My Ghostwriting Process: From Start To Finish

A new author researches my ghostwriting processAuthors looking for help in writing their books often search for ghostwriters on the internet. They want to know all about the process. Makes sense. If you fall into that category, welcome to my blog! Here you’ll find a lot of articles about writing and ghostwriting. This particular article zeroes in on the steps I will take to write your book. I like to be upfront about my ghostwriting process so there are no surprises.

Pre-interview emails

If you’re interested in hiring me as your ghostwriter, your first step will be to fill in my online form to request a quote. I will reply via email with a few questions to determine whether we are a match. After all, this will be a long-term relationship. To that end, we will need to discuss several key elements. Although each client is unique, there are various aspects of my ghostwriting process that hold true for any project.

If you’d like to get a jump-start on that process, please address these points in your initial query:

  • The content of your book
  • The word count you desire
  • Your proposed budget
  • The deadline for the project

When it comes to selecting a project to take on, you should know that I only work on uplifting fictional stories, inspiring memoirs, or nonfiction material that will help others in some way. Though I would be lost writing a romance novel, I do love writing a variety of fiction. Memoirs are my favorite genre; I’ve written dozens over the last two decades. I also really enjoy writing prescriptive (how-to) books. My ghostwriting process is essentially the same for any genre.

With regards to pricing, I charge one dollar per word, so if you’d like a 200-page book written for $20,000, I’m not your writer. However, I may be able to refer you to other writers who might be interested. If I can help you, I will, but I need to know how much you wish to spend.

Deadlines are a vital component of the ghostwriting process. Most books take me a year to write. I can be faster if there is a strong need, but sometimes I need to wrap up a few other projects before I can start a new one. Please let me know what your needs are, and I’ll do my best to accommodate you.

I also recommend that you scan over at least one of the books that I’ve written, which have my name on the cover: Chess Is Child’s Play (nonfiction), Joshua’s Missing Peace (Memoir), or Discovering Kindness (Fiction). That way you can get a feel for my writing.

After this email exchange, if I feel that I am able to become your ghostwriter, I will offer you a free 30-minute consultation. That initial phone call is important so that we can both be sure that we’d make a good writing team.

Our initial interview

What is a ghostwriter? Question mark.Before we chat, it would be a good idea to write down a list of questions that you have about your project. We can go over these so that you have a better understanding of how things work. There are no strings attached. I’ll give you this time for free. Honestly, I want to help you whether you hire me or not.

We will discuss your project in greater detail than we had in our email exchange. However, this isn’t the time to pour out all the details of the story to me. That will come later. Just summarize for now. If I’ve agreed to chat, I feel your project is within my wheelhouse and is worth exploring with you.

I will also want to discuss your goals for this book. As a heads-up, if your primary objective is to make a lot of money, you’ll need a top-notch marketing plan. It’s tough to make a profit as a first-time author, but it helps if you have an existing avenue for selling a book. For instance, if you have a strong online presence, a large mailing list, and an existing store, you’re in a good position to sell your book. Amazon only works if you support your book with one or more of the above tools.

Most of my clients aren’t interested in turning a profit; instead, they have a strong desire to simply publish a book within their lifetime. They have a powerful message they wish to share, and they feel they can do some good for others. Most aren’t looking to make money or recover their expenses. And some only wish to share their story with close friends and family.

Your goals are important to me. Part of my ghostwriting process is to make your goals my own and to make sure they are met.

Signing my contract

Ghostwriting ContractI work on a first-come-first-serve basis. Once you and I have determined that I’m your ghostwriter, the next step will be for you to read over my contract, sign it, and send it back to me with the first payment.

I structure the payments so that you pay the total fee in four installments, each due before the work is to be done. The four milestones are:

  1. The research and outlining phase
  2. The first half of the first draft
  3. The second half of the first draft
  4. The final draft

You and I will determine the milestone deadlines. Each milestone usually takes me three months to complete. Depending on the project, sometimes the research and outlining phase might take a few more months.

It is important to put all our agreements in writing before we start your book so that you and I are clear about the arrangement throughout the project.

Researching your project

When I begin to research your project, I like to collect most of the information in writing. Once I have a foundational understanding of your story, my ghostwriting process will include asking a lot of questions via email. Your answers will allow me to establish a written voice for you. I will also need to speak to you on the phone. By listening to your words and how you phrase things, I gain a deeper insight into how you use language.

I realize that some clients are not confident in their writing ability. So if you are more comfortable chatting with me on the phone, I’ll adjust my ghostwriting process to meet your needs. Although I have my preferences, the client’s needs always trump that.

It’s worth noting that I must also do my own independent research to gain the information needed to write your story. That’s an important part of my ghostwriting process. For instance, if you’re writing a memoir about your time in Hungary in the 50s, I would comb the internet for historical accounts of that time. Or if I’m writing about the ins and outs of running a chain of restaurants, I’d need to make sure I understand the subject well enough to portray it realistically and accurately.

Outlining your book

The path of a bookOnce I have most of the information needed, I’ll put together an outline for you. This will act as our roadmap for our project. The format of this outline varies from client to client, depending on the needs of the author. Some prefer that I summarize the story in a few pages, while others prefer a table of contents outline. Sometimes I use my own technique, where I delineate all the incidents that will form a novel or memoir. I’ve found this to be a workable system since any story is really a series of events.

I feel strongly that the outlining phase is an integral part of my ghostwriting process and contributes greatly to the success of any project. Honestly, it would be a waste of your money if I were to move forward without your agreement as to how the book will be structured and what the precise content would be. I’m not one to drive down a remote road for many miles, unsure if I’m traveling in the correct direction.

Writing the first draft

Writing your first draft is the most time-consuming segment of my ghostwriting process. As mentioned earlier, I divide this phase into two milestones. That means, if you hire me to write a 200-page book (which is approximately 50,000 words), I’ll deliver 25,000 words to you for the second milestone, and the final 25,000 as the third.

While some ghostwriters will only deliver the complete first half of the first draft at the end of that phase, I prefer to get feedback along the way. I wish to consult with you as I write to be sure that you approve of the pieces. This avoids unpleasant surprises.

Editing your manuscript

Proofreading is an important part of my ghostwriting processOnce I have completed the first draft, I will collect all your notes about what you like and don’t like. Then, after I incorporate your changes, I’ll work to polish the manuscript. This is an internal phase of my ghostwriting process, one that doesn’t involve you as much. I need to read over your book a few times, making adjustments to flow, continuity, and style with each read.

Once I’m finished with my edits, I’ll hire an outside editor to do a comprehensive review. I feel strongly that objective eyes should always look at your book before I turn it in as a final draft.

My editor will need at least four weeks with your book. Once I get the notes back from her, she and I will discuss various points. I’ll ask questions and sometimes debate a few issues. But I will make the final call.

When I feel it is as perfect as it can be, I’ll submit the completed manuscript to you.

