Lying – just…don’t

So “balloon boy” was all a hoax, I see. Nothing more than a publicity stunt. The kid hid while hundreds of law enforcement officials went on a kidhunt that covered many square miles all because they thought was was inside the family’s balloon. The end story is that the parents wanted to get on a reality show and enlisted the aid of their kids to perpetuate the lie. Good grief. Of course people are furious, and Mom and Dad will probably have to auction off their house to pay their upcoming legal fees. Serves them right in my opinion.

My synapses stop firing when I think about the lengths people will go to for their place in the sun. Are people all that desperate for notoriety? The story reminded me of a phone conversation I had with an author a couple years ago:

“I didn’t lie! I was just a little economical with the truth.” Her protests were so loud, I had to hold the phone away from my ear, which sent the beagle into a fit of giggles. She loves to watch me squirm.

Economical with the truth. Gah. She sounds like she carries the DNA to be a politician. She was incensed that I doubted her story, which was almost pure fabrication after I conducted a small fact-finding tour.  I was incensed that I had to take time out of my job to uncover it. The author was so desperate to be published that she didn’t see the harm in a “little white lie.” Well, that “little white lie” could have potentially bankrupted me. Does the world really need another James Frey, for godsakes?

I’ve uncovered other fabrications – one woman tried to tell me she was a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Know how easy it is to look that up? I had another author try to tell me she was the secret lover of a very famous actor. It was no small amount of irony that I happened to know one of the actor’s granddaughters, and no one knew who she was. That’s some secret. Isn’t this how those “I carried Elvis’ love child” headliners make it to those rag mags? Why bother with proof when you have titillation on your side?

Ok, these are the obvious nutters. Others are better at camouflaging their little lies in amongst the bushes so it’s harder to uncover. Maybe they pad their promotion plan, or their bio. Why should I care about those small “transgressions”? Because like everything else in life, there exists a domino effect.

We give your promo plan and bio to the hands of our sales teams, which put it in the hands of the genre buyers. Purchase orders are often based on the strengths of the book and those external elements. If you really don’t have those media contacts that you claimed to  and you really sit home and make homemade Twinkies, this makes our national sales efforts that much harder because you’re not out there doing any events. That Fox News coverage you talked about in your promo plan will never happen. That means fewer people will know that your book exists, so those large purchase orders that sent your book out across the country may very well come rushing back to our warehouses in the form of returns. That just colors me all shades of pissed off. And your butt on the sidewalk. So much for dominoes, eh?

But I guess lying is akin to desperate people in desperate times. Except that publishing a book is hardly desperate. The world will keep turning and the stars will still shine if a book isn’t published. I won’t bother going into the immorality of lying or how the Cosmic Muffin takes away those lovely Karma Points from your balance sheet – it’s just wasted space on those who are “economical with the truth.” I’ll just say that it makes my teeth itch and I’ll hate you forever.

I know it’s tempting to pad your bio or your promotion plan – or your memoir – or promise Big  Name forewords for your book. I had an author’s agent tell me a famous actor had written the foreword of her client’s book because they were old friends. Sounded plausible at the time. Upon request to see the foreword along with the pages, the agent told me,”Ooops. Turns out Mr. Famous agreed to write it.” Hmm. By this time, I’m looking askance at the agent. Did she not vet her own client? After a bit of merry-go-rounding, it turned out that the author had “hoped” to get a mere blurb from said famous actor – whom he didn’t know at all. It was a house of cards that came tumbling down over the agent’s and author’s heads.

I’ve seen authors whose books are stuck in the gaping maw of those publishers who “gave them the chance they deserved” talk about changing their name and the title of the book so they can pitch it to agents and other publishers – even though they still have a valid contract!

Now this is just all kinds of creepy, and I thank the stars and moon that those who pull a bonehead stunt like this are usually lousy writers. What these dimwits don’t realize is let’s say they succeed in fooling another publisher and their “new” book is pubbed. If the previous publisher [who still has a valid contract, mind you] finds out, they will most definitely go after the author and their new publisher. See what I mean? Domino effect.

I have to wonder at what point does one stop and consider the stupidity of pulling the wool over someone’s eyes? Trust me, there is no fury as the editor scorned, and sooner or later, we usually find out. Secrets and lies are very hard to contain because there is always someone willing to expose a liar. And the bigger the infraction, the uglier the disembowelment.

Lying…just don’t. You simply cannot whitewash a lie. You can call it an exaggeration, a stretch, a representation (total WTF), a misunderstanding, BUT IT IS STILL – AND ALWAYS WILL BE – A LIE. You can’t help having an unimpressive  bio, and making it up won’t put a smile on your editor’s face once she finds out that your job as a CEO of a major janitorial company really turns out to be a “representation” of the fact that you clean toilets for the local elementary school. I’ve seen contracts ditched for things like this.

Never, never, ever underestimate the investigative powers of your editor – whether she’s a small fry like me, or an editor at Ballentine.

As “balloon boy’s” parents are about to find out, lying casts a wide net. It can costs thousands to millions of dollars and ruins lives and careers. Are you absolutely sure it’s worth the risk?

So to answer my question of whether some are that desperate for notoriety, I guess I’d have to say yes. Sad, isn’t it?

6 Responses to Lying – just…don’t

  1. Allen Parker says:

    Sometimes our omissions are just as much a lie as our additions. That episode of Taboo you were on might come back to bite you if you don’t at least mention the hobby that got you on the show.

    Or that full spread centerfold you did as a teen might not be the best surprise an editor finds when searching the internet under your name.

  2. Good point, Allen. Thanks for bringing it up. It’s true that some of the omissions created some, ah, entertainment for the beagle and me. Others not quite so.

    I stumbled across a horrible online radio interview where the author berated the show host and a caller, who happened to be a detractor of his. While no one enjoys being put on the hot seat – or even blind sided – grace under fire always wins my support. After hearing the interview, I decided he was too much of a hothead and moved on.

  3. Kurt Sipolski says:

    Well, agree wholeheartedly that liars are creeps, but I have a hunch the balloon kid’s book will hit the stands before mine. The age we live.

  4. Kurt, you have given me a reason to hate my profession.

  5. Kurt Sipolski says:

    Well, if a sentimental period piece intrigues you, maybe we can beat the kid!


  6. Cat Woods says:

    Love it!

    We just discussed this topic, in a round about way, on AQ. How much do you put yourself out there publicly and what is the risk when the contract is in the making?

    Sometimes its nice to be an unknown. We are then modeling clay for agents and marketing teams, instead of having to be repainted to hide our flaws, fibs, playboy centerfolds, children, snarky interviews…

    I guess the list is quite long. Thankfully it’s you on the other side of the desk!

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