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A Reality Show for Unpublished Authors

November 17, 2013


notice icon in the form of a book

Would book readers (or anybody) watch a reality show about unpublished authors?(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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  Italy has a reality show for unpublished writers who want a book deal (details here).   As an unpublished author who watches reality shows (though I deny that I watch reality shows to my intellectual friends), I don’t want to watch other unpublished authors compete against each other on a reality show.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  Contestants could also argue with each other, but I’d feel bad as a viewer watching unpublished authors with their only chance at success arguing with each other.  If I wanted to see unpublished authors argue with each other, I’d join a writer’s group.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?

  1. They’ve got reality shows for everything else, so why not this? Plus, I bet the episodes would be well-written. 🙂

  2. itsanotheremily permalink

    I guess it really would depend on the nature of the show, if you look at shows like master chef (which coincidently, contestants are also competing for a book deal among other things), I really believe that they aren’t trying to edit and make people look bad, it’s just what it is, but then it could turn into a show where yes, there is embarrassment, arguing, revelation of personal habits when writing. So I think it’s best to stay away maybe? I think it would feel better to get a book deal on your own merits rather than on a reality show any ways, as they might be judging you on other things (i.e how interesting you are to watch on tv rather than your writing) and one might question the authenticity of the winner. What a great post btw!

  3. If you behave like a jerk when writing, that would be exactly what the producers would be looking for. If they get a cast of people like that, the show might be a success, since jerks get the ratings.
    I still wouldn’t watch that – but only because I don’t watch reality shows in general.

  4. I don’t watch it (honest), but it seems like all those couples on the “Bachelor” shows end up splitting up anyway. I think it would be devastating to win, then not get published for one reason or another. btw, for what’s it’s worth, it seems to me that most authors get cranky when they work, it’s part of any creative process

    • Ugh, that WOULD be the worst, to win and not get published, or to win and then the book fizzles (and then the 6th place contestant or some writer that the judges impugned has the smash hit best-seller and wins a bunch of literary prizes). If that last part happened, the show might actually be worth watching.

  5. Writing with a camera in your face sounds like a sweet ride. I’ll bet the most arguments are between writers and camera crew. Somebody might even get stabbed. I’m rather the same as you are, in that I generally shy away from the limelight in a public and/or filmed for television setting, but if some dude with a gigantic lens attached to his face wouldn’t back the hell off when I was writing there’d be hell to pay. Maybe they think the best literature is anger driven and they’re trying to forge dark diamonds under a mountain of hate.

  6. About ten years ago there was a very similar show on American television called “Project: Greenlight” which was a screenwriting competition with the winner having the film produced. It didn’t do very well. The second season is the only one that produced a watchable film, in my opinion, “The Battle Of Shaker Heights” with Eldon Hanson and Shia LaBouf.

    My ex-wife and I made it to the final round in the third season, before being beaten by a horror parody called “Feast”.

  7. I don’t think a Writer reality show would go very far. Half of the time most of the contestants would be too drunk to argue, much less write. And the other half of the time the arguments would drive them to drink.

  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I found that very interesting! Particularly as I just watched Masterpiece (on RAI 3) last night (I live in Italy and speak Italian) and blogged about it today.

    Quite frankly, I thought it was good and great fun to watch. It still needs improvement, especially the first part. But watching the writing process was simply fascinating. There was quite a bit of suspense, some tears and some running around, but nobody was drunk or driven to drink. The third part of the show, the famous “elevator pitch” was well done, it really worked, both visually and content-wise. You suddenly got an amazingly clear idea of what kind of book this guy and gal had written (it was a man in his thirties and a woman in her fifties).

    • Thank you for providing some insights about the show. From what you’ve said, maybe I’m wrong about the whole thing. Do you think the show appeals to non-writers? Is there any arguing or humiliation or people acting outrageous just to get attention? How does the show portray the writing process?

  9. I think it’s a legitimate foundation for a show, but I’d rather walk bare foot across glass in Death Valley than be on a reality show for my writing. I’ve twice been recruited for reality shows one for a show about Stay at Home Dads and one for my former private detective business. After talking with the producers, I thought I would never get clean. To me, they are definitely not worth the intrusion into your life from any angle at all. Great post.

  10. A reality show that hinges on a final product (book, painting, etc.) and it’s involving writers nursing their creations probably wouldn’t fly off the ground very far:

    Writing is such a solitary, cerebral activity. Even critiquing each other’s work won’t have meaning if audience has not read the creative works.

    Most writers aren’t on-screen “entertainers” or actors/actresses which the latter you need for draw a tv screen audience.

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