Wednesday, March 5, 2008

More on Truthiness

Here's a link to a article (thanks Benwah) from the NY Sun explaining why publishers don't fact check more. As I tried to point out yesterday, if publishers fact check every line, it means either book prices will have to go up significantly or less books will be published, and I'm sure all of you aspiring writers out there don't want that.


Anonymous said...

But if the publishers invest time and money into books that they have to pull due to lack of truthiness, doesn't that mean that the price of books will go up, too?

The article you cite seems to set up a bit of a straw man. Publishers can engage in at least premise fact-checking, and can require authors to provide some forms of proof. So while this might not help with authors who make up events (e.g. James Frey), requiring an author to, say, submit high school transcripts or arrest records would not impose huge burdens on publishers and would inspire a bit more confidence.

There is a wide range of options available between "fact checking every last assertion" and "not checking anything at all." Furthermore, a lot of that burden can be offloaded onto the author--and the fact that such checking occured might serve as a deterrent to future liars.

This minimal fact checking would add (somewhat) to the price of a book. But I seriously doubt that it would cost more than the loss of face for the imprint, the loss of faith in the public in the memoir, and the very real costs of pulling the piece.

Jonathan Lyons said...

Anon - the author provided recommendations from other, established writers, letters, and even photographs to support her story. I think in this case the publisher did exacvtly what you're suggesting.

Anonymous said...

Hm. I didn't know that. In that case, I damn the writer to fiery hell.

Jonathan Lyons said...

Wow, it gets worse. I just read via PW that the author introduced her agent to people who claimed ot b eher foster siblings.

benwah said...

Not to become the guy who keeps dropping links on your blog, but:

The author has a website for a foundation she created which features an open letter from one of her gang leaders. The fact checkers from NYT couldn't find this guy despite the fact that the author provided them with a name, location of the prison he's allegedly in, and his prison number.

Adaora A. said...

I don't want less books published but I fear all this half-cogged book writing from other aspiring writers will make the rest of us look as if we're all fudge and no talent. I think this is a tricky thing. It's like the scandal that baseball is experiencing with steriods (not that I watch the sport, I'm all about Barclay's premiere ship i.e. Manchester United).

WOW. Introduced fake siblings. She's completely crafted a world for herself, left no stone unturned. Glen Hansard (from ONCE), said in concert 'What is a liar? A liar is someone who tells the truth about things that have never happened.

Fabrication of a spider web.

Anonymous said...

I'm crashing this topic to refer to something you said yesterday in the comments, Jonathan. About not everyone being able to afford to fly to NY to meet with agents and editors. Does this mean that if you CAN (thanks to miles and family with couches in the city) fly to NY it would be welcome to an agent and/or editor? What if the agent has offered representation and the author wants to come out--would that be something you, and as far as you can tell, most agents, would be open to, or would you rather not do the face to face thing with a potential client? And same with selling a client's book--is it helpful if the writer is willing to come meet with the editor to maybe push it over the edge to a buy? (We're assuming said author is witty, charming, and natch, good looking.) (ha!)

Thanks for taking the time to answer.

Jonathan Lyons said...

Sure, it absolutely is something that agents and editors are open to, and can be very helpful to push an editor who is on the fence into making an offer.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that the publisher seems naive.

It still seems like it was a well written and interesting account.

I feel sorry if it doesn't get published. Perhaps in another form.

(But, seriously, now I'm interested.)

And sorry for the world we live in, if everyone who has ever made a whopper of a mistake, can't be guided to a way to learn more gracefully than all this public

Adaora A. said...

@Annoynous - I don't think she was naive, I think she encountered a professional con artist. Her agent is a very good one (or is she no longer being represented by her I don't know). When you have such a major con artist, they cover every avenue. They become better at lying then they are at telling the truth. Perhaps they convince themselves that their lies are the truth, but they are good at what they do. She did what she could to find all the reliability and validity in what she could. Social Scientist can't even secure absolute validity and reliability so you can be sure that some bastards will try to take advantage of that. I am really sorry for her. It's really baffling that someone would risk their self respect as a writer, and as a person for some chump cash change.

Ryan Field said...

I hope the people out there with real, true stories aren't hurted by any of this.

Anonymous said...

I recently gave a nonfiction writer a true account of a personal experience as supportive material for her book.

But now, after this news story, I am thinking about retracting it because it would HAVE to remain anonymous to protect the innocent (including me and my children).

After this news article, it seems she may have to expose too much of where and who she got her information from, for me to consent to sharing my real story.

(And, while we are all on this wild topic, for what it's worth, when a doctor or therapist writes a book using their anonymous patients' histories as examples, who can prove that?)

But yes, you are right. It will and already has affected people who just don't want to go out in the public light, even if their stories are true.