Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

help writing a book

Do you need help writing a book?

So many people have a strong goal to write at least one book within their lifetime. Most have lived an interesting life and wish to share their story with the world; they have something to say, which might just help others. On occasion CEOs or experts in a field wish to share their knowledge with others. This is also an admirable goal. I’ve also noticed that some aspiring writers have a fictional story that has been on their mind (or on rare occasions, haunting their dreams) for decades.

When someone who has such a burning desire to publish a story reaches out to me for help writing a book, I’m moved!

If you can’t shake the desire to complete your book, and it’s all that you can think about, it’s time to take action. If you wait a week, it will turn into a month, which will turn into a year. The majority of people who contact me tell me that they have been sitting on their book project for five to ten years. It’s at that point that they realize they need to tackle it or the book never will be written.

I’m here to encourage you. Now is the time to complete your book project!

Steps required to write a book

There are various phases every author must go through to write and complete a book. The primary phases are:

  • Researching
  • Outlining
  • Writing the first draft
  • Editing
steps to take for help writing a book

Yes, I’m simplifying things a bit. I know I am. However, truthfully, I can tell you that these are the four main steps involved in writing any book. If you are looking for help writing a book, just understanding these steps can make a difference.

Each stage tends to flow into the next. When I complete most of my research, I instinctively want to organize all the information into an outline (I recommend doing so chronologically). As I’m outlining, there often comes a point where I’m just dying to start writing. When that urge hits me, I pen a few pages for my client as a sample. This is the start of the first draft and helps to begin to establish the style and voice of the book.

The research phase

Research is crucial for any book project. Even if you are writing a memoir, you still need to do extensive research. After all, you need to provide accurate details as to time, location, appearance and historic events.

While the bulk of the research is done at the beginning of a project, I find that I continue to research as I write. Questions do come up and I need to look up the answers. This is especially true when I am writing about any period in the past. What was a popular rock song of the era? What kind of clothes were people wearing? These authentic particulars help set the tone of the story. Remember, readers will spot inaccuracies.

There are many resources for research: your relatives, the library, and, of course, internet search engines. There are so many data bases accessible by the public. For instance, when a client provides the street address of a home he lived in or a place where a significant event took place, I can easily look it up and see what it looks like from the street. Sometimes I can even find photos that give me a sneak peek inside.

The outlining phase

Avoid problems when writing a book by outliningIf you get a chance to review my blog, you’ll see that I’ve written extensively about how to write an outline. That’s because I feel it is a vital first step for writing any book. Honestly, I can’t take a writing step forward without a good detailed flight plan for my book, because I feel it’s the best way to avoid mid-air collisions. And by that I mean, wasting time on a story line that just doesn’t fit into the book.

Having said that, I know some of you might be groaning at the very thought of sketching the story out before writing. Maybe you work best on a free flow basis. That’s totally okay. We’re all different. Do what’s right for you.

In my article, Write and Publish a Book in 2020, I discuss my personal method of how to outline a story (fiction or nonfiction). It’s just one method for you to consider.

The first draft phase

Once you have the outline completed, you may find that the book is pretty well written—in your mind. Now you need to get words on paper.

The biggest problem that I’ve seen new writers get into is that they try to edit as they crank out the first draft. I urge you not to do that. Please allow yourself to just get the rough draft out first. Expect that it won’t be great. That’s OK! Fine tuning your manuscript happens during the editing phase.

Write each day to complete your bookSet up a regular time to write each day and stick to that schedule. If you hold yourself accountable for a certain word count, you will make regular progress on your story.

If you find yourself continually discouraged when you sit down to write or you avoid writing in general, revisit your outline. There might be a flaw there. Perhaps one of the incidents not quite working for you. That can happen if it doesn’t really have a strong purpose in your book. Also, take a look at the people in your book. Does every character have a reason for being? Once you have these issues sorted out, you’ll know it because you’ll be excited to write again.

When helping a client craft his memoir, I often need to counsel him to not include certain people. While it’s fine to mention Daisy the barista in your personal journal, she might not warrant a mention in your life story. Stick to the characters that matter and move the story forward.

The editing phase

When you complete your first draft (Bravo, by the way), it’s time to edit. I’d recommend putting your manuscript down for a few days or a week before starting this phase. Give yourself a breather from the project. Fill that time slot by reading books in the same genre. For example, if you’re writing your life story, pick up 700 Sundays or a memoir you enjoy. Reading another author might give you ideas to help you sculpt your own book.

The next step is to read over your manuscript from beginning to end and see if there are any issues with continuity. Sometimes you start out with one idea and end up with another. When that happens, you need to go back and make adjustments. For example, I’ve worked with clients who will share with me a pet name for a relative halfway through the story. So, only the second half of the book will have that character’s nickname. Fortunately, it’s an easy matter to insert the new name.

You will also pick up on issues with flow as you read it through. Some scenes will flow right into the next, while other transitions will be choppy. This is the time to fix that.

Now, you’ll also spot typos. Sure, fix them, but this isn’t the right time to focus on grammar or punctuation. Instead, make sure the story sings. By the time you finish this phase, you may find that you’ve altered and rearranged the words quite a bit, so fixing typos doesn’t make sense.

Dialogueusing dialogue tags in writing a book is another element to focus on. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend reading your book out loud, especially the conversations. You’ll immediately know if they ring true or fall flat. If you find you have trouble in this area, take a break and go out and listen to how people speak. Watch a few movies you enjoy and really listen to the words. It’s interesting how informal and “improper” the dialogue can be!

Once you’ve worked out the major kinks, you can review your manuscript for errors in grammar and punctuation. I’d recommend hiring one or two editors to look at your story with fresh eyes. It’s always good to have a detached person review your work. If you’d like to learn more about the different kinds of editors, check out my article Different Kinds of Editors.

When you need a little help writing a book

People reach out to me when they can’t write a book on their own. It isn’t easy to write a 200- to 300-page book. For first-time authors (as well as well-educated and talented authors) the task can seem mammoth. People sometimes start, then get caught in the middle of one of the above stages and falter. They find that writing a book is much harder than it appeared when they first started the project. If this happens to you, don’t despair. There are options, steps you can take to complete your book.

Hire a writing coach

The process of writing a book is not really taught in high school or college. If you talk to seasoned writers, you’ll find they uniformly say they learned their craft from experience. I believe that authors learn how to write a book by reading and writing and reading and writing and…(you get the picture). When you’ve written a few hundred thousand words, that’s when you will find your voice.

So, if you want to write and publish your first book this year, what do you do?

One option is to hire a writing coach. She will charge by the hour to assist you to organize your thoughts and ideas and break through the mental blocks that are stopping you from making forward progress. This is a great solution for writers who are doing well overall, but just need an occasional helping hand.

Hire a friendly ghostwriter

hire a friendly ghostwriterIf you are having great difficulties and it seems like you may not be up to the task of writing your book, consider hiring a professional writer, a friendly ghostwriter like me, to help you. I will get the job done for you.

On the other hand, if you are one of those talented writers who just needs a little assistance, hire someone to edit and make minor rewrites. A professional ghostwriter can act as a manuscript doctor, helping to troubleshoot your book and debug any issues.  For instance, he or she can assist you with character development and story line, while keeping your voice intact.

It isn’t cheating to hire a ghostwriter

Some feel that it’s cheating to hire someone to write a book for them. After all, their name will be on the cover right? How can it be ethical to take credit if someone else wrote the book for them? Although I understand the concern, let me assure you, it’s done all the time. Hiring a ghostwriter is an accepted practice and you have the right to put your name as the author. After all, it’s your idea and really should be your book.

Having an experienced professional to help guide you through the book writing process will help you grow as a writer. It will give you an experience boost that will carry through to your second and third book. Your next literary adventure won’t be fraught with the perils of inexperience since you will have traveled these waters already.

Please feel free to reach out to me anytime. I’m here to help!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Write Your Family History in 2020

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

Hiring a ghostwriter

Should I Write and Publish My Memoirs

Four Different Ghostwriting Methods

Writing a Book: Your First Few Steps

World Building: One Step At a Time

World Building in Star Angel by David McDanielAre you interested in world building?

Today I’m pleased to bring you a guest post from author, David G McDaniel. Dave writes in the sci-fi genre, with two book series to his credit.

His latest, a pentalogy (5 books), is the young adult series, Star Angel. Star Angel follows a girl on modern Earth and a boy from another world as they’re thrown into a fight for their lives, only to discover they may both be connected to events in the distant past far more epic than either can imagine.

As with any sci-fi or fantasy story, David faced a certain amount of world building in order to create Star Angel. Any time imaginary worlds are used as settings, when advanced technologies are introduced, when fictional races and governments become the backdrop, the author must build a new universe of rules

As the complexity of the story increases, more world building is required.

World building lays critical elements of your fictional world, which then gives you a strong framework on which to hang the rest of the story. I asked Dave to share his thoughts and experiences, when it comes to this important foundation of the story.

Happily he agreed to be my guest…

Hello & Welcome

Thanks to the Friendly Ghostwriter for having me. And thanks for the introduction! Laura, you’re awesome (insert smiley emoji here). Today, as mentioned, I’d like to talk a little about world building.

Most sci-fi and Fantasy writers do world building, some more than others, and in fact there have been heated debates about how much is needed.

