I had to chuckle today while reading the WSJ take on celebrity ghostwriters.
While there was lots of interesting information throughout, the best line came from David Ritz, ghostwriter to the likes of B.B. King and Aretha Franklin. A high profile mogul was willing to pay him an additional $40,000 to $50,000 to keep his name off the cover, "because he wanted people to think he’d written the book,” Ritz said. Ritz turned down the job.
Now I have to admit that my first reaction was: Dear Mr. Ritz. Please send that gig to me. My silence is for sale and $50,000 sounds entirely reasonable.
Still, in truth, Ritz makes a good point to all us ghosts out there: A client who really really really wants you to keep it quiet may be raising a red flag. In some cases, there may be perfectly good reasons to keep the ghost’s name out of it. As ghostwriter agent Madeleine Morel points out in the article, sometimes it’s easier to market a book with just one name on the cover.
But staying off the cover and staying completely off the radar are two different things. If the client is fibbing about his or her writing skills to the outside world, ghostwriter beware. The client who lives in fear of being found out can be very high maintenance. I've had those kind of gigs and there were many moments when the paranoia of the client made the work that much more difficult.
Although an extra 50 thou might have sweetened it ;)