Sunday, January 20, 2013

Is It Just Me...?

...or is there a particularly weird form of laziness taking over the online marketplace?

I'm talking about the plethora of so-called "job" ads out there that keep popping up on writers' boards, job sites, etc., that are nothing more than some aspiring "writer" who wants YOU to write his/her book.

Not edit it--although there are a few of those. 
Not so much proofread--although, once again, there are a few of those. 
No, these ads aren't for writing  help. This advertiser comes right out and says, "I need someone to write a novel for me. I've got the idea  (or the characters, or a rough plot, or sometimes a little more), I just need someone to put it into words and organize it." (To which some of us are tempted to answer, "Don't we all!" But I digress. :-D)

Yes, ladies and gentlemen...this person doesn't just want someone to rephrase work already done, correct the English, and clean up the structure a little bit. This person wants YOU to write THEIR book for them. For which THEY will get the byline, ALL the credit, and ALL money that may come out of it.

Oh, they'll pay you for the privilege of doing this for them--don't get me wrong. In some cases, as much as $500! 

(This space for snorting.)

In return, you will sign away all other rights to the book. You will get neither ghostwriting credit nor royalties, should any show up. And it goes without saying that should you write a truly wonderful book and some publisher actually wants to ante up an advance, you certainly won't get a penny of that, either.

So one has to ask...what are these people thinking?
And what kind of idiot agrees to help them?

As to what they're thinking? They're probably thinking that "it's not that hard to write a book." I've even seen job ads saying as much--"for a professional, this won't be a difficult job at all."

What I've had to tell them is that a professional does that work on his or her own behalf--not for someone who thinks it's an easy job, or who portrays it as such.
(After all, if it's that easy, you can do it yourself...right?)

The second question, unfortunately, is answered by equally clueless "helpers."  Because rest assured, someone will take these pseudo-"jobs." That someone may have rotten written English, but they'll be willing to give it a shot. I suppose in those cases, a cynical realist would say, "Hey, there's a sucker born every minute. In this case, we got two for the price of one."  And some people--you know who you are--will step forward and have the nerve to call this a win-win: a person who can't write at all gets one who's just starting out in the business and wants to build a "credit," and both of them benefit from an easy transaction.

Only problem with that "win-win" isn't true. 
In truth, neither one benefits.
The "author" certainly doesn't. On the surface, yeah, he or she gets a book to brag about. Is it going to be a great book? Two guesses on that one. It may or may not be readable. It probably will make them NO money at all. It's a vanity proposition, plain and simple, that they're getting at far less than a legit money-for-value price.

And the beginning writer who helps them doesn't benefit, either. This is a writing "credit" in the mind of the "hired writer" only. They will receive no actual credit for the work unless the "author" is gracious enough to give it--but they'll sign over all rights to ask for it. They won't be able to even so much as cite it in a portfolio, because it's not their work. It's someone else's.

Now, some of you may be saying, "Well, ghostwriters do that all the time. These people are offering the  same thing."
Once again, the only problem with that assertion isn't true.  

It is true that a professional "ghostwriter" may or may not get a byline. Gracious co-authors treat you as one and give you one. Or they give you an "as told to" or similar acknowledgment which lets people know that they know that forces other than their own matchless brilliance helped make the book happen. They don't have to, mind you, though many of them do.

But where the similarity ends is when we start talking dollars and cents. For a professional ghostwriter, an author who hires you without giving you "author credit" will make it worth your while by actually paying you for the effort a book takes.

As I told one prospective client soliciting my services this morning, normal ghostwriting fees for writing an entire book start in the five figures. As in, $10,000 and above. And if you're hiring someone with the expertise, experience, and skill level I have--you should expect to pay twice that much as a start. Because what these authors have discovered--and what the fake "job posters" hope you don't know yet--is that writing a book is real work.

It takes time.
It takes effort.
It takes some degree of skill--even for a very borderline book.

Some of you may plead innocence at this point. You claim to only want someone to "help" you with your book by "fleshing out scenes, adding material, cleaning up plot problems," etc. For some reason, when you write out this request, you seem to think (erroneously) that all you're asking for is an "editor."

You're not.  You're asking the same thing a ghostwriter "ad" is asking for--you're just not as honest about it. And, more often than not, the money you're offering for that work is an insult even to a beginner, much less a seasoned pro.

Yes, most of us just laugh at these things and ignore them.
But it's disturbing that there are people out there who think these are jobs...
That there are people out there who think these are good opportunities...
And that there are job boards out there that continue to list these as if they're viable.

There is a place to go to have someone write a book for you.

It's called a vanity press. 
More and more, vanity presses aren't just places to print up what you've already done; they're places where you can get a package that includes everything from the writing on up.
These are the places where these people need to go.
They won't see any packages available for as low as $500 (or $100, or $50, as I've actually seen in some cases as the "expected budget"), so they'll probably consider them ripoffs.

But maybe, just maybe, they'll also do enough research to realize what they were asking in the first place by pretending to offer a "job" was an even worse ripoff of professional talent and time.  
And maybe...just maybe...the job boards will stop taking these fake "job" ads and leave room for real writing jobs instead.

One can hope, right?
As for me, I'm doing my best to enlighten folks like this, one ad and one pitch at a time.
I hope you'll do your part, too.


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