I believe that every person has at least one good book in them. That project might be an exciting life story, a memoir, a fictional piece, or a family history. Over the last twenty years, I’ve helped dozens of clients share their incredible stories. Sharing your story is important to me.
You might be surprised to learn that out of the nearly eight billion people on this blue-green planet only 44,000 are published authors. That means that only an infinitesimal percentage of people realize their dream of seeing their books in the hands of readers.
Let’s see if we can improve that statistic!
How to begin
While there are many steps to writing a book, I’d say the first is the most important. Begin with a firm decision to write your book within a year. When this step is completed, you will need to muster the courage (yes, courage) to see your dream through to the end. Whatever you do, don’t allow the many distractions of the world to hinder your progress. Remember, your story is important.
I find that it helps if you create a schedule that you can keep. Ideally, find a time each day to write. I also encourage you to find a calm, comfortable, and stable writing space where you won’t be interrupted.
The next step is a crucial one. Before you take off putting thousands of words on paper, you need to research your topic. Collecting data can take different forms depending upon your genre. Within your notes, include your purpose for writing your book as well as your intended readership.
If you’re writing nonfiction, take copious notes as you research the various topics you plan to cover. This will avoid confusion and frustration later. Make sure to record your sources so you can refer to them later. Dig deep. You really can’t have too many notes for your book.
For a memoir you’d want to consider the incidents that made up your past, as well as the details about the environments and characters that will fill your book.
For a fictional work, your research would include details on any real-world historical accounts mentioned or real locations featured. If your book takes place on a completely unknown planet that has nothing to do with any of Earth’s logic, you need to build a new world. Check out my article on World Building to learn more.
Note: When you are embarking on a writing adventure, it’s very important that you continue to read books you enjoy that are in the genre you wish to write. You can learn a lot by studying other people’s writing. It’s a bit like when you were just learning the how to speak: the more you listened, the more you got the hang of the language.
Now Get Writing!
Before you dive into writing, create a detailed outline. That way you won’t get lost, stray from your purpose, or forget any of the minor plot lines or incidents in your masterpiece. Your story is important. Keep on track.
With the outline in hand, it’s time to start putting pen to paper or fingers to your keyboard. Focus on banging out a first draft. Follow your outline and your book should flow naturally.
As you write, don’t edit. Just write. And write. And write. Keep the words flowing. I like to record the number of words that I write per day so I can do my best to beat the previous day’s word count. Yes, I’m a bit competitive.
Once you have your first draft completed, you can begin to edit. Check out my detailed article on How to Edit Your Own Book for instruction on that phase. For now, pat yourself on the back for getting your first draft completed. Well done!
An 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 client know what to expect, and there can’t be misunderstandings down the line.
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.
What you must include in a ghostwriter contract
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:
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.
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.
Because 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).
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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, and wish to hire a ghostwriter, please email me. You can check out my ghostwriting process in this article. Once we determine that I’m a good candidate for your project, I’d be happy to send you a copy of my contract to review in detail.
If you’re sitting down to write your life story, you’re probably considering your options. When I offer prospective clients a free consultation, one of the questions I usually field is whether they should write a memoir or an autobiography.
Many people think they are the same thing.
While there are commonalities between the two genres, they are quite different in style and voice. This is a point of confusion for many. So before you begin writing your book, you must decide which option works best for you.
What a memoir and an autobiography have in common
Both types of books discuss the author’s life, as shared by you. For that reason, you would tell it in the first person. This type of storytelling differs from a biography, which you would write in the third person. This distances the reader from the author while memoirs and autobiographies tend to put the reader into the author’s shoes.
Although a memoir or an autobiography can be written in diary form, they aren’t actually a personal journal. For one thing, an author writes in a diary for himself, but would pen a memoir for someone else. It’s important to remember that a memoir or an autobiography must follow the rules of literature; both must read like a novel no matter the format.
How a memoir and an autobiography differ
While both feature a person’s life and are told in the first person, the tone and voice are often night and day. An autobiography is usually more of a formal work, which often begins at birth (or early childhood) and chronologically carries through the entire life. While there are exceptions, these books often have a dry feel, focusing on facts while just touching on emotion.
A memoir, on the other hand, dives headfirst into a sea of emotion. It tends to be intimate and passionate, highlighting a portion of the author’s journey through life. Remember, a memoir pulls out an era of the author’s life to examine and spotlight, making the story’s scope limited.
Which one is right for you?
When you’re selecting the style for your book, think about how much you wish to share with your reader. If you know you want to write only about a particular period of time, and you plan to share the emotional journey of that era with your readers, a memoir is a good choice for you. If you’d like to explore the entire scope of your life from a more detached perspective, I’d recommend an autobiography.
Not to throw a monkey wrench into your decision-making process, but I would be remiss if I didn’t reiterate the third option I mentioned earlier. You might consider telling your life story in the third person as a biography. I had a client who chose that option because she was a toddler during the major event of the book. Her personal memory of the event wasn’t strong, but she had a lot of details of the historical incidents, so a biography made sense.
Whether you choose to write a memoir or an autobiography, I encourage you to write your life story for others to read. Readers can gain so much from your experiences. Think of how rewarding it will be when people write in to say how much you’ve touched their lives with your book.
You’ve made the leap—you’ve decided to author a book this year. Bravo! This is a wonderful goal. If you’re similar to many other busy successful people, you may need a little help. If so, you may find you learn a lot just from a simple interview with a ghostwriter.
Over the years I’ve discovered that authors sometimes aren’t aware of everything that goes into the development of a book. Some have a vague idea of the ghostwriting process, but most have a lot of questions about structure, format and content. That’s completely normal. I’m more than happy to share this information with you during our initial interview.
The initial interview with a ghostwriter
Naturally there are questions you want to ask to determine whether a particular ghostwriter might be qualified to take on your project. I cover this topic extensively in my article, Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter.
However, while you are interviewing her, she is also gathering information which will help her decide if she is the best ghost for you. Through this initial interview with a ghostwriter you will take the first step toward understanding what will be required to complete your book.
Hit upon the genre of your book
The three most popular book requests I receive are: fiction, business nonfiction, and memoir. Within those classifications, there are many subcategories. For instance, if you’re writing a fictional story, you have various choices of genre: drama, science fiction, fantasy and young adult, to name a few.
