Thursday, September 27, 2007


In Which A Friend is Treated like A Dog...

Some time ago, when I had nothing better to write about, I did a quick review of several books I was reading at the time. One of my favorites was an advance copy of John Grogan's Marley & Me, which later became a New York Times best-seller (it was on the list for over a year). What I didn't tell you in that blog entry was that John and I actually worked for the same company for a few years, although at that time we'd met maybe twice and certainly didn't know each other well. But I wished I'd made a better effort to know him then. His book--and his columns for the Philadelphia Inquirer--were just the best.

So you can imagine my delight when, not long after that particular blog post, I got the nicest e-mail from John, which turned into a cordial exchange. I can't say we're exactly fishing buddies now, of course, but we've done favors for each other over the past couple of years and I consider him a friend.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the bookstore to pick up Garrison Keillor's new novel when I spotted another new book. On the cover was the picture of an impish dog and the title, Bad Dogs Have More Fun. It was a collection of Inquirer columns by John. We hadn't spoken in a while, and I knew John had amicably departed from the Inquirer to pursue other projects, but I didn't know the next project was going to be a collection of columns, so I was surprised to see it. Surprised but pleased, of course. I quickly snapped the book up and bought it.

It was only when I got home that my surprise turned to astonishment, then flat-out anger, when I saw a little tiny disclaimer on the back cover, which read:

"The money-grubbing executives of the Philadelphia Inquirer slapped this book together without so much as talking to John Grogan about it--even though we rather prominently put his name on the book in order to cash in on his success. He was not involved with our scheme at all and receives no compensation for it. Why? Because we're assholes."

I may be paraphrasing a little, but I can't give you the verbatim version because I no longer have the book. I couldn't get back to Barnes and Noble fast enough to demand my refund. And when I was asked the reason for returning it, you better believe I told them in a loud and ringing voice what I'm telling you. Of course it was just a small gesture, and I likely didn't dissuade one person from buying the book. But I have a slightly louder voice over here at the Masthead, plus good friends like all you fine people, whom I know I can trust to spread the word and do the right thing. Which is not to buy this book.

Now, it's true: the Inquirer is well within its rights to do whatever it wants with John's columns. As John himself explained when he wrote about this over at his blog, his work at the paper is what we in the biz call "work for hire," which means the company owns all rights. I was a work-for-hire hack myself (still am, actually). The three books that I wrote, I wrote as a salaried employee. Even though one of them is still in print here in the States (and another still enjoys life abroad as the infamous I Am the Sex Man!), I have not received a dime for those books since 1998. And I'm fine with that, really. I knew the rules of the playground going in.

John did too. So we're not arguing what's legal. And it's not about the money (I can't speak with any authority on this point, but I'm pretty sure that if you've had a book on the best-seller's list for a year and change, money's not an issue). This is one of those ethical deals. The Inquirer put this book together without so much as an FYI e-mail or phone call to John. Everything about its creation and production smacks of being a parasitic attempt to make a fast buck off another man's good name and hard work.

And it's such a stupid effort besides. I mean, how hard would it have been to call John, to offer him even the courtesy to choose which of his columns would form the book? If they'd done that, I think they'd have had a much more successful book on their hands. Instead, what they have is a work of forced prostitution, a hardbound whore.

If you think I'm being melodramatic about this, I would ask you to imagine how you would feel if you had something you worked on--worked hard and well and brought to bear every God-given talent and tool of your trade upon it--and then saw it taken away and used--or misused--without so much as a by-your-leave.

And here would be the worst part: The people who took that work from you would make sure your name was all over it.

That's what they did to my friend John Grogan. And there's nothing he can do about it.

But you all can.

Thanks for letting me vent. My spleen feels much better.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Bought his book Marley & Me for the b/f for valentine's day - he never read it... I couldn't put it DOWN. Great book.

I promise not to buy the new book *crosses heart*

Cindy in CO
Not buying that POS.

Marley & Me Rocked!
Man, that sucks. Even Carrie Bradshaw was allowed to pick the columns she wanted for her book.
That sucks! I'm a part time writer and photographer, and would be equally pissed if my publication did that without so much as a peep to me.

I loved (and cried) at Marley and Me, and as soon as I saw it in Target, picked up a copy of "Bad Dog Marley" because it was so cute. We've got a dog thats from the same ilk as marley (Ours has gone so far as to jump out second story windows to escape when left alone. Twice.), and its a touching story. While we don't have kids right now, I'm looking forward to sharing the illustrated version with any future kidlets.
"Marley & Me" had me in tears many times throughout - Grogan lovers, UNITE!

BTW - the new Keillor is great.

Know what else is great? "...a work of forced prostitution, a hardbound whore."
I promise too.
*pats MM's spleen comfortingly*
You know, I have had Marley and Me on my Amazon wish list forever. I think I am going to bump it up to a must have and ask for it for my birthday (next month), and short of that, just get it for myself.

There, and I won't be buying that other bunch of stuff. I will just go find John's blog and read his other columns there.

Thanks for the heads up.

Missed you.

Now, when is your Blaze book hitting the best seller list? I am sure it would, if we all had anything to say about it.
My second husband used to work at Motorola and had a couple of patents granted. Motorola will always own those patents and recieve any money related to them. And he will never know.
Here's another vote and promise to buy the Blaze book whenever it's released. And, of course, a promise NOT to buy the book that ripped off your friend.
Won't buy the book either...
Purchased Marley & Me but not the new one.
Melissa mentioned "Amazon". A decent idea to drive down sales would be to go to Amazon and enter a review stating why you won't be buying the book. Just a suggestion.
Leave his spleen alone! Only HLS gets to pat it.
I know you are friends with the guy and feel horrible about what what was done to him. Sadly this happens a good bit. I wrote a small book many years ago, a small amount were sold and I never saw a dime. This is a larger scale and thus worse for sure...

HOWEVER, as a professional dog trainer, breeder, competitor and a manager of pet resorts for 17 years I will say I hate the Marley book (now plural books)I dissuade everyone I can from buying them

This is going to make me exceptionally unpopular with you (I am sorry) and most people who read this but here goes...

That form of irresponsible and unknowledgeable pet ownership does not deserve to make money from writing about it (and most serious dog people I know have the same opinion). Poor Marley
As it turns out, I am very protective of my words...In a poetry workshop, someone teased that they were going to "steal" one of my phrases..I whined "You can't." in a false girlish voice...but I really meant.."No really, YOU CAN'T!"
Marley & Me is one of my favorite books of all-time!

Not only will I not buy the whored-out new book, but I may just go ahead and buy a few copies of Marley & Me and give them to friends for Christmas.
That really sucks! I wont buy the book..AND I'll tell allll my friends (three of them)
I'm glad I've not seen the new book or I surely would have bought it. Thanks for the heads up~ That really pisses me off.
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