the lawyer writer

sometimes legal                     sometimes literary                     sometimes not

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Last Word on Opal Mehta

Look, it's bad enough that I've got to walk my dogs past a water-logged David Blaine five times today, but are we still beating up on that 17 year old with the unfortunately large book deal? All the browbeating is extraneous. Let the numbers tell the tale, simply:

Age of Kaavya Viswanathan when deal was made: 17

Age of person old enough to sign a legally binding contract: 18

Percentage of book completed at the time of the deal: 34, approximately

Dollars in advance: almost 500,000

Average dollars in first-time fiction advance: 15,000, maybe.

Number of William Morris agents involved: at least 4

Figures in Dreamworks deal: 6, at least

People involved in "packaging" book at 17th Street/Alloy Entertainment: uncounted.

Alloy Entertainment average percentage of advance: 30-50

Agent's percentage: 15-20

Kaavya's actual advance in dollars: 150,000 to 275,000

Date of deal: February 2005

Print run (number of books printed): 100,000

Copies shipped to bookstores: 55,000

Copies sold: 15,000 or less

Date of scandal: April 2006

Number of passages that are reportedly plagarized: 40 (some say 50)

Number of sources of plagiarism: at least 4

Publisher's loss, in dollars: 485,000 + publicity outlay, recall costs, productions costs, value of publishing reputation, smear on publishing as a whole)

Alloy's gain, in dollars: 150,000 to 250,000 (minus value of souls sold to Lucifer & Co.,)

Book deal Kaavya has now: 0

Film deal Kaavya has now: 0

Years of school she has left at Harvard: 3

Kaavya's current age: 19

Years left to live with this: 60-70, approximately.

Ebay average price for hardcover copy of discontinued book: $30.00

Number of people who have asked my dad about his daughter, Kaavya: 4

Number of people who have said to him that "She looks just like you": 2

Number of times my father wanted to say "My daughter, who goes to Harvard...": innumerable

Amount of money that I would have to be paid to make up for never be taken seriously as a writer: 7 figures, at least, and the promise that I could write privately.

Privilege of having a future as an author: priceless.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with that last remark, completely. Feel sorry for her in a way. Maybe she was too young to get that.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous said...

Which is more value for a young author:

Having your name on a successful first book in a witty take on the no b.s. legal realities of street crime


NOT having the last name of a world class plagiarist

Perhaps your mother is right and you should get married now.

3:02 PM  
Blogger the lawyerwriter said...

Perhaps my father is right and my husband should take my name.

12:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The name recognition is priceless. She'll bounce back.

3:40 AM  
Anonymous -mb said...

I don't think anyone who reads your blog (or your books) would think for a single moment that you would lift material from other sources. To a seasoned reader's eyes, you're the genuine article.

What I can't figure out is why Kaavya's parents didn't shelter that poor young woman from the greedy, grasping publishers. The involvement of the Alloy people should have tipped them off that something terrible was going to happen before it all ended.

And I agree ... what could possibly be worse than losing one's future as an author? I'm wondering now what investment bank would be willing to take a chance on her ethics, and her regard for proprietary boundaries.

4:51 PM  
Blogger tanveer said...

Stephen Glass proved that there is life after being caught. Although his was making up stories for his articles. All Kaavya needs to do now is sign up with an agent and write up an autobiographical movie screenplay. The screenplay should not be too hard to write. She can copy from Shattered Glass.

10:01 AM  

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