If you’re writing business nonfiction, there are a wide variety of subjects as well as a few choices of styles of presentation of the facts and information. Some authors prefer text only, while others opt to include many photos. When I wrote Chess Is Child’s Play, we included many fun text boxes with tips and anecdotes for the reader to enjoy.
Memoirs are pretty straightforward. They are typically written in the first person and look and feel like a novel (even though they are true stories). However, some are presented as a diary or journal.
Keep in mind, there is some cross-over, too. For instance, you can have a memoir that is only loosely based on fact but is primarily a novel. Or a novel that feels like memoir but is actually completely fictional. In addition, many entrepreneurs who have important lessons to impart will write a nonfiction how-to book and sprinkle many humorous anecdotes throughout. Another option is to write a memoir and include many tips and tricks of the trade to educate the readers.
When you interview with a ghostwriter, make sure to know your book’s genre so you can hire the best ghost for the job; most writers specialize in certain genres.
Uncover your readership in an interview with a ghostwriter
One of the biggest errors a new author can make is to try to write his book for “everyone.” While some books are very popular with a lot of people, you always want to direct your creative energies to a certain demographic.
For instance, a how-to book giving practical parenting advice for single parents will be written very differently than a science fiction novel aimed at the young adult market. The voice and style will vary depending on the readers you wish to entertain or educate.
During your interview with a ghostwriter work to determine the right readership for your book and make sure your ghost can capture the style and voice required to resonate with them.
Talk about your goals
A good ghostwriter will ask you to reveal your goals for your book early on. Over the last twenty years, I’ve heard a variety of goals from many clients. Some are interested in financial gain, while others want to share their story or wisdom with others. Many simply wish to complete their books for their loved ones.
Another popular goal of many is to see their name on the cover of a book. I understand—it’s a bucket list item. As an author, I know there’s no better feeling than seeing your story in print.
I love to work with clients who wish to share their expertise or life lessons with others. I have seen that sometimes books written with a strong purpose to help, enlighten or entertain others also result in fame and fortune. On the other hand, fame and fortune seldom come when the author is purely money-driven. Your ghostwriter must know what drives you to write your book so that she can help you achieve your goals.
Discuss your publishing plans in an interview with a ghostwriter
It’s a good idea to share your publishing goals early on as well. While this information is not vital when it comes to writing the outline of a book, it does help to bring the ghostwriter in on the overall strategy. We’re a team, after all.
If you don’t know yet, don’t worry. You have time. I always suggest my clients decide about halfway through the writing process. That gives you time to make a more educated decision and prepare a query letter if that’s what’s needed.
The next interview with a ghostwriter and the next
After you complete your initial interview with a ghostwriter, you will probably immediately know if this writer is the right one for you. A rapport and bond should form quickly. If you have to “think about it,” the answer is probably no. Interview another writer.
Once you sign the contract and send the down payment, the next step will be to send all the written information you might have to your new ghostwriter. For me, one of the best sources of research is in written form. This gives me a great foundation to start learning what I need to know to write your book.
Some clients have a first draft that needs a complete overhaul, while others have a lot of detailed notes. Some provide journal entries or articles, while some have notes or documents written on cocktail napkins. Gather up all these pieces so you can send them to your ghostwriter. These written samples are invaluable, as they will help your ghostwriter capture your voice.
I always tell my clients that they can never give me too much data. It’s a bit like creating a sculpture from a large block of marble. You need a lot of material to start so you can carve out a beautiful piece of art.
After your ghostwriter has reviewed all your written material, she will need to continue to interview you. I often conduct these over email and phone. Sometimes clients send me audio or video files, which I transcribe.
Please know that these ongoing interviews are vital. They help your ghostwriter get the detailed information she needs to fully and accurately capture your style and written voice.
Get personal in an interview with a ghostwriter
If you want your writer to accurately portray you to your reader, it’s important that you participate in each interview with a ghostwriter fully.
That means if you’re writing a memoir, you must share your most personal experiences, thoughts and feelings sincerely and honestly. While you don’t need to include everything in your book, you can’t hide from all the negative events that happened.
Don’t try to make out that your life is wonderful all the time. You need to show your flaws and share your errors. Readers need to be able to identify with you. They need to see that you’re human. If you portray yourself as perfect, the reader will know that you’re lying.
And your book will be boring.
Just like life, a good story must have conflict to be interesting. So, you must be willing to open up to your readers. That begins with your ghostwriter. Your ghostwriter will help you by asking broad questions. If the questions spark an idea, feel free to elaborate. It’s fine to go off-topic for a bit because that may open the door to more ideas and even bring up interesting incidents which might have been a bit buried. Most of my clients remember many details when they interview with me, their friendly ghostwriter.
One word of warning: if you’re thinking of speaking ill of someone, be aware that her or she may read your book. Consider carefully if you are willing to face the consequences. After all, anything you put in writing is permanent.
If you’re writing a fiction book or a prescriptive nonfiction (how-to book), keep in mind you still need to interview with your ghostwriter. She will need to coordinate closely with you and collect all the pertinent facts. In addition, she’ll require regular feedback on her work.
Each interview with a ghostwriter will help her hear how you put together phrases, learn more about your philosophies on writing and life, and better understand your ongoing thoughts and goals for the project.
What a ghostwriter needs
My clients usually wish to write their book with me. I always embrace this partnership and strive to teach them about the process every step of the way, if that’s what they desire. However, some authors prefer a more hands-off approach. In those cases, I simply write pages and submit them on a regular basis.
There are various key research elements a client can provide that make my job a lot easier.
Biographies of characters
No matter what the genre, it is always helpful to collect biographies of the people mentioned in the book (whether they be fictional or not). If I’m writing a memoir for a client, I like to know the following information so that I can write a truly three-dimensional character:
Birthdate (month and year)
Birthplace and residences
Hair and eye color
Hobbies or interests
This is a good starting point, but, really, there is a lot more that can be added to this list. Consider all the things that make this person truly unique.
A detailed list of incidents
Any fiction book or memoir is really comprised of a series of incidents. It’s a timeline of the events that happen to your characters.
