Hesitating on Moral Grounds

Hesitating on Moral Grounds

The Power of Six by Pitticus Lore

A few months ago, hubby and I watched I am Number Four, and we were quite impressed.  I immediately checked the ebook out from my library.

That time I wasn't so impressed.

What made a compelling movie turned out to make a rather mediocre book.  I hated the writing style -- there were lots of those incomplete sentences that some authors seem to think help to create tension in an action scene, but really just annoy the crap out of anyone who paid attention in English class.

Hubby got curious about the author's identity, so he did some online research and pretty quickly discovered that it was James Frey.  Remember him?  Yeah, the guy who published a bunch of lies and called it a memoir.  Not only that, but he lied about it to Oprah's face.  Yeah.  That guy.

I decided he was an idiot and obviously couldn't write worth a darn, but unfortunately, being me, I still wanted to know what happened in the next book.  I checked it out from my library just the other night, and spent last night searching for information on James Frey and the Lorien Legacies.

Well, turned out the information my husband found wasn't precisely correct -- according to this expose, Frey essentially started a book packaging company, except with really crappy terms.  Then he used his big name to prey on unwitting MFA students.  The real author of I am Number Four helped Frey flesh out his ideas and wrote the book; Frey just polished it.

The really irritating thing is what a bad deal Frey is (or was?) offering to these students: In exchange for $250 (no, I didn't leave off a few zeros) and 30 percent of net earnings (40 if the idea was the student's), they gave up full rights to the work, including the right to claim authorship, the right to audit (to find out what the earnings were and make sure you were getting your full pay), the right to market your own work, and the right to have any say in pretty much anything (book cover, movie rights, anything).

All for two hundred.  And fifty.  Bucks.

Oh yeah, and 30 percent of an unverifiable amount (since they didn't have the right to audit).  Which only makes you any reasonable amount of money if 1) the book makes it big and 2) Frey is honest.  Which we already know he isn't.

It's a crappy deal, and being a writer, I tend to get really defensive when writers get taken advantage of.  Generally speaking, we're an easy bunch to screw over, because we're usually so delighted that someone appreciates our work that we forget all about protecting it.  I feel sorry for ones like the author of I Am Number Four, who learn that lesson the hard way.

So I am having some serious reservations now about reading The Power of Six.  I had already started it, and within the first few chapters I could tell I liked the writing style better than that of the first one.  Part of me wants to know what happens next, but part of me is so disgusted by Frey's scheme that I want nothing to do with any product of his book packaging company.

How much of an influence does your moral code have on what books or authors you choose to read?  Would you read a book that you knew the real author hadn't gotten proper credit for?  Would you support an author (for example, by buying A Million Little Pieces) whom you believed to be inherently dishonest?