August 18th, 2008

karen

We hear what we want to hear

Sometimes the human mind has, you should pardon the expression, a mind of its own. A few days ago I blogged about a heartwarming story of a 93-year-old woman who got a big advance on her first novel, bought a house, and planned to offer a home to all her friends. The story was reported in all kinds of places (I cited the Guardian), but as it turns out, it's not true. Yes, Lorna Page wrote and published her first book at 93. Yes, she wants to offer a home to her friends. But she didn't get a big advance, or even a standard publishing contract. She published her book with AuthorHouse, a self-publishing company (or possibly vanity press is a better term, as their services cost between $600 and $1200). They don't give advances.

So how did this story get started? The original press release issued about Lorna Page said nothing about an advance. It does say that she planned to use the proceeds from the book to buy a house and offer a home to her friends, but it never says she had that money in hand. Writer Beware attributes this factual slippage to sloppy reporting. That's undoubtedly true, but it seems to me there's also an element of wish fulfillment. Every one wanted Lorna Page to be a success at the age of 93, so that's what they took from the press release.

Maybe the publicity will drive up sales of her book and she'll actually be able to buy the house? How's that for wish fulfillment?




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