In order to get started on your outline, I need to know what happened. This list doesn’t have to include a lot of information. In fact, when you’re just starting out, it can just be a list of key words that triggers the right concept for you. Then, during your interview, your ghostwriter will pull out the relevant details to understand the scene as well as you do.
For instance, if you’re writing your memoir, you might jot down:
The time I got food poisoning in LA
The first horror movie I attended with a boy
The time I flew to Paris to meet my sister
Once you make a giant list of all these incidents, you can even delve in a little further and add a few more pertinent facts:
Who was involved?
Where did it take place?
When did it happen?
What was the significance for you?
Snippets of dialogue
When you’re writing a memoir, it is very helpful to note down any actual conversations that you might wish to recreate in your book. Of course, your ghostwriter will change it around to work for your book, but these words will give her a sense for how you and others in your story speak and interact with one another. If you think about it, you speak very differently with the different people in your life. I know I don’t talk to my mother-in-law the way I speak to my children or my neighbor.
The same goes for fiction if. If you have a good handle on the characters you wish your writer to portray, I’d recommend that you provide a little sample dialogue. That way your ghostwriter can build from that and meet your expectations easily.
I find it extremely helpful to get the addresses of former homes, offices, schools, etc., so I can research details about the locations various characters visited throughout the story. This helps me set the scenes accurately, especially if the research turns up photos of the interior as well. I love to pore over local maps to get a feel for the area.
Of course, if you have any pertinent photos, those help tremendously because they give a complete picture of how people, places and things looked.
Use your senses in an interview with a ghostwriter
As you are writing down all the above information, do your best to fully describe everything so that your ghostwriter can see and feel what you did. Use all your senses. For example, if you’re describing your first girlfriend, mention the color of her hair, the sound her high heels made as she clicked across the floor, the way her perfume reminded you of the rose garden at your grandma’s house, or the silky feel of her dress when you held her as you danced.
If you’re writing a memoir, each interview with a ghostwriter may bring out a lot of emotions. Let them out. Be honest about how you felt when certain things happened. Open up and share the fear that gripped you when your car spun out of control on an ice patch, the raw anger you experienced when your brother teased you as a young child, or the pure joy you felt when you held your first-born child.
And through it all, seek the themes that you wish to impart. Share the messages you wish to communicate through your book.
Enjoy each interview with a ghostwriter. You’ll learn a lot and, through the process of working with a ghostwriter, you both will create an excellent book.
Self-publishing a book a good option for most authors. Finding an agent and publisher in this market can be very difficult unless you have a stellar marketing plan.
I often receive emails from prospective authors which communicate something along the lines of: “Please help me write my book. Call me. I have this amazing idea for a best-selling book that will make us both a lot of money!”
The problem is that writing a great book is only part of the equation. After talking to other successful writers, I’ve learned that the only way to gain a readership is by investing energy into marketing.
Publishing: A changing industry
In the mid to late twentieth century, an author could just be an amazing writer and sell copies with little to no effort or attention put on sales. He or she could just write up a storm and make money because the publisher would handle everything for their authors.
In those days, self-publishing was not well respected. It seemed synonymous with failure. People assumed self-publishing authors printed their own copies because they couldn’t get a traditional publisher. Self-publishing authors were pretty much resigned to selling a few hundred copies to their friends and family, if they were lucky. No profit was made. More likely, they would wind up with boxes of books in their garage collecting dust and mildew.
Then Amazon dramatically changed the self-publishing industry.
As Amazon grew, it became easier and easier for anyone to download a manuscript onto the Amazon platform and publish his or her work. Then Amazon advanced their print on demand capacity so that authors no longer had to purchase thousands of books and store them in their basements. Suddenly, customers could order copies directly through Amazon.
Today self-publishing is an acceptable, and even preferable, way for authors to release their books. Not only can they get their books into the hands of their readers quickly, but they retain all the creative control of the material and can keep most of the profits. Many authors who previously had no outlet to sell their books are now able to make a good income.
Setting yourself up for success
When self-publishing your book, there are a few things you need to create in order to have a successful release.
Create an attractive cover
It’s easy to find someone to design a cover for your book. I recently used Fiverr with success. Although this freelance marketplace got its name by offering services for five dollars, that is not the typical price any longer. Still, the price is often reasonable, and sometimes you can find a great deal. My ghostwriting logo was purchased for a little over a fiver.
Write a compelling blurb
The back cover blurb or online tease is an important tool for enticing new readers. Writing a compelling one is an art form. You can study up on different techniques to find a good way to communicate your book summary in a few lines.
Of course, if you have received any endorsements or editorial reviews, include them front and center within your Amazon description.
The importance of reviews
Before I hit the purchase button for any book or item on Amazon, I always check the reviews. I want to know what others think. I’m not alone. Most people want some reassurance that they’re spending their hard-earned dollars wisely.
As an author, you need to collect reviews from readers. Remember, reviews should be honest. Never purchase a review. That’s decidedly unethical. Having said that, it is the norm to offer free copies of your book in exchange for a review.
Amazon will tag a reader who has purchased the book through them as a “Verified Purchaser.” This is important. If you collect too many reviews without that title, your collection of reviews will be flagged. Amazon might assume that you have asked your friends to post reviews without having purchased or read the book. This would be unethical.
As a side note, if you list your book on Kindle Unlimited, readers can pick it up for free. You get paid based on the number of pages they read. However, don’t think you can shortcut the system by having people pretend to read it. Yes, Amazon has an algorithm that will detect if someone just flipped through the pages quickly and will flag the review accordingly.
Also, if the self-publishing author has the same last name as the reviewer, Amazon will object. They will assume that the reviewer is a family member. Amazon doesn’t allow your close family and friends to review your books since, understandably, your mother would probably not be an objective reviewer.
Every ninety days, Amazon allows you to post your book for free for five days. That’s the time to get people to download your book for reviews. They will be considered a “Verified Purchaser.” It’s within the framework of the rules.
How to get a good number of reviews
If you were throwing a big party, how would you go about making sure the bash was a success? You’d probably start by setting a date and sending out invitations. You’d ask for RSVPs. People understand that you need to predict the number of guests to make sure you have the right amount of hors d’oeuvres and eggnog.
So, let’s say you invited fifty people and forty agreed to come. Would you expect all forty to show up without any prompting or reminding? Well, maybe if this was your first party, but you’d learn a lesson after that. If you invited them on Dec 1st for a party on the 20th and never sent any sort of follow up, you’d probably wind up with five guests on the day. If you were lucky.
