Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Losing Artistic Control

Don't fall in love with the title of your manuscript, the budding novelist is advised, because the publisher will change it to their liking. It's part of the marketing strategy, should you be so fortunate as to get published. Not all authors like the notion, however. Imagine, then, losing artistic control over the manuscript and wouldn't you be upset?

If I Did It will soon morph into Damn Right I Butchered The Two Of Them, once the Goldman family and book packager/literary agent Sharlene Martin is finished. The family of murder victim Ronald Goldman won control over the manuscript that O.J. Simpson had ghostwritten and hoped to sell, with proceeds hidden in a shell company so that he could skirt a court ruling and keep money that was owed the Goldman clan. There was a lot of talk about what would become of the manuscript that Judith Regan was ready to launch, the manuscript that broke the HarperCollins back and sent Ms. Regan packing. It will be published after all, albeit in a highly modified form.

All that work, all that time spent with the ghostwriter to put together a book that would sell through because of curiosity and titillation....and all for naught. Mr. Simpson lost control (and he lost control of the book about the same loss of control), with all rights to his manuscript handed over to the Goldman family as part of their civil suit decree. The Goldmans plan to release the book after some heavy editing, which is rumored to include their editorial content. It will cease to be a flight of Simpsonian fancy and re-emerge as a full-blown confession, and the original author has no say in the matter.

True crime non-fiction is a hot item in publishing. The revised version of the O.J. Simpson manuscript will fly off the shelves, to the benefit of the Goldman's foundation, and the detriment of the man who claims he didn't do it. New title, new content, new slant -- by losing control of the story, the author has also lost control of the historical record that will sit on book shelves for years to come.

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