Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ghostwriters in the wind

There is a great distinction between a ghostwriter and a co-author. In my case, I was never hired to be a ghost (I'm not transparent and I'm still alive) which is good. On the other hand, there is a benefit to being a ghostwriter. Ghostwriters exchange their services for money -- up front before a project has begun. In addition to selling their services, they give up the right to use their name on the book cover or get any credit for what they've done.

I suppose if I were offered an up front payment that covered the cost of my time and expenses, plus compensated me for lost income during the course of the interviews, editing and writing process I might have considered accepting the job and taken no credit -- just money. However, my services included much more than simply interviewing and transcribing.

I spent countless weeks researching and corroborating stories. It occurred to me that there would be added value to interviewing my subject's friends and colleagues to add substance to the person that he was from the perspective of others who knew him. A complete discography needed to be provided and I had to verify everything on the list. I was fortunate to find an expert who could help with details and professional photographers who could provide excellent photos going back to 1975 during the peak of Cooper's career.

Putting everything in order, making sense out of disconnected memories, deciding what should go into the index...well I won't bore you with the specifics, but in retrospect, whatever payment I would have received up front would simply have covered my being a ghost. None of the other work would have been done. The result would have been a relatively short, one-dimensional transcription of memories. The memories are good, and they are entertaining but the additional material transforms what might have been a memoir into a well-rounded, full-length book, based upon conversations with Leroy Cooper about his life and the wonderful contributions from his old friends of whom he talked so fondly.

By the way, if anyone knows the origin of the term ghostwriter feel free to leave me a comment. I really don't think Caspar, as smart as he was, could do the work I'm doing.

Note: Most of you are too young to remember Jim Morrison's song, "Riders in the Wind" (ref. title to this post) so forgive my reference (but check out the song, now I can't stop singing it).

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