In order to get a good turnout, you need to follow up a few times before the day of the event. Then it’s probably a good idea to remind everyone again two or three days before.
In sales, follow up is the key to success. I know, throwing a party doesn’t seem like a sales activity, but it is more relevant than you realize.
The importance of follow-up for self-publishing authors
Now, how does throwing a party relate to a self-publishing author getting reviews? Well, the principles discussed in the previous section definitely apply. When you set your free days for your book on Amazon, it’s a good idea to personally invite everyone you know to pick it up. Ask them for an honest review in exchange for the copy.
Then follow up. Yes, it’s a free book, but you still want to make sure they download your book during that period. Otherwise you’ll have to get them to buy it, which is much harder.
Once they have the book, there is no time limit for the review. The next step is to get them to read your book. That might take time. Two weeks is a typical expected turnaround, but keep in mind that most people are busy, and reading isn’t always high on their priority list.
Again, follow up. Ask them when they think they can read it, then mark that date on the calendar.
There is a fine line between being a follow-up expert and a nuisance, so you’ll need to judge that carefully. If your friend keeps setting dates but never begins to read your book, chances are she won’t read and review your book. That’s OK. Let it go. Maybe she will surprise you later.
When a friend says they have read your book, that’s a good time to ask them for an honest review. Make sure they know how to post a review on Amazon. If they don’t, walk them through the process. It’s easy, but it can help to have someone by your side guiding you.
So, if you’re a self-publishing author and you wish to get a good number of reviews, there is really a three-step process. You need to get people to:
Download your book
Read your book
Write an honest review
Take one step at a time and follow up. Before you know it, you’ll have dozens of reviews.
Putting a book up on Amazon without any thought to marketing is a bit like putting up a hotel on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific. No one will know you are there. No one will buy your book. It doesn’t matter how beautifully written or captivating your story might be, no one will read it.
In order to sell beyond your friends and family, you will need to find a way to promote. Here are a few ideas:
Create your own blog
It’s always a good idea to purchase the domain name of your name (or your pen name) as well as the title of your book. Even if you aren’t ready to create a website, buy the name so that it doesn’t get snapped up. There are probably a number of people with the same name, so you might have to use your middle initial.
When you are a few months away from releasing your book, start blogging about the subject matter to build interest among your readers. You might also offer a free eBook in exchange for a reader opting into your mailing list. You can create a monthly newsletter to keep in touch with these people.
Create a social media presence
There are many social media platforms. It can be overwhelming. I’d suggest starting with one site, one that you like, and expand from there. A lot of authors choose to create an author page on Facebook. Start by inviting your existing friends to follow you, then expand your followers as best you can. Post content daily. Promote your blog now and then, but not too much. People won’t follow a slew of advertisements.
Instead, share relevant content. For instance, I recently ghostwrote a book called Discovering Kindness and received a cover credit (a nice bonus for a ghostwriter). I have been working with the author to create interesting content. One thing I do is to often share videos and articles about random acts of kindness. These relate to the message of the book and uplift our followers. It’s a win-win. I also feel that humor goes a long way, so I include funny memes and cartoons on his author’s page, keeping the style of the author in mind.
There’s a lot more to marketing and selling your book on Amazon. These are just a few tips from my personal experience as a ghostwriter. You can learn more from the many resources available in the library and online, including classes you can take. You also might consider investing in Amazon ads to boost sales, but that’s a subject for another article.
Congratulations on writing your book. Now go out and market the heck out of it!
While you embark on the adventure of writing your book for the first time, you might be searching the internet for a magic formula that will enable you to turn your ideas into a completed book. Truthfully, this doesn’t exist, but I have discovered I always seem to go through four main phases. Perhaps discussing these will help you as you embark upon your adventure.
Phase One: Researching
With nonfiction, research is clearly an integral part of the process. When I ghostwrite a memoir, my client is my main source for information, but I also use the internet for supplementary data. After all, I often need to know more about a culture, time period, or group of people.
When writing fiction, this research can take the form of “world building,” as you are creating the world for your characters. However, I always find myself looking up facts about various real-world incidents to round out a scene.
Phase Two: Outlining
If you’re starting out as a writer and have never written a book, I strongly urge you to create a detailed outline before you begin.
There are many ways to create an outline. The format doesn’t matter as long as it works for you and gives you the major mileposts you’ll hit when traveling your individual path to your book’s completion.
If you at least sketch out the story first, that outline will save you countless hours and tons of frustration. For me, once the outline is complete the book is written—in my head. Now I just need to put the words on the page.
Phase Three: Writing the first draft
In this phase your job is to get the material out of your head and onto the page—one way or the other. Work from your outline, start at the beginning, and just write. Then continue to write and write and write.
This isn’t the time to edit.
So many new writers feel embarrassed when they reread their work. Many strive for perfection each step along the way. That’s a mistake. Save editing for the final phase.
Note: if you have trouble moving forward with your book, go back a step and review your outline. Something there probably needs correcting.
Phase Four: Editing
Now that you have your first draft completed, I’d recommend putting the project aside for a bit. How long? Well, that depends on you. The idea is that it should feel fresh to you. I like to give it a few days or even a week.
When you’re ready, read over your manuscript. If you feel you need to make comments, do so in the margins, but don’t cut pages or chapters. Read it as if you were a reader.
Next, you’ll need to read it again and again, looking for any problems with continuity, errors in content, flow issues, while making sure your transitions are smooth. Once these are the way you’d like them to be, you can focus on grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.
If you can, hire a professional editor to read your manuscript. There is nothing like having outside eyes review your work.
Although writing your book is a time-consuming journey, it’s also highly rewarding. It is my hope that following these four phases of writing a book will make the process a little easier for you.
If you’re interested in hiring a ghostwriter, please feel free to reach out to me. I would love to help!
You’re not alone. So many professionals get a strong urge to publish a book that highlights their niche market expertise. If you talk to PR experts, they will confirm that having a book with your name on it is a key element to any strategic branding campaign.
However, for most busy professionals the dream stops there. Why? Because writing a book isn’t an easy task. As you can imagine, it will take a few hundred hours to complete the project.
