Monday, April 24, 2006

BOOK PACKAGING The Harvard plagiarism story took an interesting turn tonight when the New York Times (with egg on its face because it published an early-April profile of sophomore author Kaavya Viswanathan) reported that the book's copyright is shared by Viswanathan and Alloy Entertainment.

The Times describes Alloy as a "book packaging company"--and they're not talking about cardboard boxes and bubblewrap. Here's an excerpt from the company's website:

Alloy Entertainment is a creative think tank that develops and produces original books, television series and feature films. The company originates unique, commercial entertainment properties--often with an eye toward teens, young adults and families--and partners with the leading publishers, television networks and movie studios to deliver these properties to the world.
A "creative think tank"?

Alloy also happens to be a subsidiary of Alloy Media + Marketing, which describes itself as, "one of the country's largest providers of targeted media and promotional programs." (It trades on NASDAQ under the ticker symbol ALOY, and boasts a market capitalization of about $38 million).

Who knows what kind of writing-editing relationship Viswanathan had with these people. But still: Is this what publishing has come to? Is this how Little, Brown finds fresh talent these days?

UPDATE: The Boston Globe adds some details about book packaging:

Packagers are normally employed in specialized nonfiction books such as nature guides and picture books, and sometimes actually deliver finished books that bear a publisher's name more as a distributor.

In this case, Viswanathan's agent referred her to Alloy Entertainment because her original idea for a novel was considered too dark...While Viswanathan said the plot was her idea, she acknowledged in a February interview with the Globe that Alloy had played a major role in fleshing out the concept.

Leslie Morgenstein, president of Alloy, which holds the copyright along with her, said by e-mail yesterday that his firm did not help Viswanathan with any of the actual writing...

A few literary agents contacted yesterday by the Globe raised eyebrows at the packager's active role in conceptualizing the novel. "We would never recommend to an author that they share copyright for something as minor as refining a concept," said Boston-area literary agent Doe Coover.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.