James Frey, the bad boy of American letters who was given a very public dressing-down by Oprah Winfrey over his first book—in which he passed off fiction as memoir—is back in the headlines over his latest venture, a collective writing project that some have accused of being brutal and Dickensian. ... The contentious elements include: an upfront payment of just $250 to the writer for an entire book, which is pitiful unless the book is sold, at which point they get 30%-40% of any royalties obtained; the fact that Frey retains all final creative control and the copyright of the work in his company, with total power to decide what happens to the book; and a system of fines if the writer breaks the terms of the contract.