It was one of those “get to know you” exercises in German class. One of the questions was: “what do you do for a living.”
Usually I say I am a consultant. This time I wasn’t really thinking and used the first word that came to mind. I said I was a writer, which is true. There was an immediate follow-up question: “have you written any books?” I said yes, which is also true. Then my teacher and some of my fellow students wanted to know where they could buy one of my books.
My German is limited, to put it mildly. Trying to explain the concept of “ghost writer” when you don’t have the vocabulary is difficult, to put it mildly. Especially as most of my classmates had never heard of the concept before.
My name isn’t in either of the books I have written. Not even in the acknowledgements. Which gives you a good idea of what I think of them – I made sure the name was removed before they went to the printer.
I had high hopes for my first effort. It was a hot topic and I had an academic publisher who had expressed interest in the manuscript. The politician whose name was going on the cover was pleased that I had, with little effort found someone interested in the book. His previous book on the topic had been self-published, and here I was with a legitimate proposal. It sounded great to him, until it came time to put words to paper.
I kept insisting we back up our facts and figures with footnotes. I also wanted to talk with people in the field and provide more than one voice. Just what you would expect from a serious work.
The politician, sadly, had other ideas. He wanted a book-length rant presenting some of his pet ideas. Figures to back up his positions he pulled out of his head – and occasionally changed for effect. I never bothered following up with the prospective publisher.
It was a shame really. As I envisaged the book, it would have made an important contribution to discussion of an important social issue. The politician’s ideas and premise had merit. He just wanted to do things his way and as a result the message got lost. The book was self-published, a limited run, and I doubt most of the people who were given copies bothered to read it.
The politician in question was very proud of the book and didn’t think it right I wasn’t acknowledged. He made sure to thank me and a colleague in the forward. The colleague and I both made sure to remove that reference before the book went to the printer. If the politician ever noticed, he didn’t say anything. (Though he must have been happy with the work – I did write his next book also.)
You’ll just have to take my word for it though. Given that I wasn’t happy with either finished product, I’m not going to give you the names of the books. If I am ever called on to prove my participation for some reason, I have electronic copies of both works. I can’t see though that I would ever want to do that. The books are nowhere near up to my standards.
How do you explain all that in broken German? I’ve got to choose my words more carefully in German class, if only to avoid questions I don’t want to answer.