Like most tragic stories, this one starts with a wedding and ends with legal threats. And like many of these stories, the middle part contains a guide to entertaining and a parodic Twitter account.
Pippa Middleton, whom I’m sure many of you are aware of even if you’re not completely aware you’re aware [cultural osmosis], is perhaps most famous for walking behind her sister Kate Middleton and holding her train as she prepared to become the Duchess of Cambridge by marrying into the Royal Family. You may still be wondering why she’s famous, so here’s Google’s suggestions for further research. (You’ll likely only need the first suggestion.)
Perhaps Pippa Middleton felt she needed to get out from under her married-up sister’s shadow or maybe she’s always had an urge to create, but whatever the impulse, Middleton cranked out a book full of cooking and entertaining tips entitled “Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Family and Friends.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Plenty of people on various tiers of celebrity have written and published books, capitalizing on their fame. The problem was that Middleton’s book was aimed at a very niche audience for which her title would be their first book on entertaining and, quite possibly, their first book ever.
Middleton’s well-meaning but entirely vapid Celebrate offered the following “tips” to would-be celebrators.
For Hallowe’en, how about pumpkin soup served in a hollowed-out pumpkin?
To stop cakes going stale, she advises storing them in something called “an airtight tin”, while hot drinks for picnics should be poured from flasks into “mugs or paper cups”.
Elsewhere, she explains the rules of a game of conkers and the correct way to toast marshmallows over a fire, a process that involves using “a long-handled fork” and “flames”.
Could it be more basic? Why not try roasting a turkey for Christmas or lighting small candles on a cake to celebrate a birthday? Hey, here’s another crazeee idea — what about making pancakes for Pancake Day?
As the reviewer notes, it’s the perfect book for someone who’s misplaced their recipe for ice. This glossy set of sub-common-sense instructions was soon being parodied by @Pippatips on Twitter. As can clearly be seen by the profile, it’s a parody account.
This account was soon dispensing pearls of wisdom on par with Middleton’s book to over 50,000 followers.
if you’re shopping on a budget, try purchasing things that cost less to buy
commuting can be a useful way of travelling between home and work, and even back home again
make it easier for your friends to enjoy TV shows they haven’t watched yet by telling them what happens
enhance the effectiveness of appliances such as dishwashers by actually turning them on
if someone suggests place mats or coasters as a present for someone smile politely and keep looking for something nice
The success of this Twitter account soon led to a book deal, resulting in “When One Is Expecting: A Posh Person’s Guide to Pregnancy and Parenting.” The success of the Twitter account andbook soon led to this dubious (even for Britain and its notoriously libel-lawsuit-friendly climate) legal action.
Although the duo’s book was published in June, Middleton’s lawyers Harbottle & Lewis have written to the book’s publishers, Icon Books, to demand the @Pippatips Twitter account be deleted.
Now, why the publisher was approached is unclear. The Twitter account is independent of the publisher and existed before the book deal. However, the instinct is to go where you think the money is, especially in frivolous lawsuits. Obviously, this first salvo failed. The parody account is still live.
What the legal teams plans to follow up this first failure with remains to be seen. It would be very difficult to believe there’s any sort of libel or defamation occurring, which is usually the direction this sort of thing tends to go. If Middleton is offended by this parody, she’s sabotaged herself by drawing attention to the Twitter account (and by extension, the book that parodies her “basic” writing style).
This may be a poor attempt to extract a little revenue from a rival publisher. Middleton was advanced a reported £400,000 for the book, but low sales saw her publisher reduce the cover price 75% in hope of moving some units. She was also dropped from the publisher’s roster as well as by her literary agent. This sort of spectacular crash sometimes results in desperate measures — like poorly thought-out legal action.
Until the other foot falls, @Pippatips remains in business and its spinoff book is still selling. Both will probably see a boost in traffic thanks to Middleton’s inability to handle being parodied.
Written by Tim Cushing