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Thread: Need a co-writer to write a book about my life

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Need a co-writer to write a book about my life

    I am not a writer but I have a very, very interesting life story to tell. I'm looking for someone to help me write the book and tell the story and to hopefully get published.

    Any ideas on how to go about doing this? Any suggestions?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Lost in School Work icerose's Avatar
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    Either get a publishing contract offered and split the advance and royalties 50/50 or start earning up some cash to offer a ghostwriter or co-writer.
    "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
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  3. #3
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by icerose View Post
    Either get a publishing contract offered and split the advance and royalties 50/50 or start earning up some cash to offer a ghostwriter or co-writer.

    Any other suggestions on how to get the ball rolling? Do you first write a small sample and then try to get a publishing contract?

    Where would I find a ghostwriter to assist?

  4. #4
    defying grabbity Thump's Avatar
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    You would have to write a letter either to an agent that specialized in memoirs or a publisher of memoirs. You have to write a query letter pretty much like others (lots of info on this on the net) except that where the synopsis would go, you briefly talk about some particular aspects of your life that you think make it interesting to other people and that show that it might be a book worth publishing. If the agent is convinced that your life is interesting to more than just your immediate circle of friendship, then, they might have a co-writer or a ghostwriter that they think would write it well work with you to have a manuscript.

    If I were you, I'd start by seriously writing down all the reasons why your life is interesting to more than you, you can do that here if you want and let people tell you whether they think it's worth trying to publish or if you'd be better off self-publishing. Make sure you pick the right subforum though or no one will see it to comment. It sounds harsh but most people's lives seem very interesting to them but won't really appeal to most people and so wouldn't make good books. I for example, grew up in Guatemala and India and have seen crazy and shocking things. Do I think it would make a good book? Nope. But I certainly think my life is more interesting than the norm.
    Quote Originally Posted by Phaeal View Post
    I'd say the main lesson to take from Stephen King's working life is: He's never stopped working. He's written sober. He's written drunk. He's written while recovering from horrendous injuries. He's written while working maggotty laundry jobs. He's written on long after he could have snuggled down into his royalties for the rest of his life.

    Damn good lesson, that.

  5. #5
    phoenix blazing Parametric's Avatar
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    Hi live2jump,

    Quote Originally Posted by live2jump74 View Post
    Any other suggestions on how to get the ball rolling? Do you first write a small sample and then try to get a publishing contract?

    Where would I find a ghostwriter to assist?
    I assume you're talking about a memoir. Here's why this is an awkward situation.

    Memoirs, unlike other non-fiction, need to be complete before you can query them to agents and/or publishers. Without a track record in publishing, the odds of you getting a deal with an incomplete memoir are vanishingly slim.

    I suspect you will encounter difficulty persuading someone to co-write or ghostwrite your novel for free. Good ghostwriters are not cheap. You may prefer to offer them a share of the future advance and/or royalties, but 99% of writers who seek publication never get published - so from a ghostwriter's pragmatic point of view, that's likely to be a share of nothing. A ghostwriter would feel safer being paid up-front before starting work on the memoir. And since you can't query and get a deal until after the memoir is complete, this obviously creates a cash-flow problem requiring injection of your own money. But you may not want to hire a co-writer with your own money because of the aforesaid 99% chance that your project will never be published and the money will never be recouped.

    See how circular all this is? You need the money from a deal to hire a ghostwriter to write the memoir, but until the memoir is written you don't get a deal to get the money to hire the ghostwriter. (Usually people just write their own memoirs before querying, and so this problem doesn't arise.)

    Can I ask a few questions to help establish what you really need here?

    • Everyone finds their own life stories interesting. Do you have specific reasons to think that a memoir about your life story would sell to thousands of strangers?
    • Do you have a platform?
    • Why are you seeking a co-writer or ghostwriter instead of writing the memoir yourself? Lack of time? Lack of writing skills or experience? It may be more efficient to write this memoir yourself.
    • What is your purpose for seeking publication?
    • Do you have money to gamble on a professional ghostwriter/co-writer on the understanding that there is a low likelihood of return?

    If you could clarify a little more, I think we'd be able to help you better.

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers,
    Parametric


  6. #6
    phoenix blazing Parametric's Avatar
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    Here's some further reading for you.


  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Good insight... thanks!

    Ok... here it goes....

    My specific things in my life that make my story (probably) more interesting than the norm...

