View Full Version : How would you approach this?

08-27-2008, 07:51 PM
I am looking at a great opportunity, I think, but am not sure how to approach or pitch it. Here's the deal:

A friend of mine is a retired federal agent. He has a wealth of stories and personal experiences that include profiling serial killers, working at the Davidian siege in Waco, and knowledge of little-known but interesting things like the fact that the Hell's Angels had a plot to kill Mick Jagger.


What exactly do I have? He doesn't want to write it himself, so it would not be an auobiography or memoir, and I don't know if biographies have to be of famous people. He doesn't want to pay me to ghost-write this; while he's very prepared to share his life, I am the driving force. I'm just not sure what kind of project I have and whether agents are interested in interesting people when they, themselves, don't do the writing (for example, I couldn't promise that he'd do interviews etc, though I suspect he would). My own platform is solid: former newspaper reporter turned prosecutor. But I'm not famous.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

08-27-2008, 11:02 PM

Your credentials as a ghost-writer for you friend sound terrific, however, IMO, you absolutely, positively need his full cooperation in everything--starting as co-author or such and possibly involving interviews, etc. I think we can all understand why he may not want be go public, but I don't know any other way you can write about a bunch of unknown, scathing stories without first hand knowledge, the facts to back them up, and valid corroboration.

Good luck.

08-29-2008, 02:09 AM
I agree with scope, you need his full cooperation and that includes his willingness to do publicity for the book. I would think a memoir about his life and work "by Agent Joe Smith with MarkEsq" would be best. So, you do all the writing and you both come up with a way to split the advance and any royalties, movie deals, etc. and get the agreement drawn up by lawyers.

I don't think any agent will care that he's not doing the writing, as long as he's willing to do the publicity and your writing is stellar.

Let us know what happens. Sounds like a fascinating book!

08-29-2008, 04:33 AM
I am writing something somewhat similar story of a government operation that was covered up, but I am the source of the information. He may not want to cooperate because of a non-disclosure agreement with the FBI. There may be certain information they don't want known to the public. Also linking several different stories together would seem to me a difficult task.

On the up side, it will be a great book if you can convince him ;)

08-29-2008, 08:54 PM
Well, I talked to him yesterday and he seems happy to do post-book publicity. I'm pretty excited about the project and hope there is a market. Here's a few bits from our brief interview about him:

- one of the first behavorial profilers (worked with the legendary John Douglas)
- was the agent who found the key to the Ryder truck in Oklahoma City
- was on the negotiation team at Waco, and was one of two dissenting voices, against going in with guns blazing
- case agent on Angel Resendez case (the Railway Killer)
- numerous other shoot-outs and killer-catchign stories.

I think my unifying theme for this is that he was the last of the bad-boy agents, kind of a maverick and allowed to do his own thing.

08-29-2008, 11:27 PM

It sounds like you have the source to write a fantastic book with all kinds of potential in subsidiary avenues (e.g., TV series. movie). For your sake I hope he will be with you every step of the way and that he agrees to lend his name to the project in every way, shape, and form from day one--not just post-book publicity. I can't imagine how you could get an agent (I definitely think you need one) or a publisher without his name and credentials attached to everything, including the manuscript.

Please keep us informed.

08-31-2008, 02:15 AM
I agree it sounds like a great book. You have an exciting opportunity here, with someone who has led an unusual life. My suggestion would be to go to amazon.com and look up books on the FBI. There are already a lot of them. Look up, FBI, F.B.I., and other variations and see which ones were successful and which ones weren't. (I tried FBI and F.B.I. and got completely different books.) You want to do a book similar to the successful ones, yet different and unique in its own way (which yours would be since you have a great guy to work with.) When you've done your research, write a good query letter and proposal, not the book. This is the kind of book you can sell on proposal rather than having to write the whole thing first. Good luck and keep us posted.

09-04-2008, 06:42 AM
I absolutely agree with everything said above, and ... have a signed contract between you before you start. Spell it out. You may not need it, but then again, you may. This is bound to turn into an intense relationship. For most of my life, I've lived as a very trusting person, and I've often lived to regret the lack of clearly defined expectations ahead of time.

09-04-2008, 07:57 AM

Very good point.

09-07-2008, 03:10 AM
MarkEsq--- hi. i'll write it for us. see you at the bank. just kidding. a little. anyway, what you have is what people are dying to get. rich source material that is relevant and high-profile, and holds out the promise of not only a book, but perhaps ancillary revenue streams. the burning question is as follows: do you have the 'goods' to pull it off? can you write at a professional level... and i'm not talking about letters to the judge outlining the prosecution's position on sentencing. you have to be smart to pass the bar exam, so i' know you're intelligent. but that does not speak to talented. perhaps you are. perhaps not. If you can't write compelling prose, if you can't 'sell' your product with passionate literary on-the-page skills, this aint fer ya. However, there's a 'simple' litmus test. It's called a non-fiction proposal. If you can successfully craft one that is of professional grade, including 20-50 sample pages of the actual book, then, like grasshopper in the Kung-Fu series... it is time for you to go. go onto bigger and better things. The proposal separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls. until you tackle that, your 'ideas' are mere pipe dreams. Complete that mission and you might be looking at a publishing contract. the components you have in place are strong. the proof shall be in the proposal pudding. beware: a comprehensive proposal is not for the meek. if you embark upon this endeavor and get 'weak-in-the-knees', let me know. I'll do it for us and we'll split the pie, for i can most certainly bring this seed to fruition. one phone conversation and you will know with certainty that i know that of which i speak. i'm surprised no one else approached you as it almost sounded as though you were testing the waters for interested 'ghosts'. i tell it like it is. no harm in being candid. no offense intended. any direction you proceed in i wish you Godspeed. if i can 'unoffficially' help you let me know on that count as well. ---blake

09-07-2008, 08:29 AM
No offense Blake, but I didn't get the impression that MarkEsq was hinting around about anything. Not only that, but probably most folks here would encourage anyone to learn to do their own writing rather than hiring a ghost writer. This is a site for writers, not a site for ghostwriters, or hiring anyone to write for you, or for selling writing services. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong MarkEsq. I honestly think Mark has a great idea and it sounds like he's exploring pursuing it.

09-07-2008, 04:09 PM
I'm always grateful for offers of help but as Polly said, I'm not interested in getting someone to do this for me, thanks Blake. I am a former newspaper reporter so have some confidence in my writing ability and plan to tackle this project solo.