What is H.A.C.K.S.?
Good question! H.A.C.K.S. stands for Humans Against Celebrity Kid Stories.
Wha…? Why are you against celebrity kid stories?
Because many of these books share a common trait: They are crummy.
All celebrity books can’t be that bad!
Nope. There are exceptions; Jamie Lee Curtis, for one, keeps me from speaking in absolutes. In most other cases, however, the books are unoriginal, didactic, awkwardly-rhymed nonsense.
Unfortunately, unoriginal, didactic, awkwardly-rhymed nonsense sells very, very well once you put a celebrity’s name on the cover. A lot of book buyers see this name and think, “Ooh! I like this person!” And in the basket it goes.
Well, why should you care?
I care for a few reasons. The buying reflex I described above creates a couple of problems, I think. First, it exposes kids to lousy, unimaginative writing. That, in my view, should be a crime—or at least a misdemeanor.
Second, bad writing by celebrity non-writers encourages non-celebrity non-writers to announce, “Hey, I can do that, too! I’m gonna write a book just like my favorite children’s book author, Madonna!” So bad writing begets more bad writing.
Thanks in part to the subpar stylings of Madonna and Company, everyone now thinks they can write a picture book. Publishing houses are overwhelmed like never before and have responded to the tidal wave of “meh” manuscripts by changing their submission guidelines. Over the last several years, I’ve seen many houses stop accepting unsolicited work. The market is constricting. Writers are finding fewer and fewer opportunities to get their work noticed.
Do I smell sour grapes?
Far from it. I am a very happy and lucky fellow. I have sold nine books and am very grateful. But there are a lot of writers out there who write better than I, who, for whatever reason, can’t quite reach the brass ring. The glut of celebrity books—and the awful manuscripts those books spawn—are making things more difficult for people who have dedicated their lives to the craft of writing.
This little movement is just a way to say, “Hey, let’s make this publishing thing a meritocracy. Let’s promote the good stuff written by unknowns. Let the kids out there see what a really good story looks like.”
And don’t worry about Madonna. She’ll get by somehow. I’m told she can sing a little.
Your argument is getting persuasive. If I become a member of H.A.C.K.S. what do I have to do?
Not much of anything, really. The organization has three general guidelines:
- Boycott children’s books written by film, TV, pop, or reality show stars; politicians; newscasters; or sports figures.
- Respectfully discourage non-members from buying children’s books written by film, TV, pop, or reality show stars; politicians; newscasters; or sports figures.
- Come up with ways to respectfully encourage celebrities to submit their children’s book manuscripts under pseudonyms – so the stories may be judged on their literary merits alone.
See? Easy peasy.
I don’t believe in banning books.
Neither do I! A boycott is a voluntary action. A ban infringes on the rights of others.
While you may attempt to gently persuade others from buying celebrity children’s books, please don’t be obnoxious about it. We live in a free society and people should be able to buy whatever books they want – even if those books are lousy.
Do I have to be a writer to join H.A.C.K.S.?
No! You just have to be a reader!
I’m sold! How do I join?
Just Hit “like” to join the cause! (feel free to leave a comment, too.) Easy peasy! And welcome aboard!
61 Replies to “H.A.C.K.S. FAQs!”
Although I completely agree with your thoughts regarding poorly written books I was hesitant to become a member until I read the guidelines. Whew! What a relief…not only is this something I want to support, it’s done in a way that I like…nothing creepy about it. BOYCOTT and DISCOURAGE..Yes!
It’s all about respecting the views of others here at H.A.C.K.S.
I’m happy that you are not averse to make a blanket statement about ALL celebrity writing as being crap. While most is pretty horrible there are exceptions, like Jamie Lee Curtis. My friend pointed out to me another series of books by a celebrity – Henry Winkler – which are about a dyslexic boy. I was quick to tell her how most celebrity writers are H.A.C.K.S. but she insisted that his books were actually pretty good. Since 3 of her 4 children have learning disabilities, she was quite interested in the stories. Henry, himself has dyslexia, which wasn’t diagnosed until he was 31, so I think he has a unique perspective and besides that, he’s no Madonna! While I haven’t read them myself, yet, I trust her judgment when it comes to stories of this type. Maybe we can make another exception in his case, unless I read them and disagree with her conclusions. 🙂
I’m not familair with Henry Winkler’s books either, but you are, of course, right. Some celebrity writers really can write and they should not be penalized.
Be sure to check this blog in the months to come. I will be asking readers to offer celeb book nominees worthy of the coveted “H.A.C.K.S. Seal of Approval.”
Gosh, I forgot that I was on the Board of Directors! I haven’t been performing any of my duties!
No you have not. But, to be fair, neither have I.
So let’s spread the word, shall we! Do we yet have a Great Britain membership drive in place?
Can our sons be co-chairs of the Stinkbomb Rating Committee, or would that be too disrespectful?
A tad. But I like your spirit!
Count me in! I am so impressed with your organization skills, Mike. This should go on your resume –H.A.C.K.S. Co-Founder and President, Mike Allegra.
It has a nice ring to it!
