So, where do we stand on the fourth day of the Kaavya Viswanathan scandal?
I first posted about this alleged case of plagiarism yesterday. Quick recap: Last year, then 17-year-old Harvard student Kaavya Viswanathan received a $500,000 advance for two YA novels. Earlier this month, the first of those two books--"How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life" (HOMGKGWAGAL)--was released.
According to the Harvard Crimson, a fan of popular YA author Megan McCafferty noticed similarities to McCafferty's work and contacted McCafferty by email on April 11. McCafferty then contacted her agent who, in turn, notified publisher Crown (a division of Random House). Crown reviewed HOMGKGWAGAL and immediately sent a letter to Kaavya's publisher, Little, Brown (a division of Time Warner).
When contacted over the weekend, Kaavya initially denied the charge. However, on Monday, she issued a statement in which she acknowledged the plagiarism, but claimed it was "unintentional and unconscious."
There have been a couple of new developments since my post yesterday. First, Publishers Marketplace obtained a copy of the document in which Crown now summarizes the 45 passages that are questionable. That's right. I said 45 passages.
Lest you be thinking that these passages are just accidental similarities, I'm going to list a few examples:
McCafferty's "Sloppy Firsts"
"Bridget is my age and lives across the street. For the first twelve years of my life, these qualifications were all I needed in a best friend. But that was before Bridget's braces came off and her boyfriend Burke got on..."
"Priscilla was my age and lived two blocks away. For the first fifteen years of my life, those were the only qualifications I needed in a best friend...But that was before freshman year, when Priscilla's glasses came off, and the first in a long string of boyfriends came on."
McCafferty's "Sloppy Firsts"
"Marcus finds me completely nonsexual. No tension to complicate our whatever relationship. I should be relieved."
"Sean only wanted me as a friend. A nonsexual female friend. That was a good thing. No (sic) there would be no tension to complicate our relationship and my soon-to-be relationship with Jeff Akel. I was relieved."
"They could've bought Diet Cokes at any one of the 38 eating and drinking establishments in the Ocean County Mall, but in a truly sadomasochistic dieting gesture, they chose to buy their Diet Cokes at Cinnabon."
"In a truly masochistic gesture, they had decided to buy Diet Cokes from Mrs. Fields."
There are 42 more examples like this in the Crown document. Kind of explains why Kaavya didn't maintain her initial "I have no idea what you are talking about" stance. Instead, she went on The Today Show and publicly apologized, continuing to insist the copying was unintentional.
Now starts the posturing. Today's Publishers Weekly included a response from Steven Ross, publisher at Crown. "The media storm has derailed Crown's plans to promote McCafferty's just-released third title, 'Charmed Thirds.' After a strong couple of weeks, the sales momentum has slowed, Ross said, as the focus has shifted to the plagiarism issue. 'We can't book anything,' Ross said."
Okay, now let's stop here and think for just a moment. There have been lots of plagiarizing scandals (and even a lawsuit over "The DaVinci Code") in the last four months. Not one single time, did the sales of books go down as a result of a scandal. If anything, mediocre books got more press (and more sales) than they would have accrued naturally.
Methinks this is Crown giving Little, Brown fair warning that they are going to expect substantial compensation and, maybe, even demand that HOMGKGWAGAL be pulled off the bookshelves so that "corrections" can be made. Side benefit: McCafferty's latest book won't have to compete with the newbie writer's novel.
Publishers Weekly sort of confirms that viewpoint: "Ross said he is hopeful the dispute will move out of the media and into the hands of lawyers, where a resolution can be reached. Asked if Crown was pushing for an immediate recall of the book, Ross said, 'no remedy is off the table.'"
Little, Brown was expected to issue a statement today.
I've been thinking. If I were Kaavya's parents, I'd be looking to Alloy Entertainment, the book packager that contracted to help Kaavya produce her book. I'd be asking them some serious questions. After all, the book packager shares the copyright with Kaavya.
Think about the pressure the 17-year-old was under. She was a freshman at Harvard, and she'd just been paid a $500,000 advance. Yes, she was wrong. Yes, she should never have done it. But she was only seventeen. Someone should have been keeping an eye on her. Knowing her age and the enormous pressure to perform she was under, someone should have thought to ask her the hard questions.
Guess those questions will get asked now.