Life without Sheila

<p>I'm sure I'm not the only acquiring editor in Australia who has gone on the hunt for the Australian Jordan. For convenience, let's call her Sheila. She's pretty, she's outrageous, she lures and she fascinates, she is photographed the whole time. Some mock her, some revere her; thousands really, genuinely like her. And plenty of people will buy her book.<br />
There are many reasons why red-top publishing should be a force to be reckoned with in Australia. Mass-market women's magazines compete fiercely on the news-stands and make up one of the fastest growing sectors in the media; Zoo has grown rapidly after its launch in February 2006; OK! Australia is published weekly. So why no stand-out tabloid books?</p>
<p>Part of the reason is that there is no established trend&mdash;but until someone starts it, there won't be. Jordan's first book didn't have a publishing home until John Blake took it on, so perhaps Australia is just lagging behind in a pre-celebrity-bestseller world.</p>
<p>But another reason is that it's not that easy to become a celebrity in Australia. While the Brits are renowned for building people up and then dragging them down mercilessly, Aussies can be reluctant to elevate anyone in the first place. If you want to be famous and well-liked you have to work hard to show that you're no more unusual than non-famous people. This is no national secret: the &quot;tall poppy syndrome&quot; is referred to the whole time. The reality is that if no one is enamoured with home-grown excess, that type of celebrity is less likely to fill the pages of the local tabloids. Far easier to be entertained by what the US has to offer.</p>
<p>There are a few small signs that things might change. Last Christmas, Schapelle Corby's <em>My Story</em>&mdash;the memoir of a young Australian woman languishing in an Indonesian jail for drug smuggling&mdash;sold 100,000 copies. <em>Spun Out,</em> Paul Barry's biography of Shane Warne netted just shy of 35,000. And while it might not be celebrity-focused, there is something distinctly tabloid about the non-fiction book of the moment, <em>Who Killed Channel 9?</em>, which has sold 24,000 hardbacks in its first three weeks on the shelves.</p>
<p>But in all of this it's hard to ignore one simple fact: there is nothing quite like the British tabloids, nothing like Page Three, and nothing like the production line of scoops and headlines. Sydney's Daily Telegraph and Sun Herald seem tame by comparison. Perhaps without the tabloids to invent her, Sheila simply can't exist.<em><br />
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