writers who want a book deal (details here). As an unpublished author who watches reality shows (though I deny that I watch reality shows to my intellectual friends), I don’t want to watch other unpublished authors compete against each other on a reality show. I think it’s a really bad idea for a bunch of reasons.
First of all, reality shows have lots of arguing. Roommates argue with each other. Spouses argue with each other. Contestants stranded on islands argue with each other. Housewives argue with each other. Even judges argue with each other. Without arguing, a reality show doesn’t have much of a chance to thrive. So a literary reality show would have to have lots of arguing.
The novelist judges could argue with each other. They’re probably pompous, and they could make literary insults that most people wouldn’t understand. Nobody feels bad when a pompous author gets insulted. Contestants could also argue with each other, but I’d feel bad as a viewer watching unpublished authors with their only chance at success arguing with each other. If I wanted to see unpublished authors argue with each other, I’d join a writer’s group.
There’s also a lot of humiliation on a reality show. Contestants embarrass themselves and don’t even know it. Contestants embarrass themselves and don’t even care (meaning that they SHOULD be embarrassed but aren’t). I’m not sure I want to see authors embarrass themselves just to get a book deal. If authors are going to humiliate themselves to get a book deal, it should be done in private.
I could never be a contestant on a literary reality show. It’s not that I’m too good for a reality show. If there were ever a reality show where I thought I had a legitimate chance to win, I’d seriously think about it. But I’m a quiet guy who clams up around unfamiliar people, and I really hate cameras. As I’m getting older, I’m getting a little less quiet and a little more cranky (or crankier), but I’m not ready for a reality show yet.
I really don’t want to argue or humiliate myself on television. I’d rather never get a book deal than do that. At least on my blog, if I embarrass myself with my writing, I did it to myself and can’t blame producers for manipulating the environment or selectively editing the footage. My early writing on Dysfunctional Literacy is embarrassing enough (and maybe my current writing is embarrassing and I just don’t know it yet). I don’t need the help.
Plus, I don’t want anybody to see my writing process. Sometimes I like my finished product. I think I’ve gotten it right a few times on Dysfunctional Literacy. But my writing process is ugly. I write, get mad, write later, throw a fit, and then give up for a while. My friends think I’m a nice, patient guy, but really, I’m a jerk when I write. My family knows that I’m a jerk when I write. I don’t want the hundreds of viewers who would watch a literary reality show to know that I’m a jerk when I write. I don’t want them to see my rambling disorganized thoughts before I revise/edit and tie everything together, and I don’t want them to see my red-faced raging when I get frustrated. My writing process is messy (and I’m a jerk when I write), and I’d rather keep all of that private.
We’ll know if the Italian literary reality show is a bad idea if no other country tries it. If nobody in the United States tries to make their own literary reality show, then it’s truly a horrible idea. In fact, even if the United States tries its own version, it’s probably still a bad idea. A bad idea is a bad idea, even if other countries try it, and I don’t need to watch it to know it’s a bad idea.
Would you go on a reality show if there were a possibility to get a book deal? Would you watch a reality show where the winner gets a book deal? If you watched it, would you cringe (or is that the whole point)? Would you buy a book from an author who got a book deal from winning a literary reality show? And what kind of reality show would you go on if you absolutely had to be on one?