Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Friday 11/3/2005"It's started," said my Californian friend as she IM'd me this linkfrom the Bangalore Craigslist. I was going to ask her what she was doing looking for writing jobs in India, but a glance at the posting made it all a bit academic.

Friday 11/3/2005

"It's started," said my Californian friend as she IM'd me this linkfrom the Bangalore Craigslist. I was going to ask her what she was doing looking for writing jobs in India, but a glance at the posting made it all a bit academic. The anonymous poster is offering one of the bread-and-butter jobs that keep many journalists fed, ghost-writing business books for a marketing company. This is hack work: you get given a pile of articles by a would-be (or actual) guru, work out some kind of theme, give it a title like "Even An Amoeba Can Succeed -- Business Secrets Of The Single Cell World", and ferment the indigestible guru crud into a digestible pap. It's not fun, you don't get your name attached to it and nobody reads the results -- but the client is delighted, the marketing firm gets to up its fees and the hack gets paid enough to compensate for the mental drudgery.

Not this time. In return for 120 pages of the above, the "New York marketing firm" is prepared to offer $500. That's around, oh, £260, which is what you might expect for around a page in a UK computer magazine and at least ten times less you'd expect for the meanest bit of PR/marketing bumf that comes within puffing distance of that sort of length.

Would it be worth moving to Bangalore to forestall the inevitable? Even there, $500 doesn't go that far. Who's behind this great idea? What epitome of modern business thinking wants his words written at two quid a page? It's tempting to put in a bid just to find out, although faking an Indian CV and providing the rest of the required information would be an interesting exercise - easiest to pitch a similar job, harvest the CVs that come in and repurpose them. Shame that would be staggeringly immoral and quite probably illegal.

The other way to look at it is as an opportunity, much like the mythical software engineer who gets paid $70,000 and works one day a week -- and that only to mildly tart up the week's worth of work he gets from his Bangalore buddy on $10,000. It's a bit like being a literary agent, only with the usual ratio of revenue reversed -- and given some of the fiction I've looked at recently, there's no way a literate Indian graduate could fail to shine. This could be just the way to get my moribund fiction career out from under the clay loam, and all without that tiresome business of actually writing the stuff -- the one thing that takes the shine off an otherwise impeccable career choice.

Craigslist Bangalore, here I come.