Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lies, damned lies and publishing

In 1974, William Summerlin was a researcher studying the rejection of transplanted organs. He claimed to have found a way to beat rejection without suppressing the host's immune system and presented some white mice with black patches on their backs.

These patches had supposedly been taken from the skins of black mice and transplanted to the white ones. But when a technician applied an alcohol swab to the patches, it removed the black color. Such misuse of a Magic Marker is not generally permitted in science, and Summerlin admitted the fraud.

...that was the end of transplantation without immunosuppression. It sank without a trace in the literature: Summerlin’s fraudulent papers have been cited only 3 times in the past 25 years; each a refutation.

I read about this as a wee one hoping to study science some day, and it made quite an impression on me. It's never a good idea to lie - not in research and not in publishing either. Both tend to be self-correcting; both are filled with people who read obsessively, check, compare, ask questions.

And these days it's easier than ever to obtain information. With the Internet at people's fingertips, deceptions are easily unraveled, such as Bill Schneider's claim that his self-published novelette had been selected for Oprah's Book Club. There's even a fabricated transcript where Oprah says how much she loved the book.

The latest such incident can be found on the blog of the Rejection Queen, where an writer posts her rejection letters and rants about agents. At first I took it for satire, because I didn't think anyone could do that and still hope to be published some day. But then the writer claimed she did have such a deal.

Aside from all that stuff, someone wanted to know the title of my book and the publisher. I can't give out the title yet but the publisher is "Grand Central Publishing."

That's a major house. So it seemed unlikely that the writer would have to fight with them about errors, as she claimed in subsequent posts, or that they would mess up the cover art and spell her last name wrong. And the book cover on the writer's Facebook page seemed Photoshopped. Still, she claimed she was getting a "15,000 copy release....first run" and that the book was going to be released on April 15.

Then this emerged.

It's the actual cover of the book, which is being printed by PublishAmerica.

I'd be upset about the cover too, given that at least six other PA books have had that identical cover.

The take-home message? In publishing, as in science, lies lead to the kind of fame you don't want.

Picture from fotosearch:


colbymarshall said...

ARGHH! Any time I hear something like this, it just provokes that icky response reserved for PublishAmerica and the dead roach in the bathroom, lol.

Sorry I've been MIA so long- have missed stopping by!

Anonymous said...

I wonder what compels people to lie in such grandiose fashion?

I mean I want to published "for real" not fake it. I just don't get it.

Loren said...

Some people may feel that they have to create evidence so that they have something to show to those annoying skeptics. Or else they may suffer so badly from will to believe that they hardly notice how unsupported their claims are.

beth said... about crazy. I checked out the link--the blog author just posted a pretty ranting post about agents. It's like watching a train wreck...

Diandra said...

Woohoo, thanks for a good read! I laughed so loud I woke the boyfriend in the next room.

(Best part was this "I am doing everything right and my work is so perfect and yet those stupid people never realize my genius" - that's exactly what I think the whole time. *lol*)

Marian said...

Colby - Hi, great to see you again!

ralfast - The fact that this writer knows of legitimate agents and good deals probably made the PA connection even worse, because unlike many of PA's victims, she couldn't convince herself that that was the real thing.

So she turned it into Grand Central, probably not guessing that her blog would become notorious and that people would do the math.

Loren - Unfortunately, evidence concocted for that purpose needs to be pretty convincing. And this is the literary equivalent of the Piltdown Man.

beth - I'm torn between feeling sorry for her (I'd be hiding under my bed in embarrassment if I were her) and knowing that she's brought it all upon herself.

Diandra - A lot of people mentioned that even if she'd written a great story, the attitude would discourage agents and editors from working with her.

I wonder what her response will be to her being "outed".

JH said...

cannot imagine how desperate i would have to be to think that black magic marker was going to work

Anonymous said...

These are the type of people who truly are their own worst enemy. (sigh)

Kim said...

Next time, she might want to select a publisher who accepts unagented ms. Makes lying about it a little easier... ;)

And really, I can't imagine any agent, having seen the rant-fests on her blog, would want to work with her to begin with...

Marian said...

JH - in either science or publishing, it's worse for a lie to succeed than to fail.

If you're believed, your lies will be printed and disseminated widely. And in research, people will try to duplicate the results of your experiments. When no one can do so, suspicions arise. Always.

Tasha - The Rejection Queen is now denying everything. So I'm going to keep an eye on her blog, since she says her book with GCP is supposed to be released this year.

Kim - But even with a publisher that accepts unagented manuscripts, she'd be called on it soon enough when the book didn't show up in their catalog, right?

There's just no way to fake a book offer - not for long, anyway.