Don’t Do Business with Crazy People

From Publishers Weekly:

For many writers without platforms or a field of expertise, collaborations can help keep those book contracts and, if they’re lucky, royalties coming in. Unlike with ghostwriting, having an and or with before one’s name on a book jacket is also a way to get credit for doing the heavy word lifting, even if the coauthor gets the glory. And while many writing collaborations can be like happy marriages, some end up in holy acrimony.

Although nearly all my book collaborations have garnered heartfelt acknowledgments, I’ve had a few less-than-perfect unions. One particularly egregious partnership was with a coauthor, “Cindy,” who, during a celebratory lunch with our publisher and literary agent, asked the agent if she could borrow money against her advance to fix her mother’s furnace. I later discovered, as we began working together on her relationship book, that she was functionally illiterate. Even with spell check, she could not string a proper sentence together. Nevertheless, I persevered, turning a booklet of bromides she had stapled together into a bestselling book that still earns royalties after 20 years.

Then, when the time came to promote the book, I learned to my horror that Cindy hadn’t bothered to read it. She’d done a lot of TV appearances in the past to promote her business and was arrogant enough to think she could wing it. But when asked about a tip from the book during a segment on a major network, Cindy stared blankly at the show’s host, like a deer in klieg lights. The interviewer kindly prompted her with the answer so she could regain her footing. After this incident, I demanded that she read the book three times and commit its contents to memory, so neither one of us would be humiliated in the future.

Having finally read the book, Cindy continued the publicity tour, using the publisher’s credit card to send me a bouquet of flowers (how thoughtful) and charge other personal items, including numerous lattes from Starbucks, long after the tour had ended. The editor sent our agent the bill requesting that Cindy reimburse the publisher. Fortunately, she did.

With book sales climbing, our publisher offered us another book deal that Cindy turned down, saying her “Hollywood people” told her the advance was insultingly low (it was substantial) and that she was the next Kelly Ripa, destined to become a TV star. The media attention had gone to her inflated head. The TV offers never came, but she was outraged that books were being published with similar titles. After I explained that a book title can’t be copyrighted, she hired a lawyer to send cease and desist letters to the book title thieves, who included a celebrity comedian whose book sold in the millions. “Why is he allowed to profit off of our ideas?” Cindy whined in a flood of emails. “We were first!”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

The title of the OP was When Book Collaborations Go Bad, however, since continuity on TPV is something that crosses PG’s mind once in awhile and since PG had previously written classic posts entitled, Don’t do Business with Jerks and Don’t Do Business with Crooks, Don’t Do Business with Crazy People seemed to knit together three scattered parts of PG’s mind into a facsimile of intellectual continuity.

Most of PG’s Don’t Do advice arises from many years of helping sane but exasperated clients extricate themselves from various types of binding relationships.

Of course, divorces immediately come to mind.

While Don’t Get Married to the Wrong Person is broadly correct, it provides only general guidance that may not be useful to someone nearing the heated throes of a serious relationship. While PG could speak/write on this topic for hours (while increasing his appreciation for Mrs. PG and her extended willingness to tolerate him around the house), following are a few divorce-minimization categories preceded (of course) by disclaimers.

Like all general categories, these will inevitably be over-broad, so PG apologizes in advance to those who may posses one or more of the following characteristics or are in long-standing and joyful marriages in which one or both parties possess one or more of the following characteristics. In the interests of the aforementioned Continuity, PG will use the familiar advice structure, but feel free to substitute terms like “Think twice before marrying” or “You can have a happy marriage even if your husband/wife is”.

One more preliminary technical note: PG will use the term “mostly” because perfectly wonderful spouses have in the past and will in the future manifest the potential warning signs.

  • Don’t get married to someone mostly because of his/her present appearance.
  • Don’t get married to someone mostly because of his/her current or future financial circumstances.
  • Don’t get married to someone mostly because you had a fabulous weekend/vacation/trip with them.
  • Don’t get married to someone mostly because they come from a family containing many members who display one or more admirable virtues.
  • Don’t get married to someone mostly because of what happened last night.

Since PG’s last Diet Coke is wearing off, he will stop now. Feel free to add more wisdom born of experience (good or bad) in the comments. The contributions of visitors to TPV just might boost this post into the Blogging Hall of Fame (not, of course, located in any old-fashioned city like Cleveland, but forever existing as a shining star in the online firmament).

(Apologies to residents of greater metropolitan Cleveland. Take comfort from the fact that PG could have substituted the names of many, many other cities. You are not alone.)

3 thoughts on “Don’t Do Business with Crazy People”

  1. Don’t get married to someone who “needs” you
    Don’t get married to someone who has an affair on her last night of freedom
    Don’t get married to someone who doesn’t actually like you
    Don’t get married to someone young enough to be your child (or grandchild)

    • But OK to get married to someone old enough to be your parent (or grandparent)? Well, I suppose if they are rich and stupid enough not to get a pre-nup…

  2. Don’t get married to someone who is not on friendly terms with any of his exes. I’m not suggesting you ask for a reference, but if he can’t produce one female from his past who still likes him, it’s a bad sign.

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