Publishing

Although I don’t publish, I do know people who can help you prepare your manuscript for self- publication or write a killer proposal to land an agent. I will refer you to them if you wish.

Some people ask me if I have a secret backdoor to agents and publishers. I don’t. Anyone wishing to submit to an agent needs to apply through their official channels. There are no short cuts.

 

Now, this is my ghostwriting process. Over the last twenty years, I’ve talked to a number of ghosts and have observed that each has a different way of handling the various steps of writing a book. Be sure to fully understand any ghostwriter’s process before you hire her. Ask questions and do some research to make sure the book you receive at the end of the undertaking fulfills all your goals.

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?

Here’s a little skit to help answer that question:

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 charge one dollar per word to ghostwrite. 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 to work with 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

How to Conquer Writer’s Block

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

How To Hire A Ghostwriter

how to hire a ghostwriter to write your book

Do you have a great idea for a book but find yourself having trouble making your dream a reality? It could be that you don’t know where to start. Or maybe you don’t have the time or discipline to write a book right now. 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. Bottom line, if you want to write a book this year, it might 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 that your readers won’t want to put down.

Here are some tips that will help you select, interview, and hire the right ghostwriter for you.

Decide on a budget

If you reach out to me, one of the first questions that I’ll ask is “What is your budget?” I charge one dollar per word, so if you have $500 to spend, I’m not your ghostwriter.

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 $20,000 and $75,000 for a 100-300 page book. A student ghostwriter could be less.

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 of money. If your prospective ghostwriter does, he probably hasn’t been in business for long or is simply working part time. You want to hire a ghostwriter who writes for a living, not one who tries to cram in time after his day job.

Be prepared to answer a few questions

woman thinks of questions for a ghostwriter

When you talk to a ghostwriter, know that she is interviewing you, even as you are interviewing her. She needs to know various facts in order to determine if she is the best ghostwriter for you. Plus, in order to create a bid for your project, any ghostwriter 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 book 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

For me, the author’s reason for writing his or her book is important. If you’re writing a fictional book, I will ask you about your motivation for writing it. I may ask about your marketing plans as well.

If you’re writing your memoir, I’ll want to know what lessons you wish to impart to your reader. What drives you to tell your life story? 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? Often that is a wise goal for new authors who are successful entrepreneurs. In addition, many of my clients wish to teach their readers how to master a new skill. They feel it is time to pass the baton to the younger generation.

There are countless reasons for writing a book. If you are clear on your main purposes, I can help you breathe life into your project.

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).

If your budget it low, consider writing a shorter book. While books released by a traditional publisher usually require a standard length of 200 – 300 pages, when you self-publish, you can play with that number and make it any length.

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 well in advance. Be warned that the writer you want may not be able to take on your project right away.

Consider being flexible on your timeline so that you can engage the writer who will best bring your project to life. If you try to pressure him into finishing your book in an unreasonably short period, he will either try to make it work and fail or turn it down because his schedule is too tight. After all, it takes time to research and write a high-quality book.

Having said that, be clear about your intentions and requirements. You know what you need to accomplish.

Find a ghostwriter who is 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 your ghost about personal matters. You should mesh well with her.

However, 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. I’m always impressed when someone writes me after they have read a few of my blog articles and checked out the books I’ve written.

When researching a ghostwriter, here are a few steps that 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.

Please 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 a chiropractor’s memoir or a schoolteacher’s how-to book. Make sure that the ghostwriter you hire can write in the voice and style you want for your book.

Please 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.

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

Please check out my ghostwriting process.

Pay your first installment and get started

Once you have made your decision, plan to sign a ghostwriting contract and make the first payment before you begin the project. This 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

Writing a memoir can be emotional. Lean on your ghostwriter to help you through the process.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. In addition, I will pick up the phone to talk to each client at least once a month. Frequent communication is key to a good relationship.

 

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!

 

 

The Ghostwriter’s Process: Six Tips

The ghostwriter's processIf you’re reading this article, you might be considering hiring a ghostwriter to write your book. Perhaps you don’t have the time (or expertise) to complete the task. Yet, working with a ghostwriter may seem like a mysterious undertaking; you might have many questions. Over the years, I’ve noticed that several prospective clients have the same basic misconceptions and confusions about a ghostwriter’s process.

To clarify one basic point: If you hire me, you and I will form a powerful partnership and together we’ll create a book. However, you are the author of your book and will always retain all the rights for the work that we create together. You are a vital part 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
  • 4: Editing

Over the last twenty years, I’ve talked to several ghosts and have noticed that no two follow the same procedure. Some will interview exclusively over the phone, while others (like me) 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 I prefer to send each section as I write it. I often hire an outside editor, as I wish to have an objective set of eyes review each manuscript I write, while others never hire anyone.

Tip #2: Don’t rush your ghostwriter’s process

Don't rush the ghostwriter's processIf 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 with your ghostwriter

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.

Discover your budget to hire a ghostwriterWhen 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: Read up on 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

the ghostwriter's process requires the client to be open and honest 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. Don’t be offended by this; it’s 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. It’s filled with common sense principles. And if you follow my tips, it should be an enjoyable and fulfilling experience that results in a well-written book.

How to Write a Prescriptive Nonfiction Book

Write a prescriptive nonfiction book from your laptopA prescriptive nonfiction book is basically a how-to book that gives someone direction or information on a subject. It does not tell a story. Instead, it helps readers understand about an area of life. Readers wishing to improve a skill or educate themselves on a topic would reach for a prescriptive nonfiction book.

CEOs, business leaders, and entrepreneurs are great candidates for writing a prescriptive nonfiction book. They often have wisdom to share that can help others.

Should you write a prescriptive nonfiction book?

If you’re reading this article, you most likely have a concept for a book and are wondering if you should follow through on that idea. After all, it will take you hundreds of hours to put your ideas into a form that others will want to read.

To answer that question, allow me to ask a few more:

Have you developed a niche area of expertise?

If you’re an expert in a field and have a unique and specialized focus, most likely there are others who would like to learn from you. Maybe you understand how to decorate an airbnb to maximize your ability to rent it out, or maybe you can produce a full-length feature film on a shoestring budget. The possibilities are as wide as one is creative.

Do you have specialized knowledge in a particular field?

share your knowledge in a prescriptive nonfiction bookAnyone who has taken the time to study a subject thoroughly, drilling down to gain an insight into a field of knowledge, probably has at least one book within them. For instance, maybe you’ve achieved a master’s degree relating to the effects of global warming on a specific ecosystem, or maybe you have developed tasty recipes for certain restrictive dietary requirements. Your hard-won research deserves an outlet so that others can learn and benefit from what you’ve discovered.

Is your way of doing things better than the norm?

When I first learned to play chess, I was taught how all the pieces moved, then told to “play.” I was nine and found the experience a tad overwhelming. When it was time to pass on my love of the game to my first child, I realized I could improve on this technique of teaching.

