In a follow-up article to yesterday’s revelation about another faked memoir, publishers and editors defend themselves.
Yet another memoir bites the dust. Love and Consequences by Margaret B. Jones was published last week. In this memoir Margaret B. Jones claims to be a half-white, half-Native American who grew up as a foster child in the gangland of South-Central Los Angeles and ran drugs for the Bloods. In reality, “Margaret B. Jones” is Margaret Seltzer, who grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles.
Faking a memoir seems to be a growing trend:
The revelations of Ms. Seltzer’s mendacity came in the wake of the news last week that a Holocaust memoir, “Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years” by Misha Defonseca, was a fake, and perhaps more notoriously, two years ago James Frey, the author of a best-selling memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” admitted that he had made up or exaggerated details in his account of his drug addiction and recovery.
Seltzer’s identity was revealed when her sister saw an article with accompanying photo in a New York Times article last week and notified the book’s publisher, Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Group USA, that the story was untrue. Seltzer had worked on the book for three years with Riverhead editor Sarah McGrath. Seltzer’s sister wonders how a publisher could have worked so long on a project without doing any fact-checking.
The book also fooled several reviewers, including The New York Times‘s own Michiko Kakutani, who praised the “humane and deeply affecting memoir,” while noting that some of the scenes “can feel self-consciously novelistic at times.”
Following an earlier report that some striking Hollywood screenwriters are using their off time to work on novels, here’s a follow-up: Some striking screenwriters for children’s shows are funneling their creative ideas into children’s books that will be published later this year.
But don’t think that a children’s book is something writers can just toss off in their spare time:
Writing for kids is tough, says Jerry Griswold, director of the National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature in San Diego, Calif. It took Maurice Sendak 8 years to draft the 300-word classic “Where the Wild Things Are.”
In case you’re wondering what screenwriters are doing with all their free time during the strike, the Los Angeles Times reports that some of them are working on their novels. One agent points out that, because scripts and novels require very different types of writing, success as a screenwriter does not necessarily guarantee success as a novelist. Still, if they can sell the movie rights to their books. . . (after the strike ends, of course).
Associated Press (AP) writer Candice Choi discusses POD publishing. This form of publishing allows writers to get their book into print without having to lay out a lot of money. Under the POD model, each book is printed when someone orders and pays for it. POD publishing differs from vanity press publishing. With a vanity press, the author pays up front to have copies printed all at once, like any other publishing run.
Choi points out that many authors use POD publishing to attract the attention of a major publisher. While there are instances in which a POD book has sold well enough to be taken over by a traditional publishing house, those instances are rare relative to the number of POD books in existence. Choi also says:
Big companies such as Random House Inc. or HarperCollins Publishers can promote authors on a national scale and get titles in major bookstores. Professional editors also polish copy in the traditional publishing world, a step that can transform a manuscript into a best-seller or perhaps a masterpiece.
This is quite misleading. In recent years even the big publishers have quit providing money for publicity except for their major authors (think John Grisham, Danielle Steel, Stephen King, and the like). So, unless you’re one of those authors, you’ll have to underwrite and perform your own publicity even if you do land a traditional publisher.
POD publishing can be a satisfying alternative if you’ve written a book that has a limited audience and if you’re willing to promote the book aggressively. One thing that Choi doesn’t mention, though, is that almost all major book review outlets refuse to review self-published books. So if you’re thinking of POD, understand that you won’t be able to count on reviews in major newspapers or magazines to promote your book. However, if you book fits into a well-defined niche, you may be able to get reviews in magazines, newsletters, or Web sites that serve your subject area.