Let’s see if we can make the process a little easier for you to tackle. And, of course, if you need help from your friendly ghostwriter, please don’t hesitate to write me.
How to begin to write a business book
Well, as Lewis Carroll said, “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
While that might sound a little simplistic, there’s a measure of truth to it, because implied in that advice is a drive to complete the project. So, I’d say the first step is to make that commitment: to write a business book, no matter what.
Once you’re sure you want to embark on this adventure, here is my advice on the next steps to follow.
State your purpose
You must know why you want to write a business book if you’re going to succeed. As a ghostwriter, I always ask my clients to reveal their main drive and passion behind the project. I’ll tell you, I’m most eager to help the CEO who wants to share his or her successful actions with budding entrepreneurs. Business owners who are willing to share their advice, to open up and to confide their errors, with the ultimate goal of paving the way for other business owners to succeed, are heroes in my book.
Some people write me with the sole goal of making a million bucks. It’s hard to get behind that purpose. Readers will sense that goal and will not be inspired to read your book. After all, their goal in picking up your book will never be to make you rich. Rather, they are looking for advice and actions that will help them achieve their own goals.
The authors who truly care about their readers will succeed.
The top business books have a deeper purpose than financial gain for the author. When you can reach out to the individuals reading your words on a one-on-one basis, they will respond. Your readers will be grateful for your insight and guidance. They will recommend your book to others, and more will purchase it. Soon you may even have a best seller on your hands.
Know your readership
If you know who your readers are, you can accurately write to them. Consider writing your book as if you were preparing a speech for a group. Wouldn’t you craft your message differently for a gaggle of middle school students than you would for a pride of CEOs or a pod of athletes?
Never write your book for “everyone” on this planet. It will fail. Remember, you are writing to one individual at a time. You’re writing to your reader, so that individual learns and benefits from your wisdom and advice.
Determine your format
Here’s where your homework starts. You need to settle on a style for your book, and the best way to do that is to read a few other business books. It’s OK to skim them. For now, you’re just trying to find a format that appeals to you.
The good news is that you have choices! Here are a few options for you to consider:
a memoir format with lots of sage business advice sprinkled throughout
a workbook format with lots of practical exercises for the reader to do
There is no hard and fast rule here. You can pick the format that most appeals to you and will resonate with your readership. Again, get some ideas from other bestselling books out there and feel free to use that format for your business book.
Now it’s time to write a business book
Once you have the purpose, readership and format decided, it’s time to begin writing. However, there are a few more steps to take before you can begin putting words on pages.
Determine your focus
The first thing to determine is the focus of your book. Identify precisely the problem that you are trying to solve. Pick one. If you try to solve too many, your book will ramble and lose the interest of your reader.
For instance, let’s say you discovered an effective means of retaining customers in your online business. That’s the focus of your book. Or maybe you want to impart how to start and run a small restaurant in a big city. Whatever you decide, really explore the problem in depth, then present a concrete solution.
Create your idea folder
You might find it easiest to just pour out your ideas into a word processing document or a notebook. Don’t worry about order, grammar or anything but the ideas. This part should be fun.
It’s important not to stop yourself from putting a thought into your idea folder. All ideas should go into the file. You can edit them down later.
When do you stop this phase? The answer is a little like the instructions for making popcorn. There is a phase where the pan is heating up and nothing happens. Then the kernels begin to pop. They pop and pop and pop at a tremendous, almost deafening, rate. Then the popping starts to die out until you hear one pop every three seconds. That’s when you take it off the heat, right?
The same concept applies to recording your ideas. Once you allow yourself to put down ideas, they should flood onto the paper. Allow them to. Don’t stop the natural flow at all. When the new ideas dwindle to a trickle, that’s when you know to switch your attention to the next phase.
Tip: you might invest in speech recognition software or simply use your phone to translate your voice into the written word. That way, if you think of a brilliant segment for your book while you’re out, you can just email it back to yourself easily. A lot of my clients love this feature.
Organize your outline
Now that you have most of your ideas down in one document, it’s time to organize the thoughts into an outline.
There are writers who hate to outline. They prefer to write by the seat of their pants (some call them pantsers). If you’re a pantser, that might work well for fiction, but for nonfiction, it’s going to be a mess. You need an outline.
The format of your outline will depend on the format of your business book.
If you’re writing a memoir, you need to put all the incidents of your story in chronological order. That way you can start to see the flow of your story. Check out my article on Tips for Outlining a Memoir.
For most other formats you’ll create a Table of Contents with a lot of subsections. I’d advise you not to make any one segment too long. It’s best to break up each key element into easy to read sections. Once you have these down, simply put the contents of your idea folder into your Table of Contents. Everything should have a spot. If it doesn’t, create a new subhead.
Words on pages
Now that you have your completed outline, the book is practically written…in your head. That’s how it is for me! I know exactly what I’m going to say; now I just have to take the time to write it down. I need words on pages.
Don’t get overwhelmed.
It’s a good idea to set a schedule for yourself. After all, that’s probably how you got to be a successful CEO or entrepreneur. You set yourself targets and goals, then met them no matter what tried to get in your way.
Treat this project as you would any other. If you really don’t have the time, hire a ghostwriter to help you. Keep in mind that she will probably need to revisit your outline and help you flesh out the details a little more. She might also have suggestions for the format.
Whatever you do, hold yourself accountable for completing your project. Never lose your drive and passion to write a business book.
Why write a business book
I’ve written many business books over the last twenty years and love the genre. It’s exciting for me to help my clients achieve the many benefits that come from such an accomplishment. While you will certainly sell copies of your book, there are other tangible benefits in store for you when you write a business book.
If you’re a successful CEO, consider the response from your client base when they learn that you are a published author. Having a book with your name blazoned on the cover is one of the best ways to show credibility.
Think about it. Don’t people respond to published authors a little differently? Not only do new and old clients respect you, but your peers look up to you as well.
Write a business book and become an authority figure
When you have a well-written book with many book reviews and copies sold, various people will want to interview you. You will be asked to guest blog, speak at conferences, be featured on podcasts and quoted in other books and articles.
Your visibility will be catapulted into a new realm.
It’s wonderful when, year after year, new people discover your work and write fresh reviews for your book or quote you in their articles. You become a recognized expert in your niche market. This increased visibility will certainly organically increase your client base.
