Is Oprah's Golden Touch Tarnished?

"Until that media figure emerges in a clear way, she will continue to stand out in many quarters as the only game in town," he said.

But no matter what the repercussions for the talk show queen are, the appearance of yet another falsified memoir has publishing insiders wondering about the future of the memoir and what, if anything, can be done to ensure that hundreds of thousands of readers, editors, publishers, filmmakers and even Winfrey herself, don't get duped again.

Do Publishers Fact Check Memoirs?

Contrary to what some might expect, Nelsen said that fact-checking memoirs for accuracy is not common practice in the publishing industry.

"Historically, books are not so much fact-checked as they are run by lawyers for libel," Nelson said. "So, specific facts don't necessarily get checked.

"What's surprising about [Rosenblat's book] is that, in light of the books that have come out recently that were hoaxes you'd think that people would be paying a little bit closer attention," she said.

But hiring a staff of fact checkers, said Nelson, has never happened in publishing houses; nor is it likely to -- especially during a time when the industry, like many others, is suffering in the poor economy.

"There's not enough manpower to check these books and at no point will there be a battalion of fact checkers hired," she said. "It's wildly expensive."

How Rosenblat's memoir was checked is not known; calls made to the publisher, Berkley Books, were not immediately returned.

Gutierrez said that reference books and how-to guides are really the only books that get heavily scrutinized by fact checkers.

And with memoirs, Gutierrez added, fact-checking would hardly help prove that the way an author remembers his life is actually the way it unfolded in reality.

"No amount of fact-checking can bolster how truthful a story is," Gutierrez said. "Fact-checking just isn't set up to check how accurately a person recalls certain events."

But even without a staff dedicated to ensuring the memoir was not a fraud, Nelson says the manuscript had to have gone through the hands of at least a dozen editors and assistants before it was approved for publishing.

"A lot of people could have stopped it from being published," Nelson said.

Future of the Memoir

Neither Nelson or Gutierrez are certain how to prevent future falsified memoirs from getting published, but both say more emphasis must be put on the importance of telling the truth.

Gutierrez said that while he'd hate to see stringent protocols established at publishing houses that would discourage others from writing memoirs, he does think that the importance of telling the truth should be emphasized throughout the publishing process.

"It's not enough that the author seems nice or that they have a compelling story -- this type of vetting obviously isn't working," Gutierrez said. "The importance of truth-telling needs to be in the foreground of contracts between authors and publishers."

Nelson suggests that publishers say that the book was "adapted from a true story" or "based on a true story" to avoid future stories from being erroneously labeled as memoirs.

"It hurts the industry if people feel betrayed by the books that they buy," Nelson said.

"But publishers are always anxious to produce best-sellers and I think more care needs to be taken in every step of the publishing process," she said. "It would behoove publishers to be less in a rush to sign the next best thing."

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 6543206. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 6543206. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 6543206. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 6543206. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 6543206. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 6543206.
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...