PDA

View Full Version : Science Fiction Ghostwriter



Humongous
12-30-2011, 03:09 AM
I am an individual with writing ideas (but I suspect I am not a good story teller). I am always thinking and creating concepts, but find when I try to write one I get mired in polishing a few details of the work and find it difficult to complete the whole project in a timely manner, plus it takes me away from thinking of new material, ideas, etc.

I have several works in mind and in various stages, but the work I have selected to move forward with a collaborator (believe it or not I only recently became aware of the concept of ghostwriters) is the following:

I'd loosely describe it as a science fiction novel. Science fiction may not be the best way to describe it though. It is not a lot of high tech lasers or genetically mutating aliens or anything like that. It is not a lot of action or what would make "special effects" if it were a movie. It is more of a psychological thriller of sorts with an ideological or philosophical message using the fiction to convey this message. Think Atlas Shrugged meets the Da Vinci Code for a VERY LOOSE analogy.

Payment: Like I said, I'm new to the Ghostwriter concept and don't know what to expect in regard to payment, it will be negotiated when I find out what is "customary". I've learned in my "brief google study" of the topic that "royalties" are not the customary arrangement so we can rule that out.

I apologize if I appear "unqualified" to make this post, but today is my first step in this arena, so be gentle. If you have interest and aptitude in writing in the area stated above, or you know someone who does, or if you have something you can tell me to help me along this road I welcome your input.

Unimportant
12-30-2011, 04:28 AM
I'd guess a ghostwriter fee for a SF novel would be somewhere in the range of $20,000 - $60,000. This would come with no guarantee of publication; it would be up to you to try to secure a literary agent to represent the work or to directly secure a publishing contract. If you were to do so successfully, there is no guarantee that a large publisher (say, Tor or Baen) would offer an advance of more than perhaps $5000.

If you have expertise in a particular scientific field and/or a "platform" -- that is, if your name on the cover (e.g., Dr Francis Collins) of a book that falls in your area of expertise will by itself sell a lot of books, then it might be worth the gamble. If you don't have name recognition, then your chances of successfully selling the manuscript for a price that will recoup your costs are a lot less.

Most writers have heaps of ideas, and the time to write only a small fraction of them. Ideas are, for most authors, the easy part. It's learning the craft and taking the time to write (and rewrite) the story that takes years and years.

Humongous
12-30-2011, 05:31 AM
Thank you for your input "unimportant"
Your response is not dramatically different than my "uninformed" speculation on the topic and contained several new insights.

I feel a bit compelled to better describe my topic:

My first post was sort of just "fishing". Fishing for what?? Well I don't know any authors, agents, publishers, etc. and must admit I had a bit of a (subconscious I guess) feeling that "I wonder if there is really anybody out there, as in out there behind this website. Does the world of authors and publishers and intellectuals really exist beyond the books on the shelves in the library/bookstores? If I say, "Is there anybody there" out into the dark (or out into cyberspace) will anyone answer back. May sound a bit strange, but anyway, my original post was inadequate to convey my project, I'm sure - and the above is the reason I invested so little time in the first post. Since you did answer back, and quickly, and somewhat to my surprise/dismay, I will be a bit more informative about what I have going on:

I have been working on a non-fiction work, which I intended to get at least the services of an editor for when I was more or less done with it. Now from time to time I come up with what I think is a great, exciting, thrilling piece of fiction that I'm just sure should be written (just like everyone else in other words), and maybe someday I will, but alas, I think I am not a good story teller. I do think I can clearly convey my non-fiction with the help only of an editor, but do not think that is so true of fiction which must be told in an entertaining, not just informative way.

A short time ago I became aware of the "ghostwriter" concept (yeah, I know, how could I have not known - I guess the answer lies in the first paragraph above). Very recently I accidentally came up with another good (according to me) fiction (sort of science fiction - my first science fiction, most fiction ideas have been mystery/adventure). Shortly thereafter I realized how well my recent fiction concept served as a vehicle to convey my non-fiction work. Some colleagues had suggested to me that I consider trying to convey my non-fiction in the form of a fiction, but I thought it unlikely that a fiction vehicle could adequately carry it. Then by accident, here I am with just that. OH, but I don't think I can write that fiction. Now this should be making sense.