I recently watched a video interview with George RR Martin, the author of “The Song of Ice and Fire” (Game of Thrones) where he was talking about the degree to which he builds out the underlying foundation — the world, the universe — for his characters and stories. He mentioned that there was another author (can’t recall his name) who was of the opinion that world building was overrated.

Martin was (rightly, I believe) disputing that view, pointing out the fact that the other guy’s stories had major slips in continuity. If memory serves, the other author believed the story was all that mattered and the rest was a waste of time.

In his opinion, the story would take care of itself.

I couldn’t disagree more.

World Building

World building for a science fiction bookWorld building is important. I can tell you from experience the story does not take care of itself, and without a clear idea of how everything fits, your characters end up living in a vague space with no real definition and, consequently, no guidelines for their actions.

Imagine a game (your story) played with no field, no rules, no setting, no guidelines — no world, basically. With you just making it up as you go along.

What kind of game would that be?

An unsatisfying one, that’s for sure.

With no creation of a world, your reader will feel disconnected from the story. They will be left with the feeling that anything could change on a whim at any moment.

But, you might be wondering, isn’t that what a story is? Something that could change at any moment?

Well, a story, yes. Of course and absolutely. But not the world. You don’t wing it, merrily making it up as you go, when it comes to the world. If you do, your readers will never be able to become fully invested in the story you’re trying to tell. That approach can create a sort of low-level vertigo with your audience.

Like life, a story needs a setting in which to exist.

My First Rodeo

I’ll admit to you that with my first series (not Star Angel, but one called the Saga of Ages) I had to stop early on and take the time to flesh out the full history and universe in which my characters were playing. I just kept getting hung up on all sorts of details.

This was my first time writing a series. Every time I tried to advance the story, I found that I kept going back to figure out the elements of the world that were influencing the actions of my characters. Finally, I realized what I had to do.

There needed to be something consistent to hang it all together.

That was my epiphany. My big realization. Instead of dreaming up the universe as I went, I needed to put the story on pause, go back and create the elements of the world first.

Duh.

Once that realization hit me I felt a profound sense of relief.

By the time I was done, the write-up of my world turned out to be 60 pages. I had sketches, pictures, references, galactic maps and more. I covered everything from past races to current governments, along with the framework and mechanics that made everything click.

When I wrote Star Angel I knew to begin the process with a lot of research about that world I created an historical timeline from 100,000 years before the stories take place, along with write-ups for all major events. I call it the “Star Angel Companion”.

No one will probably ever read it.

Earth is easier

Using Earth for World Building is easyAt the end of the day world building is a selfless thing. You’re doing it to save everyone’s sanity, not least of all your own. It helps. Greatly.

Especially in a fictional world.

Writers of stories in a modern or historical setting have it a bit easier, as their “world” is pre-built for them. Stories that take place right here on Earth, in the “real” world, have our entire existence to draw from. It’s the world we know. For instance, we all know the details of World War I. It’s there for anyone to access, and we all know exactly how it shaped our modern world and how it might lead to any character motivations.

That’s a huge advantage for any author and his readers. Everyone knows the world we live in.

This isn’t always the case if you’re creating a fictional universe. Depending on how “fictional” your universe is (is it a slightly alternate version of Earth? Or is it Star Wars fictional?), you may not be able to draw much from our shared reality at all.

That means you must craft your own.

A Few Ideas

For your story to work you need to at least have the basic elements defined. If you don’t your characters will be swimming in an ocean with no direction and no land.

World building is important. Did I say that already?

Here are some components you might consider taking the time to define for your story:

  • Maps
  • Historical data
  • Beliefs
  • Legends and prophecies
  • Races and their cultures
  • Lineages and hierarchies
  • The physics of the planet
  • Rules of magic (and other fantastic knowledge)
  • Languages
  • Technologies
  • Governments

Now, keep in mind, you may never use many of these factors in your story. But when you do, because you’ve got it all laid out, interconnected, it becomes very easy to write and your readers can easily lose themselves in what’s really important.

The story.

It’s Your Universe

Stan Lee, of Marvel fame, once said:

“The best way to rule a universe is to create it.”

Great quote. Great dude. Great message.

Take the time to flesh out your world, your back stories, your historical motivations and all else that shapes the universe in which your characters live. This can be work, no doubt. But the reward will become clear the further you forge into your story, when you see how easily things hang together, how well the pieces fit, and how much what your characters are doing makes sense.

Doing so ensures continuity. It removes distractions for the reader. And, if you take the time early on, it most definitely makes it easier in the long run for you, the writer.

Thanks again for having me.

As always, keep writing!

If you’d like to learn more about writing a book, here are some articles for you to read:

Write and Publish a Book in 2020

How to Write Three-Dimensional Characters

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book

How to Hire a Ghostwriter

 

 

How to Write Three-dimensional Characters

Characters need to be three-dimensionalIf you’re writing a memoir or a novel, one of the most important elements will be crafting three-dimensional characters. When done correctly, readers will be drawn to the people in your book. They will empathize and relate to each person and even be sad when the story is finished.

If you’re a writer, you probably recognize how important research is to writing. When you sit down to write a novel, or write your memoirs, you need to do a little homework. After all, you must know about the environment and various topics discussed in your book. These are crucial to creating a realistic setting and background.

However, what you might not realize is that you also need to research the personalities involved if you wish to create truly three-dimensional characters. Yes, even if the book is a work of fiction, you must buckle down and do your research. Why? Because you should really know and understand the nuances and characteristics of each person in your novel before you can write about them. You have to work out how each person will develop throughout the story and who they will become by the end. And that development needs to resonate with your readers.

Keep it real

Meeting a character in a novel is a bit like meeting someone for the first time in life. It’s probably more like a good blind date, right? Think about it. When you first get to know a new person and hit it off, you see them in a certain light, one that is a tad rosy. That person can appear to be almost perfect.

Someone new in your life will go out of his or her way not to display negative emotions. No angry outbursts, no overly dramatic scenes, no whiney arguments. That’s because he or she isn’t comfortable enough to let you know that flaw exists in case that causes you to bolt.

No, your new acquaintance will be perfection personified, using only the best manners when they are around you.

However, if you continue to develop a relationship with that man or woman, you’ll start to see a few faults peek out. Buttons pop up. Stephen might be super polite, but when faced with any sort of emergency, he falls apart. Georgia might never swear, but when she finds a cockroach in her food, she will curse like a sailor.

Why am I mentioning this? It’s because if you want to create realistic people for your book, you must write as if you’ve known them for years. Skip the honeymoon phase. It’s overrated. Jump to the real person, the real Stephen or Georgia. Let’s fast forward a bit and see them reveal their idiosyncrasies

That’s how you create truly three-dimensional characters.

Trust me, no one enjoys reading about flat, boring “perfect” people. Would you? No. Your readers expect and demand that you to write as if the person really existed in our world. Bad guys aren’t always bad, and good guys are rarely saints. People have a lot of gray areas. Give them balance.

Communicate with dialogue

Two women communicate with dialogue. Use great dialogue in your book.Communication is an integral part of life. It’s a bit like breathing when it comes to interactions between two people. After all, silence is usually death in a marriage, right?

Communication is also a bit like a signature for some people—even with your eyes closed, you can sometimes pick out who said what just by the way they speak. Certain phrases are said in a particular way. Think of the people in your life that you know really well. Don’t they have catch phrases or ways of mispronouncing words that are endearing?

Heck, some of my friends make up words on a regular basis. Looking it over, there are so many different ways to put words together in order to communicate an idea. That’s partly what makes us unique three-dimensional characters in life.

Through great dialogue in a book, you can really get a feel for a character’s personality. When it’s done well, you can almost hear the people speaking out loud. That’s the point when a reader gets lost in the pages of a good book. Have you ever read a passage and actually forgotten that you were reading? I know I have.

As a reader, I find it very easy to lose myself in the story when the words just flow from character to character. Personally, I’ve always loved dialogue-driven books.

As a writer, when I’m in the zone, when I know and understand my characters, it feels like I’m a fly on the wall. I’m there, just listening in to the conversation. They speak, I write. I’m just basically a stenographer. It’s that simple and that easy.

Three-dimensional characters have a unique style

As I mentioned, people tend to speak in a certain way. They have expressions that are unique to them. Some writers refer to them as “verbal tics.” A disgruntled teen might slap a parent with “Whatever!” on occasion. And someone who is extremely polite might call strangers “sir” all the time. It sets them apart. I have a friend who punctuates statements with a “BAM!” I don’t know anyone else who does that.

A character’s communication style may also be influenced by the specific geographical location from which he hails. He might have distinctive expressions that set him apart from other characters. For instance, someone from Minnesota might tack on “eh” to a statement to turn it into a question, eh? Or someone from the south might regularly use the second person plural pronoun of “You-all.”

Honestly, I love creating these phrases for my characters. It’s an excellent way to reveal some aspect of their personalities.

Create bonds between characters 

Characters in books bond through good dialogueIn the real world, when two close friends get together, their exchange can take on a life of its own. Someone on the outside might have trouble translating all the idioms and inside jokes the two friends have created together over the years. For instance, when I visit my friend in Massachusetts and I’m losing at a board game, I’ll accuse her of punching me in the stomach. And then she’ll call me a carpet bagger. After thirty years of visits, I can’t even recall the reasoning behind these phrases anymore, but I’m sure when I see her next we’ll use these phrases in our banter. It’s just how we interact.

