One of the interesting things about being a writer is that while the work of an author is out where everyone can see it, the author himself is not often in the public domain. Sure, some of the bigger names like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling might be interviewed in various newspapers or for the
occasional television show, but for the most part, writers lead a fairly anonymous life.
When an author suddenly gets a lot of media attention, it’s usually for a scandalous reason. James Frey became notorious when he admitted part of his autobiography was fictional. Jonah Lehrer resigned his position at the New Yorker recently after it was discovered that he’d made up quotes for his book.
The latest writer to come under scrutiny is R.J. Ellory, a best-selling novelist who felt the need to write his own glowing reviews. A quick glance at Amazon shows that his books have received very positive feedback from readers (although now I have to wonder how many are legitimate), so what
made him feel the need to post remarks himself under an assumed name?
But for all the negative attention these authors receive when the story first breaks, does it really matter in the long run? Not only does it probably not matter, but I think it might actually help. Not at first, of course. At first, there is outrage and condemnation. Article upon article will appear, followed by analysis and speculation by bloggers and commentators.
After a few months, though, people will forget the basis of the scandal. Nowadays, they might see a James Frey novel in a book store (and he’s published several works since the events involving what turned out to be his semi-autobiography), and pick it up because the name sounds familiar, although they won’t be exactly sure why. With so many books out there, one of the biggest challenges a writer faces is being able grab the public’s attention. Getting caught up in a scandal might just give that writer the edge he needs.
They say any publicity is good publicity, and I tend to agree. Just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s releasing a memoir called Total Recall in October. It will include details about his extra-marital affair, and I’m positive it will be a best seller. A writer doesn’t need to have a stellar image, just as long as people are talking.