I am a freelance ghostwriter, writing and editing books and book proposals on behalf of artists and executives, doctors and lawyers, and other folks.
The work usually progresses smoothly, with the clients sketching out their ideas for me, asking for my advice, critiquing drafts as I send them in, and generally acting very professionally and sensibly.
Ideas flow back and forth, and the project improves as we go.
But every so often…HOLY COW!
I once ghosted a book for a physician. She was very pleasant and cooperative, always asking for and then thanking me for my opinion. Unfortunately, she also solicited opinions from five of her friends and advisors, who all had different ideas about the book’s content and style…plus the organization, tone, use of adjectives, relative merits of italics versus underlining, the font size and just about everything else.
My job was simple, the doctor reassured me after each round of critique: Reconcile it all in the next draft. Right. It would have been easier to reconcile the Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
Another time I ghosted a book proposal for a VIP who thought his agent was a fool – and the agent thought the same of him.
The VIP and agent had completely different ideas as to how the book should be structured and written – and didn’t hesitate to tell me what to do. I felt like a ping pong ball being batted back and forth:
“Do it my way!” “No, my way!”
“No, my way!” “No, my way!”
“No, my way!” “No, my way!”
Believe it or not, we finished the proposal and it was actually sold to a publisher. However, I was not asked by the VIP to write it. Darn.
Yet another time I ghosted a book proposal for a psychiatrist who wanted to write a book about…about…about…. well, that was the problem.
He began with one very strong idea, which evolved a bit, then a bit more, then a bit more, finally morphing into an entirely new book idea. And then another new book idea. And then another. I kept revising the proposal, frantically trying to keep up with his “morph-thought,” but before I could get a new draft in, his thoughts had already begun to wander down a new path. We never did finish that proposal.
Today, when I talk to prospective clients I verbally probe them to see if they are HOLY COW-types. Sometimes I recognize the danger signs and happily walk away from the deal. Unfortunately, I don’t always catch them in time.
When I’m caught in the clutches of a HOLY COW-type client…
…all I can do is give thanks to the makers of chocolate.
I’m Barry Fox, a New York Times #1 bestselling ghostwriter and editor. I help executives, entrepreneurs, artists and top professionals create top-notch books. I can also guide you through the self-publishing process. Call me at 818-917-5362.