I started teaching my son when he was four by introducing him to one piece, the rook. I focused on how it moved and made sure he understood that before I moved on to the bishop. He soon learned how to play proficiently, and this success propelled me into teaching hundreds of other young kids. I felt this technique was better than the normal way to teach, so I wrote the book Chess Is Child’s Play in order to help other parents become good chess coaches for their kids.

Can you make someone else’s journey easier?

Help someone follow your pathAnyone reading this article who has forged a new path in life has undoubtedly stumbled along the way countless times. Those errors you committed years ago probably paved the way to solutions that others can benefit from today. There is no need for others to scrape their knees on the same problems if they can read your book and learn how to avoid them.

If you answered YES to any of these questions in the subheads above, you should consider writing a prescriptive nonfiction book. Readers are eager to learn from you, so why not share your knowledge with them.

Tips for writing a prescriptive nonfiction book

Tip #1: Define your terms

Being an expert in your niche area, you’re probably fluent in the language of the field. Depending on the subject, the terminology can be very specialized and complex. Remember that your reader is probably a novice and completely unfamiliar with these foreign words. I remember a time I went to a country on the other side of the world with a good friend and sat on his friend’s couch and listened to them speak their language for hours. Even though I had studied the language a bit before the trip, I was lost. I’ll admit, I felt left out. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience.

Don’t make this mistake with your reader; don’t allow them to feel left out.

To remedy this potential problem in your book, define all the industry terms you use. I think some people think readers will be impressed if they liberally sprinkle hard-to-understand technical words throughout their manuscript. Trust me, they aren’t; especially if they don’t understand the words.

Remember, your goal is to teach; the goal is to be understood. Keep it simple so that everyone can get it.

Tip#2: Start with an outline

Get the key principles out of your head and onto paper in the form of an outline. There are a variety of methods, but I usually bullet-point the important subjects and make sub-bullets for all the related topics. I’ll jot down a few notes under each to help me remember my main point for each segment.

This outline will form the table of contents of your prescriptive nonfiction book.

Tip#3: Add personal stories

add personal stories to your prescriptive nonfiction bookWhile your readers have picked up your prescriptive nonfiction book to learn more about a subject, they still want to be entertained. No one enjoys reading dry text.

Entertain your readers with exciting stories and humorous anecdotes that complement the lessons you wish to impart. When you’re outlining, you can add a few lines about these stories to jog your memory.

Tip#4: Include practical exercises

Very few people can absorb information without applying the data. It doesn’t hurt to include a few practical exercises in a prescriptive nonfiction book. Get people out of the mode of just reading and put them into action. The goal is to have them use your wisdom in their daily lives to reap the benefits.

Create assignments that are simple and easy to follow. Make it so that your readers can accomplish each task relatively easily and then perform that task again and again. If you feel they might fail, break down each step into even simpler steps that will help them achieve the overall intended goal. The last thing you want to do is frustrate your reader.

How to write your first draft

When you have your detailed outline worked out, begin by writing one chapter. This can be any chapter; you don’t need to start at the beginning of your book. I’d suggest starting with your favorite topic, one you know very well. You’ll gain confidence in writing that way.

Keep the above tips in mind as you write your first draft.

Continue to write a few more chapters, in any order that you like. Once you feel confident, start at the beginning and write the chapters in order. This will help with flow. However, if you write chapters out of order, you can always correct flow and transition issues later in the editing phase.

That reminds me: please don’t edit as you write. Just let the words flow onto the pages. A lot of new writers will want to rewrite and rewrite. This is just a waste of time. Get the first draft written. Then you can edit.

As you progress through your first draft, you might think of other segments to include in your prescriptive nonfiction book. This is great! However, don’t stop what you’re doing to write the new piece. Instead, add it to your outline. Then write it when you get to it, if it occurs later in your book. If it comes prior to the chapter you’re on, complete the segment you’re writing before you add the new piece in.

The Final Stages

Proofreading is part of editingWhen you complete your first draft, read your book all the way through and fix all the typos you can find. Make sure all the segments flow and the transitions work well. Look for any repetitions of ideas and remove them.

Next, you’ll need to hire an editor. Every writer makes errors, and these can be very hard to spot in your own work because you’re too close to it.

Although you might know an English major who can help you for free, I’d recommend paying to hire an experienced professional editor. He or she will be fluent with all the latest style and grammar points. Yes, these change over time. For instance, when I was young, it was proper to put two spaces after a period. Now it’s one. Honestly, there are countless grammatical points that have changed over the last few decades. It can be hard to keep track.

If you can afford to hire two editors, that’s even better. One can do the heavy lifting and point out errors in grammar, style, transitions, flow, as well as help you fact-check. The other can do a light review, catching any remaining little errors.

Once you’ve completed the editing phase, it’s time to publish. You can either write a proposal and find an agent and publisher or self-publish your book on a platform like Amazon.

Today self-publishing is very quick and easy to do. It’s the popular choice for most authors. And you have the added bonus that your prescriptive nonfiction book can really be any length. Just be sure that you’ve covered your topic thoroughly.

I can tell you from experience, sharing knowledge about a niche area of expertise with others is terribly rewarding. I continue to receive praise for Chess Is Child’s Play a decade after its release. I’m truly grateful when people write in to thank me for helping them teach their four-year-old child to play chess.

Of course, if you need some help writing your prescriptive nonfiction book, please email me. I’d love to help you!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How to Edit Your Own Book

How to Select the Right Ghostwriter for You

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Tips for Self-Publishing Your Book

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

 

 

Memoir Mistakes You Should Avoid

Avoid memoir mistakes and avoid frustration

Most people who contact me wish to write their memoir. It’s an extremely popular genre with readers, too! We all love to step into the shoes of another person and learn about their world for a few hours. However, readers will put your book down if you fall into certain traps and commit basic memoir mistakes.

If you want to avoid frustration in writing and marketing your book, avoid these common memoir mistakes.

What is a memoir?

A memoir is a very personal story, told by the author from his or her viewpoint, which shares a certain period in the author’s life. While it can be confused with an autobiography, it actually has a different feel. An autobiography reads more like a biography but is told from the author’s perspective. It typically commences with the author’s birth and spans through their entire life. This book a bit more clinical in style, whereas a memoir is all about emotion.

Reading memoirs allows us to delve deeply into the lives of people who have done something remarkable in their lives. Perhaps they overcame incredible odds to reach success in some aspect of their life, or they fought an illness and survived, or maybe they lived through an extraordinary moment of history. We can learn so much about others and ourselves through memoirs.

Popular Types of Memoirs

Within the memoir genre there are a host of categories to choose from. Of course, there is bound to be some overlap, but here are a few options to consider when writing your memoir:

Transformational stories

Stories of transformation can be popular memoir themes

As a ghostwriter, these are my favorite memoirs to write. These are the stories where the author has overcome some great obstacle in life and wishes to share the details of his or her redemption or recovery. This can encompass overcoming an illness such as cancer, surviving a traumatic childhood to achieve success as an adult, recovering from an addiction, leaving a country with an oppressive government to flourish in a new place, or the classic rags to riches story, which can take many forms.

