Thursday, December 14, 2006

Instant Author, Just Add Water

Conversations with budding authors. (What follows is fiction, thinly disguised as life.)

Author 1 (of potentially best-selling thriller) :

Can I meet up with you? It's about an organisation for writers I'm thinking of setting up. ... I wonder if we could set up something to local help writers to market their books overseas. ... You know enough, you could be an agent. ... What I'm bothered about is getting ample rewards for the time and effort I put into it. What kind of books are they looking for overseas? ... Harry Potter, I read it and it wasn't much. What kind of books do you like? ... Annie Proulx? What do you see in her writing? ... No, I don't have time to read.

Author 2 (Graham Greenish wannabe)

I spend several hours reading his manuscript, meet up with him, brace myself to tell the truth ... which is that I don't find the characters credible, the attempts at writing local dialect don't sound right, parts of it I find downright racist, there are a lot of confusing sentences and I'm not too sure what it is trying to say.

Him: Do you think I need to revise it before I send it out? (He has big American publishers in mind.)

He pays for my air limau.

Author 3 (Short story writer because it's all he has time for)

I meet him in passing at an event for writers and give him my card. A few days letter I find a story he's written in my inbox. Please critique this, he says, I have a deadline. The story has to be in on Monday. He keeps calling me and calling me to see if I've done it. I'm busy so I finally sit down and go through it with him over the phone - there's a fair bit wrong with it, so this takes some time. (I later find that he's sent it out to every other writer and enthusiastic reader he met at that event.)

The story gets published. He's made all the changes I suggested. He doesn't say thank you. His stories keep arriving in my inbox.

Author 4 (Travel writer wannabe)

I meet him at a booksigning.

I have this great idea for a book. Can I tell you about it?

He does. He sits and tells me all about his great idea . It's quite good actually - but it turns out that he hasn't written a single word yet. He finally plucks up courage to ask the question he's been waiting to ask:

Could you be my ghostwriter?


Lydia Teh said...

Haha, Sharon. Reminds me of Eric's post about all the author wannabes he's met. Actually, one can be an instant author, and it's not water that one needs. It's m-o-n-e-y to hire ghostwriters.

animah said...

Sharon, work out your hourly rate (or word/page rate) say, RM250 and throw it back at them.
Personally I think you are worth more, but even that figure will frighten them.
RM250 is the cost a law firm will quote for the most junior lawyers (bear in mind that 75% of this is for the office, library and utility costs to support a lawyer).
Top end lawyers and consultants are more than RM1,000 per hour. Malaysians don't understand this and think that they only need to pay for tangibles. They cringe when thinking they have to pay for services.

bibliobibuli said...

yes lydia - could identify with what eric said, and these folks are all around

animah - abu charges well over a thousand an hour and keeps reminding me of it!

for friends and those who i can see are genuinely trying i make no charge unless it's a big project.

but i have a list of proofreading and consultation charges and sometimes ask them to donate to a charity of my choice. i've also decided that if people want work critiquing i'll put them into the loop with other writers so they can help each other. (and if they do that, i'll help them as well!)

there is a terrific need for this kind of help though and many writers don't know who to turn to ...

oh another funny story is the in-law who recently completed an autobiography - i said i'd read the first chapter for him and it turns out to be 25,000 pages long with no paragraphs!

BawangMerah said...

I'm sorry for being a bit ignorant, but what are ghostwriters?

Giant Sotong said...

Water, with a squeeze of lime 8-)

Ghostwriters (in my jaundiced point of view) are basically mercenaries who help people write their books; they get the pay (usually peanuts), but not the prestige.

If I ever want to write a book, I think I'll do my own editing. It'll take a decade or so, but if people want quality...

bibliobibuli said...

sorry meant 25,000 words long ... not pages (though it felt like that, LOL)

giant sotong - good definition.

there is no shame in asking for help and i think every writer needs feedback ... just i guess be humble about it and be prepared to help out other people in the same way. i don't mind helping other writers at all .. but some folks have such arrogant attitudes and i think it took me a while to wise up to it.

i used to read manuscripts for a local publisher to help him decide which he should publish ... and never got paid a cent for that either, although it was good experience and gave me a chance to see the kinds of things people were submitting

lainieyeoh said...

so basically, you're being exploited. or rather, attempts were made.

.......i don't think anyone should pull that with a blogger. especially considering your audience. frankly, you could easily kill a lot of reputations at a go. not a suggestion, merely an observation. :D

bibliobibuli said...

most of these were before i started blogging, lainie ... i've toughened up now.

not into squashing reputations. i prefer to fictionalise ... and maybe i'll put these characters into a story.

Xeus said...

This is so funny, Sharon! Everyone has great aspirations. Everyone's got a great novel in him. But when it finally comes to the crunch - writing the story and going all out to get it published - only a percentage make it.

Burhan said...

i would do a ghostwriting gig in a heartbeat. sounds like a fun job. kinda like directing a film using somebody else's screenplay.

bibliobibuli said...

if i find anyone who needs a ghostwriter i'll pass them on to you, then! ghostwriting is fine if you're not a writer (i.e. no-one expects david beckham to write his own book), but if you want to be considered a writer - forget it!

dreamer idiot said...

I know it isn't Christmas yet..., but Ho Ho Ho. These pp are seriously jokers. I think the only thing you can do is wince and have a good laugh about it.

bibliobibuli said...

for sure, DI!

Burhan said...

i've always been interested in the idea of an anonymous book where the public does not now who the writer is (J.T. Leroy) or where very little of the writer is known (Homer, Shakespeare, etc). therein whatever artistry the work has will stand on its own without any biographical hindrance.

but the idea of writing something bestselling, or even good (literature-wise), but which has somebody else's name, wow! how cool is that!

bibliobibuli said...

i love "finbar's hotel" and "ladies night at finbar's hotel" collectiosn of short stories by famous writers - but you don't know which story is written by whom

Sufian said...

"oh another funny story is the in-law who recently completed an autobiography - i said i'd read the first chapter for him and it turns out to be 25,000 pages long with no paragraphs!"

Is his name Thomas Bernhard?

Anonymous said...

So why does no one expect Beckham to write his own book ? Gazza did. The British always have this sense of class structure, that you'd not expect, for instance, the Prince of Wales to write his own book. It's odd, like they're too ennobled to do something as base as write. God forbid they should actually pick up a pen, or actually be able to use a PC. :)

It's odd how that is isn't it ? that people think someone with a certain social or celebrity status will always hire a ghostwriter.

I have to stop commenting here or my blog will never get done :P