This week, he wants me to write ads for Craig's List and other publications for a fund-raising project for disabled vets. And now he has a cobbler friend who also wants ads. My neighbor's the sort of fellow who talks non-stop, not waiting for feedback, but I managed to force my way into the conversation saying, "We haven't talked about money."
"No money," he said. "We'll get to that later. This is a sweat equity project, with a possible share in the profits."
"No," I pushed. "I charge $40 an hour."
"Then we don't have anything more to talk about," he proclaimed. "When I'm ready, I'll hire an advertising agency." (An ad agency will cost him 5X$40, probably.) "But you're still welcome to come have a drink."
Anyway, a couple of months ago, another eager guy suggested I write a book for him (my business card says I teach ESL and creative writing. Like my neighbor, he claimed he could never write a book but needed a ghost writer.) It was to be an advice book relating his life experiences and business acumen which actually sounded rather interesting. He generously offered to share in the profits of the book.
Now, if you've been writing awhile, you know the odds of getting a non-fiction book written by an unknown person published by an established royalty-paying publisher. I politely explained that I would need $1,000 upfront and he could keep all the profits. He blanched.
My hard-nose attitude came about after an experience three years ago. A local musician had an idea for a children's book, but again, needed someone to write it for him. It sounded like a fun plot, something I'd enjoy working on. He contacted me because I've had fourteen children's books published. He planned to publish the book himself, just as he does his music CDs. It sounded like a solid deal.
I drove over the mountain to Kaneohe several times, meeting with him, getting his take on how he saw the main character and the gist of the story. He kept changing the plot and adding characters, but after a couple of months, we had a coherent, lively story.
Then, he costed the book. To hire an illustrator and pay a publisher for a full-color children's picture book cost him a bunch more than he had anticipated. "I just can't do it," he said.
So I got nothing. Time, gas, hours and hours at the computer. Zilch. Nada.
So if you have an idea for a great book, one that will "sell millions; everyone will buy it," great. I'm interested. But I'll take my money up front, mahalo nui loa.