Why are so many publishers and literary agents uninterested in representing anyone who won’t do public appearances?
I mean, who do you picture when you think of a writer? Some shabby fuck, right? Some toadsome Hemingway, all boorish and rough, just waiting to say the wrong thing. Even the sweet ones, your Rowlings and Dessens, they’ll get on their Twitters and stir up some shit, and is that what you want? Is it really? Wouldn’t you rather hire a writer to write and an actor to represent them? Someone who’d follow your script and never slip up, who’d sign a million books and never miss a deadline? Someone whose whole job is being seen, who loves that and lives for it, and won’t resent the obligation?
That’s one thing I’ve noticed, doing ghostwriting: people care what I have to say, but only when they don’t know it’s me saying it. So why not remove me from the public equation, replace me with some curated creation? I’m weird. I’m annoying. I claw at my own face when the sun shines in my eyes. (Really. It itches. I have no self-control.) People ask questions and I tell them stories, and I don’t answer their questions, and they hate that. Or they ask questions and I do answer, and my answer’s just no.
Are you enjoying your book tour?
Do you have any ideas for your next book?
Are you loving the Big Apple?
No, see? You don’t want that on TV. You don’t want that anywhere. What you want is my work ethic: I write fast and deliver clean copy. I write what you tell me to write. I do your ideas or furnish my own, and I like it, and I don’t complain (except behind your back, but I change a lot of details when I do that. No-one will ever know it’s you).
Y’know, I’m not sure why I’m looking for representation. Ghostwriting is fine. It pays well. It’s just, all the work-for-hire contracts…none of it’s mine. Even when there’s royalties, that’s just for the book. If there’s a movie, a series, a line of toys and games, I don’t see any of that. And I don’t get a say. I could write something and Johnny Depp could play the main character, and I’d have to watch. I hate Johnny Depp. He’d be all up in there, cashing in on my idea, and I’d be home whining to my mother. (And she’d be all “yeah, can I call you next week?” She doesn’t like talking to me when I’m up in a bunch. Come on. Seriously. Who would?)
There’s this series I wrote, a while back, not a very good one. It’s sort of…kitchen-sink sci-fi, a collection of popular tropes grafted onto a story. The publisher folded after paying my fee but before going to press. Nobody’s read it, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t steal the good part and do my own series. Those rights will never revert to me.
What am I looking for? What do I want?
I should read up on what’s out there. There has to be some middle ground between selling my words wholesale and claiming them on…on…where do writers go? Letterman? Just, something between forking over all rights and my face on a dust jacket.
What would that be?