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Boot Camp Year-End Report

Book Elves Boot Camp got off to a great start this year in May with a RISE Austin session featuring Thomas Umstattd, Jr. revealing secrets to an amazing author website. Throughout the year we were honored to have such knowledgeable speakers as Stephanie Barko, David Fried, Jenny Magic, Joey McGirr and Lynn Scheurell cover a wide variety of topics to help writers  identify their target reader, navigate the editing process, effectively market their book and much more.

As we look forward to 2014, we have decided to transition from local workshops to online formats such as webinars, podcasts and videos in an effort to expand our reach and provide the wealth of knowledge and insight of our partners to a much larger audience. We are very excited about what lies ahead and can’t wait to get our little hands dirty to make make it all happen for you, our clients and friends.

Be watching for lots of new things in the coming months as we get up to our elfin elbows in a more multimedia approach to bringing you even more knowledge and information about bringing your message to the world.

Subscribe to the Book Elves Newsletter to stay up to date on all the new cool stuff that will be coming from the Elves.

Thank you for a great 2013. Here’s to an even more amazing 2014!

Your Baby is Ugly!

Books Are Like Babies: They’re Ugly When They’re Born, but That Doesn’t Mean You Should Throw Them Away

As an editor, most of the authors who contact me realize their book needs work. Some of them underestimate how much, but they at least recognize that there’s editing to be done, or else they wouldn’t have called.

When a publisher calls me, it’s a different story. With publishers (by which I mean, in this context, people who help authors self-publish their books), the conversation often starts something like this: “This author brought me this book, and he thinks it just needs a proofread, but it’s really bad. And if I can tell it’s bad, and I’m not an editor …” and things go downhill from there.

Usually the publisher sends it to me, and I send back an editing sample and a bid. They pass that on to the author, who immediately balks because I’ve just levied upon him the greatest insult of all time: to suggest that his child is not perfect. Never mind that Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling, and every other author you’ve heard of have all been heavily edited before their books get to you. Surely your book doesn’t need that much work.

Here’s the thing.  Like babies, most books are ugly when they’re first born. They’ve been smooshed through a narrow canal called the author’s brain, which has screwed up most of their identifying features. Some parts are fatter than they should be. Other parts are skinnier. Others just plain look weird. And people will say that to everyone but you.

That’s a shame, because like parents, most authors are completely blind to how ugly their baby actually is. They’ve just gone through a physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting experience. A massive rush of hormones has just been released and is coursing through their veins. They’re in love with what they’ve created and they always will be. And all of those things have clouded their judgment.

There’s really nothing wrong with that. In fact, you could call it an evolutionary advantage: if you throw back your book the first time someone tells you it’s ugly, your future as an author is pretty grim. That’s just natural selection. So if you really want to make it as an author, you need to realize that it’s nothing personal; everyone’s book is ugly when it’s first born, but if you give it enough love and feed it right, the features will smooth out and it’ll grow into a beautiful specimen some time down the road.

That’s why you should trust your editor. Your editor is an expert in raising books. He’ll tell you which parts to hold to your skin, how to feed it and when, and he’ll help guide you through the process. And if you follow directions, it’ll end up being a whole lot easier—and you’ll have a whole lot more success—than if you try to do it all yourself.

Just try not to be offended by what he tells you. And remember that every time you see another author’s newborn book, it’s ugly, too.


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.

April’s Theme: Editing LIVE

Our writer empowerment theme this month is Editing & Proofreading. Knowing what editors look for and understanding why they make the changes they do is important for a well-rounded and balanced approach to your writing.

Workshop: Editing LIVE w/ David Fried
Featured this month is the workshop Book Elves Boot Camp: Editing LIVE. Book Elves partner and award-winning editor David Fried of DKF Writing will take us inside the mind of an editor when he edits your book. David will actually go through unpublished pieces of writing and edit them LIVE in this interactive workshop.

Workshop attendees are invited to submit a 300-500 word excerpt of their work. David will go through the editing process on every piece of work he receives so you can see first-hand how and why your text is edited the way it is.

David is a professional ghost writer and book editor specializing in nonfiction, memoirs, and humor. His book Ups & Downs was a 2010 IPPY Award and Foreword Book of the Year Award finalist, and in 2011 he was selected to write the fifth book in Gary Keller’s best-selling Millionaire Real Estate Series (over 1 million copies sold).

Book Elves Boot Camp: Editing LIVE is Wednesday, April 17th from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM at Posh Coworking in Austin. Lunch is included. Seating is limited, so early registration is recommended. Click here for details, directions and registration.

Articles & Features
Throughout the month, we will be featuring articles on editing and proofreading on the Book Elves Gazette blog, as well as sharing tips and pointers on social media. Be sure to subscribe to the Book Elves Newsletter for even more.


Book Elves Boot Camp is a monthly lunch and learn workshop series for speakers, writers and those who want to be writers. Each month features a different topic presented by an industry expert.

2013 Boot Camp Schedule

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.


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.