As a writer, it’s your job (and pleasure) to create that realistic dialogue between close friends. Now, it’s important not to lose your readers. They have to be in on the inside jokes. They must understand your characters well enough to understand the snippets of snappy dialogue you provide.

Sometimes you’ll need to use slang terms from another country to make it more believable. For instance, if your character is German, he might say “Gesundheit!” (meaning “good health”) instead of “God bless you!” when someone sneezes. Or if you’re creating another world for a science fiction novel, you might need to develop new words so that the reader becomes immersed in your book’s universe.

One of the best examples of this was when the characters in Battlestar Galactica used “frak” to communicate a popular swear word. It’s brilliant, because we all understood what they meant, but it helped the viewers know they weren’t in Kansas anymore (not even close). The writers introduced us to a new word, and it has become part of our culture. And yes, most schools forbid its use as they would any other swear word.

Mannerisms speak volumes

We all have our own mannerisms that help to define us. For instance, when someone raises an eyebrow, we know he is a bit skeptical of the previous statement made. We all know what that look means.

When building a character for your book, consider creating mannerisms that make him uniquely him. For example, I knew a Grandmaster of chess who would tap his head with all five fingers when he was deep in thought. I doubt he knew he was doing it, but it was a signature move. If you saw his bowed head and drumming fingers, you’d instantly recognize it was him.

If you’re writing a book and get stuck for ideas, go out and look around. Go to a crowded place, maybe a mall or a party, and observe what people are doing. Take notes and find a way to use that information. It will help you create more distinctive characters.

Draw from life

take notes as you observe life for your bookThe best way to write detailed actions, descriptions and dialogue for a character is to live your life. Look around and notice how people behave. Take notes. I mean, literally take notes! You may want to carry a notepad with you wherever you go, so that you can jot down observations. You can also get an app for your phone that allows you to take notes.

It’s fascinating how people will put together a phrase or what they do when they think no one is looking. Also, notice how people interact, especially when they know each other well. Often, they will shorten phrases that everyone knows. “I guess I could do that” becomes, “I guess.” Or “Would you like to come with us?” turns into, “Wanna come?” The average person usually doesn’t speak the Queen’s English, so your characters should avoid intense formality, too (unless it is appropriate for their personality).

Keep in mind that there are a lot of silent communications as well. “Please pass the salt” is sometimes replaced with a nod of a head toward the saltshaker. John Cleese once commented that in England everyone always apologizes for everything. If someone wants the salt, Mr. Cleese pointed out that she will tend to nod toward the shaker and say, “Sorry?” I laughed when he said that, but it’s true!

 

Honestly, creating realistic personas is one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing for me. It is a bit like getting to know a group of cool people, except you are the one who will give them form and life. I encourage you to take your time and relish the experience.

If you need help writing a book or just want to bounce ideas about how to create three-dimensional characters, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’d love to help!

If you’d like to learn more about writing, check out these articles:

Write Your Family History in 2020

How to Hire a Ghostwriter

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

Write and Publish a Book in 2020

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

A Ghostwriter’s Fee

Write Your Family History in 2020

record your family history for future generationsGrowing up, I think many of us were intrigued by our ancestors. What were their stories? How did they make their mark in this world, and how did that pave the way for our arrival on the scene? Write your family history to discover and share your ancestors’ stories and nuggets of wisdom with future generations.

When we uncover how a family struggled through hardships to get where they are today, when we really understand their viewpoints, it often answers questions we’ve asked ourselves about them, such as why grandpa responds the way he does or what makes Great Aunt Trudy hold onto certain idiosyncrasies. In addition, this knowledge can also explain our roles in our family and community.

There are many different ways you can preserve family memories. If you have zillions of photographs, perhaps a scrapbook format would work. Some people build and bury a time capsule. Others gather all the recipes handed down through the generations and create a cookbook.

Now, if your family’s story is an action-packed adventure tale, a book is the only way to truly do it justice. I know that writing a book can be quite an undertaking, but it is the surest way to immortalize your family story for the millennia to come. And this is where I come in. When you need help to write your family history in book form, call on me, your friendly ghostwriter.

Here are some tips to you get started.

How to determine the focus and format

If you’ve decided to write your family history, you might not know where to begin. After all, you have generations of memories and anecdotes to choose from. The first step will be to determine the focus of the book.

Will it center around one ancestor sharing his or her story?

Or will it detail a single event that influenced the course of the entire family?

Or perhaps you want to share multiple viewpoints of a generation that set the stage for the present-day condition of your family.

Once you decide on the focus, the next decision is easier: the type of book to write. No matter which focus you choose, there are really only two main formats open to you:

    • Memoir
    • Narrative

Memoir format

Record the wisdom of your elders for your book about your family's historyIf the story highlights one individual sharing an exciting adventure from the annals of her past, you’ll want to choose a memoir format. While other important people will be featured in your book, the story will be told through that one family member’s eyes. It will give the reader insight into her unique viewpoint.

I must say, by far the most common request I receive is to write a memoir. Each book is so different, because each client has his or her own voice, message, and purpose for writing their book.

For instance, one book I wrote a couple of years ago featured a young Jewish girl who needed to separate from her family in Europe and pretend to be a devout Catholic to escape the Nazis. Although the experiences of her brothers and sisters are shared throughout the book, they were told through the eyes of the preteen.

Tip: If you write a book in a memoir format, it will need to be written in the first person. This means that the main character will need to be present in each scene. After all, she couldn’t have experienced the incident if she wasn’t there.

Narrative format

If your family story is more of an ensemble piece, with many different people all playing an equal role, I’d suggest you stick with a narrative format. That way you can pick and choose the stories and people to focus on.

For example, I wrote a story for an author who escaped communist Hungary on foot with his family. Since he was a toddler at the time of the Hungarian Revolution, it didn’t make sense to write it as a memoir. Instead, the story revolved around his parents and older sister, but included him throughout.

Tip: When using a narrative format, you’ll write the book in the third person. Since you’ve chosen this format because you have multiple stories to tell, I’d recommend a multiple third person limited viewpoint (where you alternate between the viewpoints of different characters from segment to segment).

Know your goals for the book

If you find you need help and approach me to write your family history, I will start by giving you an introductory interview. One of my first tasks will be to get your true motivation behind the book project so that I can help you achieve your goals. After all, when I can truly understand my clients’ goals, their objectives become mine and we are able to form a writing team.

Over the years, clients who approach me to write their family’s story, have two main purposes in mind:

      • To share their story with readers around the world
      • To write a book so their children’s children will know what happened

 

write your family history for the future generationsI’ve worked with both goals and love to help families record their history. I am so grateful when I’m allowed into a client’s inner circle to learn their secrets and stories and get to record them for future generations—children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It is an honor to become a family’s historian. It’s an important role, one that I cherish.

It might surprise you to learn that some clients hire me and have no intention of ever publishing their book. For instance, you might ask me to write your family history simply because you are afraid that your ancestors’ memories and the lessons they learned will get lost over time, especially after they pass on. Perhaps you want your future family members to never forget the events of the past.

This is a valid concern.

One advantage of hiring a ghostwriter to write your family history is that you leave the door open to publishing the book, if you choose to do so at a later time. After all, goals and purposes can change. When you work with a professional writer, you can be certain that you’ll wind up with a marketable manuscript which follows all the rules of literature.

Appoint a family historian

I would be honored if you considered hiring me to be your family historian. However, I recognize that not everyone can afford the fee. In that case, I recommend appointing a family member to write your family history and become your family historian.

Find someone who is eager to embrace the events of the past. She will need to be patient and willing to wade through records and documents and be able to organize all the information. In addition, she should be an excellent communicator, who is willing to interview every family member and dig deep to uncover all the pertinent facts and memories.

Here are a couple tips to help your family historian write your book:

Tip #1: Capture a person’s exact words

It is important that you capture each person’s exact words. After all, each member of your family will have a different way of expressing himself. Jot down any idioms the family member might use.

Never correct his or her grammar. You aren’t a seventh grade English teacher. If Grandpa says, “ain’t,” keep it that way. It’s real and it’s part of what makes him Grandpa, right? Keeping his dialogue intact will allow future generations a better sense of who he was. Record exactly what each person says as they say it.

In addition, make a note of their mannerisms so you can use these when you describe your family members in your book.

Tip #2: Collect more information than you’ll use

Collect a lot of information when you write your family historyWhen you write your book, plan to collect twice the material than you think you’ll use. It’s a bit like carving a work of art from stone. You need to start with a huge block of marble. Then you chip away at it until you uncover your sculpture within. With a book, you’ll need pages and pages of notes detailing adventures, challenges, life lessons, observations and the like. Within these pages you will find the golden nuggets that will help you write your family history.

Tip #3: Be open to learning new things about your family

While on this journey you will likely discover that your elders have lived through some amazing times. Some children have no idea what adventurous lives their ancestors have lived, or the hardships they endured. Perhaps your great uncle was a flying ace who engaged in dog fights during World War I. Or, it’s possible that you never knew that your grandmother escaped a brutal dictator on foot with her valuables sewn into her skirt. Or maybe various family members traveled to a variety of exotic locations and never told you. Whatever the case, you’re bound to learn a lot about your family members when you write your family history. Ask questions and be willing to take the book in new directions.

