Monday, January 25, 2010
GHOST WRITING FOR GRIM FUN AND PROFIT
At the mall recently, barely inside a Barnes & Noble (B&N) store, I encountered a table with two people. One was a woman named Connie. Connie had ghost-written a book named X (not the real name, but let's play it safe). She told me the author (Michael) wrote about 50 words (an abstract perhaps?) and she wrote the rest of the 328 page sci-fi book. She gave me a copy and both signed it (I didn't request this).
Supposedly it was a finalist some years back for the Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) award.
Michael is listed as a "writer" at the back of the book. However, Connie said she was given the task to make whole cloth out of a patch. She seemed annoyed. The smiling, semi-garrulous guy behind the table was Mike who clearly had read it probably 500 times and could recite it to anyone who cared. He was what the British call, a twit. I'm an American, I still think he is a twit.
Even when you are paid or given some compensation, there is always a little rub when someone doesn't shrink from taking credit for someone else's work. Connie was a little smarter, she at least had her name listed as co-author on the cover, so I suspect her payment came from any royalties (?) which may have accrued. Her purpose for being in B&N was to get new projects. Her latest one was on haunted houses. It turned out that I also knew the publisher as we had once worked together at a writer's workshop (See? There's a lot you don't know about me.)
Right away I could tell she was talented. Lots of excellent references but some overkill too.
Another risky business. Probably another burnout... what we do to pay the bills!?
With respect to chess I wrote a column for a guy years ago for the chess section of the American Topical Association (philately). Maybe I got some ad space. My irritation was that he turned to use my work to get elected as president of the whole organization. That gnawed a nerve in me. At first you might think you are helping out a busy person (as well as yourself) but in reality, the other person sometimes doesn't have the skill to do what they may see in you... does this mean that those who seek "power" have a low skill set? Not necessarily of course, but look in the recent past about how many politicians have zero abilities when it comes to computers, the web, e-mail, etc. (Or, telling the truth.)
Before someone goes off half-cocked and reminds me that politicians have other things on their minds--I question that, if you leave out Roberts Rules of Order and "correct" procedures. Most were regular people when they got elected and they took with them what they knew at the time. Same for the guy mentioned above running for office and for the woman who has written science fiction, ghost stories, and many other things.
We need to be learning all the time. Last Fall I took an accounting course from one of the local colleges. This afternoon I added to my knowledge of script-handling for managing difficult-to-read manuscripts that I get. The advantages of more learning are obvious so I won't detail them.
But if you want something ghost written (chess or otherwise) try your hand first. If it looks like you can't cut it you have two alternatives as I see it (not counting a third, don't do anything):
1) Hire me to get someone to rewrite (I seldom have the desire or inclination to do it myself);
2) Hire someone yourself (do not use relatives or friends even if they have degrees in English, journalism, etc. There are a bunch of reasons to avoid this trap (timeliness, overkill, revenge...))
I want to quote something I read just this morning in InDesign Magazine #26. It's a frequent problem I have with manuscript submissions:
"Despite your repeated pleas, the authors of the Word documents use spaces to line up text, multiple tabs to line up tables, and insert double returns between paragraphs."
And there are a lot more. That's why I hope to issue a "style" manual this Fall for Thinkers' Press, inc. The cost will be $15 and can be used with almost any chess publisher, or for that matter, almost any publisher. Let me know if you would like to get one.