Graduate school Publishing Writing

quick links

Kaavya Viswanathan’s book is being withdrawn.

I wonder what her first attempt at a novel was like — the Lovely Bones-style manuscript that was judged too dark to be saleable. I keep thinking about that, especially as I read about Alloy Entertainment and the process of “packaging” that Opal Mehta went through. Now Viswanathan’s been packaged herself: she’s an accused plagiarist. I think she probably did type those plagiarised bits herself, though I’m so sketched out by the concept of “book packaging” that I’d far rather blame Alloy. But I still feel sorry for her, and for the novel she wanted to write.

More on this later, maybe. For now, have some more cheerful writing-related links:

Jennifer Jackson and Nephele Tempest discuss their reading processes for submissions.

Sarah Monette on the implications of “the moss troll problem,” or world-building and comparisons, especially in second-world fiction.


  1. Thanks for the link!

    Book packaging doesn’t have to be as sketchy as it has been in this case–in many circumstances, it’s used because a publisher wants to do a particular type of book but doesn’t have the staff to pull it together. It’s used a lot in academic reference publishing simply because the projects involved (minimum page count: 600 encyclopedia-sized pages) are so labor-intensive. In those cases, it’s the press’s scholarly reputation at stake (a plagiarism case won’t kill Little, Brown, but it could really damage an academic or university press), so they’re really, really picky about their packagers. But if you’re ever reading an article from an encyclopedia on some unlikely topic, there’s a good chance it’s from a packager. Packaging is also used with books that have some sort of weird production thing going on–an anthology called Aqua Erotica, for example, which was printed on waterproof paper. *Not* something the average publishing production department wants (or is equipped) to be saddled with, but something a packager could put together easily.

    The whole “world of book packaging” thing kind of makes me laugh–like it’s a secret subculture. Er, not really.

  2. That makes perfect sense. I think I was mostly reacting to the “secret subculture” vibe the articles have evoked, and to the fact that it seems like this particular book packager ended up swaying Viswanathan to produce something she wasn’t capable of putting together on her own.

    But I’m really glad to know that book packaging extends beyond the Sweet Valley High-style book farming that the Times, etc., have been discussing. Thank you for the enlightening comment!

    (Still giggling at Aqua Erotica, by the way.)

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