Hire a Ghost, But Don’t Pimp the Process
If you expend energy and money on a talented, professional ghostwriter to make your book shine, you must have a reason. Ghostwriters — good ghosts, skilled ghostwriters, don’t come cheap. Writing a book is never quick or easy.
My company just failed on a ghostwriting project and the moral of the story is, the author pimped herself trying to micromanage. She had no experience. No trust. Here’s a story of Ms. Author and her brilliant book idea, and it is a great idea.
There are several reasons people hire me to ghostwrite their books.
- They don’t have time to produce a book.
- They have never taken on a large-scale writing project.
- No idea how to write.
- Brilliant book idea, but afraid to dive in.
Ms. Author? All of the above. She vetted ghosts and contracted me. We talked full-length non-fiction book derived from existing material, interviews, and research. I excel at that.
We worked together for six months to complete a polished manuscript illustrated and ready for prime time. Ms. Author was tickled. She never thought the book could come together and make sense.
Then, she went wonky.
She read a few websites by “gurus,” self-proclaimed experts in self-publishing and motivation. She paid thousands to attend a seminar guaranteed to make her book a Stephen King best seller in thirty minutes with six 90-second agent interviews.
How Ms. Author Lost Her Way
Ms. Author asked my company to format, digitalize, and print the book. Ok. Additional services. We do that. And we do it well. But there is a division of labor in getting a manuscript into book form. Someone has to focus on content. Someone has to focus on mechanics (proofreading, etc) and someone has to manage the project with digital publishing entities like Amazon or Smashwords and coordinate the print process.
A lot of skill and experience are needed to avoid serious pitfalls.
Authors, by my contract, are in charge of either finding and paying a proofreader or directing us to find one. Proofing isn’t the same as editing and it requires a cold eye, someone who has never seen the book. The author must also review proofs, read them word for word, check covers, front material, and back material.
It’s essential, too, that the author communicate efficiently with ghostwriter and project manager or author/mentor. If she hires experts, she must trust those experts to do their jobs. She must also concentrate on defining her goals.
If you hire an electrician, don’t stand behind him and advise him or actually take the screwdriver from him to stick it in the wall outlet because you’re curious.
Ms. Author went down a path that’s easy to get lost on. she didn’t like her part of the job. Too late in the process, she idly surfed for a better deal. She sought more perks, hoped to save a buck here or there, perhaps find the golden egg of self-publishing. She told us, each step of the way, what her Internet gurus said we should be doing.
Her goals changed with the weather, and in Chicago, that’s a lot of change. The book was to be distributed among colleagues as a gift. The next week she decided she rather begin a speaking career and sell the book at gigs. Then suddenly she wanted her book traditionally published in New York.
More than once I day-dreamed of terminating the contract.
But eye on the prize, I knew we were producing a terrific product. If we didn’t blow-up in conflict, we would make her happy. I’m pretty good at keeping editorial remarks to myself and being calm with clients. I never told Ms. Author how frustrating the process was. She never stopped complaining.
How the Ghostwriter Failed and Ms. Author Pimped Herself and Several Others
Time plodded on and here’s what we encountered.
- Our client was more focused on being famous than on creating a great book. She became a guru groupy. A dangerous thing, following too many bits of advice.
- She had her mother proof the book. It’s cheaper that way. Her mother is a dental assistant, but has a really good eye.
- As we went to press, Ms. Author sent us 25 pages of additions. Must haves that she just thought of after seven months of preparation and writing. A guru’s website said she should include this info.
- As the printing company was sending us final proofs, Ms. Author stopped responding — she was busy. I empathize. However, in pre-press production (the print version) you have to stay on top and respond to issues.
- She received proofs, eyeballed them, returned them in a couple of hours. One formatting problem concerned her. She called us, left voice mail, “Hey do what you think is best, I gotta run.” At wits end, I did what I thought best.
She hated it.
I hadn’t done what she would have. Wailing and gnashing of teeth followed.
The book was printed. The book was very attractive, very professional.
This would-be author threw a tantrum, took her book to three other printing companies, one self-publishing/marketing concern, Amazon, and a boatload of online promisers. She hated every one of them and accused each of failing to do as promised. After thousands of dollars and several more months of hysteria, I don’t know if she found satisfaction.
Ms. Author was not ready to commit to producing a book. She had no plan. She longed for someone to make her a successful famous writer. Glamore and status drew her, but she failed herself.
The poor woman probably never got her book finished. Still tilting at windmills, she even turned down an offer from a traditional small press to evaluated her book. They were interested. They would have published and marketed at their expense. *Sigh*
The Ghostly Moral of this Story
I wrote this post as a therapy for me. I fired the client, not because I don’t like her, don’t think her book is a good idea, or was angry. I fired her because my first rule of ghostwriting is — MAKE THE CLIENT HAPPY. I failed. This is my first dissatisfied client and I should have known when to pull the plug.
Ms. Author still writes to me each time a vendor disappoints her. She tells me what an outstanding writer I am, how creative my partner and associates are. What swell people we are. But I didn’t make her happy and she pimped both of us by her inability to understand what she wanted and needed.
If you see a surgeon to fix your crooked nose, either trust him to fix it or live with what God gave you. If you contract with a ghostwriter or author/mentor to help you polish your brilliant book idea, be ready to trust.
And me? I need to know when to say “uncle.”
Tell me what you think.