Wednesday, January 20, 2010

If life gives you corpses, make corpse-ade?

Cassandra Yorgey, who all along has seemed to have an inside track on the James Arthur Ray debacle, now reports that Ray is quietly shopping a book (!) on the sweat-lodge tragedy. If this is trueand once again, the if is key, as I haven't seen this news mentioned elsewhereit would surely be a new low in terms of reprehensible money-making gambits by a SHAMland guru...and that's saying something.

As you probably have heard by now if you've been following this story, Hyperion postponed the release of Ray's next planned book on harmonic wealth
in the wake of the Sedona tragedy.


Rational Thinking said...

If this is true, you have to ask yourself "is this man right in the head"? Conveniently enough, this might be a possible defence ;-)

The depths to which this charlatan will sink have yet, I fear, to be truly plumbed.

Cosmic Connie said...

If this particular piece of information is true (and seriously, it wouldn't surprise me), I wonder if the creation of this book was driven by James Ray's PR team or by his own massive ego. I wouldn't put anything past him, even if it does seem a bit premature for him to be thinking of writing a book specifically about Sweatgate, since the case is presumably still being investigated.

I have no doubt JAR has been working on another book (or books) anyway, since producing a slew of books and related products is all part of building the brand. As a ghostwriter myself, however, I can't help wondering what his ghostwriter/collaborator is thinking, and if that person feels kind of uncomfortable about working with JAR now. If this person were to refuse to work with him any more, though, you can be sure he would easily find someone else. (I am not available, though.)

I've also been wondering about JAR's future in the selfish-help biz if no criminal charges are filed. He'll certainly be tied up with civil suits for the foreseeable future, but he's still going to have to make a living. (That's one reason a good propaganda book might come in handy.) But even though he has his share of defenders, there has been such a public outcry that it's possible the JAR brand may be tarnished. Not to worry: he can always pull a Werner Erhard and sell his company to a relative or close associate, give it a new name, hang around in the background and continue to rake in the profits. If his ego will let him, that is.

Perhaps he can leave the US for a while, later to re-emerge as a hero, martyr and true pioneer in the selfish-help biz. After all, Werner did it! (I know that Landmark Forum claims Werner has no interest in the company formerly known as est, but knowing what I do of his history, I tend not to believe that.)

Either way, a few lawyers are going to be making a lot of money from Sweatgate. I only hope some of that money finds its way to the families of the victims.

PS ~ For those who are interested in the rationale behind the "Russian Wish Dolly" that Steve linked to in his post, there's an explanation, by Joe V's partner in this enterprise, in the discussion following my "Whirled wars" blog post.

Steve Salerno said...

Connie: Thank you in particular for the p.s. I was remiss in not acknowledging your spade-work on that topic.

Martha said...

The publishing world is becoming truly revolting. Another turn of events that will soon become a publishing car wreck is the "my side of the story" tell-all by Elizabeth Gilbert's ex-husband that will be published this summer -- presumably around the same time as the release of Eat Pray Love, the movie. Having read Eat Pray Love (twice, hey! I'm a girl), I can say that she was supremely fair to her ex husband in the story she told -- pretty much heaping most of the responsibility for the end of the marriage on her own head. (The worst thing she says about the guy is that he demanded a portion of her royalties on all her *future* books...which is pretty ballsy if you ask me. Whether he got that concession or not, not sure. All's I know that she was still writing him checks while researching the material for her current book, Committed.)

So now he's written his own book, Displaced. (Someone call the wahmbulance.) You just know the conversation that went on around the potential of his producing this book had nothing to do with the literary contribution to the planet. I betcha dollars to donuts that the question, "But can he write?" never even came up.

Steve Salerno said...

Martha: A very powerful agent (who shall be nameless, though by all rights I should crucify the SOB in print) told me (among other things) when I recently approached him about repping me on a book that he didn't particularly care about the content, and he didn't particularly care about my bona fides...except as the latter related to the one thing he did care about, which was my "promotion plan." In fact, he insisted that I send him the promotion plan before I send him the main proposal, which of course is the part that sketches the general subject matter of the book.

