Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Opal Mehta Mess---Publishing's Own Milli Vanilli?

DONNA [12:09 P.M.]: I know I'm not supposed to feel smug or vindicated or anything, but I heard this morning that there are no longer plans to amend and reissue Opal Mehta. The movie deal is kaput. The Harvard Crimson found passages in Opal that were suspiciously similar to those in five or six other books...including one by Salmon Rushdie!!!! Seems Kaavya Viswanathan has become publishing's own Milli Vanilli.
Virginia [12:13 P.M.]: Go right ahead and enjoy smug and vindicated. Enjoy it for all of us who toil in the fields of originality. For all of us who struggle mightily for the best story, the right words and do it without the assistance of "instant book in a box" Just add equal amounts of BS and $$ and you're good to go directly to the top of the bestseller lists!
DONNA [12:18 P.M.]: Creating characters and stories that readers embrace is freakin' hard. And it doesn't happen overnight the way publishers would like. I mean, I read that "book packagers" actually share in the authors royalties. Would that be because they actually create the book and find "writers" with pretty faces whose pictures they slap on the back cover? It makes me mad. . . and sad.
Virginia [12:23 P.M.]: Mad because hard work doesn't count for as much as it used to? Sad because everything is about marketing and packaging? Not about content? Authors have to have a "platform" now---some kind of built in audience that can be tapped into without having to travel the usual publicity avenues. You know that now everyone is looking for "first books" because they have no record, no sales history and they can be promoted as anything the publisher wants or needs them to be (read: thinks you will drop $24.95 to buy). It's no longer about building a writer's career and audience. It's in for the quick kill, out and on to the next book and author.
DONNA [12:25 P.M.]: And that established authors are taking pseudonyms to walk away from the less-than-bestseller sales figures that mean book stores won't give them a chance? Yep. I know all of that.
Virginia [12:26 P.M.]: Talk about being pissed off.
DONNA [12:29 P.M.]: Yeah, but I gotta get more out of this than pissed off. We're plotting a book now, so I have to believe this will be some kind of cautionary tale. OK--that sounded like a fairy tale as soon as I wrote it. I'm just glad the cat is out of the bag.
Virginia [12:30 P.M.]: Like everything else in our society, this is all about spin. Convincing people this is what we should buy, eat, watch, read, think or be concerned about. I'll bet you another whole dollar that there will be a "tell all" where Viswanathan (for more big bucks) explains in great and tedious detail how all of this Opal Mehta brouhaha came to be. What sounded like a fairy tale?
DONNA [12:34 P.M.]: That this would be a cautionary tale. Like it will change the way editors look for manuscripts and what they will choose to publish. It's naive to believe this will have a radical effect, but maybe they will have to pay at least a little more attention to what goes in the package.
Virginia [12:35 P.M.]: The Opal shell game is on the heels of A Million Little Pieces, and the DaVinci Code trial...see any lessons learned? Didn't think so. Hmmmm. We are plotting a book and since it's a sequel/follow up I guess we have to be careful not to plagiarize ourselves!
DONNA [12:36 P.M.]: I'm not worried about plagiarizing ourselves-- just about telling a good story. Working with characters we've already created will be a new challenge, but I'm always up for a challenge.
Virginia [12:36 P.M.]: Yes, you are definitely that kinda girl...
DONNA [12:36 P.M.]: And since Opal Mehta has been pulled from the shelves, the existing hardcovers will probably start showing up on Ebay as collector's items.
DONNA [12:38 P.M.]: Correction--they already have. Thereare a bunch of them on E-Bay--- there’s an ARC going for $57.00 and a “Rare book no longer in print” going for $42.01.
Virginia [12:38 P.M.]: No surprise there. It'll be interesting to see how high it goes--
because the only really BAD publicity is NO publicity. So when you get right down to it, (the bottom line) what's a little cheating if it helps to sell---- ANYTHING.
DONNA [12:40 P.M.]: Truth is, I feel sorry for Kaavya Viswanathan. I'd be in a dark room in a far away town for a really long time behind this fiasco. Is that when I'd write my memoir?
Virginia [12:41 P.M.]: I don't know whether to feel sorry for her or not, but like I said, the story behind the story is coming and Viswanathan will GET PAID again.
DONNA [12:43 P.M.]: I heard there was speculation about whether she would be sued by her publisher for her advance. She had a $500,000, 2 book deal, but we know she hasn't received all $500,000. I'm guessing somewhere between a third and maybe a half, at very most, has been paid. But how can the publisher sue when they're complicit in these little games?
Virginia [12:45 P.M.]: They can't. And I'm sure they won't. They want this to go away. Little Brown has (or had as the case may be) a reputation they want to preserve.
DONNA [12:46 P.M.]: T’is true. Anyway, enough. We've got a book to write.
Virginia [12:47 P.M.]: I'll bet that's how we'll end most of these chats for the next year.... YIKES! We have a deadline!!!!!!
DONNA [12:47 P.M.]: Shhhh!!!!
Virginia [12:47 P.M.]: Uh huh. I won't tell.
posted by DeBerry and Grant at 1:25 PM

4 Comments:

Blogger Darlene said...

That's funny: to write a sequel, you have to worry about plagiariziing yourselves! LOL

Really?!? Mehta as a collectors' item? Now, that's NOT funny. Wow.

I don't feel sorry for Viswanathan. After all, she was the one "inspired." But I don't let the publisher off the hook, either. Such interesting issues.

I look forward to hearing more about your sequel!

7:44 PM  
Blogger Darlene said...

That's funny: to write a sequel, you have to worry about plagiariziing yourselves! LOL

Really?!? Mehta as a collectors' item? Now, that's NOT funny. Wow.

I don't feel sorry for Viswanathan. After all, she was the one "inspired." But I don't let the publisher off the hook, either. Such interesting issues.

I look forward to hearing more about your sequel!

7:44 PM  
Blogger cmarie12 said...

Actually I find the entire Opal incident ridiculous, tired and so totally relevant to what America is about today! No one wants to read something that they have to take time to think about or that has a plot or words bigger than five letters! To me many "best selling" authors can be relegated to that category and I refuse to read them because of that!

However, I can not wait for your next book. My sister turned me onto your books several years ago and each one is like a treasure to me. Don't be discouraged. Keep doing what you are doing, there is a growing community out here that relish your works!

10:39 AM  
Blogger Sylvia Hubbard said...

oh that's funny to compare them to milli vanilli. but you're so right!

2:23 PM  

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