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Tips for Working with a Ghost Writer

Once I stood up in front of a room of people said, “If anyone ever tells you that you should write a book, they’re probably lying. What you should do is pay me to write the book for you.” The line served its intended purpose—it got a laugh and let the audience know what I do for a living—but the sentiment notwithstanding, working with a ghost writer the wrong way can cause as much or more trouble than not hiring a writer at all.

With that in mind, here are a few tips for making sure that you get the desired return on the not-inconsiderable investment you’re making by hiring a ghost writer.

1. Pick the right one – There are hundreds of ghost writers out there, fitting every niche you could possibly imagine. They’ll vary on cost (from early career and inexpensive to high credential and super expensive), writing style, work method, personality, preferred genre, location and any number of other factors. Don’t feel like you need to get stuck with the first one you find. Establish your budget, interview people who fit that budget, read their samples and see if it’s a match. If it’s not, don’t be shy about letting them know. Most ghost writers—especially ones who are well established in their careers—have worked on projects that weren’t a good fit for them, or where the client started having reservations early on in the process, and they no doubt found that their experience, and their client’s experience, was not a good one. But if the shoe fits, everyone will be happy.

2. Get clear on expectations up front – Make sure everyone knows what the process is going to look like, how long the book will be, what it will look like and what the ghost writer does and doesn’t do. Personally, I like to manage the entire editorial process from writing all the way through to final proofreading. I subcontract out a copy-editor and several proofreaders, so that the client doesn’t have to worry about any of the content at all. But not all ghost writers do that. Some ghost writers hate interviewing their clients. So be sure you know what stage the content will be in once it gets to you and what the process will be to get it there.

3. Talk a lot A few weeks ago, 12-year-old Will Lucas pitched the 35th no-hitter in Little League World Series history. The following morning he appeared on The Dan Patrick Show and delivered one of the worst interviews of all time. Fortunately Dan Patrick is a pro and he made the best of the situation, but there’s no denying that the kid’s interview was every bit as terrible as his pitching was excellent; every answer he gave was just a couple of words long, and he made his interviewer do all of the work.

In short, the best interview is the one who knows how to talk. Every now and then I interview someone who apologizes for talking too much, and I tell them they’re crazy if they think that’s a bad thing. The one thing a writer needs more than anything else is content. Much like a documentarian’s job is to turn hundred hours of footage into two hours of riveting story, a writer is taking every bit of information he can find and culling it down into the most fascinating parts. So talk as much as you possibly can. Or, if you’re the type that’s writing it down and passing it onto your ghost writer to wade through, write everything that pops into your head, without censoring it. Your ghost writer needs as much information as possible in order to tell the story you want to tell, so give it to him.

4. Trust the process I was once hired by someone to develop some content for their website. I sent him a questionnaire, he filled it out, I took the info and developed the half-dozen or so pages there were to develop, and then sent it to him. And immediately he was terribly upset that I didn’t give him what he wanted and was afraid I was trying to take advantage of him. I calmly let him know that this was just a rough draft, this was part of the process, and I’d be happy to make whatever changes he felt were necessary. The funny thing? The changes he wanted were actually pretty standard—a few words here, a paragraph there—in the end, the rewrite was about as extensive as every other website I’ve worked on.

So, to be clear, it is completely expected (depending on your personality) that your ghost writer is going to come up with something that you’re not happy with for one reason or another—either it’s not in your voice, or some of the content is inaccurate, or it’s got different information than you want in there, or whatever. Don’t freak out. Just go through it, let your ghost writer know what needs to be changed and how, and your ghost writer will fix it.

Now that’s not to say that your ghost writer won’t argue over certain things that he feels strongly about, especially if it has to do with the content organization or the quality of the writing. Remember, your ghost writer is a pro at this—his job is to make you sound good, so in the instances when he does fight for something, listen real closely.

In the end, it takes two to tango. If you expect to send your ghost writer off and have everything be perfect, you’ll likely be disappointed, Like a marriage, it’s up to both of you to communicate expectations and make sure that it’s worth the effort you put in. Because nobody wants their ghost writing relationship to end in divorce.

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David Kassin Fried is an award-winning ghost writer and book editor. He blogs at dkfwriting.wordpress.com, and his writing-related musings can be followed on twitter @dkfwriting.

Three Simple Steps to Start Writing Your Book

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. It’s a silly joke with a wallop of wisdom for writers, because this is exactly the mindset you’ll need when you begin to write your book. Getting started is indeed the hardest part, so plot your course first, and you’ll be both confident and motivated to begin.

Step One

Consider what type of writer you are. Do you like structure, or do your writing habits depend on your moods?

If you like structure: Begin with an outline that expands on the main topic. What is the logical sequence to take this idea from an introduction to the conclusion? Your outline will give you a simple method for tackling your project one small chunk at a time.