Tip #4: Select your theme

As with any memoir or story, your book will need to have one or more main themes. The theme you choose depends on the message you wish to communicate. There is no right or wrong answer here.

A few powerful themes you might consider are:

    • Drive and determination can overcome obstacles
    • Families can come in many shapes and sizes
    • Sometimes the only way to survive is to fight back
    • Be grateful for everything you have in life
    • Never give up, no matter how painful the odds and opposition might be

Tip #5: Use your senses

Now that you’ve determined the theme for your book, you will probably find yourself approaching it from multiple angles. Not only will you have a variety of viewpoints to share, but through the multi-generational events, you can show your theme using all the senses and perceptions available to each character.

For instance, I wrote the memoir of a man who grew up in a small one-room hovel without running water and electricity before achieving great wealth. To this day, he remains humble and is grateful for the simple pleasures of that early lifestyle, as well as the loving upbringing his parents provided. Together, he and I brought the conditions to life by not only describing the vistas but giving texture to the mud walls and sharing the tastes of his mother’s simple, but delicious cooking. Later, when his mother and father visited his mansion in California, the readers experienced the contrasting luxury along with his parents.

Note: The theme of gratitude was consistent throughout the book.

 

So, when should you start?

Now!

I mean it!

Time isn’t always on your side, especially if members of your family are getting on in years. So now is the perfect opportunity to talk with them. Go for it! And have fun!

If you need help, feel free to contact me. I’d love to help you write your family history! Check out a few of my testimonials.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Is It Charged?

How Can You Research a Memoir?

Write and Publish a Book in 2020

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

 

 

What You Need in a Ghostwriting Contract in 2020

Ghostwriting ContractAn oral agreement should never replace a written one. Make sure you have a good ghostwriting contract before you begin a book project.

This nugget of advice is something I’ve heard from almost every successful professional. No matter what industry you are in, always be sure to have a good contract that spells out all the important details; that way there can be no room for misunderstandings later.

Recently, I spoke to a renowned serial entrepreneur who confessed to jotting down a partnership agreement on the back of a cocktail napkin in a bar. The two were friends and thought nothing could go wrong. Well, the agreement blew up after a few years. Fortunately, the two found a middle ground and were able to sort out their differences and continue, but it could have ended up much worse.

I’ve been a ghostwriter for two decades. I learned long ago that it is vital to have a good, clear ghostwriting contract. That way you and your writer know what to expect, and there can’t be misunderstandings down the line.

Hire a lawyer

If you’re a professional writer, I highly recommend you hire a lawyer. Ask him or her to create a good basic template, which you can adjust depending on the parameters of a particular project. It’s well worth the cost to make sure your contract says what you think it says!

While some projects are so small you might feel they don’t really require a contract. I would still advise you to put your agreements in writing in some fashion. An email can sometime suffice.

When I was starting in this industry, I will admit to you I floundered on the subject of ghostwriting contracts. It took me a while to sort it all out, so I hope I can save you a little time. As you put together your contract template, here are a few basic components to consider:

Dates

The first paragraph of my contract includes my company name and the name of the client, as well as the effective date of the contract. Later, I include the four major milestones, along with their deadlines.

The four milestones I use in my ghostwriting contract are the:

  • Completion of the outline.
  • First half of the first draft.
  • Completion of the first draft.
  • Final manuscript.

This milestone approach is something I developed after nearly two decades of experience as a ghostwriter. I tried many different methods, but this is a best when it comes to ghostwriting a book for a client.

Price

The price of a ghostwriter; a ghostwriter's feeBecause I use four milestones, I like to break up the payments into four parts. My policy is to be paid ahead of the writing, but really you can come to any sort of agreement that works for you.

Set the total price for the service then include the payments for each segment in your contract. For instance, if your total price is $60,000, the compensation for each segment would be $15,000 (if you use my four milestone approach).

To learn more about the cost to hire a ghostwriter, please review my article on the subject.

Expected Length

Most ghostwriters charge on a per word basis, so the contract should specify how many words the author should expect to receive. Most clients think in terms of pages, but that just isn’t precise, because the number of words per page really depends on the font style and size chosen. I like to include the agreed-upon word count along with a rough page estimate for clarity.

It’s a good rule of thumb to consider that there are 250 words per page, so a 200 page manuscript should run about 50,000 words.

A Description of the Project

If possible, you might include the genre or a rough description of the book in the contract, along with the title. This description doesn’t need to be long. An example might be, “The life story of Mary Smith” or “A science fiction novel.”

Ghostwriter Services

It’s important to mention the specifics of the service you will provide. For instance, as a ghostwriter, I can’t promise that the book will be published. It is a good idea to state that concept within your contract. I also don’t create the cover design or work on layout, nor do I provide illustrations or photographs (again, I make that clear inside my contract).

My job as a ghostwriter is to create a well-written manuscript that is as error free as I can get it. I work with a few proofreaders and editors to produce an as near-perfect product as possible. I think it’s important to have a number of eyes review the final document before turning it over to the client.

Copyrights

Address copyright issues in your ghostwriting contract, making it clear that the client will own all the rights to the final work. They are the author and own all the right so the work. It’s always the client’s book and they can publish it in any form they desire. As a ghostwriter, I own no claim or rights at all.

Revisions

It’s to be expected that the client will have revisions for the ghostwriter as pieces are submitted. However, if the number of revision requests isn’t specified, the process can be endless. Back and forth, back and forth can ruin a book.

Personally, I allow the client one set of revisions per milestone, but will of course make minor revisions along the way. Since we always work off of a detailed outline, there usually isn’t a need for any drastic changes during the revision process.

Confidentiality

Often a client requires confidentiality because of the nature of the project. Perhaps the ideas are unique and cutting edge or the author simply doesn’t want anyone to know he or she had help writing their book. If this is the case for your project, definitely include a confidentiality clause within the contract.

Things That Could Go Wrong

Most likely everything will go smoothly throughout the process, but it’s always good to put in a clause covering what happens if one party wants to terminate the agreement prematurely.

In addition, consider limiting the damages and agreeing to arbitration to resolve all disputes.

A ghostwriting contract is something you’ll need for any large project. It shouldn’t be taken lightly as it could save you from unnecessary headaches in the future. If you have any questions or concerns, please consult a lawyer. It’s worth the investment!

If you’re serious about writing and publishing a book in 2020, and wish to hire a ghostwriter, please email me. I’m happy to send you a copy of my contract to review in detail.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

It’s Good Business to Write a Book

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

How to Hire a Ghostwriter

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Eight Reasons Why You Should Write a Book

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Is It Charged?

The price of a ghostwriter; a ghostwriter's feeIf you’re searching the internet trying to learn about what is involved with hiring a ghostwriter, one of the things you’re probably wondering about is the cost. What is a ghostwriter’s fee?

There seems to be mystery and confusion surrounding a ghostwriter’s fee, so I thought I’d tackle this subject for you, upfront and head on, so that you can be armed with knowledge before reaching out to interview a ghostwriter.

How to calculating a ghostwriter’s fee

As you will quickly discover, each ghostwriter charges differently. Not only do fees vary from writer to writer, but the way they calculate their fees will differ as well.

There are four basic ways a ghostwriter’s fees are calculated:

Per project

When you interview with a high-end ghostwriter, she will almost always bid on a per project basis. Check out my article How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter to learn more about the bids you might expect to receive from the different classes of writer. To summarize, there are:

  • Cheap ghostwriters who charge anywhere from $2,000 – $15,000 to write a book. They are very easy to find, but, as you can imagine, will be less reliable. Watch out for scam artists if the price tag seems too good to be true. Also, you’ll need to invest in good plagiarism software to make sure the manuscript you purchase doesn’t, in fact, belong to someone else.
  • Mid-range professional ghostwriters will cost more. Their fees will range from $15,000 to $100,000 depending upon the size of the project. These writers are very experienced and reliable but are harder to find. With this class of writer, you’ll learn a lot about the writing process and get a high-quality product.
  • Celebrity ghostwriters are really reserved for those who have a household name and can afford the Learjet prices (six to seven figures) of this class of writer.

Per Word

A ghostwriter's fee is usually by the wordHonestly, when I first started out twenty years ago, I tried a variety of methods and quickly settled on this one. It’s very precise and, as the client, you will know exactly what to expect. This makes it by far the most popular method to calculate the overall cost of a book project for mid- to high-end professional ghostwriters.

My research shows that these mid- to high-end professional writers charge $0.50 to $2 per word (sometimes more). Personally, I charge one dollar per word.

Hourly

When I began seriously pursuing a professional writing career about twenty years ago, I started by charging by the hour. Through experience I discovered that most clients are hesitant to enter into a contract with a writer on an hourly agreement. After all, who knows how long it will really take to complete a book!

I’d say that the average full-length book takes me two hundred hours to write. However, if there is extensive research or interviewing required, that estimate might be doubled.

Nowadays, the only time I bill by the hour is when I consult. My rate is $145 per hour.

Per Page

Over the years I’ve noticed that clients usually think in terms of page count for the length of a book, whereas writers think in terms of word count. I always specify both in a contract to make sure the author has a clear idea of my intention.

