Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Sweat of my Brow

Everyone has a book in them, so they say. I’ve never been sure who “they” are, but as they seem to be responsible for this and similar epigrams, I can only assume they are some sort of government department. It’s quite obvious, for instance, that when Tony Blair needs a speech, he puts in a call to the Department of Platitudes (I believe, now part of John Prescott’s portfolio) and orders one up from their recipe book.

“Make it three of epigrams and five platitudes, mix well together and half bake.”

David Blunkett’s book seems to have come from the same stable, the one I got that phrase from, and, for obvious reasons, was dictated. Now Churchill dictated the vast majority of his works, and did it by striding up and down, repeating the phrases out loud until they assumed the cadence he sought. Only then would he instruct his long suffering secretary to type it up. It was, you must agree, a very successful method.

This is the stage that Blunkett appears to have neglected. I suppose striding up and down might have posed some problems but reciting out loud would not.

Writing a book could well be described as 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. It’s not a task to be undertaken lightly and I hate to think of the number of books that have been started and that have quietly been allowed to die, simply because the writer ran out of perspiration.

And yet, reverting to some assistance from the Department of Platitudes for a moment, since truth is stranger than fiction, almost everyone has a book in them somewhere. The problem is extracting it.

Which is, of course, where I and my fellow ghost writers come in.

Ghosting a book can mean anything from totally researching the matter and writing all the material to simply adapting and improving an original idea, with the basic manuscript supplied. And, since few ghost writers have been known to be members of any philanthropic society, the cost of this is very much a function of just how many hours of sweat will be involved. It’s a tricky equation and needs some judicious bargaining on both sides to come up with an equitable arrangement. Few writers will be prepared to perform the work on the basis of a share of the royalties alone. This is a bit too much like offering them a lottery ticket.

But often a sensible compromise can be reached, such as a modest fee to get the work under way and, if the book is promising enough, a percentage of the subsequent royalties, if and when published. For my part, I like to receive stage payments as the work progresses which eases the financial burden.

It’s all a question of just how much time do you expect your “ghoster” to put into your manuscript. The more material he or she has, the easier it will be to produce a finished work and thus the lower the cost.

For personal memoirs and biographies, face to face meetings are essential, I feel, and, nowadays, I have resorted to video taping these, an immense improvement over plain audio recordings since I can review these at leisure and recall the facial expressions of the subject. I suppose that, in the case of any Muslim ladies, I will have to resort to the Jack Straw gambit.

So when you decide that the book that is festering inside you needs lancing, get as much of the groundwork done as possible, for sweat equals cash in this environment. And your writer will thank you for having eased his burden (well I will!).

Although most of my time is spent writing for others, this month two of my own books are “coming out,” as they used to say of debutantes. It’s not that I have managed to churn out two books in the space of weeks, just that both have had, rather as it is with elephants, I understand, a long period of gestation and thus have contrived to burst upon an eager public at about the same time. With a bit of luck, they will burst upon Amazon and a few other book peddlers within the next few weeks. My bank certainly hope so.

If you are desperate to get your own back on that relative who gave you the obnoxious Christmas present last year, you could not do better than to invest in one of these works.

“Grounds for Divorce.” Examining the US-UK relationship over the years and exploding the myth of “The Special Relationship” and the Bush-Blair love-fest. ISBN 0-9548883-5-9

“Assaulting Britannia.” The story of 2000 years of invasions, failed, attempted and successful, of the British Isles. From Julius Caesar to Adolf Hitler. ISBN 0-9548883-4-0


Post a Comment

<< Home