Good for Oprah for finally admitting she was wrong and standing up to James Frey, the author who embarrassed her by fabricating parts of his book “A Million Little Pieces,” the story of his recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction. The book zoomed to top of the best-seller’s list and sold 3.5 million copies after she chose it for her Oprah’s Book Club pick.
This story still has legs, and it presents opportunities galore for Hounds to weigh in with their expert commentary and opinions. Here are some ideas:
—Do drug and alcohol counselors think Frey’s disdain for 12-step programs will encourage more people to bypass treatment programs and white-knuckle it?
—What does this controversy mean for book publishers and authors? Frey’s book, we learn, was never fact-checked because most publishers don’t have a budget for that kind of research. Should books be fact-checked before they go to press?
—Do you think Oprah’s staff should fact-check the books she promotes in Oprah’s Book Club?
—If you bought the book, are you one of many who are asking for their money back? If you own a bookstore, are lots of customers demanding refunds?
—Does the flap over Frey’s book in any way minimize Oprah’s Book Club, or will authors be as eager as ever to have their book christened by the queen of daytime TV?
—Is lying accepted too freely in our society? You can see a clip of the audience’s reaction to Frey’s apology on Jan. 26 after the show.
—Should this book, which portrays addiction as a tormenting hell, be required reading for teenagers?
If you’re pitching one of these ideas, be sure to pitch other sources who would be willing to talk with the media. A pitch letter is a perfect way to do that. BL Ochman, who was my guest during a teleseminar called “How to Write a Pitch Letter More Powerful Than a News Release,” says pitch letters are far better than news releases because you can customize each letter for a particular journalist’s needs. Her chatty pitch letters have landed her clients in top-tier media such as the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.
Whenever possible, customioze your pitches. Let journalists know you know what they cover and that you know how to help them.