There is a huge part of me that is sympathetic towards Kaavya Viswanathan who has recently been accused of plagiarism and had her first book (And no doubt her last given the notoriety that this episode will bestow upon her name) How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life pulled from the stores by publisher Little, Brown.
I don’t know the specifics of the case except that Kaavya Viswanathan was offered a two book deal with a stunning $500,000 advance. Every first time author’s dream (turned nightmare it now seems).
Regardless of how the similarities in texts came to exist it does highlight one huge problem in publishing, the need for massive hype to catch large enough audiences. The only reason to pay a first time author $500,000 is to build hype and expectations. The free press that an author and their publisher get when a deal like that is signed may not last until publication but you bet that as publication draws near editors and writers will pull out files and write copy that includes phrases like “hotly tipped” “eagerly awaited” and “rising star”.
The hype builds pressure to deliver on expectations. It’s not just financial (though surely in the industry it mostly is) it’s also artistic and creative. If that pressure doesn’t affect a young writer, her management and everyone else around her and on occasion lead to poor decisions and bad call, then I don’t know what would.
If, like many, you feel no sympathy for the author or her publisher this story from The Book Standard might distract you.