    I am a well educated, intelligent girl who grew up in the Midwest from a good family, on a whim I moved to the east coast... not very interesting I know...

    But... I was eventually diagnosed with being bipolar after I was caught embezzling a large amount of money ($100k+) from my employer. I was eventually convicted and was sentenced to prison for 5 years of which I served 3 1/2 years. (I did more time than some sex offenders) Soooo... here I am... bascially out of my mind.... being told I have this illness (which explains a lot of previous behavior) and then being sentenced to a maximum security prison. I have numerous stories to tell while being incarcerated as well as many stories about my life leading up to the crime as well.... being raped as a teen, abusive relationships, etc.

    Hopefully people will find my story interesting as well.

    I think the platform should be to bring attention to the illness itself as well as a story of strength and perseverance. I could also speak at lengths at issues surrounding the prison systems as well.

    The reason I'm looking for a ghost writer is that I am a horrible writer.... I can't bring the emotion of what I'm trying to say to the page.

    I really, really want to bring attention to the issues I mentioned above which is why I am looking to get it published. If I didn't, I would then just journal my experiences versus trying to get published.

    I obviously have seen quite a few therapists and afterwards they each have said I should write a book.....

    Please let me know your thoughts, insights.... I promise my feelings won't get hurt...

  8. #8
    Lost in School Work icerose's Avatar
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    What about trying this. Write down your experiences to the best of your ability until you have enough to cover memior length and feel it satisfactorily lays out your story. Once you've done that {don't worry about it being crap} work on getting some betas and see what happens.
    "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
    Albert Einstein

    I helped write this!!!!http://www.ibnbattuta.tv/

  9. #9
    still crazy after all these years AW Moderator Good Word's Avatar
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    Another way to do it is to speak your book--pay a professional writer with good interviewing skills to interview you and record it (it will probably be a series of interviews) and have the work transcribed. This is the core of your book, and you and your ghostwriter can rework the material into an informative, entertaining and well-written book. You then have something to shop to agents with a solid track record, or self publish through a reputable self-publisher.

  10. #10
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by icerose View Post
    What about trying this. Write down your experiences to the best of your ability until you have enough to cover memior length and feel it satisfactorily lays out your story. Once you've done that {don't worry about it being crap} work on getting some betas and see what happens.

    When you say 'beta' you mean sending it to publishers? Sorry for the non-literary speak!! :-)

  11. #11
    Lost in School Work icerose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by live2jump74 View Post
    When you say 'beta' you mean sending it to publishers? Sorry for the non-literary speak!! :-)
    No. A beta is a reader who is also a writer. They will read your book and send you suggestions and revisions. A really good beta can literally transform a book, but only if the potential is there.
    "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
    Albert Einstein

    I helped write this!!!!http://www.ibnbattuta.tv/

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by live2jump74 View Post
    I think the platform should be to bring attention to the illness itself as well as a story of strength and perseverance. I could also speak at lengths at issues surrounding the prison systems as well.
    This is not a platform (as yet), it's your target audience. Your platform is people who are ALREADY interested in your story. For instance, if you've done any public speaking about your life, or the issues that you're passionate about. Or if you blog, or whatever.

    My recommendation would be to focus on building your platform first. If you can make a bit of a name for yourself as an "expert" or whatever in mental illness or prison systems, then you've got something to approach an agent with. They'd be much more willing to hook you up with a ghost writer if you already have a solid platform.
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  13. #13
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    Is there atleast potential for publication with the subject matter?

    Of course I realize its on how well its written, etc. But is my story more interesting than most others?? That's the biggest question I've come across so far... is 'why do you think your life is more interesting than others?'

    Would it be worth to run the idea by a publisher or an editor?

  14. #14
    delicate #!&@*#! flower Perks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by live2jump74 View Post
    Is there atleast potential for publication with the subject matter?
    There are quite a few bipolar memoirs out there. There is the excellent, Manic: A Memoir, by Terri Cheney and Mommy, I'm Still In Here, by Kate McLaughlin that come directly to mind.

    Here's the entire Amazon listing of memoirs about bipolar disorder. It's pages long.

    So, the answer is a cautious yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by live2jump74 View Post

    Would it be worth to run the idea by a publisher or an editor?
    It will be very difficult to approach an editor directly. As noted above, memoir is the sort of thing you have to write first, pitch second. You'll need to have the passion and patience to get the story committed to paper before you'll likely be able to tempt an editor with your story.
    Last edited by Perks; 11-02-2009 at 10:39 PM.

