James Frey’s Hot 7 Figure Deal
A few might not know who James Frey is, so I’m posting this link for more depth. In a more general sense, Frey is an author who wrote a non-fiction book titled, A Million Little Pieces, that garnered him the title of bestselling author. It was what’s considered “a big book” in publishing. He gained a good deal of fame by going on Oprah. And then it was disclosed that his non-fiction book had been fictionalized, that he’d lied to his publisher, Oprah, and the rest of the world. He returned to the Oprah show and sat in a chair while she basically ripped him to shreds for duping her.
I saw both of the Oprah shows on which he appeared and I watched him give the world a first hand account of the fresh hells he’d been through as an alcoholic, in A Million Little Pieces. It was touching. It was moving. We all thought it was the absolute truth. And then I also watched him the second time on Oprah when he went back after news broke that his non-fiction was more fiction than anything else. He sat there slumped over in a chair while Oprah questioned his motives, and rightly so on her part. But I couldn’t help thinking the book was good in spite of the embellishment.
Anyone would think that was enough to end Frey’s career and finish him off for good. However, Frey went on to write more bestselling books, including YA fiction. And from what I’ve seen it’s all been through what clearly resembles a combination of extremely hard work on his part, determination like I’ve never seen, and the best line of bullshit I’ve seen in years.
It was announced that his most recent book/film deal is the first seven figure deal of 2014:
Deadline reports that Frey has sold a new book to HarperCollins, “Endgame,” along with film rights to 20th Century Fox. The screen deal is for a rumored $2 million to $2.5 million, and is said to include Frey writing the screenplay.
You can read more here. It’s an interesting, though far from objective, article because it gets into Frey’s background a little, and talks about the publishing company he started for YA authors/books called Full Fathom Five. And there’s been controversy there, too.
In November 2010, controversy arose when an MFA student who had been in talks to create content for the company released her extremely limiting contract online. The contract allows Frey license to remove an author from a project at any time, does not require him to give the author credit for their work, and only pays a standard advance of $250.
Yeah, well, most e-publishers don’t even give advances and authors are thrilled to get the work. I don’t know much about any of this, other than bits and pieces I’ve read. I’ve also heard that Frey gave opportunities to authors who otherwise wouldn’t have had work. But the one thing that does bother me is that Frey has been slammed because Endgame is allegedly similar to The Hunger Games in concept. And in this one respect I don’t think it’s fair, and I don’t think an author…or anyone…should be faulted for taking a concept or idea and bringing it to another level. In the 1960’s the TV show I Dream of Jeannie was a direct result of the hit TV show Bewitched. It wasn’t that one show directly copied the other, but the idea (magic) was used and reinvented with different characters and different approaches. The same could be said about many other TV shows, and films. Think about how many shows were spawned as a result of American Idol. They took a concept and did something different. I think it happens more often than not in books and authors can get away with it more freely because they know clever little tricks most people wouldn’t spot.
And most of all people are expecting this brand of entertainment. And if an idea or a concept works, and there is someone smart enough who can see that this is what the public wants and he/she is willing to give it to them, should we fault them for doing this? Or should be fault them for working hard and making money? And yet here are two more opinions, from the article link above:
Paul Constant books editor at Seattle’s the Stranger, tweeted, “James Frey is still terrible, and he’s still being rewarded for it. His Hunger Games ripoff sold for $2 million.” Writer Sarah Weinman followed by tweeting, “Suzanne Collins‘ people should be looking at this with a very, very fine-toothed comb.”
Evidently, the public doesn’t agree with Constant, or those who would rather hang James Frey in a public square for being successful and giving people what they want. And I think the public will decide on Endgames, and this won’t be the last time someone took a good idea and ran with it, and it certainly isn’t the first.
Not every author/producer wants to create great art that two or three critics will love and three or four people will read. Some want to entertain the public and give them what they want.