If you feel confined by structure: Following an outline is commonly recommended for book writing, but don’t let that hem you in. You can start writing your book from any chronological point. Wherever you choose to begin is fine. When you’re finished, hire someone to organize your content into a logical sequence.

Step Two

Schedule time to write. When are you most productive: morning, afternoon or evening? On your calendar, block in time to write, and stick to it. This is arguably one of the most important steps you can take to write – and finish – your book. Unless you plan to publish within two years, you do not have to write daily. Simply choose a schedule that works for you.

Step Three

Once you have written all you feel you can say about your subject, find an editor. This is crucial for having a well structured, error-free, organized final product. Editors spot wrong word choices, clarify concepts, fix sentence structure problems and ensure your point of view is consistent throughout. Editing is tedious, so keep in mind that turnaround time will vary depending on your editor and his or her current schedule. Plan your project time line accordingly.

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Monica Crowe writes blog posts, newsletters and sales messages for passion-driven entrepreneurs, so they can make the most of their business hours, while doing more of the work they love.

Five Things to Consider Before Writing a Book

If you’d like to write a book, but have a long list of questions and doubts, don’t worry. Absolutely anyone can write a book. All you need is clarity, an action plan and a willingness to implement. Use these five questions to get clear, develop your action plan and get started.

What is my purpose for writing a book? There aren’t any right or wrong reasons to write a book. The following are only a few common reasons you might write a book:

  • to create another income stream
  • position yourself as an expert in your field
  • extend your reach
  • grow a consulting business or speaking career
  • work for yourself
  • express yourself
  • market your business
  • get media attention
  • attract opportunities, etc.

Do I want to sell a million copies? If you’d like to make an income based on book sales alone, moving a high volume is necessary. To sell a million copies of your book, you must actively promote. Create a domain name and website for your book, where people can either directly purchase or access a purchasing portal. Start a blog, and regularly publish articles about your book topic. Doing so will bring qualified traffic to your website. Also, send press releases to media outlets for feature opportunities, and do regular book signings.

Do I want to promote my business? Having written and published a book lends instant expert status, and positions you as an industry leader. Here’s a quick action plan. Promote your book on your business website, and make it available on Amazon to bring in new leads. Blog on your website, and promote your book by doing guest blog posts and interviews on highly trafficked websites. Also, send out press releases, pitching your solutions and industry knowledge.

Do I have the time? Make room in your schedule, and devote yourself to write at optimal times, such as during your lunch break or when your kids are asleep. If you can’t spare time to write, or you run into a severe bout of writer’s block, you can hire a ghostwriter to pen the content and even arrange your thoughts into a logical format.

Do I have the money? You can self-publish on any budget, from the low end to high. If you have a small budget, you’ll find online publishing platforms to fit your needs. However, if you have more money to spend on your project, do so. Hiring professionals will ensure you have a quality finished product. To learn more about the costs of self-publishing, see the article, ………. (PLUG “Can I afford to write a book?” here, AND LINK TO IT.)

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Monica Crowe writes blog posts, newsletters and sales messages for passion-driven entrepreneurs, so they can make the most of their business hours, while doing more of the work they love.

I can’t afford to publish a book…

Choosing YOUR Book Topic

You plan to write a book, but don’t know what about. This is a common problem facing would-be writers, but you can overcome it right now. It’s time to contemplate what not only fits your interests and expertise, but is also of value to others. Get out a pen and paper, and answer these key questions, writing anything and everything that comes to mind.

What could you explain to someone in your sleep? People often take for granted the topics they know most about. After all, everyone knows this stuff, right? While a certain topic is a no-brainer to you, others find it perplexing and difficult.

Does the topic you have selected feel “too easy” for you? Whatever you do, understand or explain effortlessly can be rightly called your expertise. If you choose to write about your expertise, you will not only give tremendous value to your readers, but writing your book will be easier, too.

What are you passionate about? You will spend countless hours devoted to writing your book, so choose a topic you won’t tire of. If you haven’t found your passion, consider what you most value in life. Also, when do you feel energized, useful and inspired? If you’re multi-passionate, combining your interests into one topic will give your book a unique angle.

Have you already done a workshop or seminar about a particular subject? Could it be expanded on? Workshop and seminar formats make perfect book outlines, because the topics are already researched and organized. Depending on the duration of your seminar or workshop, you might not have to add any more material to fill your book.

Do you write a blog? Could your posts be organized into a book? If you blog about various aspects of one topic, and you have segmented your blog into subtopics, or categories, much of your work is already done. To give more value to readers, flesh out your best blog posts. Give more detailed information. Conversely, your book might simply be a collection of some of your best and most popular blog posts presented exactly as they are on your site.

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Liked this post? Learn more about self-publishing in “The Life Cycle of a Book – The Self-Publishing Process”. Also, stay up to date with the latest in self-publishing at the Book Elves Facebook page.

Monica Crowe writes blog posts, newsletters and sales messages for passion-driven entrepreneurs, so they can make the most of their business hours, while doing more of the work they love.