My Heart Bleeds for Innocent Would-Be Authors

would be author

Think of life as a round circle, like a pie. One slice of the pie is your area of core competency—perhaps even genius. It’s what you do so well. Next to that slice is another slice of equal size—what you know you don’t know. For example, I know I cannot add, subtract or cook anything edible.

Then there’s the rest of the pie: The three-quarters in life that we don’t even know we don’t know. In that mysterious realm, for most people, lies the secrets to successful book writing, publishing and marketing.

That is where far too many prospective authors fall victim to those birds of prey poised to swoop down from the sky (okay the cloud) and take advantage of them, like the sharp-beaked scavengers they truly are.

These inexperienced, “virginal” would-be authors often have a wonderful story to tell—be it a memoir, a business book, a medical, spiritual or other kind of inspirational tome. They may need help from a ghostwriter, an editor, a publisher, and a publicist. Not knowing where to turn, not having anyone with similar experience to ask, they search the internet, only to find a plethora of slick book aggregators.

For anywhere for around $30,000 to $50,000—in some cases much more—these firms promise the world. The only problem is, only a tiny portion of their hefty fee goes to the actual ghostwriter or editor who does the hard work. This means that the writers or editors in their “stables” are essentially desperate people who are obliged to accept substandard fees. As a result, they often produce sub-standard work, either because of their mediocre skills or because of the volume of work they have to take on to make an actual living.

And, at no time do these companies tell their new clients the truth about what it takes in today’s climate to garner meaningful attention for any book—whether traditionally published or self-published. This is a new day, you guys, and social media sells books. Proactive outreach to traditional media outlets and book reviewers will be necessary along with social and digital media.

If all you want is a family history to pass down to your kids and kids’ kids, that’s fine. But if you want a really well-written book that can propel your business and reputation to greater heights, and act as the ultimate marketing tool, or have any other kind of book in mind, be it non-fiction or fiction that will sell significant numbers of copies and help you make a name for yourself as a writer—well, wake up and smell the mendacity, as Big Daddy says in Tennessee William’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Don’t just hitchhike with drivers you don’t know and risk being taken for a dangerous dead-end ride.

There are better options. If you want to know what those are, give me a holler and I will gladly enlighten you. I am just so saddened when I hear stories of how people were taken in by unscrupulous firms. Since they never get what they paid for, they wind up believing that all ghostwriters, entrepreneurial publishers and book publicists are untrustworthy and just out to take advantage of them.

I have ghostwritten 45 books so far. I’ve gotten them published and promoted in the best possible ways. My authors are happy campers—as they will tell you. I am not for everyone, but at least I am honest, and my clients get exactly what they pay for—and more.

So call me. When you catch a glimpse of “what you don’t even know that you don’t know“ —then you will. Knowledge is power.

Judy Katz 212-580-833