Success in business stories

When you talk to most successful entrepreneurs, you’ll discover they faced numerous daunting obstacles as they climbed the ladder to victory. People in power will often tell you that they failed many times before they figured out how to make it. They wish to share the lessons they learned and their triumph with others, and a memoir is a natural vehicle for their story. This type of memoir is also a favorite of mine (and there is often crossover with the transformational memoir).

Travel stories

Some memoirs take the reader on a journey through an exotic land, sharing all the details of that location. These stories usually encompass another theme, so they aren’t only about the new foods the author ate or the striking vistas he or she viewed. Rather, they are usually about a spiritual, emotional, or transformational journey for the author as well.

Memoir Mistakes

After talking to hundreds of first-time authors, I’ve discovered there are some common misconceptions about how to write a memoir. If you’re considering writing your life story, you’ll want to avoid these very basic memoir mistakes. Don’t worry, they are easy to sidestep.

Memoir Mistake Number 1: Focusing on the trivial rather than the big picture

Focus on the big picture to avoid memoir mistakes

When you write your memoir, you aren’t recording your life’s trivial events in detail. This is high on the list of memoir mistakes because your readers are not interested in what you ate at each meal or which bus you took to work. Toss most of the trivia and focus on the big picture.

This is fairly easy to do. Before you begin writing your memoir, ask yourself, “What can the reader learn from reading my story?” You might need to dig deep and really mine for the gold that’s there. The lessons you have learned over the years will form the backbone of your book.

It might help to zero in on a theme. This will provide focus. There are a wide variety of great memoir themes to choose from. Here are just a few examples:

  • Hard work pays off
  • Self-pity is a trap
  • A positive outlook helps you attain your goals
  • Change can be a good thing
  • Life is too short not to forgive

When you determine what your book’s theme is, your next step will be to find incidents that illustrate these ideas for your readers. Of course, you wouldn’t want to come out and tell your readers what the theme might be within the pages of your memoir.

Instead, you should show your readers your message through the incidents of your book. Delve into the emotional sacrifices, mistakes and triumphs to share the journey you took. They’ll get the message!

Memoir Mistake Number 2: Covering your entire life rather than focusing on a specific time period

Remember, you’re not writing a school essay or an autobiography. A typical memoir mistake for new authors is to want to start at birth and move forward chronologically. You’re writing a memoir, which will focus on a certain period, one that would fascinate a reader and teach him or her something new about an area of life. It’s a slice of your life, rather than the whole pie.

Now, it’s worth noting that a memoir is usually not written in diary form. Journaling can be a wonderful and beautiful expression of one’s deepest thoughts, but it usually doesn’t translate directly into a book. For one thing, the target reader of a diary is, well, you; a memoir is usually written for others to read. Having said that, one client recently hired me to help her compile her life story into a book that she could then have and read. If you are the sole target reader, you should write your book the way you would like to read it.

If you hire a ghostwriter to write your memoir, keep in mind that diaries always have a strong place in the research of a memoir. Having been a professional ghostwriter for twenty years, I can tell you that a client’s diary is a rich source of color when I write a memoir for a client.

Memoir Mistake Number 3: Not considering the feelings of the real people mentioned in your book

It's a memoir mistake not to consider the feelings of others when writing your book

Memoirs are not a good avenue for retribution for past wrongs done to you. Writing a book for revenge is a sharp-edged weapon which can do permanent damage. Besides being a morally questionable action to take, remember that you can open yourself up to lawsuits.

When you write your memoir, you can’t avoid discussing the lives of the people around you. They will become the main characters in your book. Sure, you can change the attributes a bit—maybe alter the name of the grouchy neighbor or make the schoolteacher a brunette instead of a blond. These minor modifications can go a long way to hide the characters in your book.

However, it will be impossible to completely conceal certain pivotal people in your life. For instance, your parents or siblings will recognize themselves.

The safest approach would be to ask all your friends and relatives who might be in your book how they feel about that. If they agree to be featured in your memoir, take the additional step and ask them to sign a release. You can find examples of a legal release online. If any friend or family member refuses to sign, it might be best to keep them out of your memoir.

The bottom line is that whenever you put something in writing, it becomes permanent. While you might feel fine with airing your family’s dirty laundry today, will you be all right with it two years from now? How about twenty years? To avoid these memoir mistakes, it’s best to write about everyone in a good light now to prevent potential upsets later.

Memoir Mistake Number 4: Writing for every reader rather than settling on a specific demographic

Don't write for every reader; pick a demographic.

Before you even outline your book, you need to determine who your reader is. When I’m working with a first-time author, I’ll ask who the ideal reader might be. Many times a client will say, “all readers.” Writing for “everyone” is high on the list of memoir mistakes because you need to pinpoint a demographic and write to them. The more specific you can get, the better.

Some examples of your audience might be:

  • Teenage boys who are addicted to video games
  • Medical professionals who are open to holistic cures
  • Parents who have lost a child to cancer
  • Fans of Star Trek

Consider that you might be at a dinner party. You have a story to share, something amusing that happened to you last year. How would you share that anecdote? I would imagine that you’d tell it differently if you were visiting the White House, seated with dignitaries, than if you were sitting with your bowling buddies or your teenage children. You’d use different vocabulary and your tone would probably change a bit. That’s because you’d want to create the biggest impact with your storytelling; you’d want your audience to receive your communication on a level that they would enjoy.

So when you write, you need to keep your specific type of reader in mind, as if they were in front of you. Of course, even though you’re writing to that reader, that doesn’t mean others won’t enjoy your book. You may accidentally discover a new category of reader as you begin to market and sell your book.

 

When you write your memoir, it can offer your readers a peek into your soul and universe. They will relish this. Memoirs are an important genre of the literary world. Just avoid the common memoir mistakes and you might just make a difference in someone’s life.

Enjoy the journey!

Check out these additional articles:

Write and Publish Your Book

How to Write Great Dialogue

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

Understanding Characters

 

Tips for Self-Publishing Your Book

Author completes a novel and begins self-publishingSelf-publishing a book is the logical next step after having completed your manuscript. Unless you’re satisfied with being the sole reader, you probably want to find readers who appreciate your writing. I understand. You wish to have your communication heard, and rightly so.

At least once a month I receive an email from a prospective author with a similar message to this: “Please help me write my book. Call me. I have this amazing idea for a 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 succeed is by investing energy in marketing a book. Writing a great book just isn’t enough anymore.

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.

Self-publishing authors can download their manuscripts easily

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

A five star review for a book written by a ghostwriter

Before I hit the purchase button on any book or item on Amazon, I always check the reviews. I’m not alone. Most people want some reassurance that they’re spending their hard-earned dollars wisely.

