James Frey’s Victims

How could James Frey’s bestselling book, A Million Little Pieces, get published as a nonfiction memoir and who got injured as a result?

Learn about the situation that allowed James Frey to publish his book as a memoir and the people who might have been hurt along the way.

How could James Frey’s book have been published as a nonfiction memoir?

1) Publishing houses, in an attempt to improve the bottom line, cut fact-checkers from their staffs some time ago.  Those who defend this move cite how costly it would be to pay someone to check every single fact in a book, greatly increasing their costs.  So they do nothing, unless a sharp-eyed editor happens to catch a factual mistake while going through the text.

2) The publishing industry is built on relationships based on trust.

AGENT:  Broken trust resulted in a split between Frey and his agent, Kassie Evashevski, at Brillstein-Grey.  In a Jan. 31, 2006 Publisher’s Weekly interview, she said:

“In the last week, it became impossible for me to maintain a relationship once the trust had been broken. He eventually did apologize, but I felt for many reasons I had to let him go as a client.”

EDITOR:  Acquiring editor, Sean McDonald, said he believed Frey, according to an interview in Publisher’s Weekly.McDonald even became friends with Frey, according to a MediaBistro Oct. 19, 2005 interview, Authors and Their Editors:  James Frey & Sean McDonald.

In this interview, James Frey said that 17 of 18 publishers rejected the manuscript as a result of his agent’s marketing efforts. McDonald said what attracted him to the manuscript was the unusual voice of the author.

PUBLISHER: Broken trust resulted in a cancellation of Frey’s lucrative new book deal which Penguin-Riverhead offered Frey in January 2006, as reported in Publisher’s Weekly on Feb. 24, 2006.

MOVIE RIGHTS PEOPLE: The whole controversy affected the upcoming movie based on A Million Little Pieces. Ironically, the LA Times reported that Frey earlier “had a class Hollywood fit” when a Warner Brothers screenwriter wanted to change some things in the book.

Here is an excerpt from their Feb. 6, 2006 article, “Does Frey Have Trouble in Hollywood:

“Frey said they didn’t have the right to alter the facts in the book, the observer recalled this week. ‘How could they do this? This was his life! How could they change the facts of his life?’”

BOOK BUYERS AND READERS: Many people who purchased and read A Million Little Pieces as a true memoir now feel “had.” This controversy has probably resulted in a loss of confidence in the book publishing industry in general, memoirs in particular, and James Frey as an author of nonfiction.

To say that James Frey has sullied his reputation is an understatement. He is unlikely to regain this kind of success again, if indeed, he is ever able to persuade an agent or a legitimate trade publisher to take on another of his books.

Copyright 2006 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.

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