Tag Archives: Tekwar

Ghostwriting: The Great Fallacy

I often see on Craigslist and other places where someone wants to write the story of their life or perhaps their one great novel, observations on the mating rituals of hummingbirds, or the meanings of shadows cast by the great pyramids. Anything. Everyone does have a story in them and if there is only one it is the story of their life. However, many people write their novels without comprehending the writing and publishing process, without taking training or otherwise learning the ropes. Would you want a pilot who had been trained first? Would you want a surgeon who just knew he had it in him? Writing, like any craft or skill takes training and practice. Few of us are naturals.

Some people recognize this. They realize they don’t have the skill to write the story they want to tell, or they don’t have the time. So they want a ghostwriter, who is someone that writes the story but someone else’s name is put on the book. Ghostwriters are also used for a lot of those novels that have a famous movie/rock star’s name attached. In very few cases has that star actually written the book. In some cases the star may have actually come up with the idea but has no clue how to write the story. William Shatner’s Tekwar books were not written by him though I believe he did give input or supply at least some of the plots. But his name will sell whereas George Smith might not.

Some people who want someone to write their life story (or other interesting event) might post for a writer. And they’ll often offer, as compensation, a percentage of sales. I wonder how many people actually ever get someone naive enough to fall for this venture. There are several things wrong with undertaking such a job. If you’re an aspiring writer, you want to write your own ideas. If you’re a writer, who writes articles or even books, well, you want to make a living off of your writing. If Jane Doe got George Smith to write her biography, George not only has to be a good writer himself, he has to devote a great deal of time to listening to Jane’s ideas and life history going back and forth with her to get or clarify details as well as probably her reading over the manuscript and making him change piece upon piece. She might also have scrawled notes on all sorts of scraps of paper that have to be deciphered and put in order.

The hours involved in such a venture can be astronomical and to work on spec is highly unlikely and pretty well stupid. If someone says to me well, I’ll give you 50% of the sales or what I get paid, you better have a contract and a good fairy. Here are the factors to consider on the way to getting published. Is the writing good enough? Is the story interesting enough with the right amount of information and detail? Is it something others will want to read? Is it a story that a publisher will want to buy? Will it sell many books? Presume that you won’t sell more than $2,000, work out the cover price after looking at other books that are similar, then subtract 40% right off the top. After that, consider that the publisher still has to pay the printer and their staff and you get only a small percentage. Perhaps it is a percentage against royalties. Perhaps it’s a flat rate. Perhaps it’s print on demand and they only print ten copies at a time at $20. You get maybe 40% of net earnings. I’ve sold ten at $200, which means that 40% is $80. What percentage does that writer get and is it worth it?

The problem is, unless you’re writing a famous person’s bio or have signed a deal with a major publisher who guarantees you this much to write the novel, writing someone else’s story is a crapshoot. I would never do it unless I was paid a rate, a very high rate, either by hour or by page. And if I’m writing my own novel, just how much time do I want to devote to someone else’s? I can’t say I would never do this but I certainly would never be a ghostwriter for the dream of sales.


Filed under art, Culture, Publishing, Writing

Writing: Even Tyra Banks

It’s not unusual for a celebrity to dabble in other arts fields. Sting and John Mann (of Spirit of the West) have not just done music but acted. Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Clint Eastwood went from acting to politics (one would argue that it’s all acting). Others start as actors and move into singing or modeling, or start as models and become actors. There is always some crossover. And some actors, singers and models try writing. Look at William Shatner with his Tekwar series, though in fact he didn’t write them but had a ghostwriter. Shatner may have come up with the ideas but he didn’t flesh those ideas into a written story. An unsung writer did that but Shatner’s name sold them.

Princess Sarah Ferguson (Fergie) has written children’s books to some success.Of course there are many kiss-and-tells or autobiographical memoirs that the rich and/or famous indulge in, whether they write them or have someone do it for them. But those celebs who write fiction are rarer and there is quite a range of quality, more than you would get with a straight fiction author. The reason is that publishers look at saleability. If you’re John Doe, you will have to convince the publisher that your story is so good that they can make money on it. If you’re George Clooney, on the other hand, the publisher will look at your popularity and sex appeal in general and then see if the demographic looks promising for selling a book.

You may not even have to write it and they may go to the trouble to get a tried and true ghostwriter. But even if you should insist you write your fiction and be dumb as a piece of toast they may publish based on your popularity and have a couple of good editors go through to clean up the worst parts. After all, poorly written books do not necessarily mean they’ll bomb. Many mediocre books have sold well, due to the topic and the marketing campaigns.

from Banks' site

So, Tyra Banks with her Bankable line (including Bankable Books), and who started as a model, then moved into TV shows such as the Tyra Banks Show and America’s Top Model reality show, has decided she’s going to write a fantasy trilogy called “Modelland” (and as she puts it, pronounced Model Land). My writers’ list has already had a lot of eye-rolling and scoffing over this. I mean, it doesn’t sound that crazily wonderful with some young girls transported unwillingly to a land where “drop-dead beautiful, kick-butt fierce” intoxibellas rule with their powers.

Now I don’t watch these shows so I have no idea if Banks comes across as powerfull and intelligent or as just some ditzy petty model. But…uh…Modelland. It sounds pretty teen-set-princess-girly-dreamworld. There is not much about the story so far except that Tyra plans to write three books published by Random House. Will Banks write the books or will there be a very well paid, very secret ghostwriter?

Now there is an attitude in our world to heartily roll our eyes when a model (or actor) tries something more serious like politics or writing. But not every model is just a beautiful bimbo. People are often judged by their covers, like books.

Tyra Banks might write the next book as popular as Harry Potter. Except, we don’t know. No one knew that Harry Potter would make Rowling one of the richest women in the world. It’s pretty much hit and miss and even writing in the style of, or copying the stories will not guarantee a hit. In fact, the factors that allowed Harry Potter to skyrocket have changed now.

I can’t really judge Tyra Banks’ book until I’ve read it, and I would read it to review. However many people will read it because she’s writing it (and she’s got a marketing empire going already), others for curiosity, others because they are kids and it sounds fun. Will it be good? Who knows? I’m just skeptical with the title but then I’m not a teenager and seriously, as a teenager I was reading science fiction by Herbert, Heinlein, Clarke, Norton, McCaffery. Very little of it was dubbed teen or young adult fiction except for Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. So chances are I might not like it. But the proof of the pudding, as they say, will depend on the reading.

And Tyra Banks… Well, if she is only a beautiful Barbie, then she is still a very rich one and is doing several shows and lines of merchandise and might be Businesswoman Barbie. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.



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