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Yet Another Fake Memoir (YAFM): Love and Consequences by Margaret...

It only took a week to debunk supposed memoir Love and Consequences by Margaret B Jones. L&C was a story about Margaret’s “life as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among gang-bangers, running drugs for the Bloods.”

The author, Margaret Seltzer, is a) all white b) grew up in a ritzy neighborhood with c) her bio family. She didn’t even graduate from the University of Oregon.

How can publishers not catch this? It’s quite irksome that publishers have so little regard for the public that they continually put out books from a known plagiarist and continue to publish memoirs that are fake. Why should the reading public take these so-called gatekeepers seriously? These actions make me think that publishing is no more than a giant corporate conglomerate out to take as much money as possible, in as underhanded a way as possible, as it can. There is no lofty ideal.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

11 Comments

  1. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 04, 2008 @ 11:47:52

    Our news reported it was her sister who called the publisher and outed her, which I find hilarious.

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  2. Ann Bruce
    Mar 04, 2008 @ 11:57:11

    Do memoirs sell better than fiction or something? Are they more respectable? More likely to get a movie deal? More likely to be picked by Oprah? What?!?

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  3. Phyl
    Mar 04, 2008 @ 12:04:53

    Sarah McGrath, the editor at Riverhead who worked with Seltzer for three years on the book, said she was stunned to discover that the author had lied.

    I am ignorant about how the publishing business works, but is it unreasonable to think that publishers should ask to see resumes from their authors? At which point references could be checked, college transcripts examined, etc. A little due diligence could have saved Ms. McGrath 3 years of wasted work and a red face. In my workplace this is the norm. Yes, resumes and transcripts can be faked, but one has to go to some degree of trouble to fake them. You might be surprised how lazy some people are and assume you won’t check.

    And, yes Shannon, isn’t it interesting that she was outed by her sister. Wouldn’t you love to know what’s going on in that family?!

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  4. Kerry
    Mar 04, 2008 @ 12:04:56

    Why should the reading public take these so-called gatekeepers seriously?

    What gate are they keeping?

    Yes, publishing is a business, and businesses operate to make money. I missed the part where a publisher’s purpose is to be the moral compass of the authors that submit to them.

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  5. Jane
    Mar 04, 2008 @ 12:11:45

    Is this day and age, these things can be checked out and if you are selling a memoir, publishers should have the duty to fact check this crap.

    As for being “gate keepers” that is supposedly the whole argument behind the prestige of some literary houses – that they are the cultural gatekeepers. Riverhead, of course, published James Frey’s memoirs so I guess it should come as no surprise that they failing to appropriately factcheck their products.

    There is such a thing as truth in advertising and it does apply to all products, including books.

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  6. Teddypig
    Mar 04, 2008 @ 12:15:21

    I missed the part where a publisher's purpose is to be the moral compass of the authors that submit to them.

    How about just intelligent enough to not look like gullible idiots?

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  7. Ann Bruce
    Mar 04, 2008 @ 13:22:39

    How about just intelligent enough to not look like gullible idiots?

    What’s worse? Gullible idiots or unethical money-grubbers?

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  8. Kim
    Mar 04, 2008 @ 14:23:52

    This is getting ridiculous. Most of us fight tooth and nail to write a good story to get published. How is it that these “memoirs” are getting published and simply taken as truth by the publishers? I’m with Ann Bruce – what makes these “memoirs” so much more publishable to the point they are taken as fact without checking?

    I’m sure these will be fighting words, but honestly, morals fall by the wayside continually (Edwards, the Holocaust survivor memoir also recently ousted, Frey), and since these “writers” (and probably more like it) aren’t policing themselves, why shouldn’t the publishers do their own due diligence? Salute to Phyl and Jane. Hello, Riverhead, for pete’s sake – two?

    And the comment by Saltzer’s mother that her daughter is just so passionate she got lost in the narration. Blah, blah. That’s not a reason – it’s a cop out.

    Hmmm, gullible idiots or unethical money-grubbers? I’m thinking it’s both.

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  9. Ann Bruce
    Mar 04, 2008 @ 15:41:49

    The following is the extent of fact-checking that was done by the editor Sarah McGrath (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/books/04fake.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1):

    “I've been talking to her [Seltzer] on the phone and getting e-mails from her for three years and her story never has changed,” Ms. McGrath said. “All the details have been the same. There never have been any cracks.”

    I guess the motto is “Trust and Wait for Suckers Reading Public to Verify.”

    These people seriously need the FCU.

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  10. Wendy
    Mar 04, 2008 @ 16:37:42

    Ann Bruce said: “Do memoirs sell better than fiction or something? Are they more respectable? More likely to get a movie deal? More likely to be picked by Oprah? What?!?”

    My observations as a librarian – readers tend to be very drawn to “real life” stories. I Was A Teenage Crack Head And Am Now The CEO Of Big Corporation. That kind of thing. It’s inspiring. It gives readers something to believe in. Heck, it also shows readers that maybe their lives aren’t as crappy as they thought. “My husband doesn’t do the dishes but at least he didn’t gamble away our life savings” – that kind of thing.

    Now as for raw sales numbers – do memoirs sell more than fiction? That I would have no clue on. But there is something very appealing in that “inspiring true story” tag-line. Heck, look no further than your local Blockbuster…..

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  11. Tracy
    Mar 04, 2008 @ 19:34:47

    Riverhead, of course, published James Frey's memoirs so I guess it should come as no surprise that they failing to appropriately factcheck their products.

    After James Frey you’d think they’d be a little more diligent!

    “I've been talking to her [Seltzer] on the phone and getting e-mails from her for three years and her story never has changed,” Ms. McGrath said. “All the details have been the same. There never have been any cracks.”

    Um, that actually should have been her first clue. If the story was EXACTLY the same, then it was rehearsed. When I tell a story of something that really happened, the details usually vary slightly b/c you don’t remember EVERY detail EVERY time.

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