H.A.C.K.S. FAQs!


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:

  1. Boycott children’s books written by film, TV, pop, or reality show stars; politicians; newscasters; or sports figures.
  2. Respectfully discourage non-members from buying children’s books written by film, TV, pop, or reality show stars; politicians; newscasters; or sports figures.
  3. 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!”

  1. 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!

  2. 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. 🙂

    1. 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.”

  3. 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!

  4. What a lovely concept. Your movement should expand to badly written books in general (*ahem* 50 Shades of something… just sayin’).

  5. 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.

  6. My first Executive Board position. Now I know I’ve made it. To quote Mr. Martin, “I’m somebody now!”

  7. 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!

  8. 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. 🙂

  9. 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 🙂

  10. 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.

      1. 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!

      1. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.
    Suzy Leopold

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