I’ve never charged on a per page basis but know that some writers bill this way. I feel this fee is difficult to calculate because the word count per page really depends on a number of factors:

  • Font size and style
  • The spacing of the text
  • Margins, line spacing and other similar factors

For instance, a single page of text that is dialogue driven and double spaced in 12-point Courier New font might be 150 words, while a nonfiction piece with long paragraphs in a different font might exceed 350 words. That’s a significant difference.

I consider that there is an average of 250 words per page, but that’s just an estimate. If I were asked to give a per page bid for a project, I’d charge $250 per page. A realistic range for professional writers charging this way would be $125 – $500 per page.

Cost for a book proposal

If you plan to engage an agent and submit your story to a book publisher, you will need to prepare a standard book proposal. This is a specialized document containing a lot of information about your book. Book proposals vary in length and need to be tailor made for each submission. In most cases, proposals run 50 – 80 pages, though some can be longer.

A typical book proposal contains the following components:

  • An overview of the book that should be one or two pages in length
  • A description of your target audience
  • A short author biography
  • A list of book titles of published works comparable to your proposed project
  • A strong marketing plan
  • The book’s table of contents
  • Two sample chapters

If you are going this route and plan to hire a ghostwriter to write your book, you’ll want to first engage her to write the proposal. After all, she will outline your book and write two chapters as part of this process. So she will already be well on the way to getting your book done.

For in-depth tips and tricks on how to write a book proposal, you can read my blog article on the subject.

A ghostwriter’s fee for a quality book proposal will run somewhere between $5,000 – $15,000. However, this price should be factored into the overall price, if you hire that ghostwriter to write your book.

Incentives to offer a ghostwriter

a cheap ghostwriter's fee can cause a feeding frenzy If you’re looking for a cheap ghostwriter on Guru or Upwork, you’ll discover that many will vie for your attention like fish seeking breadcrumbs. However, the tide shifts a bit when you seek a high-end professional ghostwriter. You may find that she isn’t as desperate for work.

A writer in this category is often quite picky about the projects she takes on and will be interviewing you even as you interview her.

If you are eager to engage a popular ghostwriter and sense that she might be able to sign with only one or two new clients when you contact her, it might be wise to consider offering a few incentives to entice her to sign a contract with you.

Here are a few inducements you might consider:

A percentage of the back end

While it would never be proper to ask a professional ghostwriter to work solely for a percentage of the back end (royalties), it can be a nice bonus to a ghostwriter’s fee. This incentive has the added benefit of including the writer in the marketing of the project. She will be invested in ensuring that the book sells well.

Some ghostwriters won’t be able to do much to help you with sales, while others are well versed in that area. If your prospective writer is great at marketing, it doesn’t hurt to bring her in as a marketing partner from the start.

A cover credit

For a ghostwriter who is starting out, a cover credit is worth a lot, because he can add it to his portfolio and resume. An open credit will help him gain future clients. Most authors don’t want to share with their readers that they had help in writing the book. That is always fine with me. It’s part of the job. You’re the author; I’m the ghost. However, if you’re willing to share credit, it can be a lovely enticement.

This is the way it would work: The front cover would read by Your Name, then underneath it would read “with” or “as told to” Ghostwriter’s Name. The author still gets the recognition as the creator of the book, but the ghostwriter gets her name associated with the project.

An Acknowledgment

As I mentioned, most authors don’t like to spill the beans that they actually didn’t write their book themselves. However, many will find a way to pay homage to and thank their ghost in the acknowledgment section of their books. Over the last twenty years, I’d say half my clients gave me such a gift. It’s always appreciated by me.

Write a testimonial

When you are finished with your book, it would be nice to offer to write a testimonial for your ghostwriter. This allows him to share your success story with other potential clients in the future.

I have been very fortunate to have gathered quite a collection of testimonials. Some authors sign with just their initials, as they wish to keep their anonymity, while others proudly share their full name.

Make sure to sign a legal contract

A ghostwriter's fee should be clearly stated in a contractAs I stated in my article What You Need in a Ghostwriting Contract, “An oral agreement should never replace a written one.” It’s too easy to have misunderstandings between an author and a ghostwriter if there is not a firm contract in place.

Please don’t sign an agreement on the back of a cocktail napkin (yes, it’s happened). To fully protect yourself, you want to sign a formal contract. A professional ghostwriter will have hired a lawyer to help her draft the document because she knows a good contract is well worth the cost.

Key points for a contract

When you review a ghostwriter’s contract, be on the lookout for these elements:

  • The deadlines for each milestone of the project. Smaller projects might only have one date of completion, but most full-length books have more. I have four milestones in my contract. Feel free to email me for a detailed description of these.
  • The overall price clearly stated. The contract should specify the ghostwriter’s fee, as well as the payment plan for the project. In my contract I break up the total cost into four payments, to be paid at the beginning of each segment.
  • The expected length of the book. As stated above, a professional writer will specify a word count, not a page count. However, in my contract I provide both. For instance, I might state, “50,000 words (or 200 pages).” I do this because my clients usually think it terms of pages.
  • The services expected of the ghostwriter. It’s a good idea to spell out what the ghostwriter will or will not do for you. For instance, will the writer help you with the publishing process? If so, make sure those services are well defined so that there are no surprises later.
  • The number of revisions allowed. Make sure you know how many revisions your ghostwriter will allow. For example, I specify one set per milestone, but always plan to make minor adjustments along the way.
  • Confidentiality and copyrights. It’s important that you retain the rights to the book. In addition, be sure there is a good non-disclosure agreement (NDA) within the contract.

With a good understanding of the elements of a contract and the ghostwriter’s fee associated with the project, you can make an informed and educated decision. If you’re interested in writing and publishing a book, please check out my article What to Do to Hire a Ghostwriter.

I always enjoy hearing from my readers. Feel free to email me anytime with questions. I know this area can be confusing. I’m here to help!

Additional articles that you might find helpful are:

So, how does a ghostwriter work anyway?

Write great dialogue

Improve your writing: Feedback versus Criticism

 

 

Good Memoir Themes

Woman contemplates writing her life storyYou might be thinking, “Memoirs are just life stories. Why would they need to have themes?” Well, the truth is that memoir themes are vital to your story’s success. After all, a memoir is a specialized autobiography and, as such, it must follow the rules of literature.

What is a theme?

Simply put, the theme of a book is the main idea that ties everything together. This idea might express a basic universal truth, such as Love, Friendship, War, or Faith.

These general themes can be further refined to explore a specific aspect. For instance, in Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare broke down the idea of “Love” and particularly examined forbidden love and its potential consequences.

A theme can also delve into a deeper concept, such as the battle between good and evil. For example, I’m currently reading A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, which explores many shades of good and evil throughout.

The theme is usually not stated outright. Instead, the author gives the reader insight into his view of the world and the human condition through the characters’ beliefs, actions, experiences and conversations.

How do themes relate to memoirs?

When you write your memoir, you’re not just publishing a shopping list of memories. You are telling the story of pivotal moments in your life, of the lessons you’ve learned that make you who you are.

To capture your readers’ interest, you will need to share these incidents in the most interesting way possible, highlighting key events (creating action) and the people who influenced you most (who become characters in your book).

So, your memoir must follow the same rules as any good piece of literature: you must be able to tie the threads of your story tapestry together with a compelling theme.

How do I find my memoir themes?

Memoir theme of achieving life goal

If you’re struggling to find a good theme, check out my detailed article: Tips To Find Your Memoir Theme. To summarize, here are some key ideas you can explore:

  1. Look over your life story. Were there any obstacles you overcame? What lessons did you learn along the way? Jot these down, and they might point you in the direction of one or two memoir themes.
  2. Summarize your story in one or two sentences. When you drill down to the core of what your story is about, the theme often reveals itself.
  3. Step back and look at the big picture. Ask yourself questions such as “Why did I make that choice?” or “What would I do differently now that I know what I know today?” These questions could help you formulate your memoir themes.
  4. Talk to someone who knows your story. Since she has an outside perspective, she may spot similarities to unify your message.

I was working with a client who had an oppressive influence as a child. She hadn’t recognized it prior to our conversation, but when the stories started flooding out, she realized that an old schoolteacher wasn’t the hero she remembered him to be. One theme that came from these discussions is how one can overcome childhood adversities to become a success.

So, what are some good themes for your memoir? Well, let’s start with some examples of great memoir themes that I’ve encountered in my two decades as a ghostwriter. Maybe a few will resonate with you. Feel free to make adjustments to make them work for your story.

Persistence always wins in the end

If you’ve lived a hard life, one with lots of obstacles to overcome, this can be a great theme if you’ve triumphed. Others will benefit greatly from your story, perhaps finding the strength to pull themselves out of their current hardship.

Note: If you’re still amid the battle and really don’t have anything positive to share, now isn’t the time to write. And if your real goal is to complain to your reader, your story won’t make for a good read. I mean, would you want to read a book like that?

Continual courage can lead to victory

We have all experienced battles where the odds seemed against us. It’s what you do at those moments that counts and can make for a good story. If your life is filled with examples of courage and integrity, that would be a great theme.

I’ve ghostwritten many books with this theme. In fact, three different clients came to me with stories of escaping communism and fascism in bold and daring ways. We can all learn from their bravery.

Family is important

Family is a good memoir theme

This is a simple theme, but a good one. In this day and age, where the media reports that most marriages fail and children are growing up without the support and love of their parents, a good memoir showing the beautiful bond of family is a needed commodity. Of course, this theme can go beyond the traditional family structure. If you’ve experienced success and happiness in a non-traditional setting, this can truly inspire others in a similar situation.