The best way to describe the fiction I have in mind is that it involves a "journey" (science fiction journey in that the mode of travel is not a horse, car, plane, etc) to an "advanced culture" where my non-fiction work is basically there to observe instead of "being lectured about". There is, I think, a fair amount of mystery,adventure, drama and intrigue (all the stuff I need a fiction writer for) in the fiction story itself to make a stand alone entertaining fiction, but a lot of the text will be informative dialogue sort of like Daniel Quinn did in Ishmael (but the "lesson" is not similar to Quinn's, or if it is related it is counter to his message)

The purpose of the book is to be thought provoking (especially to the dissenters) and will leave many (I think) wanting "the whole story" that was only partially conveyed in the fiction. "The whole story" will be the release of my non-fiction book I've been working on. The science fiction part actually "sets the stage" for the arrival of the historical character (for lack of a better term) which will be the "author" of the non-fiction.

Both books (if read) will be thought provoking, polarizing, and highly controversial (I expect). The collaborator/ghostwriter would almost certainly refuse the work if they were a "dissenter" to the ideas conveyed in the book. The book will contain the following "concepts" and is not "neutral" on them. In other words, it is not simply thought provoking, but also "takes a side":

Metaphysics, Epistemology, Consciousness, Astrophysics/Space-Time, Science of Morality, Social Justice and Ethics, Magic, Miracles, Free Will, Mind/Body relationship, Ascension of Mankind, Belief/Knowledge, nature of belief in God/gods, etc.

I welcome further posts both from interested parties or anyone who simply has further insight to weigh in on.

thothguard51
12-30-2011, 05:43 AM
Metaphysics, Epistemology, Consciousness, Astrophysics/Space-Time, Science of Morality, Social Justice and Ethics, Magic, Miracles, Free Will, Mind/Body relationship, Ascension of Mankind, Belief/Knowledge, nature of belief in God/gods, etc.

Put that in the book blurb and I would take a pass. Why? Too much to get in the way of a good story. I would also suspect the author is preaching his/her beliefs and I don't pay good money to be preached to by someone who may not have the credentials...

As to a ghost writer, research to make sure you pick one with a proven track record and make sure you both agree, (in writing), on word count, deadline, revisions, price and credits among a few dozen other things...

Humongous
12-30-2011, 05:58 AM
I concur: That would make a terrible book blurb, and your statement "too much to get in the way of a good story" is exactly the reason I first thought it was not compatible with fiction. But as I thought about this fiction all of a sudden much of those things (at least enough of it to make a good intro to the non-fiction book) suddenly appeared in it naturally.

I wouldn't pay to be preached to either (but would pay to avoid being preached to). I don't think my book really involves preaching - and I am certainly not a preacher nor do I dwell on topics typically associated with "belief", but in reviewing the post I can't see how you'd conclude anything other than it is going to - Your point is well taken.

I am pretty sure the science fiction (or at least science fantasy) writer who is accustomed to bringing dragons to life is not right for this project. More like someone who'd work on "The sixth day" (Schwarzenegger movie) or ..... well I'm not sure I've ever read/seen anything like it so I'm short on good examples.

Anyway thanks for chiming in.

thothguard51
12-30-2011, 06:04 AM
Don't let the dragon avatar fool you...

I read many genres, as do most readers...

Polenth
12-30-2011, 06:26 AM
You need to be realistic about why a ghostwriter might take the job. It won't be because they like your ideas or they're excited about the story. You're not a brand or big name the ghostwriter has always dreamed about writing for. You're unlikely to sell the book, so royalty cuts won't mean anything and it won't be something they'll mention on their resume. They'll work for you because they need the money.

Offer a decent contract and a good price, and you might get a good ghostwriter. But really, your money would be better spent on something else and your time on your non-fiction projects (or learning to write fiction, if you want).

Unimportant
12-30-2011, 06:27 AM
Hum, have you considered going about this in the opposite way? That is, write the nonfiction book (which presumably you have a background in and a "platform" for), have an agent represent it to nonfiction publishers for you, and also have the agent provide assistance with the ghostwriting issue. A novel based on a successful nonfiction book would probably sell much better than a novel by a (purported) debut author, and would feed sales of the nonfiction book.

In addition: if you're looking for a standard ghostwriter to produce a novel based on your outline, you're probably looking at around $50K. If you want a specific, high profile author in a specific SF subgenre, such as Harlan Ellison or Stephen Gould or Neal Stephenson, you'll probably have to add another zero on the end of that number (assuming such authors would be interested in ghostwriting, which they probably aren't).

