With the broadcast and cable networks teeming with reality shows, the publishing industry has produced enough titles by the “stars” of these programs that reality publishing could be considered a subgenre. Parenting guides, weight loss tales, dating tips, career advice—they're selling it all. While the onslaught of titles has produced some bona fide bestsellers, it has also brought its share of flops.
For every Kate Gosselin (the Jon & Kate Plus 8 star's Multiple Bles8ings [Zondervan, 2008] has sold, according to Nielsen BookScan, more than 280,000 copies in hardcover), there's someone like Biggest Loser contestant Matt Hoover, whose Matt Hoover's Guide to Life, Love and Losing Weight has moved under 1,000 copies. One editor from a major house said reality stars are, on the one hand, ideal authors in the new, belt-tightened model of publishing. They have name recognition, a following and usually command advances in the mid five-figure to low six-figure range, far lower than other celebrities watched by millions every week. The trick is to find reality stars that have some form of expertise readers will value in print. Ellen Silberman, a publicist at Touchstone Fireside working on (Real Housewives of New York City) Bethenny Frankel's current bestseller, Naturally Thin, put it this way: “The person has to have a platform, and not just on their show.”
Given the number of reality books signed up—there are forthcoming titles from Real Housewives of New York City's Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen; Confessions of a Matchmaker's Patti Novak; Real Housewives of Atlanta's NeNe Leakes; and The Hills's Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt—here's a look at how some reality names have fared on the shelves.*
Class with the Countess: How to Live with Elegance and Flair by Countess LuAnn de Lesseps (of Bravo's The Real Housewives of New York City); 5,000 copies (Gotham, Apr.)
Hooking Up with Tila Tequila: A Guide to Love, Fame, Happiness, Success, and Being the Life of the Party by Tila Tequila (of MTV's A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila) and Sarah Tomlinson; 5,000 copies (Scribner, Dec. 2008)
Take Back Your Family: A Challenge to America's Parents by Rev Run (of MTV's Run's House) and Justine Simmons with Chris Morrow; 11,000 copies (Gotham, Aug. 2008)
Become Your Own Matchmaker: 8 Easy Steps for Attracting Your Perfect Mate by Patti Stanger (of Bravo's The Millionaire Matchmaker) with Lisa Johnson Mandell; 18,000 copies (Atria, Jan.)
You're Hired: How to Succeed in Business and Life from the Winner of the Apprentice by Bill Rancic (of season one of NBC's The Apprentice); 21,000 copies (Collins Business, Aug. 2004)
Words of Wisdom: Daily Affirmations of Faith from Run's House to Yours by Rev Run (of MTV's Run's House); 21,000 copies (Amistad, hardcover, 2006; paperback, Jan. 2008, 2,000 copies)
The Mystery Method: How to Get Beautiful Women into Bed by Mystery (of VH-1's The Pickup Artist) and Lovedrop; 87,000 copies (St. Martin's, Feb. 2007)
Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting by Bethenny Frankel; 114,000 copies (Touchstone/Fireside paper, Mar.)
*All numbers in this story were provided by Neilsen BookScan, which captures an estimated 75% of total sales. Sales are reflective through Sunday, June 28.