Just read an interesting article about James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces and Bright Shiny Morning. He's opened a book packaging operation here in New York, which he likens to 'Damien Hirst’s art factory, a warehouse in which a reported 120 employees work to create fine art signed by Hirst', and is actively recruiting writers.
[Conrad Rippy, veteran publishing attorney] said he had never seen a contract like this in his sixteen years of negotiation. “It’s an agreement that says, ‘You’re going to write for me. I’m going to own it. I may or may not give you credit. If there is more than one book in the series, you are on the hook to write those too, for the exact same terms, but I don’t have to use you. In exchange for this, I’m going to pay you 40 percent of some amount you can’t verify—there’s no audit provision—and after the deduction of a whole bunch of expenses.” He described it as a Hollywood-style work-for-hire contract grafted onto the publishing industry—“although Hollywood writers in a work-for-hire contract are usually paid more than $250.”
I Am Number Four is the first book of 'The Lorien Lagacies', which Frey wrote with Columbia MFA grad Jobie Hughes. Despite mediocre reviews, it was a NYT best-seller, and was optioned for film by Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay. The article also talks about an Arthurian legends adaptation being put out by Full Fathom Five, which Will Smith is in talks to acquire as a vehicle for Jaden Smith.
But apparently Jobie Hughes wasn't happy about the experience, despite the success of I Am Number Four. He's walked away, and he and his lawyer were looking for a bigger piece of 'Lorien' earnings. He's also had trouble selling his second novel.
Does anybody have any knowledge of or experience with book packagers? Is it a good way to break in? I remember one of James Patterson's collaborators getting a book deal, but it doesn't seem to be working for Mr. Hughes. And that contract is a little off-putting, too.