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#MicroblogMondays 50: The Secret Book

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The New York Times ran a story about a guy who gets paid to write books that will never be published.  He is hired by families looking to have a memoir written to preserve their family history.  So no accolades, no fame, no royalties — just working on a long piece of work that will only be read by a few individuals… if any.  It’s totally possible that the author will do all that work, and the final book will be put in a box in someone’s attic, never to be read.

Oh, and the books are all confidential, so the author also can’t leak any of the juicy details of their client’s life.

It was a fun question to consider: Would you dedicate years working intensely on a book that would — without a doubt — never be published?  Or do you need to have, at least, the hope of publication to have the energy to work on the project day in and day out?


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1. Shailaja/ Moving Quill 16. Baby Blue Sunday 31. Teacups & Typewriters
2. Jessica 17. Geets 32. Good Families Do
3. Mali (No Kidding) 18. Karen (River Run Dry) 33. Just Heather
4. Mali (A Separate Life) 19. Shilpa 34. One and Done?
5. Middle Girl 20. Unpregnant Chicken 35. Failing at Haiku
6. Anks 21. Solo Mama 36. Creating a Startup Revolution..
7. No Baby Ruth 22. Isabelle 37. Mrs. Gamgee
8. Vinitha 23. Traci York, Writer 38. Persnickety chickadee
9. Rajlakshmi 24. Loribeth (The Road Less Travelled) 39. Aly @ Breathe Gently
10. Journeywoman 25. The bespectacled mother 40. Stephanie (Travelcraft Journal)
11. Naba 26. Non Sequitur Chica 41. Sweet are the uses of Adversity
12. Tas IVFer 27. Muddy Boots and Diamonds 42. deathstar
13. Mary Francis 28. Parul | Happiness & Food 43. Cristy
14. Inconceivable! 29. apluseffort 44. illustr8d
15. Lori Lavender Luz 30. Infertile Girl



1 Shailaja { 08.10.15 at 5:24 am }

Hmm, interesting. I suppose if you loved writing for the sake of it and were truly not touched by anything else that may come with it, you could do it. But, to be honest? That wouldn’t be for me. I am not talking about the financial aspect, but to be read, at least by more than my close circle of friends, is something that keeps me blogging. I am pretty sure that would extend to a book I would write as well. It’s a sort of validation, I suppose that all the work gets viewed. Interesting question to reflect upon, Mel πŸ™‚

2 Jessica { 08.10.15 at 5:43 am }

After years of working for employers, I am exhausted. No, I wouldn’t write books for a boss.

3 No Baby Ruth { 08.10.15 at 6:12 am }

From someone who isn’t a professional writer, my instinct would be yes. But I work in a field that has very few to no accolades for the completed work. Just satisfaction in a job well done. So there’s that…

4 Mali { 08.10.15 at 6:22 am }

If I got paid for it (!), yes, I’d do it. Writing a history or memoir and preserving it for future generations would be wonderful – even with the risk that it might end up in am attic. Perhaps I can see the benefit in that, simply because I don’t have descendants, and it would be a nice way to have an impact.

5 Vinitha { 08.10.15 at 7:15 am }

I might do this, if I am asked to. πŸ™‚

6 illustr8d { 08.10.15 at 7:34 am }

No. Even though that is the likely fate of most books, part of what drives me is the possibility of being read

7 anks { 08.10.15 at 7:34 am }

It would KILL me to have completed a book and not see it published!!!

8 Middle Girl { 08.10.15 at 7:39 am }

How is he able to build a clientele? Is this better or worse than ghost writing?

With the right set of conditions (handsome compensation and I can produce other work for other purposes) then, yes. But, then again, I don’t get paid to write and don’t have much of an audience now.

I suppose it boils down to, “why I write.” Or if the author of these memoirs of non-celebrities is more historian than writer.

Yes, very interesting question.

