Often would-be clients come to me with ideas for books they would like me to write. After several discussions about the whys and wherefores, we come to the point where fees have to be discussed. It is then that they tell me sweetly, that if I write their books and find them an agent or publisher (which requires considerable expenditure of time and money – for postage, materials such as printer ink, paper for say 300 page books, envelopes etc. multiplied by how many tries you make before you are finally accepted), then I would have dubious honour of getting a ‘percentage’ of the books’ profits.
Okay, imagine that the ghostwriter really believes the project is hot, spends three to six months writing a book, and is willing to fork out to have it seen, lets look at some of the logistics. Many agents are as hard to engage as the publishers themselves. They and publishers often will not consider a manuscript, which has been sent elsewhere so you have to wait for them to reject you before you can try someone else. Many will tell you to expect their answer from anything between three and six months time. In other words just approaching 2 publishers or agents can mean a wait of six months to a year!
Lets say we get lucky and find a publisher within six months, many will want amendments which can add perhaps another couple of unpaid months to the ghostwriter’s time. Then the publisher rolls into gear in a process that can see your book take another year before it hits the shops. That means the best part of two years has passed since the book was completed!
Unfortunately, when your book is released, it clashes with a momentous event! Elvis, who has been hiding in the desert while he wrote his wonderful epic, which is very similar to your own, has been published just a fortnight before your book is in the shops. People flock to buy his. Your opus, over which the ghostwriter slaved over in anticipation, gets left on the shelf and earns exactly nothing. For giving up a large chunk of his or her life, the ghostwriter earns a percentage of air … which I grant you might just be fresh, but even so, not nourishing.
So tell me, if you were a ghostwriter, would you do it?
Harlan Ellison sure wouldn’t and to see why, watch this video.