Do You Believe In Magic?

April 27th, 2006 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Well, don’t read the New York Times article on the role of book packagers in creating those books that young girls read like candy. The packager in question, Alloy, also plays a central role in the Kaavya Viswanathan plagiarism scandal.

So, yeah, a lot of books are the product of authorial imagination as gently sculpted by a kind-yet-ruthless editor before being polished by the sharp minds of marketing. Then there are the popular series such as “Gossip Girls” that come more from the corporate mind and are executed by a string of fairly anonymous authors. Think of it as the modern equivalent of Laura Lee Hope; hmm, no, think of it as the legacy of Laura Lee Hope.

The thought is that it’s the brand that matters, not the author. So the packager presents, essentially, idea and author to the publisher. The publisher says yay or nay. The packager and author execute the vision. The books hits the shelves. For their effort, packagers like Alloy (who is behind the Viswanathan deal) take a nice piece of the pie:

Alloy owns or shares the copyright with the authors and then divides the advances and any royalties with them. This Sunday, books created by Alloy will be ranked at Nos. 1, 5 and 9 on The New York Times’s children’s paperback best-seller list.

None of this is particularly juicy stuff, until you think about Kaavya Viswanathan (and, really, you must think about her). She received a reported $500,000 advance. Only, as the New York Times notes, the copyright is held by Alloy and the contract was signed by the packager. Meaning that advance and the subsequent royalties (should there be subsequent royalties) are not the sole and exclusive property of the author and her agent. Who will, of course, also receive a piece of the action.

This is important because Harvard, Kaavya Viswanathan’s current school, is not cheap by any means. Also, it does make one wonder how informed the author and her parents were about the publishing world. Not that we would ever feel sorry for someone who didn’t fully educate him or herself before signing an agreement, but you know us, speculation is our lifeblood. Also coffee.

Special thanks to Jill, who gets up early and reads stuff.

File Under: The Business of Publishing