Reviews should be honest. Never purchase a review. However, it is the norm to offer free copies of your book in exchange for a review.

Verified Purchasers

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 want people to show up to your party you need to follow up

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

Follow up to get reviews 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.

Summary

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:

  1. Download your book
  2. Read your book
  3. Write an honest review

Take one step at a time and follow up. Before you know it, you’ll have dozens of reviews.

Marketing

Don't be an island. Promote your book!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!

5 Tips to Help You Prepare to Write Your Novel

A woman begins to write a novel

You’ve been dreaming of writing a novel and now have the time to do so. You sit down at your computer and stare at the blinking cursor on the blank screen. You know the story concept you want to write but have no idea how to start.

Instinctively, you know that “It was a dark and stormy night” probably isn’t the right beginning. But what is? To ensure that you communicate your concept effectively, you need to prepare to write your novel.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Outline your story idea before you write your novel

A budding writer recently asked me for advice. She was having trouble writing the ending for her book and was stuck. The problem was that she had set off without a plan and then found she’d written her character into a situation she couldn’t resolve. While some people feel that they can write a novel by just typing away with no preparation, that approach can be difficult and frustrating for a new writer.

It is true that magic is created when you’re engrossed in the writing process, but I find that it’s most effective to prepare to write your novel before letting your story flow from your fingertips. I find that when I am properly set up, the process is smoother because I have guideposts and mile markers to help me find my way.

Without a plan you might wind up in a ghost town

Writing without a plan is a bit like taking a road trip by just choosing a compass direction and taking off. It could be a brilliant choice, or you might drive for two hundred miles to discover a small town that doesn’t even have a motel. Sure, it can be an adventure, and I’m sure you’d get something out of it; but if you’d done a little research, you may have found a National Park two hundred miles in a different direction with glorious waterfalls and amazing views. Similarly, outlining before you write will save you from wasted time and words. It will save you from the disappointment of tossing thousands of words later.

There are many ways to outline. One way is to write a rough summary. It’s a bit like sketching the image before you apply paint to the canvas. Just summarize your story in a few pages. Don’t worry about grammar. Do be sure to include all major plot points.

Another system I like to use involves a journalistic approach to each incident in the book. I like to jot down:

  • The title of the incident
  • The characters who will appear
  • When it took place
  • Where it happened
  • The purpose of this scene in the book

 

For instance, I might create an incident like so:

  • Title: First day of college
  • Who: Theon, George, and Mikey
  • When: Sept 5, 1983
  • Where: North Dorm of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA
  • Purpose: Introduce college setting and show Mikey living away from home for the first time.

Since the outline consists of notes from you to you, the form it takes really doesn’t matter. What’s important is that the method helps you to prepare to write your novel.

2. Shape your story

Shape your story with structure as you write your novel

Now that you have a list of incidents or a basic outline of the story, it’s time to shape it into a format that will work. If you’re not familiar with the three-act structure, it’s worth looking into. Once you understand it, review a few of your favorite books and movies and see how they incorporate the three acts into their story. Then consider how your story can fit into that structure.

In addition, it’s time to consider the arcs your characters will follow throughout the story. The main characters need to follow paths that make sense for your book. Although you might decide to work out the details of their journeys as you write your novel, you should have a rough idea of where they’re going and where they’ll end up before you start.

Conflict is a key element for any story. Throughout your book, your main characters should encounter many conflicts and difficulties along the way. These serve to raise the readers’ heart rates as they turn the pages or swipe forward. Suspense and mystery help keep readers interested.

As you take these factors into consideration, your outline or summary may need adjusting. That’s normal. At this phase, your story is a bit like clay that you can mold and squish into the shape you desire. After all, you’re the creator.

3. Get to know your main characters

A great story has strong, believable characters. As you prepare to write your novel, you can get a head start on creating characters that your readers will identify with and cheer for. Start by jotting down notes about your main character. If you feel stuck, imagine that you are interviewing him. Prepare questions ahead of time. It might help to start with a detailed physical description. Then write down basic information about him, such as:

  • Occupation
  • Marriage status
  • Number of children
  • Hobbies
  • Mannerisms

Create fun, realistic characters when you write a novel

After you have an idea of his basic attributes, you might delve into his ideology, general life philosophy, religious preferences, etc. Continue with this exercise until you feel you can answer any question about him with confidence. In other words, you know him inside out. Take the time to get to know each of your other characters in a similar way. When you know your main characters this thoroughly, many of the scenes will write themselves because you know how your people will act in any given circumstance.

If you still feel that your characters are disconnected strangers, imagine putting two characters into a room together. Set up the scene and watch how they interact. Take notes. Observe their mannerisms as well as their dialogue. Write it all down. You’ll learn a lot about them in this way.

Don’t worry about bit players in a scene. Although adding a few words of description can help set the scene, you don’t need to create a biography for the ballroom dancing instructor who appears only on page 39.

4. Build the world

If you’re writing a science fiction or fantasy story, you’ll need to spend some time building your world. This is a lot of fun! The laws of physics might not be the same, nor will the native plants and animals necessarily resemble those of Earth. Consider the history of the races that inhabit your world. What makes them distinctive?

One writing coach suggested to me that it helps to keep the setting somewhat familiar for the reader and change up only a few key things. If everything is completely different, it makes it hard for people to relate easily. They’ll get confused and put the book down. Also, you can wind up spending a lot of time explaining the nuances of the world, which can be boring and pull the reader out of the story.

world building is a key part of writing a bookAs you prepare to write your novel, think of all the aspects of the world that you will need the reader to understand. Sometimes it works to create intricate background stories that delve into the history of the society. Of course, it’s never a good idea to dump this data in a prologue or the first few chapters, as it clogs up the story with a lot of facts. Instead, talented authors weave information seamlessly into the story. However, you, the creator of this world, must understand the basics of the universe that you’re building so that you can craft your story within the rules and guidelines of it.

For instance, for the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling spent some time working out the rules of the magical people. She had to do that to keep everything consistent throughout all the books. Part of that process would involve sketching out the characteristics of the basilisk, the boggarts and the dementors ahead of time.

Some authors enjoy creating detailed maps of their worlds to orient the readers with the layout of the land. You’ll also sometimes find detailed genealogy tables for a family of characters in the book. There are many ways to build a world. Select the ones that work for you and your story.

5. Set yourself up for success

It’s easy to say that you want to write your novel. It’s another matter altogether to create a plan to actually do it. I’m reminded of the “Just Do It” motivational video that circulated a few years ago. There’s some truth in that statement. Sometimes you just need to bypass all the distractions that inevitably will crop up and decide that you’re going to complete your book. However, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up for success.

Find a comfortable spot to write your novel

find a good place to write your novelThis might be your bed or your dining room table. It might be a lawn chair in your back yard. Or it could be a bench at a nearby park. It helps to have a steady and established spot, where you know what to expect in the environment. Comfort is important. Make sure your seat is comfortable, giving you the back support you need.

