Friday, July 16, 2010

Ghostwriters In The Sky

Ghostwriters In The Sky

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

I'm a ghostwriter. Other people hire me to write stuff for them, but they get to put their name on it. I've ghostwritten blog posts, brochures, press releases, websites, and half a book.

It's an odd career choice, especially when you consider that if you did this in high school or college, it was cheating and you could be expelled for it.

I'd like to say that's why I turned down a guy in college who asked me to write his paper for $10. But in truth, I turned him down because it was a Thursday night, I was going to a party, and I wasn't changing my plans for 10 lousy bucks. (He wouldn't go any higher either, so I didn't feel bad when I left him with his stack of books and a pad of paper.)

Ghostwriting is usually considered a reputable, if mostly anonymous and thankless, job. Ghostwriters write speeches for politicians and CEOs, books for celebrities, and marketing copy and press releases for businesses. A ghostwriter never gets their name on anything they write, but they do get their name on their paycheck, and that's all that matters.

Now there's a new type of ghostwriter in town: the dating service ghostwriter. These wordsmiths are flexing their literary muscles, writing clever little messages for single men and women who don't have the time or ability to be clever themselves.

A recent story on the BBC website discussed how several ghostwriters are becoming virtual Cyrano de Bergeracs by writing messages on behalf of dating service customers.

"We've noticed a definite trend with more and more of these companies springing up, and there is a huge demand," Mark Brooks, editor of Online Personals Watch, an Internet dating trend-tracking site, told the BBC.

Evan Marc Katz, a dating coach and owner of e-cyrano.com, told the Beeb, "(t)here are a surprising number of people out there who don't know how to market themselves in an original way."

Apparently, "I like piña coladas, getting caught in the rain, and the feel of the ocean, and the taste of champagne," just doesn't cut it anymore.

So that's where Katz comes in. He interviews his clients extensively, and then writes the initial profile message for around $230, and no mention of piña coladas.

Some of the dating ghostwriters are also dating coaches, charging around $140 per hour to walk their clients through every step of a date. And a few will even "ghost" for a client — we ghostwriters use "ghost" as a verb. We're cool that way — picking out the potential partners, communicating via email with them, and even arranging the first date. One company, VDA, will guarantee two to five dates per month, and will only charge $600 – $1,200 per month to do it.

Katz says that his clients are not losers, but are usually successful professionals. You'd have to be to spend $1,200 per month to find a girlfriend or boyfriend. (But if you're making that much money and still can't find a significant other, the "loser" label would like to have a word with you.)

But don't assume that Katz is just some geek who happens to be handy with a pen and paper. He has loads of experience to back it up.

"I did online dating myself for years with great success and I worked as a customer-care representative for an online dating company," said Karz.

Doing something like online dating "for years" doesn't sound like great success to me, unless one's goal is to be saddled with disappointing date after disappointing date. But still, Katz is married now, so it looks like all his years of hard work and dating drudgery finally paid off.

However, some critics claim that dating service ghostwriting is dishonest

"It's awful. You're misrepresenting yourself," said Jared Gordon, owner of the A Bad Case of the Dates blog.

No, not really. A book ghostwriter doesn't lie about her subject. A speechwriter doesn't write lies for his client. An advertising agency doesn't lie about its — er never mind. All a dating ghostwriter does is present their client in the best possible light. Most people don't have the innate ability or willingness to promote themselves. They either don't know how or are too humble to promote themselves in the best possible light. It takes a ghostwriter to bring out the information and then show the world how great their clients are.

Who am I to tell someone it's dishonest or that they're misrepresenting themselves?

After all, they've got more than 10 bucks, and I'm already married, so it's not like I've got plans on a Thursday night.

---
Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Erik. I'm Jared from A Bad Case of the Dates. Thanks for writing this up. It was a good read, and you have some solid points.

    There's a difference between ghostwriting a book or a speech and writing someone's online dating correspondence. A book or a speech might discuss someone's point of view or life story, but on an online site, it's not your life story or your point of view on an issue that you're marketing – it's yourself.

    I take issue with using a ghostwriter and claiming that their words represent not necessarily your point of view, but rather who you are. Additionally, possible dates will decide to spend their time with you and potentially invest in you emotionally, largely depending upon those initial correspondences. If you're shy and they market you as outgoing (implicitly or explicitly), then who really wins there? If you come across as eloquent, and in person are not, then what's to be gained?

    Any level of intentional self-misrepresentation is dishonest. It's not necessarily a damnable offense, surely, but it is dishonest.

    To be clear, I appreciate your point of view, and I have nothing at all against ghostwriters. What I take issue with is when people deliberately pass off the work of someone else to represent who they are within: to use what someone else appraises of you as a fair representation of yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi there!

    Shortstorybook.net is organizing a short story writing contest.

    We do think that you too might have a marvelous story to tell, one that is your own! So if you can compose it in not more than few words, we would want to hear from you. Also, you stand a chance to get your story published on our site and win cash prize of USD 100.

    “Then what are you waiting for? …put on your thinking cap and get writing. For registration and other information check - http://bit.ly/short-story-contest-2010

    Happy writing!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Jared,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I don't know if we quite disagree or not. It depends on the role of the ghostwriter. I see what they do as taking a person's words and description and writing them better. I don't think they are misrepresenting their clients — no changing of height, weight, job, or anything along those lines. Basically, what they're doing is the same thing that marketers do: highlight a product's cool points, without discussing their downsides.

    To me, this is no different than hiring a resume writer to polish up your resume. A person may be a horrible speller, but a great employee. Yet they're not going to get past the first round of screenings if the HR person denies them strictly based on spelling.

    I do agree with you that the ghostwriters have crossed the line by posing as that person for the first few email exchanges, arranging their dates, etc.

    BTW, I loved your site. I spent 45 minutes reading ABCD between edits of my column.


    Erik

    ReplyDelete
  4. it's like the real life: we are working and other people earn the money.
    http://rolfsdiary.wordpress.com/

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I am accepting comments from people with Google accounts to cut down on spam. Spammers aren't likely to register. There's been some Chinese spammer who keeps leaving spam comments under different names, and I'm hoping this will deter him. Jerk.

Other spam comments will be deleted with malicious glee.