The Atlantic

Writing in Someone Else’s World

I stumbled on a high-pay, low-prestige way to enter the publishing world—and overcame my reservations to make the most of the opportunity.
Source: Katie Posner

My first book was not what I dreamed it would be. I started writing professionally when I was in my late 20s, and while I worked my way up from a freelance music journalist to being an editor at The A.V. Club, the non-satirical wing of The Onion, I had one goal: to use all that experience as a springboard toward becoming an author. I had it all mapped out: After years of sacrifice and honing my craft, I would make my triumphant debut, with a book that might not become a bestseller but that’d be respected for its stunning originality and insight into the human condition.

Instead, my first book was The Captain Jack Sparrow Handbook. Yes, that Captain Jack Sparrow. As played by Johnny Depp. From The Pirates ofmovies. Based not on an ancient myth or literary archetype, but on a Disney ride. Writing a media tie-in, as works officially attached to other properties are known, wasn’t the start I had in mind. But as many professional authors will attest, the path to publication is rarely the expected one. And my experience writing about the famed Disney pirate—as well as my second media tie-in, a project for the movie—made me think twice about my preconceptions about work-for-hire books. Not to mention those who make them.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min read
A Photographer Has Spent 20 Years Documenting Stillbirths
Since 1997, Todd Hochberg has been going to hospitals to photograph families after the death of a baby. These requests come at all times of day and night—more often at night, it seems, when it is a stillbirth. If he can, Hochberg will be there for th
The Atlantic6 min readPolitics
China’s Chernobyl Never Seems to Arise
Democracy is unlikely to break out in Beijing, but the coronavirus crisis may create an opening for a softer form of authoritarianism.
The Atlantic7 min read
Why the Restoration Hardware Catalog Won’t Die
When you enter the RH (formerly Restoration Hardware) megastore in New York City’s Meatpacking District, you might think it’s a place to buy furniture. Technically it is, with tens of thousands of square feet filled with dining-room sets and king-siz