Welcome to James Frey's Young Adult Fiction Sweatshop

Speaking of Oprah, remember James Frey? A former Gawker intern, Frey is probably better known for the time he made up a best-selling memoir and Oprah yelled at him. Well, he's got a new venture, and it sounds absolutely terrifying.

It's called Full Fathom Five, and it's a fiction factory. As described in this New York Magazine article, Frey basically scoops up young writers in MFA programs, locks them into a pretty shitty contract: $250 for a completed manuscript; 30-40 percent of any revenue that might come from the project—but, oh, there's no audit provision, so you can't actually see exactly how much revenue there is. Then Frey works with them to create highly commercial, highly serializable, film adaptable, product placeable series of young adult fiction. The shop has 27 writers churning out 28 potential series, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Full Fathom Five's main success has been I Am Number Four, a sci-fi novel that hit the best-seller lists and is now being adapted by Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg into a Dreamworks film. Suzanne Mozes, once a potential contractor with Full Fathom Five, describes in the New York article a meeting she had with Frey about her own idea:

He encouraged me to start imagining product placement-"think Happy Meals"-because merchandise is where you make money in these deals. He mentioned the Mogadorian swords in I Am Number Four, which were described with unusual specificity. "We added that after Spielberg told us he needed stuff to sell."

Whew. It's like Judy Blume meets the Borg. On the plus side, it's nice that James Frey is helping to crush a new generation of writers' lofty aspirations before they get out of school and have to figure out how fucked up everything is for themselves.