A feeling of peace and well-being
There is no better feeling than helping another. When you write a business book in which you share your successful actions, you might be aiding others who are just starting out and struggling through the problems you have overcome. Or you might be assisting your clients or future clients, complementing the services that you already provide.
Sharing your knowledge in a book will allow you to give advice to a large number of people that you might not be able to help on a one-on-one basis. Instead of helping dozens of people in a week, you can help hundreds or thousands. Take a moment and imagine creating that effect.
Not only will you make money each time you sell a copy of your book, but your customer base will rise exponentially as your book sales increase. As you market your book, you’ll come up with ways to collect new names and email addresses. Your readers could become new clients and be your best word-of-mouth referral sources.
For some, the money earned from increased sales far exceeds the cash received from selling the book. If you sell a high-ticket product or service, just one new client can make a huge difference.
There are many ways you can make money indirectly through your book. How you channel this resource is only limited by your creativity.
Mike Schultz, president of the Wellesley Hills Group and a well-known marketing consultant, surveyed 200 authors of business books and discovered that 96% experienced a positive impact on their business from writing a book. That doesn’t surprise me. It just makes sense!
Now is the best time to write a business book
Now that you know the value of a business book and have an inkling of how to proceed, it’s time to take the plunge. The best thing to do is to set aside a dedicated time every day when you write a business book. It may take a year to get it done, depending on the amount of time you spend on it. But like the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, it’s the steady progress that will get you to your goal.
But if you find the project overwhelming or just don’t have the time (or desire) to write a business book yourself, it may be time to consider hiring a professional ghostwriter.
A ghostwriter will interview you and assist you in all aspects of creating your book. She will collect your notes from your idea folder. She will help you find your focus, determine your readership, outline your book, and then write it for you.
Keep in mind that you’ll still be a part of the project and will need to dedicate a few hours a week to it. You’ve basically hired a silent writing partner who will do all the legwork for you. Still, you’ll need to review pages, give feedback, and answer questions from time to time.
I’m passionate about helping people create an engaging book with useful information that readers can’t put down. I have a special spot in my heart for entrepreneurs as I feel they are artists.
Would you like me to help you write a business book? If so, please contact me and share your idea. I’m here to help!
Do you have a burning desire to write a book this year?
You are not alone!
I believe that everyone has at least one book within them. Whether you wish to share sage business advice to help others succeed, a personal life story that just needs to be told, an exciting fictional story, or a family history project that is time sensitive, now is the best time to start.
As a ghostwriter of twenty years, I’ve worked with dozens of clients in each of the above categories. Each genre has its own particular challenges and its own rewards. And although they are all unique, each book project requires the same elements and preparation.
If you follow the steps in this article, you will avoid the common problems people face, which can cause writer’s block and cause you to fail in your goal to complete your book.
Before you can really get started on a book, you need to prepare yourself for the project. I believe the reason most people never complete their books is that they don’t set themselves up properly from the get-go.
Make a firm decision to write a book
Make the firm decision to write a book—no matter what. This decision will help you stay on track in the face of distractions. Give yourself a final deadline and target dates along the way for milestones to complete. That will help you finish your book.
Find the time
The best way to complete your book is to make regular progress. Find a time of the day when you won’t be disturbed. This may be early in the morning before the kids wake up, or late at night after all of your other responsibilities are done.
If you can only carve out a few hours a week on the weekends, that’s a good place to start. Just know that you might find you lose some time in reacquainting yourself with the material if you allow too many days to pass between writing sessions.
See if you can find even a little time to write every day. You’ll soon be immersed in creating your book and may even find extra time to work on it.
Find a place
Find a dedicated writing space. Somewhere around your home, with a door you can close, would be most convenient. I know some writers who are inspired by the great outdoors and settle down near a lake or in a meadow. They don’t even mind the occasional visits from beetles and spiders.
It doesn’t matter where you set up, as long as you can write without distraction.
Experiment, and find your place.
State your purpose
Over the years, my clients have voiced a variety of different purposes for writing their books. Many writers yearn to see their names on the cover of their books. As an author, I understand; I know there’s no better feeling than seeing your creation in print.
Beyond that, there are authors who crave financial gain, while others want to share their story or wisdom in order to help. Some simply wish to complete their books for the benefit of their loved ones.
Be clear about your purpose right from the beginning. It will allow you to better determine what direction you will take.
Determine your readership
One of the biggest errors you can make as an author is to fail to identify your readership. You can’t write a book to everyone. Trust me, you’ll fail. No, you need to target your words to a specific demographic.
It’s important to figure this out early, because the voice and style of your book will depend on the readers you wish to entertain or educate. After all, wouldn’t you write a how-to book for experts in your niche market differently than you would a science fiction novel aimed at a young adult audience?
Consider your themes
Simply put, the theme of your book is the glue that ties everything together. This idea often conveys a universal truth, such as Love, War, Forgiveness, Courage, Friendship or Faith.
For example, I think we can all agree that J.R.R Tolkien communicated courage beautifully in The Hobbit, as did J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter. Friendship was another theme in both these works.
Keep in mind a book’s theme is rarely stated outright. It’s more subtle. It’s a takeaway the reader will experience and consider for years to come when you express your viewpoint of the world and the human condition through your characters’ beliefs, actions, experiences and conversations.
Now that you’re fully set up to write a book, it’s time to organize your thoughts. A lot of first-time writers fall on their faces when they just begin to write without a strategy. After all, if you were to bake a wedding cake for your best friend, you’d probably do a little research and at least follow a recipe.
Create detailed notes
It is so helpful to jot down detailed notes before you begin to write a book. Get these ideas out of your head and onto paper. This process will help you envision your story and get the creative juices flowing.
I have found an effective way to collect notes is to create an idea folder. This could be a word processing document or a notebook. Any thought you have about your book should be recorded in this folder. Don’t worry about the order, grammar, spelling or anything else.
Just let your ideas flow.
Have fun with it.
Remember to research
Research is crucial for any book project. If you’re writing a memoir or recording your family’s history, you’ll need to provide accurate details as to time, location, appearance of the historic events. This also holds true if your novel is set in a past era.
