Saturday, March 29, 2014

Packaged Books: What Are They?

In the publishing world, there are book packaging companies, who will come up with an idea for a novel and then hire authors or ghostwriters to write the book, following the book packaging company’s guidelines (see the blog Scott Reads It and the article “Book Packaging: Under-explored Terrain for Freelancers” by Jenna Glatzer for in-depth definitions of book packaging). Is book packaging a big deal? Should it be a big deal? It depends, and if you Google “packaged books,” you’ll find a wide range of views on the subject. Young adult books are often written by authors hired by book packaging companies. Some examples of young adult packaged books are below.

Bright Young Things trilogy by Anna Godbersen
No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale
I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill
How do you know if a book is a packaged book? Check the copyright. If the copyright belongs to a company instead of the author, it’s probably a packaged book.
Publishing is a competitive world. Writing for a book packaging company might be easier for authors than trying to get published in a more traditional way. This isn’t usually a problem, but there have been two cases in which book packaging companies have received negative press.
In 2011, L.J. Smith, author of The Vampire Diaries series was fired from writing the book series. The Vampire Diaries is a packaged book series, created by the company Alloy. When Smith didn’t want to take the series in the direction Alloy wanted her to, she was fired.
James Frey’s book packaging company, Full Fathom Five, has also received negative press for the terms authors must agree to when signing on with his company, as outlined in an online article published by New York Magazine. The terms included, but were not limited to:
·         Authors would receive $250 for books completed and delivered during a specific timeframe.
·         Authors would receive 30 percent of the revenue generated by the project (40 percent if the idea was originally the author’s instead of Frey’s).
·         Authors would not own the copyright to the book but would be held financially responsible for any legal action taken against the book.
·         Authors would receive a $50,000 penalty if they publicly admitted to working with Full Fathom Five without permission.
·         Full Fathom Five could use authors’ names or pseudonyms without an author’s permission, regardless if the author was still involved with the series.
With so many publishing avenues available to authors, does it matter for readers if a book is self-published, traditionally published, or a packaged book? From what I’ve read on blogs, most people don’t seem to care where their books come from, though there are some people who are trying to boycott James Frey’s packaging company.

For the most part, I don’t care where my books come from. I have read and loved self-published books, packaged books, and traditionally published books. Though I am not a James Frey fan, I have read two of the books published by his book packaging company. I liked one, but did not like the other. If a book has a good story and is well-written, I’ll read it.

Do you care where your books come from, or will you read book regardless of how they're published?


Anonymous said...

It seems to me a little more complicated than just whether I enjoyed the book in some instances. I have read self-published, traditionally-published, and packaged books. But it would seem that if they can "use authors' names or pseudonyms without an author's permission, regardless if the author was still involved with the series" that in cases like L.J. Smith's, we could be getting a whole new writer, which could have the possibility of changing the tone or just losing it's appeal. I would hope that the new ghost writer would be good enough to flawlessly emulate the original author, but this may not always be the case. Because of possibilities like this I have a tendency to favor traditionally-published books.

Nancy said...

Interesting! I've never heard of this. I'll be sure to pay more attention in the future.