James Frey's new publishing model: A factory for Hollywood-friendly books

James Frey's I Am Number Four didn't blow us away... but as a movie pitch in book form, it worked great, since Michael Bay and DJ Caruso have already filmed it. And it's just the first of many.


The Wall Street Journal has a revealing look at Frey's new venture, Full Fathom Five, in which Frey comes up with commercial book ideas and then farms them out to young, hungry writers whom he finds in writing programs and elsewhere. Among other things: An author of one of these books may get paid as little as $500 ($250 on signing, $250 after completion of the book) in exchange for a percentage of eventual royalties. The author may not get their name on the book — as Jobie Hughes found when he wrote I Am Number Four based on Frey's idea, and then found the book credited to "Pitticus Lore," a fictional alien elder who enjoys describing the sexual cravings of teenagers in breathless prose. And the books are tailored to Hollywood — in the case of I Am Number Four, the book was even rewritten to match some decisions that were made on the film, and Frey created a new emblem for the series, a crop circle, after movie producers said they wanted something along the lines of Harry Potter's lightning bolt to put on marketing materials.

Is this the future of book publishing? Hard to say, but there are three series already on the way from Full Fathom Five. Plus Frey has 27 writers working on a total of 28 series. Up next: The Montauk Project, about a teenager who discovers a time machine, along with a secret closed-down military base off Long Island. And The Other World Chronicles, a modern-day King Arthur story that that Will Smith's son Jaden is already in line to star in the movie version of. [Wall Street Journal]

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