Your space should be as free from distraction as possible. Definitely don’t put yourself at the center island of your kitchen when the children are all home and running around. You’ll get interrupted in multiple ways. Ideally you have a room where you can close the door (and maybe lock it).

Find your writing time

When I was younger, I did my best work at midnight. Honestly, I couldn’t think with doing anything meaningful before 10am. Nowadays, I like to write in the mornings. I have  three kids and find that I write the best before everyone gets up. 6am is a great time!

I recommend selecting the right time of day for you, then working consistently at that time every day. If you’re serious about writing a book, you’ll need to put in at least one hour. Remember, it takes a while to get into the groove, so giving yourself a 20-minute window will just be an exercise in frustration.

Set realistic targets

Some people might find it more productive to set a word-count writing target each week than a time goal. If you are a daydreamer by nature, time targets won’t help. After all, sitting in front of your laptop building castles in the air for thirty minutes isn’t going to help you write your novel.

So, how many words should you plan to write a day? That really depends on you. You can estimate that 250 words is about a page, so I’d encourage you to write a few pages each day. When I get going (and I’m well set up with an outline), I tend to max out at 5,000 words. After that, it becomes an unintelligible jumble of syllables.

Set a daily, a weekly, and a monthly target. Also, decide on a final deadline for your book. Then make those targets, or better yet, beat them!

 

Being a mother of three children, I’m a planner at heart. I believe that if you really want to write your novel, you need to properly prepare and follow through with the targets you establish. Set yourself up for success and don’t accept failure as an option. If you’re embarking on your first book and want a few tips, please check out my blog or write me for advice. I’m always happy to help!

How to Select the Right Ghostwriter for You

How to find the right ghostwriter for youIf you find yourself eager to complete a book project that has been on your mind for years, but know you need help, it might be time to hire a ghostwriter. After all, if you haven’t found the hundreds of hours required to write a book in the last few years, chances are you won’t have the time today…or tomorrow. So, how do you find the right ghostwriter for you? That’s the challenge I wish to tackle with you today.

Research candidate ghostwriters

You can easily determine whether a candidate writer can help you with your story by researching her. Any qualified professional ghostwriter will have a website with testimonials. You can also throw her name into a search engine and see what you find. It’s a good idea to verify how reputable she is by checking her out on Google.

For instance, try typing “Laura Sherman Ghostwriter” into Google and see what you find. The first page will have various entries from my blog, but you’ll also see mentions of me from other professional writers.

You can also type in various key words that interest you and see what pops up. If you search for subjects like “memoir themes,” “help writing a book,” or “ghostwriting contract,” you’ll find a variety of writers that show up (myself included). That’s because we blog and guest blog a lot about these topics and have experience in these fields.

Now, it’s worth noting that a ghostwriter doesn’t need to rank well on Google to be a good match for you. However, a reputable ghostwriter should have some kind of web presence (other than social media).

Nail down pricing

Discover your budget to hire a ghostwriterWhen you begin searching for the right ghostwriter for you, there are different ways to narrow the field. I suggest that you determine your budget before you start interviewing. Some ghostwriters won’t post their rates, while others are upfront about their fees on their websites. If you can, ask for the rate before you begin the interview process. It will save you a lot of time and aggravation.

For instance, if your budget is $5,000 for an average-sized book, I wouldn’t be a good candidate for you. I charge one dollar per word (or $50,000 for a 200-page book). No matter how much I fall in love with your project’s concept, I can’t take a 90% pay cut.

If you have a small budget, I’d recommend that you scour one of the many freelancer websites to find someone within your price range. Just please be warned: you will get what you pay for.

Professional ghostwriters usually charge somewhere between fifty cents and two dollars per word.

Discover the ghostwriter’s preferred genre

Select the right genre for your bookOnce you find a ghostwriter within your price range, you’ll need to make sure your story is one he or she can write. The genre should be within the ghostwriter’s wheelhouse. Writers often specialize. For instance, I write memoirs, business books and novels, but I will only take on projects that are uplifting, inspirational or educational. Other writers don’t have such constraints on topic, while some only write books in a specific genre. For instance, I’ve seen certain ghosts who only write romantic comedies, how-to books, or screenplays.

The right ghostwriter for you will have prior experience writing a book similar to yours. So, if you’re writing a memoir, I wouldn’t recommend a writer who has only done scientific textbooks or who specializes in cookbooks.

Read up on the ghostwriter to discover his or her area of expertise. If you have trouble finding this information online, simply ask the ghostwriter about their preferences in an email or during the initial conversation.

Summarize your story to the ghostwriter

A ghostwriter doesn’t need all the details of your story to determine if she is the right ghostwriter for you. The broad strokes are enough for her to make a decision. With this in mind, don’t download your entire story to the writer in the initial conversation. Instead, find a way to summarize it in a few paragraphs. I recommend that you prepare this before you contact a prospective ghostwriter.

I can tell you that after twenty years in the industry, I can quickly determine if I can do justice to a client’s story.

For example, here are two excerpts from recent requests:

  • “My husband of 25 years abandoned me and our children to take up with another woman. I want to write a book to get back at him and her.”
  • “I’m a successful real estate investor and businessman. I want to share my story of how I overcame various challenges to inspire others to follow their dreams.”

Both wanted memoirs written, but each had a very different purpose. Since I specialize in uplifting stories, I knew I wasn’t the best ghostwriter for the first person and told her this immediately. However, the second project was well within my wheelhouse and I was chomping at the bit to start writing that book. I didn’t need all the details to be interested.

Hire the right ghostwriter for you

Find the right ghostwriter for youFollowing these guidelines, you can quickly narrow down the candidates who could potentially be the right ghostwriter for you. Once you’ve done this homework, set up a time to talk to the writer about your story. You want to be sure that you are able to communicate easily and that there is an immediate and budding chemistry between you two about the project. That’s important as this will be a long-term relationship.

If you’re interested in learning more about the steps that follow, check out my article on How to Effectively Work with a Ghostwriter. It’s a fun and rewarding adventure.

And please feel free to email me anytime to learn more about the process of working with me.

How to Effectively Work with a Ghostwriter

By Laura Sherman

how to work with a ghostwriterTime is ticking away and you have a great story to tell or wisdom to impart and wish to write a book. However, your demanding schedule leaves little time to put pen to paper. In addition, this is new territory for you, and you might not be fluent with all the rules of writing and storytelling. This is the moment where most people reach out to me as they realize they need to work with a ghostwriter.

A ghostwriter is a professional writer who specializes in helping her clients bring their stories to life. She writes the book and you own the rights—you’re the author. Although you’ll need to be involved, she will do 90% of the work and will help see your project through to completion in a timely manner.

Over the last twenty years, I’ve had the pleasure of partnering with many different clients on over three dozen memoirs, novels, and business books. While each relationship was unique, I’ve picked out some common steps you can expect to take if you decide to work with a ghostwriter.