9 Mary Francis { 08.10.15 at 9:02 am }

i am working on a book that will never be published. ‘Poems Complete And Unabridged. ‘

10 Katherine A { 08.10.15 at 9:22 am }

Funny enough, my first thought when I read this was “ooooh, that sounds like a cool job!” And it does sound like a cool job, especially if I got paid reasonably well for it. I like hearing family stories, and it would be an interesting challenge to craft a piece of writing that did some of those justice, even if only a few people ever read the final draft.

On the other hand, I suspect at some point I’d hear a story that I’d eventually want to lightly fictionalize and possibly include in a piece of writing intended for more traditional publishing and wider audience…which is where things would probably get messy. Especially if I ever did wind up writing a more widely published novel, I’d wonder if those families would eventually see themselves in it – even if I honestly hadn’t written about them.

11 Lori Lavender Luz { 08.10.15 at 9:31 am }

I would totally love the research and stories and writing, and knowing that I collected and organized it all for the family would make it worth my while (along with commensurate pay). I would not need to see it published and get widespread recognition.

12 Jenn { 08.10.15 at 9:38 am }

I’ve been writing on my blog for four years now and don’t expect any sort of recognition, money, etc. I write for myself and my family. I think it would be great to be able to turn my story into a book but I don’t know if that will happen. I’m not sure I could work on an extensive project that wasn’t my own without compensation. I like delving into stories but to maintain momentum, I would need it to be fulfilling in multiple ways.

13 Karen (River Run Dry) { 08.10.15 at 10:21 am }

If the person/family was interesting, and the story compelling, I would do it for the love of the story. I don’t ever expect to be published in my lifetime, and I write anyway, so I wouldn’t mind that part. It’s more the thrill of the learning and writing it all down that would appeal to me.

14 Working mom of 2 { 08.10.15 at 10:26 am }

Oh I wish I could afford this guy to gather my dad’s papers and write a family history. Of course he’d need to speak my father’s native tongue to decipher his notes…

15 Lindsay | Solo Mama { 08.10.15 at 10:32 am }

I write for myself, first and foremost. But I would LOVE to be published. I think that guy’s job sounds kinda cool. If I were getting paid for that type of job, I wouldn’t care if I was published or not.

16 Isabelle { 08.10.15 at 10:57 am }

I wouldn’t write just any books that wouldn’t be published, but if it’s for a project like what this guy does, it’d actually be interesting to help families preserve a part of their history. And if the compensation is decent, I’d do it.

17 Traci York { 08.10.15 at 11:05 am }

I spent years (and still have the notebooks to prove it) writing daily in my journals, and I kinda hope no one ever does read them (I was emo before emo was a thing! *grin*). I think projects like this would be amazing, especially since there still exists the possibility that at least one person might read it.

18 loribeth { 08.10.15 at 11:25 am }

I would consider writing a book like the one described, particularly if it chronicled an interesting life for appreciative family members. What a gift to the future generations of that family!! It’s still an audience, albeit a very limited one, and presumably you’d be well paid for all the research & writing that would be involved.

19 the bespectacled mother { 08.10.15 at 11:43 am }

This was an interesting piece of news. I think if I am going to be paid handsomely then I would not mind writing memoirs for families. Family histories can be very interesting.

20 Ana { 08.10.15 at 11:48 am }

actually I would love it and prefer it! you get paid regardless of the vagaries of public opinion. I’m used to spending hours/weeks/months and sweat/blood/tears to write something that will be rejected and getting absolutely nothing but a page of criticisms for my efforts, so this sounds divine! And it won’t be “secret”, the family will read it, and if its really good, I can imagine it would get passed on to friends, etc… someone will get enjoyment from your efforts. (and you get paid!)
Hmm, maybe this mindset is why I’m not nor do I want to be a published writer πŸ™‚

21 nonsequiturchica { 08.10.15 at 12:14 pm }

I feel like my blog is a book that will never get published- and I am totally fine with that. It’s a way of memorializing my life since summer of 2008 and not paying someone else to do it!