Filigree
12-30-2011, 07:42 AM
You can get cheaper ghostwriters, but they may not have the skills to make your story sing. And the previous posters are right. Ghostwriters won't take this job as a labor of love for the story, or because they like you. They'll do it for money.

Once you've paid a ghostwriter your 15K to 25K, you have no guarantees of sale. You might sell the concept if you have the first 50 pages as proof that you and the ghostwriter can make this happen. Without already having relationships with editors and agents, that will be difficult.

Having a great non-fiction book as a platform could help you, as well as some practice in writing fiction. If you can write coherent, interesting non-fiction, you can write fiction. I'd say save yourself some money, keep your ideas to yourself, and write your story in your own words.

alexshvartsman
12-30-2011, 10:03 AM
In my (admittedly limited) experience, Unimportant's cost estimate is a lot closer than Filigree's. If you find someone willing to ghost-write your novel for 15k, well then my advice to you is: Run. Run and don't look back. Writers who value their time at such cut rates aren't likely to produce work that will interest a prestigious publisher.

If you are truly serious about this and want to invest that kind of money, I'd suggest reading a lot of fiction by mid-list authors. Find the one whose style and presentation would best fit your concept, and approach them directly.

Humongous
12-30-2011, 06:33 PM
Wow, I'm amazed at how quick and relevant you all have replied. All good points to consider, some of the above points don't even seem to need considered but are "self-evident" as valid - sometimes the self-evident is not so until someone says it though.

Unimportant,

You may be right, I assumed (not in a position to do so however) fiction had a broader following because it is more "entertaining" and therefore "easier to sell".
Let's say your thoughts about finishing the non-fiction first are good advice. If so, that leads me to some questions that will probably seem really simple (to the point I appear completely ignorant):
What do you do when you have a book finished? How do you find an editor? What should you expect him/her to cost/do? What is the "agent" you mentioned? What does the agent do/cost? And finally, what is all the talk about self publishing and electronic publishing?

Chalula88
12-30-2011, 06:39 PM
Humongous,

That is really research you should do on your own to get information specific to your needs. Look through the forums at all the stickies, especially the Basic Writing forum and the Novel forum. It would take hours to write out all the ins and outs of the industry and it's been done a million times. Check out the forums or do a google search with your questions.

Filigree
12-30-2011, 11:22 PM
Humongous, AW is a great place to start, as are books on publishing at your local library. We can offer you some tips and shortcuts, but the basic research is up to you. After all, you will know your non-fiction and fiction best.

One tip: treat skeptically anything you read in writers magazines. While they offer some good advice, their main business is selling magazines to would-be writers.

Good luck!

Humongous
12-31-2011, 03:40 AM
Thank you all for your input, and kindness. I've not got much forum exposure, but the little bit I have seems like people are generally negative, grumpy,and abusive - and often not even relevant to what you asked or said.

You all have made relevant helpful remarks - its been a very informative first day out. I think you all have a forum you can be proud of.

Thank You

Debbie V
01-02-2012, 05:08 AM
I do think I can clearly convey my non-fiction with the help only of an editor, but do not think that is so true of fiction which must be told in an entertaining, not just informative way.

Non-Fiction is often written in narrative style that must be entertaining as well as informative unless you have a very select, narrow, market in mind - professionals in the field. Why will people want to read the non-fiction book? Which people?

Filigree
01-02-2012, 09:54 PM
While we talk about actual rates charged by respectable ghostwriters, here is what the clueless part of the universe considers to be ghostwriting:
______________
(From a Craigslist post in my city)

Film executive based in Phoenix area is looking to hire a ghost writer to help him write a fantasy novel, space opera, star wars style mixed with Lord of the Rings intelligence. Outline and characters are done. Just need to draft the chapters. Will pay $1,000. Project will be developed as a movie series. Full credit will be given along with co-authorship. Copyright will remain with me. Interested parties, please email me a sample of your work. Thank you.
______________

Yep, you read that correctly. A 'film executive' is willing to pay 1K for his epic. He'll get takers, too.

IceCreamEmpress
01-02-2012, 11:22 PM
You can probably get a perfectly good ghostwriter to write a novel based on your outline for $10,000 to $15,000 US. (That's the usual work-for-hire fee for a novel from a book packager, even for people who have several books already published under their own names.)

