So, there’s something about me that you might want to know… And although it isn’t a big huge hairy secret, I don’t always tell everyone that I do this, and I don’t often put my name on it when I do.
But… I’ve ghost written a few books.
There’s really nothing wrong with it. It isn’t against the law or anything, and I can give or sell my writer’s rights to whomever I choose for whatever reason floats my boat, without explaining to anyone, the deal is… Whenever I’ve done this, I’ve done it — shhhhhh —- for money.
I’ve been told it’s like intellectual prostitution, but I’ve never bought into that theory. If I were working for someone for wages, and they asked me to write something, most likely they would own it, because they own my time. So I feel pretty much the same way with selling my time to some poor schmuck who wants me to write his book.
In all fairness, I’ve known some highly qualified writers who hire ‘writers’ to write their books, because of time constraints, and I’ve hired out to them too. Not all who hire ghosts are schmucks, and some of them are really quite nice. In fact, if I were to name names — which I won’t do — you’d know that many authors don’t actually write their number one sellers. Someone else does it for them. But they plaster their names all over the book in BIG BOLD letters, and people believe they are the author. Then, either somewhere on the cover or inside on the title page, or maybe even in the acknowledgements, is the actual writer’s name. Insignificantly posted as if they’re nothing special. But they wrote the book.
So, to give you an idea of what I’m talking about – above on the book cover with my name in the big bold letters, is another name. While I don’t know a REAL Connie Constance Johnson Jones Weatherby O’Toole, and there probably isn’t really one in existence, in the representation above, I’m not the REAL author of this book, she is. So, if THIS were a real book, and I were the ghost writer, my name would be the tiny white letters under the “Author’s Name” – at least under the Author who gets credit for writing this book.
Inside the book, I might get a line such as Editorial Writing Services by Jan Verhoeff, provided I got any recognition for writing the book, whatsoever.
None of this matters when you’re writing a book for the cash money – up front.
In most cases, I would prefer my name not even show up on the cover, because if it does show up on the cover, then my name becomes connected to the author and the title of the book, and as a professional ghost writer, I’ve used HIS voice to write his book – even though he didn’t type a single word.
So, why am I telling you this story?
A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a person (facts and details are changed a bit to protect ME) who wanted someone to write his book. He made an offer, not particularly a good offer, but an offer I was willing to accept at the moment, knowing that I could whip the book out in about thirty days and I’d be moving on to the next project, or contract, which I had already proposed. I was in waiting mode. Writing a book, even for less than GOOD money, was still money in my pocket.
He had a few details he wanted me to work out to get started on the book:
- All phone calls were to be recorded.
- No contract, but he would pay me on invoice.
- Storyline, characters, and book would be his.
- I maintained writing license to use my writing style due to time constraints.
- He had one chance to read and change anything he wanted changed once I was done writing – before it became his property and I was free and clear to move on to the next project.
NOTE: All of these are legitimate “I’ve done this before” requests for ghost writing.
And so, we started the following Thursday.
I scheduled calls so I could put them on the recording device, and every single call, he bounced out of within the first 30 seconds or so of the call, and called me back “later”. Meaning the calls were NOT recorded and he was instigating the calls with no recording running.
Every time he called, he would spend thirty to forty minutes on the phone shifting places, moving the story around, and adding in concepts he wanted covered, then at the end of the call, he would spend a great deal of time talking about my ‘passion for the project’ and what he wanted ‘me’ to accomplish with this book.
Meanwhile… Week One, I’ve got 50K words done, and I’m moving on ferociously toward the finish line of 80K words, knowing that I don’t have a lot of time to waste getting this job done. I want it completed before my contract comes in. The book is clearly copyrighted to ME at this point, marked on every single page.