Fortunately, you have many resources available to you for research. Many writers use the internet and the library, but don’t forget the treasure trove of information within the minds of your family members. Many of them lived through the decades past and can share experiences with you.
As you gather information, add it to your notes file. Be sure to always record your sources, so you can refer back to them.
Your story will take place in a location. If it is a real place, use the information from your memory or research to paint it accurately. If you are writing fiction and setting your story in an imaginary place, I recommend that you do some world building. World building consists of fully fleshing out the universe which your characters occupy. This includes the geography, history, scientific laws and developments, culture and customs of the inhabitants, etc. By having a crystal-clear idea of what these are, your story will flow, and your readers will happily come along on the adventure.
Know your characters
Regardless of your genre, you will probably have a cast of characters in your book. Even most business books include personal anecdotes that involve friends and family. Remember, these characters all need to be developed.
I find it helpful to create character biographies. Here I list each person who will be featured in the book and jot down their name, birth date and various other attributes that will help me write realistically about them. Some things to consider might be:
mannerisms or habits
At this point you have an excellent, solid foundation in place; you are well set up for success. Now it’s time to pull together all your notes and research into a cohesive plan. Then you can begin to write.
Create an outline
An outline allows you to organize your notes to create a good flow for your book. I am a big fan of outlining. It’s a road map that allows me to know the direction I’m going with my book. Without an outline it’s very easy to take a wrong turn and wind up in a dead end.
If you’re writing a novel or memoir, consider putting all the incidents in chronological order. That’s usually the best plan. Of course, you can opt to indulge in the occasional flashback, but don’t overdo it.
Your outline can take any form that works for you. After all, it is for your eyes only and is purely a tool to help you organize the content of your book.
When writing a business book, I suggest that you create a table of contents along with subheads. Jot down descriptions or bullet points under each to remind you about the content you wish to share.
For a novel or memoir, I prefer to use a different system. I create a large incident list which answers the following questions:
Who is in the scene?
Where does it takes place?
When did it happened?
What happened in the incident?
What is the purpose of the scene in your book?
Note: The last point is by far the most important aspect of this process. After all, if a scene has no purpose, it will just land on the editing room floor at the end of the project.
Write your first draft
Once the outline is completed, you may find that the book is pretty well written—in your mind. Now it’s time to get words on paper.
New writers often edit as they crank out the first draft. Try to avoid doing that. Just get the rough draft completed. I know, it won’t be great. That’s OK! You’ll fine tune your manuscript during the editing phase.
So just sit down and write…
If you’re writing a memoir, and find yourself sharing personal stories, be as detailed as possible so that you can help the reader feel as if he were right there with you. To do this, close your eyes and see the colors, hear the speech patterns, smell the odors, taste the food, and feel the textures in each incident.
The same goes for a novel. Use your senses when you’re telling the story. Draw on personal experience if possible. If not, use your world building notes to help guide you.
If you’re penning a how-to book, be sure to give step-by-step, detailed instructions for your reader. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who knows nothing about the subject. Imagine what questions he may have as he tries to do the steps, or any difficulties he may run into, and address them accordingly.
Edit your first draft
After completing your first draft, it’s time to edit. I’d recommend putting your manuscript down for a few days or a week to take a breather from the project.
The next step is to read over your manuscript from beginning to end and see if there are any issues with continuity. It can happen that you switch gears on a subject mid-writing. In that case, you’ll need to go back and make adjustments.
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.
While doing this you may spot typos. Sure, fix them, but this isn’t the 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 so much that fixing typos doesn’t make sense.
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.
With these steps for how to write a book, you should be ready to start. Regardless of the decade and what is going on in the world at the time, there’s no time like the present to begin. If you have any questions or would like some help, please contact me. My greatest joy is in helping others achieve their dream of sharing their story in a book.
After you finish the first draft of a manuscript, you need to edit your book. There are multiple phases in the editing process. You start by looking at your book as a whole, then move on to reading the manuscript line by line, and finish by correcting the errors and typos. Each step requires different experts trained in their area. I’d recommend that you hire independent professionals for each phase so you can get several fresh sets of eyes on your book. Start with developmental editing and be prepared for a shift in viewpoint.
What is developmental editing?
Developmental editing will vary depending on the type of book that you’re writing. If you’re penning a novel or a memoir, this kind of editing would include pointing out poor character development, unrealistic or confusing dialogue, continuity issues, plot holes, and other big-picture items.
If you’re writing a business book, the focus will be more on consistency of message and facts. Your editor will make sure that the message on page 10 matches that on page 199.
Once you get back the initial developmental edit, you’ll probably need to do some rewriting. This is why you always want to do the developmental editing prior to line editing and proofreading. There’s no sense in tidying up the typos before you do the rewrites.
Have the right attitude
You must be patient and open during this process. You’ll be looking at the manuscript as a whole and focusing on the big ideas to make sure the main pieces of the story work well. This isn’t a time to zero in on details.
A lot of new authors dread developmental editing because they don’t want to face making big cuts or major changes. This is part of the reason why it is important to hire an outside editor. A first-time writer might be a little too close to the project to be objective. It’s tough to scrap a character because he doesn’t have a real purpose or delete a scene that fails to propel the story forward.
When you undergo a developmental edit, be prepared to make some large changes to your manuscript. You might need to shift your viewpoint a bit and let go of some pages, replacing them with new ones. You can’t be a successful author while clutching every word you write to your bosom.
A good developmental editor is worth her weight in gold. She will help you get your book ready to publish, and her notes will strengthen your manuscript in ways you wouldn’t have been able to imagine. Sure, she might not be your best friend at first, but trust me, you’ll thank her when you’re done.
For more articles about writing a book, please check out these articles:
If you’re reading this article, you might be considering hiring a ghostwriter to write your book. Perhaps you don’t have the time or patience to complete the task. For some, working with a ghostwriter may seem like a mysterious undertaking. Over the years, I’ve spoken to several prospective clients, who each seem to have the same basic misconceptions and confusions about a ghostwriter’s process.
Note: If you hire me, you and I will form a powerful partnership and together we’ll create a book. However, please understand that you are the author of your book. You will always retain all the rights for the work that we create together. You are a vital component of my ghostwriter’s process.
Having over two decades of experience in this area, I want to share with you a few tips about working with a ghostwriter that will help make the project a success.
