Saturday, August 05, 2006

Counting the Cost

It has probably not escaped your notice that the distribution of wealth in this world of ours is decidedly uneven. On the one hand, you have blokes and blokesses with tons of the stuff and then you have the likes of myself, and probably yourself, who find latching on to even a small percentage is a pretty tricky matter. The only pseudo attempt to correct this, Communism, proved to be a distinct bust since, as George Orwell pointed out, all men are created equal but some are more equal than others. So that idea went nowhere – unless, of course, you were one of the more equal brigade.

And nowhere is this disparity in greater evidence than in the world of literature. For here we have thousands of talented writers having trouble finding the wherewithal for their next ream of paper and, at the other end of the scale, we have the remarkably untalented ones who can churn out a blockbuster on a hokey religious theme or similar, complete with trite observations, and scoop up a fortune. As the King of Siam once said, “It’s a puzzlement.”

All this leads up to my own field, that of ghost writing for authors who might need a little assistance in turning their ideas into reality. And here the problem is often that those who have the greatest need are often those with a decidedly skimpy bank balance. I’m not talking of the celebrity, who can afford to pay a fortune to have his or her life memorialised, but of the many struggling authors who turn to a professional writer, such as myself, for help. Pinning a fixed charge for such assistance strikes me as being both unrealistic and impracticable. I saw a “Ghost Writing Company” on the Internet which claimed it had one hundred authors, all poised with their pens at the ready, to help with your manuscript. I imagined them a bit like literary battery hens (if, of course, they really did exist) but what grabbed my attention was that this expert scribbling would cost you “$50 per double-spaced page,” perhaps the oddest way to assess a charge for creative work I‘ve ever come across.

So this is why I suggest to prospective clients that they try and figure out just how much they can budget to have the work done on their manuscript. With that figure in mind, I can then take a look at it and produce a strategy to make it work to our mutual advantage. Offers of a share in the Royalties are not really valid currency, it would be a bit like working for share in a lottery ticket, but sometimes can be incorporated in the case of a promising manuscript, to make the deal mutually more attractive.

And, of course, payment is always made in stages as the work proceeds, easing the financial burden.

Every project is different and it is always a pleasure for me to take a look at yours.

Who knows, we might be able to join the ranks of what’s-his-name who wrote that best-seller I mentioned earlier. Let’s hope we can do it better, though.


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