Then there is always a need for good advice. Especially in the field of parenting. If you’ve evolved a unique approach that had positive results, you will have an interested audience.

Simply recording your family history for future generations is also a great concept! This is a popular request of a ghostwriter.

Ethical people lead better lives

If your story highlights times when you stood up and did the right thing, even when it was difficult for you, your story can set an important example for others. It isn’t always easy to keep your integrity, especially when peers are pressuring you to do the opposite.

Writing a book that shows how you succeeded by being ethical can help others make similar choices in their own lives. Perhaps someone will pick up your book when he’s at an important crossroad in his life and just needs a gentle nudge to make the right decision.

Crime doesn’t pay

Over the years I have received a number of requests from former inmates who are eager to share their stories of reform. The ones who are passionate about this subject, who regularly go out and speak to young adults, can do well with a complementary memoir.

A memoir from a former inmate will be rough in places and won’t always be happy-go-lucky, but the lessons learned by someone who has traveled the wrong path can be helpful to others. This theme only works if the author is presently leading a successful and ethical life.

Being true to oneself brings rewards

integrity is a good memoir theme

In a world of peer pressure and a constant demand to conform, it can be hard to find one’s way. Influencers from all corners of the globe (or perhaps just down the street) loudly proclaim their “truths” and harass anyone who doesn’t agree. If you’ve remained true to your beliefs despite pressure to surrender, your courage can be a beacon for others to do the same.

For example, many young artists are guided away from their passions by people around them. The ones who have weathered the critics around them and have succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations may instill hope in others undergoing a similar struggle.

Some people have had a difficult decision to make in life and chose an unconventional route. Those authors could motivate others to consider alternative ways as well.

I ghostwrote a book about a woman whose young son had horrible symptoms. She defied her doctors by doing independent research and discovered the true nature of her son’s illness, thus saving him. This story continues to inspire parents all over the globe struggling with a similar problem.

Journeying outside of one’s comfort zone expands horizons

Journeying outside your comfort zone is a great memoir theme

So many people have well-established routines that ultimately don’t do much to fulfill their true life goals. I think most people have a vague awareness that things could be different, could be better, but have no idea how to implement the changes required to make a difference.

If you’ve broken the bonds and found new vistas of joy and fulfillment, your journey could encourage others to take their own leaps of faith.

This journey could be literal. Perhaps the author traveled to a different country and immersed himself in its culture, thereby gaining a broader understanding of what others have to endure to survive and a deeper appreciation of his own opportunities.

Or perhaps the journey is more figurative, more internal. It may be that the author has overcome a potent fear in order to pursue her dream. Or possibly she’s been able to make a change for the better, improving her moral compass along the way.

Life transitions can bring new experiences and joys

Shakespeare wrote a famous monologue about the seven ages of man, detailing each stage a person transitions through in life, a concept philosophers have been contemplating for eons. Each shift into a new phase of life can be a potent memoir theme.

Some transitions can be joyful, while others are often fraught with difficulties.  How did you approach a shift in life? Did you discover a new method of tackling a transition that could help others?

For example, perhaps when you and your spouse had children while maintaining full time jobs, you discovered some methods to juggle both successfully. Or if you’ve hit retirement early and have started a new business, you can share your successful actions and help others do the same.

As you begin to write your life story, there are so many great and inspiring memoir themes for you to explore. Really, you just need to look at the positive impact your story could have on others and then write it from the heart.

If you’re in the market for a ghostwriter, and wish to write and publish a book, please contact me. I’d love to chat with you about your memoir project!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

Ask a Ghostwriter: How Can you Research a Memoir?

Your Memoir: Building Character and Your Written Voice

Four Common Memoir Mistakes

Write Your Family History in 2020

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter?

“I need help writing my book! How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter?”

This is a very popular question. I’d imagine shopping for a writer is a bit like walking into a gallery with the hope of acquiring a special piece of art. You peruse the beautiful paintings on the walls and wonder about their cost. However, it can be intimidating to ask the artist, because the price could be well outside your budget.

When you buy a car or a house, you have a rough idea of the expense involved, but what does a ghostwriter charge?

I’ve noticed that some ghostwriters don’t like to tackle this subject on their websites. Maybe they’re worried you’ll just click away or fall into a dead faint. Well, allow me to address the question upfront. I mean, why bury the pricing in some dusty corner of my website? There really is no need to dance around the subject.

As you’ll discover, writers have different fees and some price in different ways. For instance, some writers may charge by the hour or the page. I run a dollar per word to ghostwrite. While manuscripts vary in length, a short memoir or novella will be 25,000 words and a full-length book will be 50,000 – 75,000 words. Some authors prefer to publish mini-eBooks, which can be 5,000 – 10,000 words in length. These can be a good option to get one’s feet wet and learn the art of marketing books on Amazon.

Occasionally I’ll run into a client who actually needs a cross between an editor and a ghost, because he has already written most of the book and the first draft is in decent shape. If that’s the case with you, I’d charge much less. But first I’d need to see what you have before I could give you a proper bid.

Inside Secret: How to reduce a ghostwriter’s price

There are a few factors that can help reduce a ghostwriter’s cost (at least with me). Firstly, I’m always impressed when a prospective client has taken the time to really research me and find out the steps he should take before hiring a ghostwriter. I know this is a client who understands me and how I work, which is a great place to start the relationship.

Here are some key ways you may persuade me to reduce the amount I charge:

Pitch me an inspiring book

Idea for a bookWhile some ghostwriters will write about any subject matter, I’m rather picky. I prefer to write about uplifting subjects that help people in some way. Of course, the book doesn’t need to be happy-go-lucky throughout, but if you’re looking to get back at an ex or wish to delve into the horrors of your abusive past, I’m not the writer for you.

I’ve written a couple dozen books over the last two decades. Here are a few examples of projects I’ve completed from different genres:

  • The story of a man who immigrated to the United States with only a few dollars in his pocket and became a multi-millionaire
  • A nonfiction book about a how to run a specialized niche market business
  • The fictional story of a deadly family feud that spans generations and worlds, highlighting the importance of family loyalty and the overcoming of seemingly impossible obstacles
  • The heroic journey of a man who escaped communist Hungary on foot to become an affluent businessman in Canada

There are times when someone approaches me with a story that truly appeals to me. I find that I can’t stop thinking about the project. I really want to help the author, even though he or she can’t pay my full price. If you’re on a tight budget and need help, let me know what you can afford. I can almost always make suggestions to help reduce your cost. Or I might be able to work with a student writer and supervise her work. When I do that, I can charge less.

Be flexible with your deadline

Normally, I need eight months to a year (or more) to complete a book project. If you need a fast turnaround time, I will need to increase my price. However, if you are flexible on deadlines, I can sometimes give you a price break, as I can take on other projects.

I routinely try to come in ahead of my deadlines, but it’s nice to have some leeway if it’s needed. Flexibility is worth its weight in gold.

In addition, there are times when my clients need to take a few months off, too. I always juggle projects to accommodate authors.

Reduce your word count

Since a ghostwriter usually charges on a per word basis, you can reduce the price tag by lowering your proposed word count. As I mentioned earlier in this article, the average length of a book is 50,000 – 75,000 words (or 200 – 300 pages), but some stories can be told in 25,000 words (or 100 pages). This is an acceptable length for a memoir. So, if a shorter book is more realistic for you, know that I can make it any length, within reason. Just be aware that we might not be able to include all the incidents that occurred.

Quality is always better than quantity in writing.

Show you communicate well

man communicating on laptop with ghostwriterI need my authors to be available to review pages I send or answer questions that come up as I write. Understand that you’ll need to put in a couple hours a week on your project with me.

I seek out clients who communicate well and respect my time. From experience, I know that working with these clients will be easier, because they will respond to my queries and be a true partner on the project. Of course, I will always do the heavy lifting for any book project I take on, but the client’s contributions are vital to the success of the project.

On the flip side, if a client needs me to send five emails before answering a question or doesn’t make a scheduled appointment, it takes me longer to complete a project.

I will sometimes give discounts (or add words for free) to a client who communicates well and respects my time.

Three Categories of Writer

If you’re willing to pay the cost to hire a ghostwriter, it’s good to know that there are three main categories of writers:

  • Cheap writers
  • Mid-range professional writers
  • High-end celebrity writers

Cheap writers

ghostwriter's costPrice range: $2,000 to $15,000

How to locate: Fiverr, Upwork, Guru or other freelance websites

Pros:

  • Easy to find
  • Many writers in this category
  • Very low cost

Cons:

  • You need to watch for plagiarism. It’s rampant in this category.
  • The writer will often have little to no prior experience. You’ll need to be patient.
  • Because of this writer’s lack of experience, she may miss deadlines or run into unexpected difficulties.
  • The writer will probably have a full-time job, which may cause delays.
  • Be prepared to rewrite her work.

Advice:

  • Ask for references and contact each one.
  • Get writing samples. Be sure to check each using plagiarism software.
  • Make sure they include outside editing within their fee.
  • Never pay the entire fee upfront; give an industry-standard deposit of 25% down.

Summary:

If you have a very small budget (and you can’t write your book on your own), a cheap writer really is your only option. Your biggest risk is that you’ll wind up with an unusable manuscript that will need to be rewritten. Also, you really need to watch for plagiarism with this class of writer.

