The Ghostwriter I am Not

Jerry Payne

August 5, 2020

Sometimes I wish Mr. and Mrs. Payne had raised their youngest son with just a tad fewer scruples. Morality. Ethics. I could be wealthy if I didn’t have these burdens weighing me down. Case in point: the impossible promises I could make for the sake of selling a prospective client on signing a ghostwriting contract with me.

“Will a publisher be interested in your story?! Heck ya! This thing will sell itself! Just let me write it for you and then I’ll call my agent friend in New York. We’re best buds. We went to grade school together. He owes me a favor. He’s helped me get LOTS of clients published. He knows everybody at Simon and Schuster. His wife is the CEO’s sister, for cripes’ sake. Sister! But of course my agent buddy will reach out to ALL the big publishing houses. Heck, they’ll be falling all over themselves to sign you to a deal. You’ll have to fight ‘em off. My guess is that somebody’s going to come along and agree to spend upwards of a million bucks to market your book. They’ll get it in bookstores all over the world. Yep, you heard me. We’ll be going international. In-ter-nash-ee-on-aal! I can already see the full-page ads in the New York and London Times.

“But that’s just the start. Once this thing hits the very top of every bestseller list in the world, we’ll have to start working on the screenplay. Now, listen, I happen to know a guy in L.A. who knows a guy who knows Steven Spielberg. They’re best buds. I think they went to grade school together. Anyway, your story is the kind of story Spielberg loves. Whoa—I’m having a vision: you and me at the Oscars. Can you see it?

“Now, the thing is, we need to get started right away. Naturally I’ll need the whole fee paid up front. Hey, that’s just the way it’s done, you know. Don’t pay any attention to those amateurs out there who break their fee into stages. Do they know Steven Spielberg? Are they best friends with the people who run the major publishing houses?

“Besides, I’ll have this thing written within a month. Two on the outside. I won’t work on anybody’s project but yours! And, hey, with all the money you’re going to make on this book, my fee is going to seem like pocket change!

“Can I what? Guarantee publication? Um, sure, why not? You have my word. Well, no, it’s not exactly in the contract, but listen, I’m a guy you can trust. After all, you and I are going to have a long and profitable future together. Who needs every little thing in writing when they have that kind of relationship?

“Oh, by the way, there’s a bridge near where I live called the Sunshine Skyway. It’s a beautiful bridge. I happen to own a majority interest in it and I’ve been thinking of selling. As long as we’re signing a ghostwriting contract, let’s talk about the deal I can make you on that bridge…”

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