I’m not sure what compelled me to do it, but after seeing Dorothy Must Die jump onto the bestseller’s list, I found myself perusing twitter to see what people were saying about the book in relation to it coming from Full Fathom Five, James Frey’s packaging company.I blame the insomnia I had that kept me awake from 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM this morning. I’m not going to get into explaining book packaging and Full Fathom Five because others have done that better, but for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, here are some helpful links and posts others have created:
- On Book Packagers and Literary Development Companies at Stacked is a great post explaining what book packaging is(an interesting tidbit I learned in that post–Nancy Drew was from a book packager!)
- Debby’s post at Snuggly Oranges better delves into the Full Fathom Five issue.
- Nikki also recently posted about boycotting, which is the post that really made me start thinking about this.
For the most part, people seem to agree on a few things when it comes to book packagers:
- Book packaging, as an idea, is not ethically wrong(though plenty of people don’t like the idea behind book packaging and lose enthusiasm for those books, I have yet to see anyone who thinks it’s just an ethically wrong business practice). I find the concept of book packaging fascinating and hope to explore it more in a future post.
- However, James Frey’s book packaging company is ethically wrong because of the terrible contracts that authors have to sign and their lousy earning( A little about the contract).
- This leads to some people boycotting books coming from James Frey’s packaging company and the decision to not buy or to read those books.
Now, personally, I’ve decided not to buy Full Fathom Five books. I hardly ever use the word “boycott”, but technically that’s what it is. If I’m going to give a book any sort of publicity or pay for a book, I’d rather do it with books that are NOT Full Fathom Five books. I understand why other people might not boycott, though. I don’t boycott every company I disagree with. For one, I don’t have the time to find every. single. company. that treats their employees unfairly, that use unfair labor practices, that donates to organizations I disagree with. If a company like that is brought to my attention, I’ll often choose an alternative if it’s available, but I don’t go around boycotting everything I could.
The reason I bring this up is because I totally understand why someone might not boycott Full Fathom Five. What you do with your free time and your money is really none of my business(provided it’s legal). I mean, I can do everything I can to bring unfair practices to other people’s attention and encourage them to seek alternatives, but in the end, it’s up to you and that’s completely fine. I’m not really into judging what other people want to do with their time and money. I don’t really like many of Wal-Mart’s policies but I still sometimes shop there if it’s convenient.
I wanted to talk about this though because when I was scrolling twitter on this topic, I kept seeing a theme pop up(it also pops up in some of the comments of the posts above) that goes something like this:
I don’t like Full Fathom Five’s policies, but I don’t think it’s fair to boycott because then you’re not supporting the author either.
Something about this argument just doesn’t sit right with me, and here’s why:
1. I already don’t support every author anyway. No one does.
As a group, I support authors . I want to BE an author someday, and I think authors are amazing! I know how powerful stories and books can be, and I am constantly in awe at how creative certain authors are. I support them.
But individually? I don’t support every author, at least not when we’re equating “supporting” with “reading or buying”. Because I will never buy every book in the world or read every book, not even every book that appeals to me. I have to be selective with what I read/buy because I am mortal and not a billionaire.
So because I have finite money and time, I have to pick which authors to support. In that case, I’d rather not buy/read books packaged by Full Fathom Five.
2. Would I really be supporting the author by buying the book?
To me, this argument is a little like saying “I dislike when companies don’t sell fair trade chocolate, but at least I’m helping them keep some kind of job, even if it’s not the fairest”. Buying Full Fathom Five books doesn’t really support the author as much as it tells James Frey that his terrible contracts and money-making ideas are working.
3. Books, in this situation, are not just books.
In general, I don’t really have a hard time separating an author’s personal life from a work of art. However, the climate surrounding a work of art is a different matter. Enjoying art is one thing, but I don’t want to do it at the exploitation of the creator, which is what I believe Full Fathom Five does.
In the End:
I think choosing whether to boycott something or not is a personal decision, so I definitely get it. Like I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of things I don’t boycott even when I disagree. I still shop at Wal-Mart sometimes. I still sometimes buy from companies who have terrible business practices. I’ve read Orson Scott Card’s books(well, just Ender’s Game). You can’t boycott everything, and I totally get why someone might decide to not boycott Full Fathom Five books. It’s really up to you, but I did want to offer some thoughts on the idea that by boycotting in this particular case, you’re not supporting the actual author. And clearly, several of Full Fathom Five’s books, like I Am Number Four and Dorothy Must Die, are doing well. It’s not so much for me that I think my lack of reading these books is any sort of indicator to the company, but about how I personally feel and how much I want to support authors and the industry.