Finding the right ghostwriter for you

Your first course of action is to interview and select the best ghostwriter for you and your project. The most popular way to find ghostwriters by searching for them online. You’ll find there are a lot of choices, but you can begin whittling down the list by determining three important requirements before you start interviewing.

First, know your budget. At least know your range. For instance, if you wish to write a 100-page (25,000-word) book and have a budget of $12,500, that’s fifty cents per word. Don’t contact someone who charges two dollars per word. Find writers within your range. This will save you a lot of time and frustration.

Second, know the genre of your book. You don’t want to waste your time on interviewing a writer who specializes in novels when you intend to write a business how-to book.

And, third, prepare a brief summary of your book. I can’t tell you how many clients spend over an hour sharing their entire story with me during our initial conversation. It’s draining and exhausting for the author and the writer. While you need to share the overview of the story to determine that the ghostwriter will be a good fit, it should be an elevator pitch lasting only a few minutes so that you have enough time and energy for the rest of the interview questions.

After you’ve determined that the potential ghostwriter is qualified, has a lot of prior experience, and is within your price range, it’s time to interview her on the phone. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time. For a little advice about the kinds of questions to ask, please read my article: Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter.

When you speak on the phone, make sure that you and your ghost can talk comfortably and easily. You want a ghostwriter who listens well and asks intelligent questions. Ideally, she will engage in your story right away. And there should be an immediate bond; it should feel like you’ve been friends for years.

Signing with a ghostwriter

when you work with a ghostwriter have a good contractOnce you’ve found your perfect match, it’s time to make it official. Your ghostwriter should have a ghostwriting contract for you to sign. Always put all the important details in writing so there are no confusions later.

Your contract should include the following:

  • all milestone deadlines and payments
  • the expected word count of the book
  • all the services that will be provided
  • a clear agreement that the author will hold all copyrights
  • the permitted number of revision requests
  • a confidentiality agreement
  • a contingency plan in case there are disputes.

Plan to pay 25% of the total fee upfront. This covers research and outlining, which in my experience is often the most time-consuming phase. I work on a milestone approach so that my clients always know what to expect with each payment. For example, with the first payment they will receive a detailed outline within two or three months.

Work with a ghostwriter to gather research information

Now that you’ve selected your ghostwriter and have signed the contract, it’s time to gather all your research information and notes. Don’t worry if your notes are messy and disorganized. Personally, I never mind if the notes provided are riddled with typos and grammatical errors. All I’m interested in is the information, so that I can begin formulating the outline for your book. Then I’ll set up an interview schedule to fill in the gaps.

Notes can come in a variety of forms. Over the last twenty years, clients have given me:

  • Diaries
  • Website links
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Handwritten notes
  • Audio or video files
  • Photographs
  • Rough drafts of chapters

research when you work with a ghostwriterIf you want to work with a ghostwriter, but don’t have any written notes prior to signing the contract, that’s completely fine. Your ghost will be able to guide you, so that you can give her the information she needs.

For instance, if you desire to write a memoir, I’d ask that you jot down a list of crucial incidents. This list can be very basic. The wording should be designed to help you remember what happened. For instance, you might write “the time I met Mary on the subway,” or “graduation day,” or “the big argument with my brother two years ago.” You know what each phrase means and can instantly remember all the details. Of course, if you’re so inclined, you could also note a few details at this time.

In the case of a non-fiction book, your notes would take the form of chapter titles for a preliminary Table of Contents. Under each chapter title, you would list out the subheads you plan to incorporate into that chapter, along with a few comments about what you want to say.

As you work with a ghostwriter, she will take these notes and use them as a starting place to create her interview questions. These questions will help her get more details to flesh out your story.

Settling a few important details

As you pull together the research notes, consider these important aspects of your book:

  • the genre
  • the readership
  • your goals

select the right genre for your bookWhile you determined the general genre of your book before starting your search for your ghostwriter, now you can get more specific. This will help your writer when she begins outlining.

For instance, if you’re a successful businessperson, you might have a choice between writing a memoir or a how-to book in which to share your hard-won knowledge. Or if you have led an exciting life, you might choose between writing a memoir or creating a fictionalized version of your story, turning it into a novel.

Next, you need to determine the readership of your book. This will help you choose which incidents to include in your story and the style in which they will be written. After all, a college textbook would be quite different from a romantic comedy. Or a World War II memoir would be written in a very different style from a space opera science fiction novel.

And finally, you need to clarify your goals. Do you hope to gain financially? Do you wish to share your wisdom and experience to help others improve their lives? Or do you simply wish to record your family history for your loved ones? When you know why you wish to publish your book, you can work with a ghostwriter to realize those goals.

Interviewing with a ghostwriter

Some people I speak to seem to have the impression that a ghostwriter is someone who follows a celebrity around all day, perhaps living in the guest house or in a spare bedroom. While I have seen this portrayed in movies, in real life it isn’t terribly practical.

I find that it is most effective to interview clients over the phone and via email. It’s rare that I ever meet them in person (although sometimes I have had the pleasure). In-person interviews aren’t necessary and don’t make the process easier.

During these interviews a ghostwriter will gather details on all the incidents in your memoir or novel. If you’re writing a how-to book, your writer will want to interview you to gain insight into the information, techniques, and tips which will be featured in the book. In addition, successful nonfiction books include amusing, illustrative anecdotes to hold the reader’s interest. These are usually best communicated through interviews.

As you continue to work with a ghostwriter, an effective way to pass on important information is through written materials, such as documents, notes, emails, etc. But ongoing oral interviews are key to a successful outcome because they give her the opportunity to master your voice. Becoming familiar with the way you express yourself will allow the writer to convincingly write in your style. After all, this will be your book and your name will be on the cover.

Tips on interviewing

When you are interviewed, be prepared to be honest and candid. Don’t try to hide things. Take responsibility for your actions. If you attempt to blame others, your readers will lose respect for you and interest in the book. Embrace what happened, no matter how embarrassing or messy it may seem to you. That’s important. Then be sure to express how much you’ve learned from your mistakes. This will resonate with your readers. After all, we’ve all been there.

use your senses when describing a scene in a bookAnother tip is to consider all of your senses when you describe a scene. People typically default to their sense of sight and describe what they saw. While these descriptions are crucial, it’s important not to forget all the other perceptions.

For instance, let’s say you’re sharing the story of your tenth birthday with your ghostwriter. Think about the sounds of the outdoor party. Were there birds singing or perhaps cicadas buzzing and clicking? Then try to remember the smells of freshly mown grass or grilling hamburgers. You should probably also delve into the emotions of the day. Were you excited or disappointed? There are so many possibilities. The more sensory details you add, the richer your story will be.

And finally, I’d suggest that you and your ghostwriter limit each conversation to about an hour. While an hour and a half can be fine, I wouldn’t recommend marathon three-hour talks. You’ll get worn out, and your ability to recall the details might diminish.