Let me be very clear here, for me – this was a job. This was a job that I know I’m ‘good at’ and one I knew I could not only handle in the time frame offered, but had a good grasp on his desire at the beginning of the project and knew the style and format of the story by the time we got off the phone on the first call. I take notes. I have done this before. And this ain’t my first rodeo…
At the end of the first week, I sent him an invoice as per his request, and included a copy (password protected and at this point, non-editable) of what had already been completed. Payment was more than he had expected – he wasn’t expecting me to work additional hours – but I had completed more than the original agreed work for the first week. He asked if he could pay the expected amount and complete payment the next week – so partial payment of my work. Sure, not a problem, how’s the book, everything okay? You want me to adjust anything before I go on? Nope, everything is fine, read the whole thing, I love your style. You’ve got a real passion for this story, glad we connected, ladidadiday!
Week Two, Book is complete, cover design done, and I’ve already formatted the book for publication, send him a password protected copy, asked about edits, etc. Job complete. Can you go ahead and send my money, unless you want something edited. I’ll send completed, ready to publish book, and you can publish or edit to suit yourself, on final payment. Again, the book is clearly copyrighted to ME, with my name on every single page. I have not yet released copyright or any publication rights to him. Those come in the final manuscript.
I’m off to the next job, working away…
Two weeks later. I receive the following message from the man.
I don’t think you’re quite as passionate about my topic as I’d hoped you would be, and this isn’t the book I wanted you to write. Would you be willing to rethink this project, perhaps, a rewrite if you have time? Or I’ll go ahead and find another writer and move on. I really appreciate the time you put in on this, it just doesn’t work for my needs.
Signed – him.
No final payment.
I responded asking what he wanted rewritten, and got nothing for more than a week. He sent another message.
I’m sorry we’ve had this misunderstanding, I’ll go with a different ghost writer, again, Thank you for your time and effort.
Signed – him.
No worries – he’s released the book – “it doesn’t work for my needs” and “I’ll go with a different ghost writer” so, I responded to him, letting him know that I’m retaining my copyrights to publish the book and due to non-completion of the payment agreement (as per his initial demands, without the contract, but with invoices) he has NO RIGHTS to the manuscript I’ve sent him.
I scanned the book, changed names, improved characters and places, and essential details on the manuscript including a new more dramatic ending of the book – and publish under my pseudonym, WITH MY COPYRIGHT on the book, and my real name inside the cover of the book.
I redid the cover, with a whole different picture, no resemblance to the original cover, and added my pseudonym, my new title to the cover, and it’s looking really awesome, even though it isn’t a genre I would ever write, or even in most cases consider writing (and before you ask, I’ll tell you right now, I’m not telling you what it is – it is NOT erotica) – I get the proof copy, and accept it, and hit publish.
Three weeks after I published the book, I get a message from him, explaining that he believes I’m a ‘damaged person’ and he wants to ‘help me’. He really would like to meet me and introduce me to a psychiatrist-friend, who would be happy to interview me and consider me a patient for a time, he’ll (of course) be happy to pay for my ‘care’ while I’m being seen. He wants to help bring my ‘passion’ back to life, so that I’ll feel more like writing proper books. He’s shown the journal I was keeping – the book – to his Dr. Friend and he’s certain that he can help me.
I had a good laugh, ignored the email, and went on about my business for another week.
My book has been published about six weeks now, and I pulled it up to see how it was selling — quite nicely, and I’ve done almost NO marketing — but, underneath, on the same page, under “those who purchased this book, also might be interested in:” is the book I wrote for him, with the cover I designed for him – complete WITH MY WATERMARK on the cover – inside, on every single page, my watermarks and copyrights are visible.
In all my 40 plus years of writing, I’ve never gone after ANYONE for copyright infringement, and never in a million years, thought I might ever do it. I absolutely abhor litigation of any kind. Today, I called a lawyer.
Writers, I can’t disclose his name, but his program is pretty well set in stone, and I’m finding he’s done this before. Evidently he pays no mind to watermarks, copyrights, and protected statuses on documents. He’s always in a hurry to get things done, and pushing his own deadlines. If you meet him, you should be able to recognize him from this description. Be aware!
Yes. I design book covers – and love what I do!
Call me Jan Verhoeff – 303.968.6863