Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I'm Feelin’ a Wee Bit Freyed Around the Edges

I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it. Everyone else was doing it and I couldn’t bring myself to rise above the pun. Give a girl a break, why don’cha? I just got this from Drea,

"So, I'm going to use the "Covering Covers" topic as an excuse to ask you about your take on Frey's AMLP snafu. I like the cover (even if it does make me wish I was in second grade and eating cupcakes with sprinkles).

What do you think about Random House's decision to offer refunds and encourage dissatified customers to try and return the book to the store where they bought it? I thought my poor bookstore manager would cry. We live in a very-suburban-Oprah-watching area;)."

(See: this CNN article)

My first thought was, “Son of a fucking bitch. Oh no they didn’t.”

My second one was, “No way in hell they’re getting a refund without a receipt. They want store credit, that’s fine, but refund? Not without a temper tantrum.”

Pretty miserly, I know, but a lot of creeps crawl out of the woodwork when they think they can get free cash. I wouldn’t put it past some jerk to rip off a couple of books from one store and then try to return them at another. I’m not all that concerned at the moment with my regular customers. I had three people buy the book after hearing about the controversy. In fact, they bought it because of the controversy.

“I have to know what he lied about,” one told me.

Another said, “Well my friend loves it, and even if it is fiction it sounds like a good story.”

So do I think sales will go down significantly? Perhaps a little, it really depends on how Oprah responds to this, for the cult of Oprah is strong. But if there is one thing I know, it’s that Americans love, love, LOVE watching the proverbial train wreck, why else would so many follow the gossip mags so closely? This has the potential to actually increase sales, at least for My Friend Leonard. The Boss’s response to this whole brouhaha? “Oh, maybe they’ll rush Leonard to trade, the sales will be great!”

Why yes, we are opportunistic. Perhaps it’s because I’m not as shocked by authors behaving badly as I used to be, which is a sad, but with authors committing plagiarism and not getting any more than a slap on the wrist, the idea that a guy—a known liar, druggy and thief—made up parts of his memoirs?

Maybe he can claim it was all part of a drugged fueled lapse.

I wish that I could give something more, funny or brilliant or--I don't know--something, but guys, I'm so tired. I hate closings followed by openings.

So how about y’all? Will any of you be returning your book?


Paul said...

Only the tone deaf would have taken it seriously in the first place.

The reviewer might have been tossing bombs, but any actual quotations from Frey were wince-worthy.

Michele said...

Nope, can't return what I didn't buy.
Had no interest to buy.
I don't return bummer books anyway.
That's what library sales are for.
That's what book swaps are for.
That's what relatives are for.
I'm covered.

Wendy said...

When I heard about Random House's return policy my immediate thought was, "Yeah, because the general public buys soooo many books directly from the publisher!" Not!

My heart goes out to booksellers everywhere. Seriously. What a major headache.

As a librarian I don't see this hurting circulation numbers for Frey. If anything more people will probably want to check out the book for free just to see what all the fuss is about. People love a good train wreck.

Bookseller Chick said...

Paul, the cult of Oprah had spoken, and her followers heed her words. As for writing ticks, I think they are an acquired taste. Some I find charming, others revolting; it really depends on my mood.

Michele, I and your local library/book swap/family members thank you. I only mention to customers that they can return something that they don't like when it was my total fangirl gushing that got them to buy it, and I'm really careful about who I gush to anymore.

Wendy, I know. I laughed at the part about returns directly to the publisher because buying from them is something people do soooooo often. Even most schools go through an intermediary source to buy books.

As for circulation numbers, I think they'll go up too. I think, if they can drag this "scandal" out long enough, a lot more people will pick up both of his books. Suddenly he's not only appealing to Oprah-ites, but to the people I call the Franzens (after the author of the Corrections who refused to have his book on her show) who will not read it because it may have soiled the name Oprah or undermined her credibility.

Human nature is a funny, funny thing.

jason evans said...

This is the first point I've ever considered buying it. Dang. That saying about no publicity is bad publicity is true.