Tip #1: Ask about your ghostwriter’s process
People are naturally curious about a ghostwriter’s process. The truth is that the procedure varies depending on the writer you hire. Make sure to discuss the ghostwriter’s process with any potential ghost before you begin to prevent unpleasant surprises later.
I break down most projects into four major milestones:
1: Researching and outlining
2 and 3: Writing the first draft
Over the last twenty years, I’ve talked to several ghostwriters and have noticed that not everyone follows the same procedure. Some will interview exclusively over the phone, while others prefer to receive the bulk of the information in writing. Some ghostwriters will submit the first draft of the manuscript to the author only after it is complete, while other ghosts submit sections as they write.
In addition, I often hire an outside editor, as I wish to have an objective set of eyes review each manuscript I write. Many ghostwriters don’t include this in their bid.
Tip #2: Don’t rush it
If you rush your ghostwriter, you’ll wind up with a rushed book that will be subpar.
Having said that, it’s important to hold your ghostwriter to the agreed-upon contract, which should clearly state the exact timeframe for each milestone. However, if she comes to you and asks for more time because she needs to do more research or add new segments, it’s a good idea to allow her the time she needs to complete your book.
I usually ask my clients for one year to eighteen months to complete a book. This gives me time to do the proper research, create an outline, write a first draft, edit, hire an outside editor, and review the clients’ notes about the final draft.
Sometimes a client requests that I complete their book in a shorter time period. If I can accommodate the author, I will; but I’ll also be honest if I can’t. There are times when I’m fully booked months in advance and can’t start his or her project right away. I’ll never sign a contract when I know I can’t make the target dates. I prefer to deliver ahead of schedule.
Your turnaround time
One way you can help speed up the ghostwriter’s process is to give a quick turnaround on your end. I need to be able to communicate with you and get feedback throughout the project. You will also need to read what I’ve written and contribute your thoughts. I’ll give you advance notice so that you can review a few chapters within two or three days.
However, there are times when I’ve had a client who has pushed off a project for a few months or even a year. Life happens and you can’t always predict these unfortunate delays; however, this situation can be very difficult for any ghostwriter. Any long interruptions can add more than the lost time to the project because I lose momentum and need to re-immerse myself into the story or information. As a result, the project can suffer.
Tip #3: Don’t haggle too much on the price
Some authors who approach me ask for a discount. Over the years I’ve realized that negotiating my fee isn’t workable. I charge what I charge. I’m usually booked out into the future so I’m not desperate for work and prefer to work with clients who value my time and expertise.
Some ghostwriters aren’t in that position. They will slash their proposed price out of an eagerness to work with you. You may want to examine that practice. Why did they quote one price when they’re willing to work for half-pay?
If you’re shopping around and know that your book should probably cost $40,000 to write and you receive a quote for $5,000, please take a moment to consider this offer. If you were buying a luxury car, would you really feel comfortable even taking it for a test drive if it had a $5,000 price tag? You might not make it two miles down the road without a problem. A lowball quote might get you 50,000 words written, but those words won’t form a book. The manuscript will be riddled with problems no editor can handle without completely rewriting it.
It’s best to know your budget and be upfront about it
When prospective clients who can’t afford me write in, I always try to give them advice to meet their needs. Perhaps we can write a shorter book, or maybe I can help them find another writer who charges less. I do want to help, but I must know the bottom line of your budget.
Please never ask a ghostwriter to work for a percentage of the profits. This is a common request from people who don’t understand the industry. No matter how brilliant your book may be, selling copies always comes down to marketing skill—and that isn’t within the scope of your ghostwriter’s job description. We all need to get paid upfront. Trust me, most ghostwriters are working on their own books as well and don’t wish to write your book for free.
Tip #4: Research your ghostwriter
I’m always impressed when prospective clients contact me and have done their homework. Reading through some of my blog articles or glancing at one of the books I’ve written will give you a sense for my writing style. Yes, a ghostwriter’s style and voice will change to reflect each author’s personality, but it’s a good idea to gain a feel for her writing before you hire her. The last thing you want is to discover is that you don’t enjoy her writing after she’s halfway through your book.
Some ghostwriters won’t have a book title with their name on it because they haven’t written their own books, and none of their clients have gifted them with a cover credit. If that is the case, ask for samples of their work so you can vet them. If they can’t give you an appropriate sample, similar to the book you want written, know they are not experienced in that genre. For instance, if you asked me for a sample of a steamy romance novel, I’d be hard-pressed to create one, since that is not a genre I could write.
Tip #5: Communicate openly with your ghostwriter
Your ghostwriter will need a lot of details from you. If you aren’t open and honest about your material, she can’t write a brilliant book for you. One ghostwriter I recently talked to commented that his client wasn’t forthcoming about his personal life. He rightly commented that every memoir needs to show the author’s vulnerability; he can’t be perfect in every way. If the author isn’t authentic with his readers, they won’t identify with him and won’t give the book good reviews.
Likewise, if you’re writing a prescriptive nonfiction book, and you don’t share the details of your successful action, the book will read like a rehashed series of blog articles that anyone can research for themselves on the internet. Amazon doesn’t need another book like that in its catalogue.
A ghostwriter will also need to ask you questions as they come up. Plan to provide these answers within a reasonable turnaround time. Again, this will speed up the ghostwriter’s process tremendously.
Tip #6: Expect your ghostwriter to rewrite what you have written
There are times when clients have handed me a very rough draft of a manuscript for a book they want me to write. They sometimes ask for a “little polish” to ready it for publication. I can tell you from experience that this draft is rarely in a condition that simply requires a quick edit.
If you hire a ghostwriter and present her with a rough draft manuscript, expect that it will need to be completely rewritten. After all, this is why you’re hiring a ghostwriter in the first place.
Unless you have experience writing books, the structure will probably need work, as will the prose. Remember, you’re not hiring an editor. You’re hiring an experienced writer.
Now, I will say that I do appreciate receiving a first draft in any condition. This helps me write a good book for my client. Although I’ll still need to rewrite it from scratch, I can get a feel for some of the themes and messages the author wishes to communicate.
So you see, the ghostwriter’s process isn’t a mystery at all. We use common sense principles. Remember, it should be an enjoyable and fulfilling experience that results in a well-written book.