When you're at certain types of gatherings, do you boldly and cheerfully proclaim that you're a freelance writer? Or, when someone asks you what you do, do you tend to avoid eye contact, mumble something about "working at home" and quickly change the subject?
Chances are, you mumble. And with good reason. Many of us have learned that one admits to being a writer at one's peril. To do otherwise is to risk "the pounce."
I learned my lesson at a church luncheon. I was new in the area and wanted to get to know people, so of course I declared that I was a writer. I'll never forget the gleam that came into the eye of the woman sitting opposite me. It wasn't a "Oh, how interesting, you must be a fascinating person!" gleam. It was the sort of gleam you might get if you'd just spotted a winning lottery ticket on the sidewalk, or a particularly lovely bargain at Nordstrom's.
"Oh," she declared, "I have a wonderful idea for a book and I just need someone to write it for me." To which, I'm sure, she thought my answer would be, "Well, sure, I'm not doing anything much this afternoon, let me just whip that off for you..."
The pounce often comes with an offer that is obviously considered too tempting for a poor, starving writer to pass up: "I give you the ideas, you write the book, and we split the profits!!!" Small wonder we mumble...
Pouncing isn't limited to social occasions, however. I regularly receive inquiries from people with a story to tell, a book to write -- but who are experiencing considerable difficulties actually writing it. And so, the inquirer asks, can I recommend someone who can handle that task? My usual response is to point out that what one is looking for in this instance is a "ghostwriter" -- something easily located in a Google search.
However, there is more to the story than that -- and if you are that person with a story to tell, a book to write, and (you perhaps hope) a fortune to be made, there are some things you need to know about the business of having someone else write your book. I recently interviewed several ghostwriters for an article for The Writer (which will be appearing in the November issue, and in these pages sometime thereafter). Because I do receive so many inquiries about "finding someone to write my book," I asked these ghostwriters what would-be authors ought to know about the business. Here are some hard, cold facts:
Many would-be writers are daunted by the actual task of writing. Some of the e-mails that I receive mention how difficult it is to actually get that book written. Many of these e-mails also convey the impression that the writer has, in fact, very little writing experience. To these writers or would-be writers, I would add one final bit of advice or, perhaps, comfort: You're right. Writing IS difficult. It's not just you. It's not just your inexperience. Writing a book is a long, difficult, frustrating, difficult, long, tough, difficult (did I mention difficult?) process. Rarely will you encounter a writer who says otherwise, even if that writer has years of experience and dozens of books under his or her belt.
Unfortunately, that's also what makes ghostwriting so expensive: It is difficult. Writers are not people who find writing easy. They are people who have managed to press ahead despite the difficulties of the task.
And sometimes, it's an awareness of those difficulties that make us lose patience, just a bit, with the "pouncers" at a gathering who declare something like "Oh, I have this great idea for a book I'm going to write someday when I have the time," or worse, "Oh, I have a wonderful idea and all I need is someone like you to write it for me!" Forgive us if we are less than enthusiastic... and forgive us if we mumble!
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