Friday, December 11, 2009

The Ghostwriter’s Guide to Reading Want Ads

The Internet is full of ads from people who say they want to hire ghostwriters. Some are legit jobs. Some are tar pits of despair. How can you tell the difference? Sometimes the ad itself will offer clues.

So begins my recurring series on how to read a ghostwriting want ad. Whenever I spot a doozy, I'll share.

This first one was is a job posting forwarded to me by a friend. The writer of the ad is a businessman in search of a ghostwriter for his thought leadership book.

What he says:
"Payment: We split the profits 50/50, total compensation capped at $1 million."
What he means:
"I am delusional."

Two king-sized fantasies here. The first fantasy: Profits. Many books never earn out their advances. That means no profits. And nothing from nothing leaves nothing. The second fantasy: $1 million. A client who goes into a project with grandiose expectations -- Oprah, The Pulitzer, $1 million -- may be the kind of client who can never be made happy. Nothing wrong with aiming high and going for it. But clients should be aware of just how hard it is to be even modestly successful as an author, let alone an Oprah pick. The fact that this fellow felt the need to put a million-dollar cap clause into his Internet ad says to me that he's not especially realistic about his prospects.

What about you? Seen an ad for a ghostwriter that made you chuckle? Or scream? Email me. Or post yourself in the comments section. No names, please. We're not trying to embarrass the authors so much as educate the ghosts.

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