Charles J. Shields in Writing Kurt Vonnegut: A Biographer's Notebook:
A few years ago, my college alumni magazine profiled a pair of sisters who were writing 70,000-word biographies of a celebrity in a month. That’s right— a month.
It isn’t hard to do. Between 1998-2002, I wrote 20 biographies and histories for young people, each about 20,000 words. I never left my study. All were researched on the Internet. I never interviewed anyone.
But they were solid, fact-filled, and readable (not a single one came back for a revision). I wrote the first biography for youngsters of J. K. Rowling. Martha Stewart: Woman of Achievement was reviewed in the Atlantic (my editor, a catty woman, sent me a tear sheet with “Charles, you’re famous” written at the top).
“Charles J. Shields,” wrote Caitlin Flanagan, “…trots us through the high points of Stewart’s early life and career in short order, making astute observations as to how these various experiences may have shaped her as a businesswoman. Compared with [Christopher] Byron’s fervid ramblings [Martha, Inc., written for adults], this clear analysis is a welcome relief.”
The Martha book, at 112 pages to Byron’s 406, was so popular that it was available only on rental shelves in some public libraries. It’s still in print. I wrote it as a work-for-hire and was paid a flat fee of $3,000, and never received any royalties.