Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Role-Reversal: My Stint as an "Author"

I'm living a double life and I've decided to "out" myself this morning. For the past six months, I have been working nights and weekends as a ghost writer of sorts. I got the job because of who I know (and maybe also because of my long history as a development editor).

My longtime friend Linda Seifert's husband Mark is an anatomy professor at IU med school. This summer he got a contract to write a Complete Idiot's Guide on human anatomy. But he wanted someone to help him "Idiotize" it and also help him navigate the publishing process. When he offered me the gig, I couldn't turn it down: great experience, and also the chance to help a friend.

I think he will agree with me that it's been a wild ride. Although we missed some deadlines (gasp!), we turned in a manuscript that was quite clean. Now we're in the author review stage and can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The experience has given me a renewed appreciation of just how much thought, time, and work go into every book that is published. When I crack the whip as an acquisitions editor and say I need something turned around in a week, someone is missing spending time with their kids. I will try to approach my "day job" with renewed empathy for all my authors for whom writing isn't their only responsibility.

I've been asked whether I'd do it again, and the answer is "Not while I have a full-time job." It's just been too stressful trying to do it all. I did love the experience, but it was also hard on Jason and Cate. Jason became the laundry maven and Cate began acting out for attention. It's time for me to just do one job for a while now.


Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

What a cool gig, Lori! I hope the book sells well. I bet your readers would be interested in knowing more about your writing process, about the back-and-forth between you and your coauthor.

Lori Cates Hand said...

Hi Katharine,

Thanks for the kind wishes--although I was paid in a lump sum rather than royalties, so it doesn't matter to me how it sells. But for Mark's sake, I hope it does well!

In a nutshell, I gave him an Idiot's Guide format to work with and then turned him loose on the first chapters. When he was done, I did some heavy development and helped him write sidebars and transitions. Then he reviewed my work, I reviewed his review, and so on....