Almost ten months have passed since I posted Part 1 on this topic, on April 29, 2011. Time for an update!
Cutting to the chase for the time period, I must announce that Karen and GW-1 (Ghostwriter 1) recently parted ways, and so for the moment this blog subject will take the form of a cautionary tale. I’ve only known two other authors who worked with ghostwriters, but both of those authors also needed to work with more than one before finding the just-right match. In Karen’s case, and she’d agree, the lack of a clear picture of her target audience (it’s never really “everyone”) may have been an Achilles heel for the project that she and GW-1 undertook.
It takes two, of course, to wrestle with that problem, and Karen didn’t feel the mood in the room was totally collaborative. By the time both participants realized the enormity of the error in assumptions, Karen’s funds were tapped out by other needs. She decided to terminate the project as allowed by contract. I wonder how often this happens to ghostwriters, and have a feeling that the more emotionally close to the topic the author is, the more often the first (or second or third …) ghostwriter doesn’t work out. It’s a tough assignment not only to grock a new subject area but also to grock the author’s inner workings. When a person’s very soul is connected to the messages s/he wants to communicate, emails and phone calls can do only so much.
The very connection to the emotional factor, however, may have been why GW-1 moved the book more toward memoir than handbook. In the end, Karen is clear she wants a motivating handbook to help teachers help students. She doesn’t want the book to be “her story,” which she believes just gets in the way of the real messages. Her handbook will be chock full of kids’ stories, and how a selection of easy-to-use techniques can turn around bad situations for all ages of students. It is the kids’ stories that will provide motivation to the teacher-reader. Karen’s unique strategies reach the teachers as well as the students and can have a dramatic effect on the atmosphere inside a school.
We’ll see how GW-2 (not picked yet) fares. But I think the clarification of how to reach the book’s ultimate goal will make the difference.