  15. #15
    phoenix blazing Parametric's Avatar
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    Hi live2jump,

    My initial reaction to your life story as you relate it in post #7 is that I'm worried about how unique it is in the field of memoir. There are a lot of memoirs about being bipolar, abusive relationships, rape, etc (though the embezzlement/imprisonment sounds more unusual). Do you read a lot of memoirs? Have you read your immediate competitors - recently published memoirs covering similar topics? You might find it helpful to narrow in on your unique selling point - the reason a reader would pick up your memoir rather than another one on the same topic.

    Platform is a separate issue. As JoNightshade says, platform is what makes you, the writer, more likely to sell copies to your target audience. For example - your website has a million hits a year and is the #1 Google result for "bipolar" (or whatever). Or you do X speaking gigs a month talking about your experiences. Or you've contributed chapters to a related book and that sold X thousand copies. That kind of stuff.

    It sounds like you don't have any platform at the moment. If you can line this stuff up, then you can prove to the publisher that you (an unknown first-time memoir writer) are worth taking a chance on, because you have a built-in audience.

    Quote Originally Posted by live2jump74 View Post
    Would it be worth to run the idea by a publisher or an editor?
    I'm not sure it will be possible to "run the idea by" an editor. Editors are extremely busy - most of them don't even take queries for complete, polished manuscripts, let alone tentative inquiries about manuscripts that you might some day write.

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers,
    Parametric


  16. #16
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    To be blunt, there are celebrities with stories like yours, and readers want to read memoirs about famous people.

    Yours needs to be well written.

    Stick around AW and come over to the memoir forums. AW can make you a good writer if you're willing to do the work. Right here you can learn how to write this story yourself, and sell it. It would take some time, but it would be worth it. IMHO.

  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW jerrywaxler's Avatar
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    a couple of points about your memoir

    Hi Live2Jump,

    I think this notion of a life being worthwhile enough for a memoir is the wrong way to look at it. I have been reading memoirs for a couple of years, and as I read some that overlap with others they add to each other and actually increase my interest.

    If I'm interested in war memoirs, I'm not just going to read one. I want to read a few. Or coming of age stories, also.

    So far, I've only read one of the bipolar memoirs, the classic Unquiet Mind, and I wouldn't mind reading more. And anyway, just because you say on the blurb that it's about bipolar, that doesn't mean you didn't live a unique life. So enough about how many of your type of memoir there already are. It really all boils down to how well you tell the story.

    What worries me about your inquiry is not that your story is similar to ones that have been told, but that you don't seem in the market to grow your skills and tell it yourself. Either you have to figure out how to tell it (which in my opinion is one of the coolest creative things you could do), or else find a really good personal historian and pay them their fee which is not cheap.

    FYI "Trading Secrets" is a good memoir by Foster Winans, who was convicted for a white collar crime and then did time. I hope this helps.

    Jerry

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by jerrywaxler View Post
    Hi Live2Jump,

    I think this notion of a life being worthwhile enough for a memoir is the wrong way to look at it. I have been reading memoirs for a couple of years, and as I read some that overlap with others they add to each other and actually increase my interest.

    If I'm interested in war memoirs, I'm not just going to read one. I want to read a few. Or coming of age stories, also.

    So far, I've only read one of the bipolar memoirs, the classic Unquiet Mind, and I wouldn't mind reading more. And anyway, just because you say on the blurb that it's about bipolar, that doesn't mean you didn't live a unique life. So enough about how many of your type of memoir there already are. It really all boils down to how well you tell the story.

    What worries me about your inquiry is not that your story is similar to ones that have been told, but that you don't seem in the market to grow your skills and tell it yourself. Either you have to figure out how to tell it (which in my opinion is one of the coolest creative things you could do), or else find a really good personal historian and pay them their fee which is not cheap.

    FYI "Trading Secrets" is a good memoir by Foster Winans, who was convicted for a white collar crime and then did time. I hope this helps.

    Jerry

    Hi Jerry,

    Thanks for the good insight. I appreciate it.

    You're right... I think its just going to come down to how well the story is written! I'm pretty sure that it'll get the attention it deserves due to the content alone.

    At this point, I'm just muddling along and trying to find what avenue would be the best to take this project.

