Apparently there’s this guy, James Frey. Whose name I might have heard once or twice before. Who’s now doing . . . stuff . . . with YA books.
Specifically, Mr. Frey is gathering a stable of writers to write high-concept books in an attempt to produce the next commercially huge YA book phenomenon. The idea for one of these books can come from Mr. Frey or from the writer, but either way, in return for Mr. Frey’s contacts and support, these writers sign contracts that basically forfeit all of their rights to everything short of their DNA. They are then paid – get ready for it – $250 up front, and another $250 upon delivery of the book. They also get some percentage of all revenue minus expenses (with no audit or assurance that these numbers are actually based on anything). There’s another article here by a writer who almost joined this stable, chronicling his experiences.
In one incident in the second article, Mr. Frey tells the writer, while they are discussing a book concept, to think merchandising – in fact, to think Happy Meals.
Stables of writers working anonymously to create popular books are, of course, nothing new. (Nancy Drew, anyone?) Still, this level of commercialism astounds me. I’d almost be ready to shrug and say, “At least he’s honest about his intentions,” but honesty doesn’t make you immune from being a jerk. Naturally, no one forces writers to sign up for this endeavor, but the terms seem as contemptuous toward them as the whole enterprise seems toward, well, books.