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    Here to help: In which a ghostwriter brainstorms with a celebrity.

    Janet Manley

    September 19, 2023, 11:21am

    You’re famous, you’ve made bank, you’re known everywhere you go from Erewhon to that Tracy Anderson class with the broomstick, but there’s one thing you don’t have: a bestselling book, or the word “author” appended to your name. I can help, but we will want to consider exactly the kind of project we embark on. To start, I’ve jotted down some broad ideas.

    a tell-all memoir

    You obviously don’t need to tell everything, just enough clicky revelations to get you a spot in People and GQ. If we go with this option, I will be available for you to send long, dictated memos while getting infrared skin treatments, and will in return need you to be able to recall the facts of different situations without telling me to “ask Saskia.” Your assistant isn’t the one not writing this book, you aren’t.

    a version of my critically celebrated memoir with your name on it

    It did work once!

    a book of funny essays

    Now, I know this seems like a really appealing option, but I want to just level-set before we go deeper. It’s true that we can pad out the manuscript with humorous lists and maybe even a doodle or two to eat up some pages, but even with white space, that didn’t get Amy Poehler or Lena Dunham over the line. You’re really going to need at least five, well, four SOLID, funny stories, and they can’t all be about something another movie star said at Cannes. I’m good, but I can’t make that sing to a midmarket audience. You also need to remember that when you’re telling stories on Jimmy Fallon, that guy will laugh and desk-slap any story that gets him paid, so we can’t use any of that.

    a thinly veiled fiction project about an actor who’s smarter than the roles they are given

    I like it, I do like it, but the tricky thing here is that they’re not going to cast you in the eventual screenplay adaptation, if that’s the real hope. To be fully transparent.

    we take your ideas written on the back of napkins and slap a cover on it

    Everyone loves an autodidact! (Well, everyone but the copyeditors.) It’s intriguing to bring to fruition a kind of Malcolm Gladwell meets Hoop Dreams meets On the Road meets Gone Girl, but listen, Matthew McConaughey, at some point you need to pick a lane.

    a children’s book (sincere option)

    You’ve been thinking of death, as have I, believe me. I’m not convinced that a broad metaphor about the changing of the seasons will connect to a child who still struggles to correctly name their aunts and uncles. I just don’t think the time-melancholy-handing-on-of-the-generational-baton story is going to do as well as a raccoon swearing at bedtime.

    a children’s book (fun option)

    A kid who is different from all the others, maybe because they’re a rabbit and everyone else is a giraffe, and has to be true to who they are. It’s ORIGINAL. Animals DO SELL. We could do a spot gloss, and it would probably get you at least on the TODAY Show.

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