CONTROVERSY & SUCCESS: OPRAH ALUM JAMES FREY LAUNCHES DIGITAL BOOK VENTURE

Memoirist-cum-novelist James Frey could never be thought of as boring.
james frey guardian

First he was the best-selling author talking about his compelling memoir with Oprah on his way to becoming a money-making literary sensation. Then the author of the phenomenon known as A Million Little Pieces fell from grace when the pieces of his so-called true story — pun very much intended — didn’t didn’t turn out to be quite so true as he claimed in print. News reports alleged he’d been less than candid in melding fiction into his non-fiction before he famously returned to Oprah Winfrey’s talk show for a very public mea culpa.

Still, Winfrey’s pointed on-air verbal spanking may have served as much or more to to elevate Frey’s well-established celebrity status as it did to chastise him. As someone famously remarked long ago, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Now media representatives for Frey have issued a news release announcing the latest chapter in the long-expanding and fascinating open book that has become the author and businessman’s much-scrutinized life.

According to his spokesperson, the savvy Frey has hired one Samantha Streger, formerly of Open Road Integrated Media, to head his newly-formed Full Fathom Five Digital, an e-book enterprise and outgrowth of an already-existing media company Frey began five years ago. Frey’s representatives indicate this latest endeavor will release a dozen digital publications by emerging writers during the first business year — books that “wouldn’t normally fit into a traditional model,” according to the company’s release.

Frey first entered the business side of the publishing arena in 2009 with Full Fathom Five — a young adult imprint for which his nascent firm put out the call for aspiring authors of young adult content on which to collaborate with Full Fathom Five. Among the most notable publications was the popular I Am Number Four from the Lorien Legacies series. Steven Spielberg acquired film rights to I Am Number Four and produced the film by the same title.

Not long thereafter, once again, Frey became the center of controversy.

Frey’s business model for the 2009 venture sought submissions from MFA writing students to pitch book ideas on YA genre topics with Frey’s company. I Am Number Four became the result of such a collaboration. The author of that particular YA title is listed as Pittacus Lore, a pseudonym taken from one of the book’s characters.

The book reportedly was written in tandem by Frey and a then-MFA student named Jobie Hughes. Lawyers for Hughes would eventually file a lawsuit — later settled — seeking to renegotiate Hughes’ contract with Full Fathom Five.

Undeniably, Frey’s Full Fathom Five met with significant success in acquiring content and reaching marketplaces across several platforms which included several book deals — notably with HarperCollins — as well as projects for television and film.

Frey’s move into e-commerce separates the traditional hard copy book publishing model from the equation.

Frey was not made available for comment — regardless of a claim to “exclusivity” from one online outlet which posted this comment disseminated to the media via the agency news release:

‘”We are really excited for the launch of FFF Digital,” said founder James Frey. “We are looking forward to discovering unconventional projects that have the potential to connect with a wider community of readers that haven’t been available to them before.”‘

Note: A web search turns up several online posts under such headlines as “Why I’m Boycotting Full Fathom Five” and “Full Fathom Five & Why I’m Boycotting Their Books.” In fairness, other posts cite lucrative author deals Frey’s company secured with major publishing houses. The Hollywood Beat offers no opinion regarding the merits of complaints against Frey’s company nor does it endorse the efforts or business practices of Full Fathom Five.

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