He told me--point-blank--that content and literary merit nowadays are all but irrelevant. (That's not a newsflash, of course, but hearing it from a top literary agent is a disquieting event.) The one thing that matters--the only thing that matters--is: "What is the game plan for selling this book, and to whom?" For all he knew or cared about, I could've been proposing to have the neighbor's Rottweiler write a book about engine bolts; if the Rottie had a "platform" and a viable promotion plan, we were golden.

Karl said...

JAR has just sent out another email with links to his version of events in the desert. His Orwellian "1984" style re -writing of history suggests that he possesses the art of story telling.
Perhaps if things go pear-shaped he can entertain the public with his tales of life behind bars.

Cosmic Connie said...

Yeah, what Karl said. My speculation about ghostwriters was probably moot, since JAR's "book" about Sweatgate has already been written for the most part -- by his lawyers, who released the infamous Whitewash Papers a couple of weeks ago.

There's a summary of JAR's side of the story on his web site, with links to the original Whitewash Papers:

As for publishers, even if a trade publisher doesn't pick up his next book(s), he can always self-publish, as he apparently did for his first two books.

Verification word: hoeint

(abbreviation for Hoe International? :-))

a/good/lysstener said...

These people are revolting and that's all there is to say.

I think I like where the blog seems to be going, Steve. Can't wait to see the finished product!

Mike said...

Mike Z. here. That's an amazingly ballsy thing that agent said to you. Of course we all know we're in the "post-talent age" in publishing, where it doesn't matter how good you are, but who you are. But for a well-regarded literary agent to demand a marketing plan from you before a proposal, well, it begs the question: "What the f--k will you be doing to earn your 15 percent?" If you're handing him a well-planned marketing attack, the platform, and the entire damn AUDIENCE to his satisfaction -- and the proposal is strong, too, because you give a shit about things like that -- you are in essence handing him a sale (not guaranteed, of course, but damn close). It sounds like he doesn't want to have to think about it, work with you to hone it, or dwell on it any longer than it would take him to do a mass-forwarding of your submission e-mail to editors. He wants the equity without the sweat. Disturbing. Insulting. Especially since you say he's one of the bigger names. In a just world (ha!), as even more of the burden of sales shifts to the author, agent fees should drop. Royalty rates should rise. Pay the folks who do the work. Book publishing has become the equivalent of a self-checkout line at Giant, where you pay the same price for absentee service. My 9th grade algebra teacher gave me a look of dismay when I told him I'd be majoring in English because he thought it was a waste of math talent. I shoulda listened to Mr. Greenzweig and gone into engineering.

Steve Salerno said...

Mike: My sentiments exactly. But I'm sure you realize that many if not most agents today--except when dealing with the true high-gloss properties where a certain amount of schmoozing, hand-holding and overall TLC is expected--operate just as you suggested: mass emails.

I also sort of agree with your closing remark about an engineering degree; surely that would've been the practical way for any of us to go. But are any of us doing this for practical reasons? For all of the agita/tsuris (choose your preferred ethnicity) I've endured in my 28 years in the biz, I recognize that the lows were essentially self-inflicted (nobody forced me to do this, and in fact a number of people, mostly dependents, urged me to stop), and the highs, meanwhile...well, they are what I'll remember at the end of it all. Notwithstanding my bitching and moaning, most of which by any yardstick is warranted, writing has given this crazy antisocial kid from Brooklyn entree to realms he never could've dreamed of, growing up.

Still, I guess I should close by paraphrasing the Bard: "First thing we do is, let's kill all the agents..."

Martha said...

Steve, I heard the exact same thing from my acquisitions editor! She told me point blank: "Good writing doesn't matter any more. It's all about the marketing plan."

So don't lay it too much at the agent's feet. It's the commonly held value in publishing today. He's just telling you like it is.

Taking the shift away from values further down the proverbial alimentary canal: I've been made privy to an email sent to my latest production editor by the outsourced copy editor complaining about me (when I queried the matter of summer, summer, Spring appearing within two lines of each other in the copy edited PAGE PROOFS): "The author really cares a lot about consistency."

If I never write another book again, I think that would be okay.

Markus said...

My fellow Australian, David Schirmer, a conman who also appears in The Secret, is not above defending "Death Ray":