Reader Request Week #9: Can I Be Bought?
I am rich and crazy. I want you to write a novel, putting forth your best effort. It will be objectively considered your best work to date. And then I want you to name a flat rate for you to sell it to me. I will have it published under my own name. No one will ever associate it with you. I may even win an award or two. How much?
Oh, that’s easy: Nothing. Which is to say I probably wouldn’t accept the gig.
Which is not to say that there’s anything wrong with making the offer, or someone taking it. There’s a name for people who create books for which other people take credit: Ghost writers. I’ve known lots of people who have ghost written, and it can be a pretty sweet gig, since you can make a reasonable amount of money doing what you like without having to worry about damage to your own “brand” if people hate that particular book (and if they love it, you’ll get more ghostwriting gig offers). And while it’s not exactly ghost writing, I’ve certainly done writing in books without direct attribution, most profitably with the Uncle John Bathroom Reader series, for which I’ve written lots of little articles (for those I get a “thanks” in the book). And of course when I do corporate work, my name is nowhere on the final product.
On the other hand, corporate work and Uncle John articles are fairly short — I can do an Uncle John article in a couple of hours, and most corporate projects I’ve done are a week at most of my time. Writing a novel takes more time and effort and at the end of the day doing a work of that scope without attribution simply doesn’t interest me. I like money, but I don’t like it so much that I’d be willing to do work that I wouldn’t enjoy doing just to have it. Mind you, this is easy to say when no one really is flashing cash in front of me. If someone actually showed up at my door with a $5 million minimum in non-sequential bills, I might have to think about it. Until that point it’s pretty easy to say no.
The other part of it is that I actually like have my name associated with my fiction work, and to have the work reach a reasonable audience. I’ve had more than one offer by people who want me to write a short story just for them, with payment that outstrips what I can usually get on the market. I usually turn them down. If I wanted to write for just one person, I’d write stories and then never show them to people. I don’t typically do that; I have a performance gene.
(This is not to say I haven’t written stories for just one person; I have. But I did because it was someone I loved, not because I was offered money for it. The things we do as gifts come from a different place than the things we do for money or for the approval of others.)
But basically: I’d say no because it wouldn’t interest me, and I don’t think any completely idiotic amount of money would get me to chance my mind. Life’s too short to do things that aren’t interesting, if you are in the fortunate position of being able to choose to do things that interest you. I am, for now, at the very least. So I’ll do what pleases me, thanks.