Big comics line up for this autumn

Big comics line up for this autumn

Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan and John Bishop are among the latest big-name celebrities to have been snapped up for autobiographies, as comedians look set to dominate the hardback celebrity memoir market again this autumn.

“Gavin and Stacey” star Rob Brydon’s memoir is to be published this autumn by Michael Joseph, with MJ non-fiction commissioning editor Daniel Bunyard winning world rights after a  “hotly contested” auction. He said: “We expect this to be a huge title for Christmas 2011.”

The memoir of Steve Coogan, Brydon’s partner on BBC series “The Trip”, is believed to have been bought by Century publishing director Ben Dunn for autumn 2011 publication.

Meanwhile Harper non-fiction publisher Carole Tonkinson has won an auction for a memoir from Liverpudlian comic John Bishop for autumn 2012 publication.

Robert Kirby at United Agents, responsible for the Rob Brydon deal alongside Maureen Vincent, plus a memoir from James Corden, said: “In the Grand National that is autumn celebrity publishing my bets are placed firmly on comedy this year.”

Corden and fellow comedians Jason Manford, Lee Evans and Johnny Vegas are among those already announced for autumn 2011, to be published by Century, Ebury Press, Michael Joseph and HarperCollins respectively.

Comedians’ memoirs have proved a rich seam: since BookScan records began in 1998, the top 10 bestselling celebrity comic memoirs, including The Sound of Laughter by Peter Kay (Century) and biography Billy by Pamela Stephenson (HarperCollins), have taken £47,416,285 through the tills. Carole Tonkinson at HarperCollins predicted: “This autumn is going to be ferocious . . . it is going to be vicious.” She added: “John Bishop is for autumn 2012 and I am kind of relieved about that as the line-up is already looking pretty packed for this year. I think that it is just harder to stand out. There are only a few comedians at the top tier and they command incredible investment.”

Publishers noted that advances remained high for that top tier. Dunn said: “I would say that buying-wise we are all being far more cautious; prices are, for the most part, more sensible, but the right that the first-time Peter Kays, Russell Brands, Sharon Osbornes and Dawn Frenches are incredibly hard to find these days.” Michael Joseph non-fiction publisher Katy Follain added: “We’re definitely being more cautious, but more willing to pay the right amount on the right name.”

On trends in the memoir market overall, agents and publishers stressed having a strong story to tell was what united successful titles. Curtis Brown agent Gordon Wise noted: “You have to be sure they will meet expectations [which] are so high now . . . The trend is now for a much more in-depth autobiography.” Jake Lingwood, publisher at Ebury, said: “I just think it’s about getting good, interesting stories to tell and doing it well.”

David Higham managing director Anthony Goff said: “Comedians often work well: because (usually) they can write and they can produce distinctive books.”