Planning your schedule

Plan your schedule when you work with a ghostwriterWhen you work with a ghostwriter, she will do the heavy lifting for your book, but remember that you also have a key role in your project. Some ghostwriters collect all the information upfront, learning as much as they can, and quickly deliver a first draft for the client to review. They basically complete the book without continued input from the client. Once the rough draft is finished, that’s when they request feedback and make adjustments accordingly. I feel that is a potential recipe for disaster.

Personally, I want to make sure to be delivering the style of writing the authors expect. To that end, I send pages to my clients for feedback on a regular basis, as I write them. That way I can be sure to be on the right track and deliver what my clients envisioned.

It is important to be upfront with your ghostwriter about your available time. In the beginning, you should plan to spend minimally a few hours a week on interviewing, answering questions, and providing feedback. A good ghostwriter is flexible and, with some forewarning, can work around your schedule.

Giving feedback

When you work with a ghostwriter, she will require feedback. It’s important to be specific in your comments, so that she can learn and improve. For instance, don’t simply say, “I didn’t like that.” Rather, explain what you felt was missing from the passage or what nuance you felt wasn’t correctly captured.

It’s also key to point out what you felt your ghost got right. Good feedback is just as helpful as correction. We learn from both equally.

It’s a good idea to give a quick turnaround on edits to your ghostwriter, as that will speed up the process and help her learn faster. Ideally, you can tell her when you’ll be able to review the document so she can schedule around it.

I like working with MS Word. I find Track Changes a helpful editing tool because the client can make changes within the document and I can immediately spot the edits. Plus, he or she can write comments that help explain the changes made. It’s a great tool for any writing team.

 

Work with a ghostwriterYour story is important and deserves to be heard. If you don’t have the time or know-how to write a book yourself, having a ghostwriter help you is a real option. Knowing how to pick a ghostwriter allows you to find the person who is best suited for you and your project. And understanding how to work with a ghostwriter allows you to two to become a strong team, one that works together smoothly and effectively to bring your story to life so that you can share it with the world.

Writing Tips: Show, Don’t Tell

Show don't tell when you write to engage your readersThere are quite a few rules for writing, but one of the more senior commandments is show, don’t tell. I know this can be a baffling concept to new writers. Honestly, I’d hate to see a lack of understanding of this golden rule stop anyone from putting pen to paper.

As with most new skills, show, don’t tell simply takes a little practice to master. With practice you’ll find that soon you’ll begin to apply the rules almost instinctively. While honing this skill, I’d recommend that you read some of your favorite books over again and observe how the authors bring their stories to life by showing their readers various details. You’ll find there are many ways to accomplish this goal.

The meaning of show, don’t tell

Show, don’t tell simply means that you allow your readers to experience incidents through storytelling rather than overtly tell them what happened. Showing is often done through character development, in which you thoroughly share sensory details, action, and dialogue.

The reason showing is so effective is that it puts your readers directly into the shoes of the main character and lets them to see things through his or her lens. It’s a much more immersive experience for the readers, allowing them to lose themselves in your book.

An example

In order to illustrate the difference between telling and showing, here are two passages:

Terry had a fear of spiders.

Or:

As the spider crept along the tartan quilt, Terry’s body convulsed with an involuntary shudder. His heartbeat quickened as its eight legs inched toward his arm. Would that he could move it away, but none of his muscles would obey his silent plea for escape.

 

Which version did you prefer? Did one make you feel the emotions along with Terry?

Most people would agree that the second example plops the reader in the middle of the scene and adds layers to his terror. And it’s possible that the reader might experience a shudder of his own.

Use dialogue to show feelings

Characters express emotions through dialogueWhen attempting to show, don’t tell, dialogue can be a powerful tool for a writer. You can show emotions and reveal the deep relationships between characters in an engaging way. Body language also gives the readers insight into what’s going on.

Keep in mind that people have various ways of communicating. Based on their past relationships, they will speak to each other in different ways. Consider how you speak to and interact with your grandmother. Now think about how you speak with and interact with your sibling or your best friend. Each relationship is very different, right? We all have different behavior codes for the variety of people in our lives who are important to us. Well, the same would apply to the characters in your book.

It’s also worth mentioning that people aren’t cut-out duplicates of one another. We all have different traits that create our personalities. Examine all the people you know. Do they each speak in the same way? My guess is that they have slightly different accents, use different words to communicate ideas (probably with a variety of slang terms), and sometimes slip into half-sentences. Use these personal experiences when you write. It’s through your characters’ idiosyncratic ways of speaking that you can reveal their emotions, intentions and purposes.

Sometimes I find it helpful to see the incidents of my story as scenes in a film. Screenwriters have to show what the characters are experiencing through their actions and dialogue. In a film you couldn’t say, “Joe was angry” unless you included a narrator in the script, which would be awkward. No, you’d need to show that he was angry.

Same goes when writing a book.

Example

So, you could write:

Sally decided to leave her husband of twenty years. When she confronted him about it, he became very angry.

Or you could write:

Sally stood at the doorway and studied her husband. “Joe?” she said as she fidgeted with the hem of her shirt.

Joe crumpled the newspaper onto his lap with an exaggerated flourish. “Yes? What is it?”

“I…” she faltered, then took a deep breath. “My bags are packed.”

Joe glared at her. He grabbed his cane and slowly eased himself out of the chair to a standing position. “You’re really doing this?”

She gave a quick nod. “Yes.”

Sally watched as Joe’s face turned a familiar shade of purple. If he’d been a cartoon, steam would have been coming out of his ears right about then. She took an involuntary step backward.

“Twenty years of my life wasted,” he said through gritted teeth. “Get out. And don’t bother to come back.”

Avoid overusing adverbs

Show don't tell when you write a bookWhy is it that we hear seasoned writers warn against using adverbs? After all, they are an important part of speech, modifying not only verbs, but adjectives and other adverbs. Pretty universal, right?

Well, Stephen King wrote in his book On Writing:

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day…fifty the day after that…and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s—GASP!!—too late.”

Dramatic? Yes. But that’s Stephen King’s signature style.

So, is it wrong to use an adverb? Nah. Just don’t overuse them because they can become a crutch. After all, tossing in a ready-made adverb can be easier than investing the time to show the reader how a character feels. Maybe that’s why Mark Twain warned us that “Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer.”

An example

“I wouldn’t if I were you,” Becky said condescendingly.

Or:

Becky folded her arms across her chest, her lips curled into a smug smile. “I wouldn’t if I were you.”

 

There is no doubt about it, writing is a balancing act: You want to find your unique voice while obeying all the agreed-upon rules of the craft. If you’re new to writing, give yourself some time to develop your own style. Don’t worry too much about all the rules like show, don’t tell until you begin editing your own book. And remember, while it’s good to know the rules of writing, they aren’t intended to become a straitjacket. Keep writing and enjoy the process!