GHOSTWRITER CAROLYN ROARK SPOKE ON “EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GHOSTWRITERS” AT APRIL NMBA LUNCHEON
Here are Carolyn’s notes from her talk:
Using a ghostwriter used to be considered a dirty secret, the kind that could ruin an author’s career if it got out. Not anymore! Now we know that there are many good and practical reasons for an author to seek a ghost’s help. In fact, Madeline Morel, a respected agent for professional ghosts, estimated in a 2014 interview that 60% of the nonfiction titles on the bestseller lists of that year had been written by ghosts. There’s no reason to think that’s changed.
First, it’s important to get a few definitions straight:
To understand what a ghost does, it’s important to be clear what a professional ghost is not. We are not co-authors who work collectively to develop the ideas and own them jointly. We are not author substitutes who create ideas, put them in readable form, and let someone else take the credit in exchange for cash. And we are not student or scholar stand-ins who do other people’s homework for them.
So who uses ghostwriters? Many people! The first and most obvious are VIPs—celebrities, politicians, corporate titans, and the like. They’re incredibly busy and their time is precious, so it has always been considered acceptable for them to hire professional help in writing a book. But they are no longer the only ones.
First, anyone who lacks TIME can benefit from a ghost. That can be defined a number of different ways. Busy professionals who are running an organization or managing a successful career often don’t have enough time to pen a book, but need one to get to the next professional level. Famous authors who are too busy to keep up with demand do so, too. Guys like Tom Clancy simply can’t produce enough new work per year to keep up with their fan’s appetites or their publishers’ demands, so they bring in ghosts. Some, like Clancy, have also figured out that their name is their best brand asset. So they lend it to books though they have no hand in writing, in exchange for a princely sum. And of course, when an author dies, that’s the ultimate way to run out of time. The estates of famous authors like V.C. Andrews and Robert Ludlum have brought in ghosts to complete manuscripts based on any notes, scribblings, or other materials an author leaves behind when they pass.
Second, a lack of expertise can motivate someone to seek a ghost’s help. As Madeline Morel says, “Celebrities sell books but they can’t necessarily write them.” Becoming an expert in any given subject takes enough time and effort; it may not be practical to become an expert on writing, too. A raconteur such as Alexandre Dumas may have good ideas, a popular following, and great skill at self-promotion. If he doesn’t have a way with words, he hires a shy fellow like Auguste Maquet to do the heavy lifting on manuscripts like The Count of Monte Cristo. Other professionals may struggle with writing, or simply may not like it. They can still share their wisdom and experience by telling their stories to someone who loves putting the pieces together. And I’ve worked with many people whose lack of confidence or organizational skill amounted to a paralyzing case of writer’s block. For them, working with a professional like me was the key to making their book dreams a reality.
Last, there are the “book profiteers,” those who monetize books as products to make a profit in a market niche they have identified. Remember all of those Nancy Drew mysteries that teen readers devoured for decades? Their author, Carolyn Keene, does not exist. The manuscripts were written by a whole stable of ghosts hired by a publishing company who saw the opportunity in a plucky girl detective. And, of course, there have been rumors in the publishing industry for a decade that famous Goosebumps magnate R.L. Stine brings in some hired guns (though he denies this vehemently). Maybe he really does turn out two books a month...every month...every year. Who is to say?
So how do professional ghosts make a living? Most of us find clients through word of mouth. Yes, we advertise, maintain websites and social media, and network. But because we tend to operate behind the scenes (and often cannot talk about our past projects due to NDA clauses), we rely on endorsement from happy authors. When we talk to potential clients, the first thing we do is assess whether the relationship is the right fit. After all, you’re going to be working very closely and intimately for several months. After that, the process tends to go as follows:
The Historic Santa Fe Foundation (HSFF) celebrates National Poetry Month with an exhibit of more than 50 poetry broadsides and books by well-known and not-so-well-known poets, all printed at the Press of the Palace of the Governors. The exhibition opened at HSFF’s El Zaguán, 545 Canyon Road, on Friday, April 5, and will continue through April 26, 2019. On Thursday, April 18, sit down with poets Joan Logghe, Renée Gregorio, and John Brandi, along with Palace Press director Tom Leech for your daily dose of poetry and a conversation about the joys of slow reading and fine printing. Each of the poets has published several poems in the form of poetry broadsides and limited-edition books with the press.
We want to help you celebrate and shout it from the rooftops . . . or at least include a blurb about it in the Libro newsletter. We invite all NMBA members to submit their upcoming events, book releases, awards announcements, and more. The Libro will now be published mid-month, so we can accept your submissions until the first of the month in which you’d like your news to be published. Submit your blurbs, links, and/or photos and see them in this newsletter. Not sure if it’s appropriate for the Libro? Send us an email and we can help you figure it out. We’re all here to support and promote each other, so don’t be shy!
Libro Nuevo News is the monthly newsletter of the New Mexico Book Association, the nonprofit organization serving all book professionals throughout the state since 1994. Submit your news, articles, and events to LibroEntry@gmail.com.
