Inside James Frey's Sweatshop-Like Novel Factory

Controversial author hires writers to churn out novels on the cheap
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 15, 2010 9:17 AM CST
Inside James Frey's Sweatshop-Like Novel Factory
James Frey, author and fake autobiographer of Oprah fame, listens during an interview before a book signing in New York, Tuesday May 14, 2008.   (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

James Frey, infamous for angering Oprah with his "fake memoir" A Million Little Pieces, idolizes Vonnegut, Hemingway, and Henry Miller. He's the kind of writer who talks about wanting to "change the game" and "move the paradigm." Yet he's also the head of Full Fathom Five, a young-adult novel factory that pays writers nearly nothing to churn out highly commercial books for Frey—who hopes to eventually stumble upon the next Twilight or Harry Potter. Suzanne Mozes, who briefly aspired to join the program after hearing Frey pitch it during one of her Columbia graduate writing seminars, discloses the controversial inner workings in a lengthy New York article.

Frey trolls MFA programs and the like to find writers who are willing to write books for a mere $250 to $500 in exchange for a coveted entry into the publishing world. The contract promises them 30% to 40% of all revenue, but there's no audit provision, meaning the writer can't verify the revenue. As Mozes discovers upon meeting with Frey, writers must also submit to all the changes he wishes to make to their concept—and when she asks for amendments to the contract, her offer is rescinded entirely. Meanwhile, Frey recently settled a legal battle with the author of his company's first success story, I Am Number Four. Click here for Mozes's entire piece, here for Frey's side via the Wall Street Journal, here for the inside scoop about the competition between the two articles, or here to see a copy of the contract.
(Read more James Frey stories.)

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