Drea said...

The Oprah has spoken and I'm confident that most book club members will keep their copies of AMLP at this point. I hope that your manager's wishful prediction about increased sales of My Friend Leonard is correct (MFL's cover brings to mind Meg Cabot's Princess Mia all grown up in her own Chick Lit novel). Thanks for addressing the "controversy"/sales catalyst.

Oh, and I especially like your name for the anti-Oprah-ites, the Franzens. It sounds so much nicer than being characterized as pedantic. This (romance reading) Franzen thanks you... On second thought, make that Franzen-with-an-identity-crisis thanks you;).

R.J. Baker said...

"Authors behaving badly" - sounds like a sitcom for BookTV. Sell the rights.

Oprah on Larry King last night said she depends on the publishing industry vetting process to check facts. She said. Its still a great book.

Ok. But it should have been in the fiction section.

Bookseller Chick said...

Jason, the only bad publicity is no publicity at all. Enjoy the train wreck.

Drea, I found the MFL cover to be rather chick-lit-y too. Between the loopy writing and the pink, petobismal cover I was slightly confused. My customers who buy it, come in and ask for it by name, they don't just pick it up/find it randomly. As far as covers go I think it fails the test, but it doesn't matter because its got a great publicity machine behind it. Glad you like my title for the anti-Oprah-ites, Franzen made his feelings clear about her very early on, and there's nothing pedantic about not liking Oprah (she's either your cuppa or she's not).

r.j.baker, if only Book TV would pay any attention to me, I'd have my fortune made, mwahahaha. I heard about Oprah's call into Larry King, and she does bring up an interesting point. Memoirs are the result of "recollections." If you tear one down for being false, you are going to have to tear them all down in one way or another. Conversations can't be remembered perfectly, you're going to paraphrase or make things up. The human mind exaggerates or speeds up time. One of my favorite memoirs is by Peter Fenton, called Eyeing the Flash. I love that book with its exaggerated dialogue, and lurid descriptions. Do I believe that everything he said happened like he said it happened. Hell no. The guy used to work for the National Enquirer. Do I love the book and recommend it to others anyway? Yes. Should Frey be shelved in fiction for making parts up, well that's like asking if "Good in Bed" by Jennifer Weiner should be shelved in biography. Weinter classifies her story as fiction wiht autobiographical elements, Frey's book could now be considered a memoir with fictional asides. Who knows. Certainly not I, the lowly bookseller.

Melanie Hayden said...

I have yet to pick up Frey's stuff, mostly because I rarely read memoirs. The usual styles (either nostalgic or desperate to shoch) don't appeal to me at all. I'm not any more inclined to read it now that I know it's fiction, though. I have no problem with memoirs being hazy memories of the past, but when you do the talk show circuit claiming it's all gospel, it starts to get icky. I remember seeing him in an interview where he very humbly accepted the interviewer's praise for overcoming his demons, and it makes me angry on behalf of the former addicts I know who actually had tough battles to fight with their addictions and succeeded.

Bookseller Chick said...

I agree, Mel, Frey's low because he misrepresented himself. Many people fight drug addictions and they don't get book deals for their stories. For Frey to make money off of events that he may not have been involved in (the train wreck, etc) is wrong, and beyond the muddy quality of most memoirs.

Kate R said...

so I wonder if the other revelations about JT LeRoy are getting buried because it's not about Oprah? (and also sort of older news)

and will this hurt The Queen's credibility?

Bookseller Chick said...

Pfft, no one cares about a cross-dressing, HIV ridden, possible teenage whore when Oprah's own integrity is on the line, Kate. It's Oprah. OPRAH. Besides, JT LeRoy wasn't as widely read as Frey, he was just the darling of a select few Hollywood types, and let's face it, Courtney Love's seal of approval won't get you very far.

As for this hurting the Queen's credibility she did quite the nice blame shift on to the publishers with her call to Larry King Live. If she sticks with that line of attack then she might be just fine with the majority of her audience.