22 emma { 08.10.15 at 1:26 pm }

I think it would be cool to do memoir writing, even if I wouldn’t get fame.

But if I was going to dedicate years writing/editing a book that came from my own life and/or imagination, then I would definitely want some fame πŸ™‚

23 Mrs. Gamgee { 08.10.15 at 6:40 pm }

I’d like to say that yes, I would do it for the joy of the story, and not for the accolades, but I don’t think I’m that good of a person. I need to know that it will be read, at least. I know that my creative endeavors will likely never be published or read by anyone other than my family or friends, but I need to know that the possibility, however remote, is there.

24 Jess { 08.10.15 at 7:10 pm }

I think I would want to know that it would be not just put in a box, but read by SOMEONE in the family. Although that would be a really worthwhile service to offer someone, to write up their family story in a meaningful way, especially since the records of our stories aren’t written on paper as much anymore so there’s not as much for posterity, in the form of future anthropological study or something. I’d be bummed it wasn’t out there for the world to see, especially if I was really proud of it, but it would be worthwhile for that family. Not being able to tell stories (not even anonymously? like, “I heard this story once” and not be clear that it was this family???) would be hard. I’m not sure I’m that strong! Great food for thought.

25 Persnickety { 08.10.15 at 8:40 pm }

Yes, it’s learning the stories that interests me, not necessarily having it published.

I had an internship where I got to read archived correspondences for a NGO, it was fascinating, but I also knew almost no one would read it. What really tempted me was the pile of much older boxes in the corner from before the organisation was officially founded, from their activities from 1939-1946.

26 Aly @ Breathe Gently { 08.10.15 at 8:51 pm }

I’d totally do it! In fact, I’d love to write a book/story chronicling our family life – even though it’d just be for us. Would be something interesting to pass on. Although, I guess that’s what my blog serves as…

27 Chris { 08.10.15 at 9:04 pm }

I’d LOVE that! I love to research and write, but I hate having anyone read what I write (hence why I don’t have a blog and why it took me about 5 years of following anyone to actually comment) so to me it sounds like a dream job.

28 Stephanie (Travelcraft Journal) { 08.10.15 at 11:01 pm }

It would still end with a finished piece of work (and a paycheck), so it seems like it could still be a really satisfying project. Not something I’d want to make a career out of, though – too many secrets!

29 Parul { 08.10.15 at 11:14 pm }

Interesting! I would want to try this one time to see how I feel about it. At this point in time, I don’t know what is important for me. Getting recognition for what I write or pouring my heart out to document someone’s life story!

30 Kristin { 08.11.15 at 12:50 am }

I don’t think I could spend that much time on an endeavor unless I know someone would read it.

31 nabanita { 08.11.15 at 6:13 am }

The hope of publication certainly! I don’t know if I will ever be able to write a book but if at all I do, I would want people to read it…Yes, definitely!

32 Cristy { 08.11.15 at 2:23 pm }

My dissertation is published and in the university library. And yet I’m fairly certain that only a couple of people will ever read it.

So my answer is yes and no. Yes because it would be so much fun to do this research and produce a final desired product. No in that I know how draining it can be to put your heart into something that never sees the light of day.

33 mijk { 08.12.15 at 6:04 am }

I did this for a while and loved it. Once I was at a funeral and the reverend used my book too tell about the person. I loved the process the most though the interviewing and getting to the real person behind the old person. I mean getting to ask 90 year olds about their sexlife? The confidential stuff is hard though especially because when you get stuck you feel so judged and you can’t just have a friend read it and help you out. Also to do a good job it is so much work noone really can afford it so it was part paid part charity. But immensely proud of the books I made!

34 TasIVFer { 08.16.15 at 9:17 pm }

I just read Inconceivable!’s post ‘The Almost Ending’. I loved it, and it rang so true to me. We think we’ve achieved an ending – but no. If you haven’t read it yet, please go check it out.

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