Thursday, May 6, 2010

Malcolm and Me

I have an old jingle stuck in my head. Back in the 80s, Gatorade snagged
basketball great Michael Jordan for a television ad and the song that went
along with it was catchy: Like Mike. If I could be like Mike.

I have it in my head, with a slightly different spin. This week, it seems
all my client want to Be Like Malc. That’s Malcolm Gladwell. In the past ten
days, I have fielded nothing but pleas to make my clients’ books read like

That’d be fine with me, if my clients really did want a book like Malcolm’s.
I can ape a style like any good ghostwriter. The problem is that what my
clients REALLY want is all across the board.

“I want the prose to be deep and intense. Like Malcolm Gladwell.”

“I’m looking for a strong conversational tone. Like Malcolm Gladwell meets
Thomas Friedman.” (Ellen’s note: Now that’s a mash up!)

“Can you make it timeless? Like Malcolm Gladwell?”

I can do any and all of those things for my clients. I will make one
client’s book read with depth and intensity, another’s show a strong
conversational tone and the third, a lack of anchor in any one era. None of
them will actually read like a Gladwell text, because those really aren’t
the attributes of Gladwell’s work. Gladwell is very timely. Other than
best-seller status, I’m not sure he shares much in common with Friedman. And intense? Actually, Gladwell’s critics call him glib. But that’s okay. What my clients really want is not to READ like Gladwell, but BE like Gladwell – that is, the author of a respected best-seller.

So I take in the marching orders and go back to work on all these projects. I understand, I tell my clients. I want to be like Malcolm, too.

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