On April 14th, my oldest brother sent me a message on Facebook. He said that he might have found a writing job for me and to call the guy as soon as possible. Jumping at the chance to write, I gave this guy a call. J (not his real name) answered the phone. I let him know that my brother gave me his number and that I heard he was looking for a writer. After several hours on the phone with J, he basically offered me the job.
The job entailed being a ghostwriter for J’s graphic, yet non-fictional manuscript. He didn’t give me all the details, but I accepted the challenge. A few weeks went by and I heard from him every day. We spent hours and hours on the phone discussing nonessential information – basically using me as his personal shrink – until finally, we discussed pay.
The writing position was to last an estimated 12-15 weeks in length, working Monday-Friday, 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. It was agreed that I would make X amount each week, then given a lump sum for the remaining balance upon completion of the manuscript. (If anyone really wants to know about it, just ask in the comments and I’ll answer.) It sounded like a fair enough deal and I was onboard with it. But then, delays started happening and red flags kept popping up.
J had previously been through three other writers, which he claimed got fired because they tried to steal his work/story. Okay, sounds fair, I’d probably do the same if someone tried to steal 24 years of my research, but THREE of them? This was the first red flag. Then, he told me that everything was in order, but I needed to sign a contract forbidding me to speak of his story to anyone, including my family. It’s a standard procedure in the entertainment industry and something that I like to call a “gag contract.” No biggie there. The problem? None of the paperwork had been done, as he previously told me.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been organizing and emailing documents – all stuff that should have already been taken care of – to his investors. He’s been using me as his personal secretary, which I told him countless times that I am not. He wasn’t happy about that. For someone who claims to be well organized and professional, I’ve had to do his job for him. I know about sacrificing to get what you want, but seeing as I have not seen a DIME to date, I see HUGE warning signs here.
Besides the point, after our last meeting, J wanted me to guarantee that I would complete this manuscript for him because he couldn’t afford to find a FIFTH writer. While I understand his position and the urgency to get this done, here are the terms he expected me to agree to, and sign a legal document stating:
“Should Ali Worton not complete this manuscript, she will be obligated to reimburse (100%) of the money back to the investors.”
I’ll let that sink in for a minute.
I may not be the wisest person in the world, but I have enough sense to protect myself from such bogus terms. First off, I would have no protection and if I signed that document, I wouldn’t only be digging my own grave, I’d be burying myself in it by the end. Who’s to say that a week before the manuscript was finished, they wouldn’t fire me just so they wouldn’t have to pay me? I don’t care how many writers they’ve gone through, I’m not an idiot.
So I told J, “If you hired a contractor to build you a house and he didn’t finish, would you expect him to reimburse YOU for all the work, materials, and time he put into your house?”
Naturally, his answer was, “No, of course not.”
“Well, J, there’s my answer. There is ABSOULTELY NO WAY I will sign such a contract. I am a pregnant wife, mother, and a student who has to pay a substantial amount of money back. There’s NO way I will corner myself like that and I will NOT agree to those terms.”
After discussing my terms and agreements with him, I assumed we came to an understanding. WRONG! Nope, I got a call today telling me they wanted to cut my pay in half, then give me a lump sum of the rest of the money when I finish the manuscript. When I stood firm in my decision to turn down their counter offer, he told me he might just find another writer than will agree with his terms.
I told him, “Okay, fine, no problem!” Any writer stupid enough to sign any such document(s) is… well, may God have mercy on their soul!
Case in point, I’m glad I had my Blog to come back to because now I can take my own advice, “When the right opportunity arises, I won’t have any doubts that it will be the right one.” Although I have serious doubts about taking this “opportunity,” I will, as they say, “leave the ball in his court.”
For now, I will continue to play his charades and see how it pans out. If all else, this has been my opportunity to learn something new, and to stand up for myself. As I’ve told my family, this project will not make or break my career; I will amount to something great without J.