    Honestly, I wish I were a better storyteller because I would have no thoughts about writing it myself. I'm just not that good at telling a story... or even a joke for that matter.... haha

    I think using a personal historian is kinda boring but I would love to have more of a co-writer because I'm sure I can write some stuff... I just get really wordy and too caught up in the details.

    I'm not afraid of a large project like this... its nothing compared to what I've already dealt with in life.... so here goes nothing!!


    Please keep any thoughts/ideas coming... I appreciate all of it.

  19. #19
    delicate #!&@*#! flower Perks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jerrywaxler View Post
    So enough about how many of your type of memoir there already are. It really all boils down to how well you tell the story.
    Very true.

  20. #20
    delicate #!&@*#! flower Perks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by live2jump74 View Post

    Honestly, I wish I were a better storyteller because I would have no thoughts about writing it myself. I'm just not that good at telling a story... or even a joke for that matter.... haha
    Don't sell yourself short. If you've got a tale, you obviously can work a sentence. We've seen it here.

    Pick a story - maybe something that would make a really gripping opening - and write it out. Either share it in the Share Your Work forum, or pick a person here that you've liked their input and ask for advice. If you're nervous, make sure you tell us first and most critiquers will take that into consideration.

    See what happens. It make sour you on the whole project or it may open up a whole new world for you.

  21. #21
    Working on 2nd WIP SherryTex's Avatar
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    What Perks said. Becoming a good writer is a matter of 1) being willing to put in the BIC time, 2) being willing to rewrite (see 1), and 3) being willing to rewrite again (see 1) and recognizing that all experience has value and meaning if one is willing to distill it to its core, draw parallels, and reveal the pain/beauty/emotion/effect of the experience.

    Writing means opening a vein and bleeding onto the page, particularly when you are talking about a memoir. Being willing to reveal the equisite detail of the rape, of the prison room, the food, the really bad day, the moment everything fell away.

    Suggest reading Mary Karr's "Cherry" and "The Liar's Club." two memoirs of hers, (one of her childhood --which deals with mental illness), and one of her adolescence -dealing with emerging sexuality, drug use, coming of age and the pain she tried to erase in the process or ignore.

    Read. Read lots. Make a note of passages you like. Highlight them. Think about why they hold your attention. Narrate your story. Then figure out where you think the story starts to fade or lose luster. Then edit that section which doesn't mean lie, it means rework -- rewrite so the words don't repeat themselves, so the story is more visual, more sensual, more achingly accurate for the reader.

    Finally, you say you are not a writer, but you have a story. Most people have a story. Everyone's life has moments that transcend their experience. Writers are just those willing to put in the seat time to tell it and craft the thing until it sings and who are then willing to do the grunt work of finding an agent and getting published. If you want to write this story as a warning or a truism or a commentary to others, pull up a chair. With that, I now have my chagrinned self to get back to my WIP.

    Good luck!
    Last edited by SherryTex; 11-08-2009 at 12:43 AM.

  22. #22
    Commonsensical Maverick scope's Avatar
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    With so little deep information it's impossible to tell if you have a viable memoir to write (or to be ghostwritten) that would be meaningful. I suspect ghostwritten.

    I do and have done a good deal of ghostwriting, but never on a lark, at least in my opinion.

    Know this, if you even start to get involved with a capable ghostwriter it's going to cost you a lot of money.
    Publishing credits can usually be worked out, but money can't.

    To give you an idea, this is basically how I do it. I'm sure others work differently.

    1) I meet with the individual several meetings, listening to what he or she wants me to write about (subject matter and details). I ask a lot of questions and make lots of notes. The individual pays a previously discussed fee for my time and work.

    2) I take my notes home and do a whole lot of research to see what's in publication about the subject matter, and the slant the individual wants me to bring to the work. I also discuss the potential project with my agent and many others in the publishing business.

    3) If my decision is a "go", I meet with the individual and discuss what I discovered and any different slant I either suggest or insist upon if I'm to do the work.
    We also discuss a fee for the work I'm to do, whether or not the finished product gets published (usually 50% up front - 25% when half-way through - 25% upon completion)

    4) If all's good with the individual, I go home and put together an agenda (e.g., how long I think it will take to produce a submittable work, including a proposal --- a timetable of meetings with the individual, including where and when and for what period of time --- getting chapters to the individual for approval (and by what date I need them back) --- and so on.

    That's a very brief outline of how a ghostwriter works, at least me.

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