Mid-range professional writers

Hire a Limo-class ghostwriter

Price range: $15,000 to $100,000

How to locate: Internet searches, blogs, and word-of-mouth

Pros:

  • You will get personalized attention from a professional writer.
  • The process will be an enjoyable experience.
  • Through the interview process, you’ll probably remember new details of past incidents and might put together some interesting pieces to your life puzzle.
  • Your ghostwriter will have years of writing experience, with at least a few books under her belt.
  • You will learn a lot about how to write along the way.

Cons:

  • The price tag is higher than a cheap writer.
  • Since there aren’t many ghostwriters in this category, it can be hard to get on her calendar. We book up fast.

Advice:

  • Review the ghostwriter’s website. Look for a testimonial page and a blog, as these will tell you a lot about the writer’s experience and viewpoint.
  • Compile a good list of questions before you interview her.
  • Make sure you sign a professional contract. Have it reviewed by your lawyer before signing it.
  • Plan to pay 25% – 40% when you begin the project.
  • Don’t restrict your search to local ghostwriters.

Summary:

This level of ghostwriter will make the project an enjoyable and educational experience for you. It’s a bit like hiring a limousine instead of calling an Uber. If you can afford a professional ghostwriter, you’ll wind up with a quality manuscript that you can either market and sell or pitch to an agent or publisher.

High-end celebrity writers

These ghostwriters are usually hired by actors, politicians, musicians and other famous personalities who will sell books just by virtue of their names. The writers for these celebrities are well-established ghostwriters and authors, who have a lot of experience in this area.

The cost to hire a ghostwriter for a celebrity usually runs $250,000 or more and often works through New York agencies.

Which category is right for you?

questions relating to ghostwritingMost people recognize that they would like a mid-ranged professional writer. And, honestly, the cost to hire a ghostwriter is actually reasonable when you consider that a lot of time, energy and hard work goes into writing a book. An excellent professional writer will often spend up to a year or two researching, writing, and editing a book for you.

As you can see, the cost to hire a ghostwriter fluctuates greatly from writer to writer.

Bottom line: you get what you pay for!

Tip: Give your ghostwriter a trial run

If you’re uncertain about the cost to hire a ghostwriter and are nervous about plunking down a large deposit, propose a trial run. Of course, you’ll need to pay for the service. If you don’t pay her, she will have to fit it in around her paid work and won’t be able to grant it the proper importance. Also, if you pay for the piece, you’ll own the rights to it and can use it anytime.

This trial run will allow you to find out how well the writer meets the agreed-upon deadline and you can really determine the quality of her work. At the end, you will have a good idea of what to expect if you hire her.

Now, some people get the “bright idea” that they can piece together a manuscript by asking many different ghostwriters to provide samples for free. This won’t work. Trust me, it will look more like a patchwork quilt than a book. This is not a good way to get around the cost to hire a ghostwriter.

When I do a trial phase, I allow my client to pick the word count, then I charge my standard dollar-per-word fee. If someone is writing his memoir, I select a story from his past to write. If I’m trying out for a nonfiction piece, I usually write an essay or a blog article. These few pages give the new client a good idea of what to expect from our budding relationship.

A Little Warning

Man is upset about hiring the wrong ghostwriterHave you received a lowball offer to write your book?

While it might sound attractive, it rarely works out for you in the end. I have received calls from a number of prospective clients who made “excellent” deals hoping to save money, only to find they had to shell out a lot more cash to have everything re-written. It’s frustrating for the author, as well as for the ghostwriter who must now take over the project.

If you’re paying a fraction of the usual price, you often get a fraction of the quality.

If you have questions and need help,  don’t hesitate to contact me! Check out my testimonial page to see what my clients have to say about me and my work.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

What You Need In a Ghostwriting Contract?

Write Your Family History in 2020

Four Different Ghostwriting Methods

Understanding Characters

What Is It Like to Be a Ghostwriter?

Write and Publish a Book in 2020

“When my partner and I decided to write a book, we interviewed many ghost writers. Some were very inexpensive, while others were too pricey for our budget. Laura wasn’t the least expensive writer, but we chose her because she was so passionate about writing. Laura went above and beyond our expectations. I am very pleased with all her work and will continue to use her for my future writing needs.” Edwin Carrion

Write And Publish A Book in 2020

Imagine that you write and publish a bookAs we embark upon the roaring twenties, you’ll find that it is easier to write and publish a book through Amazon. You can pick any length, set your price and start selling copies relatively quickly.

Having said that, you do need to actually sit down and write the book. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet said, “There’s the rub.”

By writing this article, my intention is not to minimize the challenges of your book project in any way. It will take time and you’ll encounter a few barriers along the way. However, since I’ve lived over a half a century now and have written a few dozen books, I thought I could possibly help lessen your frustrations a bit by offering a few tips.

Start by jotting down notes

It rarely works to start writing the first page without knowing where you’re heading. After all, if you’re planning a trip from San Diego to Topeka, I’d imagine that you’d probably pull out a map or GPS to help guide you. It would be tough to just start driving northeast and hope you arrive at Aunt May’s house.

So, begin by simply jotting down general notes and ideas about your whole book. This will give you a direction to head in as you develop the finer points of your story.

Personally, I open a Word document and organize my thoughts into short paragraphs. A former mentor once gave me a wonderful system that I still use today when I outline a book. I create a Who, What, When, and Where sort of format for each incident when I’m writing a novel. Then I always make sure to include the purpose of the incident.

This system works well for a memoir or a fictional piece.

It’s important to keep it simple. Remember, these are just brief notes so that you can create a road map for your book without getting lost on a side path to nowhere.

Example of an incidentIncident of a book: couple drinking coffee

  • Who: Marge and Stephen
  • When: Sept 6, 2002, their six-month anniversary
  • Where: Starbucks on Main St. (Where they first met)
  • What happened: Stephen proposes and Marge declines
  • Purpose: Show how Stephen’s heart was broken early in his life

If you have more to say, you can add another line and call it “Notes.” Here you can download your thoughts on this incident if you find it hard to continue without doing so. For instance, you might add to the above:

  • Notes: Marge and Stephen broke up soon after this. Over the next few years, Stephen dated a few women, but broke up with each of them after six months.

Adding notes at the end of the incident description isn’t required, but the other elements are important. The most important component is the purpose. If you discover that you can’t come up with a legitimate reason to include an incident, it needs to be removed. This can be difficult, I know.

Once you have your list of incidents, you can put them in the right order because each has a time stamp (the When). Typically, you’ll put them in chronological order, but once in a while you’ll create a flashback to illustrate a point.

This is simply one way to create and organize an outline. You can also simply write incident titles on index cards, with very little description (e.g.: Stephen proposes to Marge and is rejected). Later you can fill in the details. Some authors prefer index cards, as they can shuffle them around easily then pin them to a board. I prefer using Word’s old cut and paste function.

While this may seem a bit tedious, I promise you, it’s an important step if you wish to write and publish a book. And, as an added bonus, your themes for a memoir or fictional book will pop out when you create a good working outline.

Set a target and make it

Once you have your outline worked out, you should be eager to start writing. I know I always am! The book is pretty well written in my head; now, it’s time to get it down on paper.

I find it helpful to set myself a daily word-count target, but it might work better for you to have a weekly target. It really depends upon how much time you have to devote to your book project. Only you know what’s realistic for you.

Some incidents will roll off your fingertips onto your computer screen, while others will require a little more time. Keep in mind that you’ll need to do some research, which will take time away from actually writing. Give yourself enough time to be thorough.

As you settle into the routine of writing, you should become engrossed in the story. When this happens, you may find you can increase the amount of words you write.

It’s also a good idea to give yourself deadlines for completing sections of your book. Truthfully, making your deadlines is the only way to write and publish a book. As a professional ghostwriter, I break up my projects into four milestones for my clients in my contract:

  1. The outline and research
  2. The first half of the first draft
  3. The second half of the first draft
  4. All revisions

Each milestone takes about two to three months for me to produce. This approach works well for me, but your process might be different. You may decide to break this down even further, perhaps setting yourself a goal of completing a chapter a week.

Schedule time to write into your day

Schedule a time to writeIf you have a full-time job but have a strong desire to write and publish a book in your spare time, I suggest scheduling a certain time each day for writing. Most people prefer the early morning hours, as they often have the whole house to themselves. However, the night owls among you might prefer a late-night hour.

Whatever time you select, make sure you’ve had enough to eat and that you’re not too tired. It’s also good to secure a little peace and quiet. When you’re starved and have three young children clamoring to sit on your lap, it isn’t the best time to write. Trust me, I know.

If it’s possible, find a dedicated space to write. This should be a quiet place, preferably with a door. If you don’t have room for a writing alcove, then at least pick a place that is comfortable and free of distraction. Some people like to turn off their Wi-Fi, so they won’t be tempted to check the sports scores or their Facebook feed. It’s hard, I know, but remember your goal: To write and publish a book.

Seek out helpful feedback

If this is your first book, it would be a good idea to get a little feedback along the way. Ask friends to read chapters and find out if they are interested to read more. Be open to their thoughts and suggestions, but don’t lose yourself in their viewpoints. There’s definitely a balance to maintain between your own vision for the book and what appeals to your readers.

