The 'Simples!' idea that became a £10m empire


The autobiography of a cravat-wearing furry mammal is poised to become one of the publishing sensations of 2010, having already attracted more advance sales than the life story of Tony Blair.

Aleksandr Orlov's A Simples Life: My Life and Times is the latest moneymaking venture from the meerkat star of the Compare the Market TV adverts, who has revitalised a business and made a fortune conservatively estimated at £10m.

Amazon said pre-orders of the 127-page book, picturing the Orlov family tree and his relatives' historical struggles, had outsold the former prime minister's tome and a slew of newly released books by celebrity authors. Before its publication yesterday, it had advance sales 165 per cent higher than Katie Price's fourth autobiography, You Only Live Once.

"The demand for his book is so great that he has generated more pre-orders sales than those achieved by Tony Blair's A Journey and more than double the pre-orders of Cheryl Cole, Russell Brand and Dannii Minogue for their recent releases," said Neil Campbell, Amazon UK's books manager.

Ebury Press, the Random House inprint behind the £9.99 autobiography, said: "All signs so far point towards it being a very successful book."

Its strong start suggests the British public has yet to sate its appetite for meerkats, the members of the mongoose family that populate Botswana's Kalahari desert, and for Aleksandr, who speaks with a Russian accent.

First seen in January 2009, his adverts see him chiding customers for confusing his Compare the Meerkat website with Compare the Market, which sells insurance, energy and mobile phone tariffs.

Since the adverts first aired, Compare the Market's owner, BGL, has been laughing all the way to the bank. Site visits have risen from 50,000 a month three years ago to more than 2 million a month today. It is now one of the top three price comparison sites, with 25 per cent of the market.

BGL has not disclosed how much money Aleksandr has made. However, in June it announced a 16 per cent jump in profits – a rise of £9.92m – which it said had been "largely driven" by Compare the Market's growth.

Given that Aleksandr was boosting traffic to the site for the five months before those results, and for the four months after, he may have made the company double that. And that was before his book was published.

The work sketches out the narrative of his forebears' beetle-fuelled escape from the Kalahari, the beginnings of his meerkat-comparing business in Moscow, his dabbling in the theatre and a glimpse "into the home and day-to-day living of a billionaire meerkat entrepreneur".

Graeme Neill, news editor at The Bookseller, said such novelty hits often did well at Christmas, citing recent successes Where's Bin Laden, Ma Broon's Cookbook and Simon's Cat.

"All of these books are great, quirky presents," he said. "They're like the last thing you buy for people on top of their main present. I would be surprised if it's the best-selling book this Christmas. But it has enormous potential – the meerkat ads have incredible brand recognition, and the publishers will benefit because every one that comes on will be like a free advert for the book. It could sell in the tens of thousands."

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before