Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Your Publication (is) History

I am a lawyer-turned-children's writer. Before I made this happy transformation, I ghost wrote a law book. I am now applying to attend a children's writer's conference. The application asks me to describe my professional writing career. Can I name the book and say that I ghost wrote it, or do I have to use some sort of euphemism like "primary contributing author"? I worked on it for about a year, and I would like to specify the name, if it's acceptable to do so. I am not contractually restricted from naming it, but I don't wish to violate any unwritten ethical code.
It is a little dicey to tell strangers about your ghostwriting jobs. As it's not in your contract (as it would be in many ghostwriting instances), you can talk about it, but you may make people a little uncomfortable if they're wondering whether you should be mentioning it.

I think more to the point is that previous publication in law (or physics, or finance, or pretty much any adult topic) does not say anything about your ability to write for children. No, take my word for it. I've met and been submitted to by lots and lots of people who are published writers in one way or another, but their writing for children stinks like feet.

This is not to say that your writing stinks like feet. I am going to assume that your writing smells like lilies and peppermint, and publishers are going to turn your head and ruin your sense of economy with all the money they throw at you. But until that happens, seriously. The law book you wrote means nothing.


Kalynne Pudner said...

Is the irrelevance here based on the stylistic difference between legal text and children's books? What if the type of writing was not quite so dissimilar...say, an academic analysis of a given social practice and a novel about an incident of that same social practice?

Editorial Anonymous said...

The difference I've noticed is in storytelling vs non-storytelling. If you've no experience at storytelling, don't assume that you can do it just because you're a "writer".
Most of children's books are storytelling (even the nonfiction), so that skill is kinda important.

Anonymous said...

That you finished a book project is a point for you, no matter what the topic. Especially if that is your only professional writing credit. Many children's writers have switched professions, so it shouldn't be too shocking. I think you should put it in; and use whatever phrase you're comfortable with, whether ghostwriter or contributing writer. It's not going to make or break your application, but it says something about your persistence to finish a project.

Anonymous said...

Ghost writers have it rough when it comes to claiming credit. If the contract states you can't disclose, well, you're a lawyer...
I think it's great that you are trying children's books.
I don't have any fancy jobs in my background, so I have nothing to toot my horn about.
Unless things have up ended too much, the quality of the work should be what counts.

Anonymous said...

I posted the original question. Thanks EA for your reply and also the other writers for their comments. I submitted the conference application before receiving EA's reply. I handled it by saying I ghost wrote a 675-page criminal procedure book (without specifying the name). I thought that was vague enough, but it acknowledged my effort. I am in the revision phase of a NF children's book, and once that is released, I'll never mention the ghost written book again!

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