Re: Ghostwriters anonymous pricing question (long)

Subject: Re: Ghostwriters anonymous pricing question (long)
From: Kelley <writinglists -at- inkworkswell -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2005 22:21:10 -0500

Just some rambling thoughts. Frist, Gene is right on about words/page, etc. etc. Sherry is also right on about negotiations. However, this is a different case, as you explain. He sounds a lot like some of the small business owners I've worked for, though they could write.

Alas, even people who can write are almost always terrified about whether they are actually any good. People who can't write are even more terrified of the very thing almost every single one of us here finds fairly easy to do. (I'm tempted to hedge here considering Diotima's musings on her writing process some months back.) If he's illiterate, then this is even more of an issue.

So, what's he's probably really looking for is someone who is experienced, but down-to-earth. A good writer without a pedantic ego. Why, that may just be Dick Margulis. YOu probably come off as mature, knowledgeable, no b.s., and you don't condescend to him. Given your frequent reminders that you are NOT what you do, and it doesn't matter what you do for a living (prob. poor paraphrase), what you've probably managed to do is not come off as a snobby writer who thinks businessmen are philistines.

What he's buying is not four wheels, an engine, and a chassis. He's buying someone to shore up his confidence. None of us here are illiterate, so you don't know what it's like to be so. I once interviewed a lot of downsized managers, a few of whom had "made it" without the college degree. Boy, wre they insecure about that. This guy has been in the same world, likely, probably feeling as if he doesn't quite rate.

There's your hook. Like car salesman, you won't sell the car by describing it as four wheels to get you where you need to go. The car salesman sells an image. Alas, the car salesman has an entire marketing industry--nay, culture--that sells the car for him before you even hit the lot. You don't have that. And, you'll never win by making manifest any of this stuff -- IFFFFF I'm on target. It has to be subtle. (Am I making sense?)

Anyway, what he's buying is someone to do the mechanics. He's also buying someone who is akin to how I selected dissertation advisors. Aside from the traditional reasons to choose them, I also thought about having a "cheerleader". Aside from the
nitty-gritty-let's- kill-this-thin-advisor, I also selected someone who had an investment in me and my professional development: a mentor who was willing to see me flourish, who didn't blow smoke up my, uh, you know what, but who criticized and pushed me forward.

He's looking for emotional support and wisdom, though he doesn't know it. You may be able to feel him out some more, but I suspect the talk of "this is just a personal thing" is just that: talk. He wants you to convince him. That may not, therefore, mean he'll have your you know what in a mason jar if you make an effort to convince him this book might go somewhere. After all, if he really wants to write the book, he's not going to get it done for a lot less. And, he's already invested time with you. So, go ahead and pitch him on the possibility of, not just making money, but on his image among his peers. This is probably a source of deep concern to him. He has probably wanted to appear more booksmart all his life. This will do it. (But, he doesn't sound tragic about, from your description, so you can't press this one too much. His defense mechanism has likely been to pooh-pooh booksmart, yes?)

As Sherry pointed out: talk numbers. You might also want to show him that what he might likely get on return is far more than any typical author of his stature makes, even after he pays you. It all depends on the niche, of course. Self-publishing will mean most of the money accrues to him. If you go the joint investor route, then (as you know) you'll want to be sure that you market this properly. You need to start shopping it around at least 18 months in advance. The jobbers decide on what they'll put in the racks about a year in advance. IF he's looking for that kind of assistance, you could point out that your investment will pay doubly.

As an author friend of mine said not too longer "A good publisher will edit material, package it attractively, and promote it with enthusiasm and skill."

Who better to be midwife to that project than you. Promote it with enthusiasm and skill. You have an investment. You can negotiate the publishing world. But most importantly, he needs your enthusiasm. That's what you are selling. That's your value-add. It's not writing. It's not editing. It's not mechanics. It's values, trust, and all manner of squishy stuff because this is a terrifying, emotional process -- for the typical author who probably has a clue. Even more so for the guy who probably knows others think he's illiterate but how is successful and also thinks he has something to say to the world.

Kelley (who is willing to bet you got an e-mail at 3:00 a.m. about this project)

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Ghostwriters anonymous pricing question (long): From: Dick Margulis
Re: Ghostwriters anonymous pricing question (long): From: Gene Kim-Eng
Re: Ghostwriters anonymous pricing question (long): From: Dick Margulis
Re: Ghostwriters anonymous pricing question (long): From: Gene Kim-Eng
Re: Ghostwriters anonymous pricing question (long): From: Dick Margulis
Re: Ghostwriters anonymous pricing question (long): From: Gene Kim-Eng
Re: Ghostwriters anonymous pricing question (long): From: Dick Margulis

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