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Ghost writing

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WaylonJennings, Apr 12, 2008.

  1. Has anyone every done it? As in writing an autobiography for someone? Apparently there's some money and opportunities out there for it - how did you go about it and what was the process like?
  2. GBNF

    GBNF Active Member

    The process was awful for me, because I didn't set enough ground rule, and I felt sorry for my subject.

    My only suggestion: Get EVERYTHING in writing, and try your best not to get emotionally involved, particularly if the subject just isn't that compelling. I learned the hard way: Probably spent six months working on a book two days a week for two hours for a total of $800 and some royalties...then I realized the book sucked.

    Good luck though, it can be awesome at times.
  3. In Exile

    In Exile Member

    You need to have a legal letter of agreement with the subject, drafted by your agent, that spells out everything - copyright, royalty split etc. If you are brought in after the fact, as a work for hire, your contract must have some kind of kill fee in place if said subject fails to meet agreed upon benchmarks in terms of access, schedule, etc.

    Whatever you do, don't spend any time beyond the minimum needed to craft a proposal and/or assess the viability of the project before solving contractual issues.

    Most sports figures think they have a book in them. They also think everybook is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. They are wrong.

    I was recently quasi-approached by a retired ex-ballplayer's rep to ghost his autobiography, and he actually has a pretty compelling story and a high profile.

    He chose not to do it because a) he wanted to stay in the game and figured out if he told the truth he wouldn't be able to, and b) his hangers on told him it was a million dollar project, and when he learned otherwise, he figured it wasn't worth it financially - why work for just a hundred thousand or so?
  4. Hack

    Hack New Member

    the subject already as a book deal, make sure you see year book proposal. If there isn't one, this means you will have to work a lot harder. In other words, they have no idea what they want. Run or make sure you are going to get paid for this aspect.
  5. Hack

    Hack New Member

    Sorry for the typos I'm on a blackberry
  6. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Stephen A.? Is that you?
  7. Hack

    Hack New Member

    You'll more than earn your keep ghost writing: It can be damn thankless. So make sure you're paid well or it will be longest couple of months of your life. You will make compromises that you hate because, after all, it's not "your" book and your name won't be on it. So, again, make sure you make it worth all the hard work you are going to put in.
  8. swenk

    swenk Member

    Do you actually mean ghostwriting, or collaborating? Two different things. The latter gets you some credit, and is far more common; the former makes you invisible, but the pay can be better.

    The first things I ask my clients about a possible collaboration:
    -Do you like this guy enough to immerse yourself in his life for the next few months?
    -Does he have something to say?
    -Do you trust that he cares about the book as much as you do?
    -Is he going to give you access to his family/friends?
    -Can you depend on him to give you all the hours you'll need for interviews?
    -Will he talk about the 'important' things, ie, what the readers would want to know? -Anything off limits?

    Absolutely you must get everything in writing. Are you working for a flat fee, or a percentage? Do you get royalties? Who's paying your expenses? Will you be signing the publisher's contract, which puts you on the hook for a lot of responsibility? Are you sharing the copyright? Are you protected if the 'author' gets sued? Can they terminate you? Can you quit?

    If we're talking about sports books, I can tell you that every player agent thinks the writer should just be grateful for the opportunity. And it can be a great opportunity. But it's also your career, and a reflection on you if the book turns out great or crummy. Choose your projects wisely, and never settle for less than you can afford.
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