The James Frey scandal is enough to awake Holt Uncensored after a nine-month absence. Pat Holt’s latest column (#396), which isn’t up at her site yet, suggests that Doubleday & Co. hire the Smoking Gun to vet every memoir that comes through the house, offer a refund to any reader who wants it, and refrain from issuing the book with an expalanation. And Holt’s just getting started.
Or maybe Doubleday could interrupt their marketing/currency-wallowing summits to do some of their own fact-checking. You know, that old-fashioned, outdated concept known as EDITORIAL WORK.
Just curious. Do you actually work in book publishing?
What does attending a marketing summit/conference have anything to do with editorial work?
I sympathize with Doubleday and their staff. Oprah is very important and can really help a pub. house stay afloat… not an easy thing in this day and age. Those of us that work for big NY publishing houses, aren’t getting rich. We care about books like you. You can be critical of Oprah, her book club, and books that don’t meet your literary standards… but by doing so I think you’re doing a diservice to people that are working hard to keep the business afloat.
The reference (admittedly, a lazy one) was not to some industry conference, but the executive decisions made within Doubleday/Talese. (I don’t work in the publishing industry, but have been in the belly of the corporate beast long enough to know about misguided and self-serving boardroom decisions.) I was specifically referring to Talese’s obvious decision to market the book as a memoir instead of a novel, while apparently doing little or no fact-checking to ensure the book’s claims. Selling it as a memoir was undoubtedly driven by the fact that memoirs (especially the big “personal redemption” types) generally sell better than novels–a crass marketing decision which ultimately made Doubleday a bundle of money on the deal (both pre- and post-Smoking Gun) and which Talese clearly does not regret. If Talese wants to publish nonfiction, that’s fine, but they’d better damned well make sure that the “true life” books they publish bear at least some resemblance to reality. Otherwise, just call all of it fiction and take your chances on a fickle fiction-reading marketplace.
I certainly don’t fault the little people who toil in the bowels of the publishing industry and who “aren’t getting rich”, who are heavily motivated by their love of literature. In fact, I applaud them. It’s the executives who make ethically questionable decisions (whether in publishing or any other industry, including my own) in pursuit of the almighty buck that I have a big problem with.