By Paula Lozar
Arriving at the Amtrak Depot in Lamy last week to restock our NMBA Free Library for train passengers, Richard Polese found two new attractions Cindy Lu and her crew have set in place for daily visitors. Now they have a shelf for selling your books. Richard found five titles from NMBA members, and you can join them. Call Rick Shore in Lamy at (505) 699-3593 to place yours.
The Publishers Association of the West (PubWest) held its annual conference here at Santa Fe’s La Fonda from Thursday, Feb. 7, through Saturday, Feb. 9. PubWest leaders and members greeted more than four NMBA drop-ins on February 9, the final day of the Annual Conference at La Fonda. Although none of us had signed in, it was simple just to walk up to the large vendor display areas in the spacious ballroom.
Nancy Bartlit, Pat Brown, Jim Mafchir, Jessie Emerson, and Richard Polese were greeted informally by PubWest’s leaders and members. We took time to visit the many booths with reps from national printers, publishers, designers, agents, and more.
PubWest has held its Annual Conference at La Fonda twice before. We invited them to return again soon. Book people from across the West love to come to New Mexico.
Save the date! October 4–6, 2019, is the Southwest Festival of the Written Word in Silver City, New Mexico.
We are looking forward to presenting our fourth biennial festival this coming fall in Silver City. Our lineup is dynamic, including some favorite features held in festivals past, and many new and varied faces.
In the coming month we will send out particulars on certain events but consider this our overture letter for the fest.
During the week leading up to the festival we will sponsor a printmaking workshop for poets at Power & Light Press, amd the WNMU Museum will be open for writers to muse upon, and write about, their world-renowned collection of Mimbres pottery. We will also sponsor master sessions on Writing in a Woman's Voice, and the Latino Boom!
On Friday night we will welcome festival-goers and hear from our two keynote speakers: Dr. Magdaleno Manzanarez and Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Don Bartletti. Dr. Manzanarez is Vice President for External Affairs at WNMU. He has written extensively on North American border conflicts and has a story to tell of his own journey from southern Mexico to the southwestern US. Don Bartletti won a Pulitzer Prize for his photo documentation of Central American caravans traveling through Mexico en route to the US. His exhibit Enrique’s Journey will be on display at the McCray Gallery for Contemporary Art at WNMU.
After the keynote address we will walk a short distance to the McCray Gallery for a reception. The gallery will also feature a celebration of the life of Dr. Felipe de Ortego y Gasca, a preeminent scholar of Latin American literature who recently passed away. The past (Dr. Ortego), the present (Enrique’s Journey), and the future (writings by school children of the borderlands) will be featured together at the McCray.
Anne Hillerman will give a presentation on her new mystery novel as she furthers the honored Hillerman tradition of crossing over and into Navajo culture.
Once again we will highlight song lyrics by several of Silver City's music composers.
Additional speakers include Michael McGarrity, Alfredo Corchado, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Manuel Gonzalez, Michelle Otero, Rios de la Luz, Denise Chavez, and Adrienne Celt. And many more! We look forward to seeing you!
Small libraries in New Mexico's remote towns and villages are now becoming true community service centers. In addition to lending books, several are providing computers, Wi-Fi access, and a landline phone for their far-flung patrons. Libraries in Vallecitos, El Rito, Embudo, Talpa, Abiquiu, Magdalena, and many more hope our Legislature will establish a modest endowment to help these now-lively community centers stay alive and improve their service to rural families across the state. A recent front-page feature by Megan Bennett in the Albuquerque Journal North tells more, including support from State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino.
> > RELATED NEWS ARTICLE: RURAL LIBRARIES PUSH FOR PERMANENT FUNDING
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By Sandi Wright
A great night was had by all attending the New Mexico Book Association’s Winter Festival and celebration of its 25th year.
The event room at the Bourbon Grill was decorated for the occasion, and the program included a slide presentation of the history of the NM Book Association from its roots to present day arranged by board member and program chairman, Jessie Emerson.
President Jared Gann officiated the program, and Sandi Wright, membership chairman of the board, presented the awards.
Special sponsors for this event were Casa Snapdragon Press, Art Academy de los Ninos and Collected Works Bookstore. A special thank you to them!
Another special guest present was Jim Mafchir, former longtime board member, New Mexico Book Association past president, and the founder of our Southwest Book Design Award contest.
Menu fare was a Mexican buffet of cheese and chicken enchiladas, a taco bar, salad, iced tea, coffee, and a cash bar. A special cake noting the 25th anniversary was served for dessert. There were no complaints about the food or the program. A big success and great celebration was had by all.
Our speaker for our December 14th luncheon at Tiny’s will be Sandi Wright. She will talk about how to write and illustrate successful children’s storybooks.
Sandi is an award-winning children’s book author, former president of the Santa Fe Opera Guild, co-founder of the nation’s first camp for brain-damaged kids, a 30-year art instructor for public, private, and college institutions, and director of two art schools. She divides her time between writing, painting, and her art therapy practice.
She will also discuss marketing techniques for those attending who are not interested in writing books for kids.
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