I wish the going rate was $50,000, y'all!

Filigree
01-03-2012, 12:18 AM
I'm familiar with the 10K to 15K range, and that's cheap for the amount of work. The Craigslist post reveals how many would-be authors are terrified of the actual writing work. They meet up with would-be ghostwriters who don't have the skill set to help their clients. Because neither side has done their research, they get into horrible situations.

Knowledge is power.

IceCreamEmpress
01-03-2012, 01:08 AM
I'm familiar with the 10K to 15K range, and that's cheap for the amount of work.

Yes, it is cheap for the amount of work, but it's also the going rate. And I'm talking about gigs set up by reputable agents and book packagers for books from Big Six publishers, too.

Now, I can imagine a ghostwriter wanting more than 15K for working with a newbie collaborator, because that is much harder work than working with, say, an established series that already has a bunch of books in it and a "bible". But if the ghostee shopped around, they could certainly get another multi-published writer to take the gig for that price.

Ghostwriting (and every other form of writing for hire) is a really hard way to make a living. It's low-paying work when you calculate it out on a per-hour basis.

Filigree
01-03-2012, 02:10 AM
<Grins.> That's why I don't do it. Plus the trouble of establishing one's credentials with a packager. Ad copy actually pays better.

Unimportant
01-05-2012, 12:29 AM
Unimportant,

You may be right, I assumed (not in a position to do so however) fiction had a broader following because it is more "entertaining" and therefore "easier to sell".
Let's say your thoughts about finishing the non-fiction first are good advice. If so, that leads me to some questions that will probably seem really simple (to the point I appear completely ignorant):
What do you do when you have a book finished? How do you find an editor? What should you expect him/her to cost/do? What is the "agent" you mentioned? What does the agent do/cost? And finally, what is all the talk about self publishing and electronic publishing?

It really depends on the field and where you, personally, stand in that field. If you are a total unknown, self-taught in the field, and have no publication or work credentials in that field, you can try submitting to agents or directly to publishers but have to be aware that your odds are pretty slim. If you are a Nobel Prize winning scientist writing a nonfiction book in your field of expertise, you can submit a proposal and the first three chapters of your book to literary agents and will likely find one happy to represent you, and to work with you as you finish writing the book, and to find a publisher for the book. The publisher (assuming you get to that point) will provide the editing as well as all the other costs of publishing the book, and will pay you an advance (if it's a large press) and royalties (both large and small/specialty presses). The literaty agent will take a percentage of your earnings (15%, usually, of the advance and royalty cheques) after the book is contracted by a publisher, but should not charge anything up front -- no submission fees or representation fees before the book is sold to a publisher.

You can find literary agents who represent nonfiction in your field at http://aaronline.org/Find

Self publishing means that as well as you being the author, you also have to be the publisher, which means you need to wear (or pay somone to wear) the hats of substantive editor, fact checker, copyeditor, layout designer, cover artist, accountant, distributor, marketer, and promotions person. Few people can do all (or any!) of those things so they pay other people (or self-publishing-service companies) to do the first five tasks. If you have a direct line to your audience, e.g. you give talks around the country on the subject and can sell your book directly to audience members, then you pretty much have in place the last three tasks. If you don't, then you're pretty much sunk as it's not something you can pay someone else to do, unless you can somehow manage to get in with a distributor who deals directly with bookstores (that's not something I know much about).

Electronic publishing is just another book format. Books can be sold in paperback, hardback, ebook, and/or audio book. E books are slightly cheaper as there is no printing cost, and you don't have to hire a voice-actress, but all of the other stuff -- editing, cover art, etc -- must be done and has the same inherent costs.

It really depends on who you are, and what your book is, and what your expectations are. If you want one physical copy of your book to put on your shelf so you can show your friends that you have authored a book, then a self-publishing service like Lulu or CreateSpace will get you there, and you really don't need to do anything other than write the book and spend a hundred dollars or so. If you want to sell tens of thousands of books to an audience you have direct access to and earn tens of thousands of dollars, then you need to hire an editor and cover artist and sink five thousand dollars or so into printing several thousand copies that you can cart around with you to wave at your audience. If you want to sell tens of thousands of books to an audience you cannot yourself access and earn tens of thousands of dollars, then you need to get your book contracted by a large press.

And, of course, you have to have a book that people want to buy and read.

