Dear Miss Snark,
Did James Frey muck it up for the rest of us memoirists?
I've been reading that publishers are going to be leery about taking on memoirs, that there's going to be tough fact checking, etc. I you had memoir making the rounds, how worried would you be?
Is there a contrarian view that any publicity for a genre is good publicity. After all, sales of Frey's book book of lies continue to be brisk. His reappearance on Oprah will probably only help sales.
A good friend of mine reminded me that the public's appetitie for deception can be satiated. That this whole thing will blow over in a couple of weeks.
What's your take on the state of the memoir market in the aftermath of Frey (who continues to cry all the way to the bank).
I do have memoirs making the rounds; two of them. One can be substantiated pretty easily since it's the life of a public figure. I've told my author to be prepared to cough up documentation. The other memoir is the more personal kind; stories of what happened to someone and how she reacted. Documentation is very sketchy. If anyone challenged us, I'd be hard pressed to verify. On the other hand, she doesn't claim to be "an addict, a criminal and a bad bad man".
MLP didn't pass the sniff test. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE who read that and didn't think it was hyperbole in at least some part is an idiot. Nan Talese isn't an idiot. Neither is Sean McDonald. Neither are Oprah's producers. And Oprah isn't either. I've said before, I'll say it again: everyone in publishing KNEW that book wasn't completely true. What we are seeing now isn't "oh my god I've been hoodwinked" but "oh my god, we got caught".
The Smoking Gun caught the obvious lies: the jail time. There were other things that triggered my disbelief, principally the dental work stories. That combined with everything else (principally how everything always worked out in Frey's favor) made me think it was off.
My memoirs pass the smell test. I'm not sure if editors going ask my authors for birth certificates and copies of memos, but if they do, and they've got money on the table, you bet we'll cough it up. The nice thing of course is ...we can.
Will that happen? No. Frey is today's fun topic. It's absolutely meaningless as an indicator of a sea change in publishing. As you point out, everyone is still making money off this. If Doubleday took a bath, then you'd 'sea' change.