Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, April 28, 2006

How Opal Mehta's Scandal Got Concluded

Today,Little,Brown announced that they were issuing a recall of the controversal Kaavya Viswanathan novel,How Opal Mehta Got Kissed,Got Wild and Got a Life. The book is no longer in production and booksellers are being asked to send back unsold copies to the publisher. Both Crown and Megan McCafferty are pleased with this and are no longer talking lawsuit. Megan was also qouted as saying that"The past few weeks have been very difficult, and I am most grateful to my readers for offering continual support," she said. "In my career, I am, first and foremost, a writer. So I look forward to getting back to work and moving on, and hope Ms. Viswanathan can too."

This seems like a happy ending of sorts-McCafferty gets justice(and was very gracious about it,in my opinion)and Kaavya has a chance to start over without getting bitchslapped in court. Of course,the real story is the behind the scenes stuff. There's been quite abit of talk about Alloy Entertainment's role in this deal. Alloy is what they call a "book packager"-they shape and market titles to the teen audience such as The A-List,It Girl,etc. Alloy was bought into the mix early on by Kaavya's William Morris agent and interestingly enough,Alloy owns half of the copyright to Opal Mehta. There's denial all around about the possibility that maybe Opal Mehta might've been creatively monkeyed around with, but something smells fishy to me.

Even if some backhanded re-tooling was done to the book,it doesn't let Kaavya off the hook-as I've said before,I'm not ready to run her out of town on a rail here but she is old enough to know that plagarism is wrong and that some things need more than an "I'm sorry" to make it right. Book packaging is nothing new in the industry but what bugs me is that part of the probelm is lack of respect for the reader. It's really not hard to image a publishing person saying to a reluctant client"Look,these kids aren't Rhodes scholars here,okay? You really think they can tell one book from another-look at MTV,all those bands look,sound and act the same. That's what they like,that's what they're comfortable with and that's what they will buy. Giving people what they want is the name of the game and if you want to do well in this business and actually make some money,you'll see that I'm right."

There are plenty of authors writing books for teens that don't intend to be some disposable trendy object to be tossed out once the hot new item hits the market. There's nothing wrong with entertaining literature but there is something wrong about assuming that it truly represents the mind set of any audience. Marketing is a neccessary evil in publishing but the industry should use it as a means to an end,not as the end itself. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to take a better look at what you're selling instead of just how to sell it. Hopefully,that will be the real lesson learned from this bit of shenanagans.

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