Unimportant
01-05-2012, 12:53 AM
Yes, it is cheap for the amount of work, but it's also the going rate. And I'm talking about gigs set up by reputable agents and book packagers for books from Big Six publishers, too.

Now, I can imagine a ghostwriter wanting more than 15K for working with a newbie collaborator, because that is much harder work than working with, say, an established series that already has a bunch of books in it and a "bible". But if the ghostee shopped around, they could certainly get another multi-published writer to take the gig for that price.

Ghostwriting (and every other form of writing for hire) is a really hard way to make a living. It's low-paying work when you calculate it out on a per-hour basis.

ICE, do ghostwriters care if a book gets published? I had assumed they could use such publications for their resume to get other ghostwriting jobs, so they'd much prefer to work with an agent or book packager as it's a guaranteed publication, while working with a newbie would probably mean the manuscript would never get published and therefore would never be a credential.

IceCreamEmpress
01-05-2012, 01:31 AM
Yes, a project which had a publication contract already in place would be far more appealing, but even so an unpublished, uncontracted collaborator wouldn't have to pay a significant premium to find a highly qualified ghostwriter. It's all work.

Unimportant
01-05-2012, 03:17 AM
Thanks, good to know!

Filmfeline
01-06-2012, 07:39 AM
I am pretty sure the science fiction (or at least science fantasy) writer who is accustomed to bringing dragons to life is not right for this project. More like someone who'd work on "The sixth day" (Schwarzenegger movie) or .....

Eh, the Sixth Day is far from science fiction ;P cloning is a thing of the past. Real Sci Fi is Dune, the 13th Floor, 5th Element, Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly ♥

Mac H.
01-06-2012, 11:43 AM
... well I'm not sure I've ever read/seen anything like it so I'm short on good examples..If you haven't seen or read anything like it then you really need to read & see more - taking a given point of view on the topics you mentioned (Metaphysics, Epistemology, Consciousness, Astrophysics/Space-Time, Science of Morality, Social Justice and Ethics, Magic, Miracles, Free Will, Mind/Body relationship, Ascension of Mankind, Belief/Knowledge, nature of belief in God/gods) is extremely common in sci-fi & fantasy.

Heck - even if we limit ourself to popular American TV we find that Buffy covered the latter ones (Social Justice,Ethics, Magic, Miracles, Mind/Body relationship, Ascension of Mankind, Belief/Knowledge, nature of belief in Gods) .. and even Stargate probably covered the entire set at some point.

Good luck,

Mac

Manuel Royal
01-09-2012, 03:52 PM
Eh, the Sixth Day is far from science fiction ;P cloning is a thing of the past. Real Sci Fi is Dune, the 13th Floor, 5th Element, Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly ♥Trying to make sense of this. Obviously The Sixth Day is science fiction. In the real world, human cloning lies in the future, not the past. (And that's just talking about realistic cloning, resulting in an in vitro zygote to be implanted in a lady's uterus. In The Sixth Day they had a magical cloning machine that could make adult copies of people, with all their memories.)

Filmfeline
01-11-2012, 07:33 AM
Trying to make sense of this. Obviously The Sixth Day is science fiction. In the real world, human cloning lies in the future, not the past. (And that's just talking about realistic cloning, resulting in an in vitro zygote to be implanted in a lady's uterus. In The Sixth Day they had a magical cloning machine that could make adult copies of people, with all their memories.)

That was a joke. I didn't think much of the film, so I said that. Yes, technically it's sic fi

Snitchcat
01-13-2012, 05:55 AM
That was a joke. I didn't think much of the film, so I said that. Yes, technically it's sic fi

^ This has relevance to the thread's topic?

To the OP, I second the advice to take a look through the stickies in AW, participate on the forums and generally do a lot of research and reading.

Writing fiction yourself, IMO, is much more enjoyable than getting someone else to do it. Personally, it's the learning curve that continues long after you get published that I find invaluably applicable to daily life. And, for me, writing fiction also helps with writing non-fiction (the reverse is also true). For example, increased vocabulary, better prose style, more knowledge of when to use active versus passive voice, understanding the (unspoken) expectations of various genres (fiction) or topics (non-fiction), and so on.

Regarding actual ghostwriters: agree with the others. Money is the motivator here and just as with all other industries, individual levels of competence varies greatly. Much research and caution advised. :)

Hope you get your story (stories) written and find what you're looking for! (^_^)