If you find you can’t do anything with the suggestions you get, keep plugging away. For instance, if you’re writing an historical romance, but your best friend prefers space opera, there really isn’t much you can do. Don’t change your direction to please one person.

However, if you show your book to five people and they all comment that they had trouble getting to the end, you might want to ask them what they didn’t like and if they can identify what made them put the book down. Maybe it’s a simple matter of putting more action into the story. Or perhaps you need to create a little more depth to your characters.

Once you complete the final draft of your book, you will need to get feedback. Find people who are willing to read the entire manuscript. Some people aren’t into reading, while others just don’t have the time. These aren’t good candidates. Find friends who love literature and ask them to critique your book.

Find outside help

If you don’t have personal acquaintances who can help, you might want to join a writer’s group and swap critiques with other writers. Or you can hire manuscript doctors or editors to give you pointers. This feedback can be instrumental to your growth as a writer.

It’s important to find readers who will praise you for what you’ve done as well as point out the flaws. Some editors feel the only valuable feedback is negative. That can be demoralizing and confusing. Good constructive criticism makes you aware of areas you can improve, while praise validates and reinforces the good work you have already done. Both are important.

The last thing you want to happen is to publish a book and find that there’s a gaping hole in your plot or a character that doesn’t come off as realistic. Or perhaps you’re writing your autobiography and have left an unanswered question in the reader’s mind. Good feedback allows you to look at the book through the reader’s eyes. It gives you the opportunity to craft the best possible story.

Get reviews for you book

Girls review a bookOnce you publish your book, find people who are willing to write reviews for you. Amazon has new rules about who can write book reviews, so it’s good to study those. Close family members and friends aren’t allowed (because they probably won’t be unbiased), but you are still allowed to trade a free review copy of your book to those you don’t know well.

Amazon and Goodreads are both great sites for drawing attention to your book, because both attract avid readers.

In addition, Amazon has an Early Reviewer Program to help you find your first five reviewers. Your product must be sold for $15 or more and the program comes with a hefty fee of $60. However, for some this can be a good way to start out.

For all my readers who have the goal to write and publish a book in 2020, I commend you. It isn’t an easy task, but I can promise you it is a very fulfilling one. One for one, my clients have been thrilled when they hold their first books in their hands. While the journey can have a few potholes along the way, it also has amazing vistas and truly spectacular triumphs.

Enjoy the experience!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

Write Great Dialogue

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

How To Hire A Ghostwriter

Ideas for a book when you hire a ghostwriter

Do you have a great idea for a book, but find yourself having trouble making your dream a reality? This is the year to write a book!

It could be that you don’t know where to start.

Or maybe you don’t have the time or discipline to write the book.

Perhaps you’re not a huge fan of research, or possibly you just don’t enjoy writing.

Whatever the stumbling block, it doesn’t have to keep you from finishing your book. There is a solution.

It may be time to hire a ghostwriter!

A ghostwriter can help you take your idea from conception to fruition. She can help sculpt your vision into a book your readers can’t put down.

Here is a handy checklist to help to help determine what to do to hire a ghostwriter:

Decide on your budget

Ghostwriting pricing can span a broad range but remember the old saying: you get what you pay for.

There are ghostwriters who seem to charge impossibly low rates. These could be enticing, especially if you are on a budget; but if you’re interested in producing a high-quality book, you’ll need to pay an experienced ghostwriter what she is worth.

You can expect an experienced professional writer to charge you between $15,000 and $75,000 for a 100-300 page book.

Ask your prospective ghostwriter about his fee right up front. There is no sense in pouring out your heart and story only to learn that the writer is way out of your price range.

Don’t dance around the subject. If your prospective ghostwriter does, he probably isn’t a professional writer. You want to hire a ghostwriter who writes for a living, not one who tries to cram in time after his day job.

Be ready to answer basic questions

woman thinks of questions for a ghostwriter

When you talk to ghostwriters, they are interviewing you, even as you are interviewing them. They need to know various facts in order to determine if they are the best ghostwriter for you. Plus, in order to create a bid for your project, the ghostwriters will need the following information:

The general subject matter and genre of your book.

Writers specialize in different kinds of books. Some prefer to craft fictional tales, others pen memoirs, and then there are those who create non-fiction business books. By knowing the kind of books you want to write, the ghostwriter will be able to determine if your project is a good match for his skills.

Your purpose for writing your book.

If you’re writing a fictional book, what’s your motivation for writing it? What are your key messages? Will it be part of a series? If you’re writing your memoir, what lessons do you wish to impart? Or are you simply writing your life story to entertain the readers? If you’re writing a business book, are you doing so to gain new clients, or perhaps you want to teach your readers how to master a new skill? There are countless reasons for writing a book. If you are clear on your main purpose, the writer will know if he can help you achieve it.

The proposed word count.

Of course, you can’t know the precise length of your book before you write it, but you will need to give an accurate estimate. Most ghostwriters base their bids upon the proposed length. An average word count will be 50,000 to 75,000 words (or 200-300 pages).

Your publishing goals.

Do you plan to self-publish, or will you pursue a traditional publisher? If you wish to secure an agent, your ghostwriter will be able to help you with a query letter and a proposal (but that will cost extra).

Your deadline.

Skilled ghostwriters are in high demand and book their projects in advance. They may not be able to take on your project right away. Consider being flexible so that you can engage the writer who will best bring your project to life. If you give him an unreasonably short period, he will need to turn it down if he has a full schedule. After all, it takes time to research and write a high-quality book.

When you are clear on your intentions and requirements, the ghost will be better able to help you formulate the best book to achieve them.

Find a good fit

Hire a ghostwriter with a handshake and a contractWriting a book is a financial investment, but also an endeavor of the heart, so you want to find someone with whom you are compatible. Make sure you feel comfortable talking with her about personal matters. You should mesh well with her.

Having said that, when you take steps to hire a ghostwriter, it is a business decision. You’ll need to do your due diligence as you would in hiring any professional.

These steps will help you find a good fit:

Check every candidate’s writing resume.

Ideally, you would want to see that the ghostwriter has written dozens of books. However, ask yourself, does your project require a highly experienced writer, or can you take a chance on someone with fewer books under his belt? Depending on his skill, you may discover a gem.

Check out my writing resume.

Evaluate work samples.

Ask for and read over the sample of every writer you interview. Make sure that the style of the ghostwriter you hire resonates with you. In addition, make sure that she demonstrates the ability to take on different voices. After all, your voice will be different from the chiropractor’s memoir or the schoolteacher’s how-to book she wrote last year. Make sure that she can write in the voice and style you want for your book.

Check out my samples.

Review testimonial pages.

Ghostwriting client testimonialsWhat have previous clients said about the ghostwriter you are considering for your project? That’s key. Note: some writers will have trouble coming up with testimonials from clients because of the confidentiality agreement they have signed. Still, someone who has been in the industry for years will be able to find clients willing to share their experiences. Hiring a ghostwriter with no recommendations is a little risky.

Please check out my testimonial page.

Learn the writer’s process.

Every ghostwriter has a different way of working. Some will work closely with the client as the book is written. Others will deliver a final manuscript only when they are finished. Personally, I will send a few pages early on. I’ll stop working until I get feedback. Once I receive corrections and a critique, I’ll incorporate those suggestions in the next few pages. Then, when the client and I are confident that I have captured his voice and style, I’ll send larger chunks at a time. Decide what works best for you and hire a ghostwriter who can work around your needs.

Once you’ve interviewed the writers (and they have interviewed you), you should have a good idea which writer you wish to hire.

It’s very important that you feel absolutely comfortable talking to her. Make sure she listens well and produces what you ask for.

If the answer is yes, then she’s the writer for you!

Pay your first installment and get started

Woman signs a ghostwriting contractOnce you have made your decision, plan to sign the ghostwriting contract and make the first payment before you begin the project. These will be required by any professional writer. Don’t wait too long to make your decision because the more popular ghostwriters will get booked quickly. If you love a writer and know you want to hire her, don’t dawdle.

I’ve discovered that January and September are key months for potential clients to contact ghostwriters. On the flip side, the summer months and December are quiet. So, my advice is to avoid the busy months and interview writers when they are less inundated with new prospects.

Plan the time to work with your ghostwriter

As your project unfolds, it’s important to answer your writer’s emails and phone messages promptly. Don’t allow too much time to go by without communication.

If you find that you’re putting off talking to your ghost, it’s a good time to pick up the phone. Tell her what’s going on and let her help you. It’s not uncommon to hit a snag and need a little assistance. For instance, if you’re working on notes about your life story, you may want to talk to your ghost on the phone. She can help you navigate this emotional journey.

Personally, I love to shoot emails back and forth with my clients throughout the week. I also will pick up the phone to talk to each client at least once a month. Frequent communication is key to a good relationship.

Create a marketing plan

Once your book is completed, you must have strategies in place for marketing. It’s a good idea to have a dedicated author website and to start blogging months before the book is published. In addition, most marketing gurus suggest that you become active on social media and connect with your readers. It’s never too early to think about marketing.

With a great concept, a little bit of help, and a lot of preparation, your book can become a reality and a success. If you realize that you need to hire a ghostwriter, please email me, and let me know how I can help.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Do You Want To Write A Book About Your Life?

Tips for World Building

Understanding Characters

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

How to Write Three-Dimensional Characters

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!