It is, I think, the first time I’ve been president of anything. So glad you approve of my leadership skills thus far.
Wow it’s good to see my name up in blue:-) Long live HACKS!!!
Thank you, Madame Executive Vice President!
For all the Snookies in the world, count me in!
Oh, goodness, yes! Welcome!
What a lovely concept. Your movement should expand to badly written books in general (*ahem* 50 Shades of something… just sayin’).
You might be onto something, Samir.
I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award here: http://cecileswriters.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/spreading-the-love/
I can definitely support this idea. Sometimes celebrities erroneously think that they can do anything. You can’t be a good author just because you made some CDs or you were on a reality show. It just doesn’t work that way. Also I think the term “my favorite children’s book author, Madonna” is pretty funny.
Thanks for joining the ranks of concerned readers, Sara. (I just knew you were cool.)
How did I miss this before? Count me in! xoxoM
I was wondering where you were! Welcome, my friend!
I missed this one! Woo hoo I have an Executive Vice President post, I am going to edit my linked in profile 😉
Please do! And convince your friends to join. We need members!
My first Executive Board position. Now I know I’ve made it. To quote Mr. Martin, “I’m somebody now!”
Indeed you are! I’m proud of you!
Ok…so clicking around on your cool Blog site…I found this! Count me in! I agree 100%. There are a lot of very good writers that can’t get anything published because of the celebrities. So I am on board!
You are a national treasure, Courtney. Welcome aboard!
I don’t know how I never noticed this page before. I am a terrible, terrible H.A.C.K.S. Co-President, obviously. I’ll just blame my cats for distracting me.
OK. You’re off the hook. Now spread the word, co-prez!
A new celebrity children’s book has just come out and I plan to post about it soon.
I don’t review books just because they are written by celebrities (in fact I have no clue who some of them are – may parents have to tell me “Oh – that’s so and so”). Okay there is one exception – Weird Al’s books – I love Weird Al. 🙂
As do I, my friend. I spent the better part of my childhood heeding his advice to “Dare to be Stupid.”
I agree about the Jamie Lee Curtis books and I have to say I really enjoyed Bette Midler’s “Baby Devine” book and am guilty of buying several copies as gifts.
We are not an angry or militant group, my friend. Exceptions can always be made. Welcome to the club!
When did I get promoted to COO? Do I get a corner office, company car, and a big fat bonus?
Perks are based on knowing that you are the COO.
i completely agree with this. I used to be in charge of the library in the school I teach in and that was my one rule: no books written by celebrities. There is a wealth of amazing literature out there, yet I was afraid that the kids would be drawn to books by people they knew on the assumption that they would somehow be more exciting.
So yes, I’m totally with you on this 🙂
A teacher and a librarian! Now you are exactly the kinda person HACKS is looking for! Welcome aboard, friend!
I am a little late to the game, somehow never noticed H.A.C.K.S. on the navigation tab, but when I did, curiosity took over and here I am, ready to join up.
I don’t recall reviewing any celebrity books (I have never liked them), and can’t imagine I ever will, unless you write a great children’s book, become a celebrity, and I review your book. Then I would review a celebrity’s book. But only then. Count me in as a reviewer and an aspiring writer.
Welcome to the club!
And I would be honored to be the first celebrity writer your review. if only i could figure out how to pull off the celebrity thing…
Joining this group is pretty much a no-brainer which, as you have so adequately expressed, just so happens to be the quality of said books! 😀
Welcome, my friend!
I really should do another H.A.C.K.S. plug sometime soon.
And after I commented here I realized I wanted to say you were being NICE saying that publishers publish them because they “like” the celebrity when, though that may be a factor, it’s really about $$$. Of course, you can’t blame them because without the bestsellers, there’s no way to publish the rest of us. It’s not truly black and white, but mostly!
Hopefully whatever I just committed myself too is good. 😀
Fear not. It’s peachy.
Can I be vice president of looking out the back window?
can I have a fun hat?
Hats are not provided, but you’re welcome to wear anything you find in your closet.
That means I would *shudders* go INTO my closet. Then I would have to *gasp* come OUT of the closet. I’ll have to rethink this.
You’re so right about how difficult it is for us “normals” to get our foot in the door with publishers. I’ve been trying to land an agent for years. The competition is stiff enough without famous hacks (who aren’t nearly as cool as hackers, but only when working for the good guys) hogging all the clientele space.
Welcome aboard, Betsy!
Your comment has reminded me that I need to write up more H.A.C.K.S. blog posts. We need to get the word out!
I would like to be a member of H.A.C.K.S. 🙂 Ha-ha! This is so true. I know this is an old Blog post but I found it after reading your Storystorm post today and I decided to check out your website. Thanks for putting a smile on my face today.
Welcome to the club, my friend! Thanks for visiting my little ol’ website. Don’t be a stranger, now!
Perhaps I am a few years late to request membership for H. A. C. K. S. : ) If members are still being accepted–I’m in!
I am an educator and a writer who came across your blog via Tara Lazar’s Storystorm.
Read. Write. Create.
Welcome, Suzy! Together we can politely encourage the world to read non-crummy kid lit!