How to Write a Business Book

how to write a business bookIf you want to write a business book, you’re certainly not alone. So many professionals get a strong urge to publish a book that highlights their niche market expertise. If you talk to PR experts, they will confirm that having a book with your name on it is a key element to any strategic branding campaign. It’s smart business to write a business book!

However, for most busy professionals the dream stops there. Why? Because writing a book isn’t an easy task. As you can imagine, it will take a few hundred hours to complete the project.

Most business owners don’t have that kind of time readily available. They are already overloaded with the day-to-day activities of operating their companies, working well beyond the normal hours of 9-5, usually an average of sixty hours a week. With little time to spare to write a business book, it gets put on the back burner. I get it.

Let’s see if we can make the process a little easier for you to tackle. And, of course, if you need help from your friendly ghostwriter, please don’t hesitate to write me.

How to begin

Well, as Lewis Carroll said, “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

While that might sound a little simplistic, there’s a measure of truth to it, because implied in that advice is a drive to complete the project. So, I’d say the first step is to make that commitment: to write a business book, no matter what.

Once you’re sure you want to embark on this adventure, here is my advice on the next steps to follow.

State your purpose

It's time to start writing your business bookYou must know why you want to write a business book if you’re going to succeed. As a ghostwriter, I always ask my clients to reveal their main drive and passion behind the project. I’ll tell you, I’m most eager to help the CEO who wants to share his or her successful actions with budding entrepreneurs. Business owners who are willing to share their advice, to open up and to confide their errors, with the ultimate goal of paving the way for other business owners to succeed, are heroes in my book.

Some people write me with the sole goal of making a million bucks. It’s hard to get behind that purpose. Readers will sense that goal and will not be inspired to read your book. After all, their goal in picking up your book will never be to make you rich. Rather, they are looking for advice and actions that will help them achieve their own goals.

The authors who truly care about their readers will succeed.

The top business books have a deeper purpose than financial gain for the author. When you can reach out to the individuals reading your words on a one-on-one basis, they will respond. Your readers will be grateful for your insight and guidance. They will recommend your book to others, and more will purchase it. Soon you may even have a best seller on your hands.

Know your readership

If you know who your readers are, you can accurately write to them. Consider writing your book as if you were preparing a speech for a group. Wouldn’t you craft your message differently for a gaggle of middle school students than you would for a pride of CEOs or a pod of athletes?

Never write your book for “everyone” on this planet. It will fail. Remember, you are writing to one individual at a time. You’re writing to your reader, so that individual learns and benefits from your wisdom and advice.

Determine your format

Here’s where your homework starts. You need to settle on a style for your book, and the best way to do that is to read a few other business books. It’s OK to skim them. For now, you’re just trying to find a format that appeals to you.

The good news is that you have choices! Here are a few options for you to consider:

  • a memoir format with lots of sage business advice sprinkled throughout
  • a leadership book with many personal anecdotes
  • a step-by-step approach to accomplishing the goals of the reader
  • a workbook format with lots of practical exercises for the reader to do

There is no hard and fast rule here. You can pick the format that most appeals to you and will resonate with your readership. Again, get some ideas from other bestselling books out there and feel free to use that format for your business book.

Now it’s time to write your business book

Once you have the purpose, readership and format decided, it’s time to begin writing. However, there are a few more steps to take before you can begin putting words on pages.

Determine your focus

Determine the focus of your business bookThe first thing to determine is the focus of your book. Identify precisely the problem that you are trying to solve. Pick one. If you try to solve too many, your book will ramble and lose the interest of your reader.

For instance, let’s say you discovered an effective means of retaining customers in your online business. That’s the focus of your book. Or maybe you want to impart how to start and run a small restaurant in a big city. Whatever you decide, really explore the problem in depth, then present a concrete solution.

Create your idea folder

You might find it easiest to just pour out your ideas into a word processing document or a notebook. Don’t worry about order, grammar or anything but the ideas. This part should be fun.

It’s important not to stop yourself from putting a thought into your idea folder. All ideas should go into the file. You can edit them down later.

When do you stop this phase? The answer is a little like the instructions for making popcorn. There is a phase where the pan is heating up and nothing happens. Then the kernels begin to pop. They pop and pop and pop at a tremendous, almost deafening, rate. Then the popping starts to die out until you hear one pop every three seconds. That’s when you take it off the heat, right?

The same concept applies to recording your ideas. Once you allow yourself to put down ideas, they should flood onto the paper. Allow them to. Don’t stop the natural flow at all. When the new ideas dwindle to a trickle, that’s when you know to switch your attention to the next phase.

Tip: you might invest in speech recognition software or simply use your phone to translate your voice into the written word. That way, if you think of a brilliant segment for your book while you’re out, you can just email it back to yourself easily. A lot of my clients love this feature.

Organize your outline

Now that you have most of your ideas down in one document, it’s time to organize the thoughts into an outline.

There are writers who hate to outline. They prefer to write by the seat of their pants (some call them pantsers). If you’re a pantser, that might work well for fiction, but for nonfiction, it’s going to be a mess. You need an outline.

The format of your outline will depend on the format of your business book.

If you’re writing a memoir, you need to put all the incidents of your story in chronological order. That way you can start to see the flow of your story. Check out my article on Tips for Organizing and Outlining a Memoir.

For most other formats you’ll create a Table of Contents with a lot of subsections. I’d advise you not to make any one segment too long. It’s best to break up each key element into easy to read sections. Once you have these down, simply put the contents of your idea folder into your Table of Contents. Everything should have a spot. If it doesn’t, create a new subhead.

Words on pages

Get the words out of your head and onto the page of your business bookNow that you have your completed outline, the book is practically written…in your head. That’s how it is for me! I know exactly what I’m going to say; now I just have to take the time to write it down. I need words on pages.

Don’t get overwhelmed.

It’s a good idea to set a schedule for yourself. After all, that’s probably how you got to be a successful CEO or entrepreneur. You set yourself targets and goals, then met them no matter what tried to get in your way.

If you’d like some specific tips for completing your book, check out my article: Completing a Book: The Time, the Space, and the Goal.

Treat this project as you would any other. If you really don’t have the time, hire a ghostwriter to help you. Keep in mind that she will probably need to revisit your outline and help you flesh out the details a little more. She might also have suggestions for the format.

Whatever you do, hold yourself accountable for completing your project. Never lose your drive and passion to write a business book.

The benefits of a business book

I’ve written many business books over the last twenty years and love the genre. It’s exciting for me to help my clients achieve the many benefits that come from such an accomplishment. While you will certainly sell copies of your book, there are other tangible benefits in store for you when you write a business book.

Increased credibility

If you’re a successful CEO, consider the response from your client base when they learn that you are a published author. Having a book with your name blazoned on the cover is one of the best ways to show credibility.

Think about it. Don’t people respond to published authors a little differently? Not only do new and old clients respect you, but your peers look up to you as well.

Become an authority figure

When you have a well-written book with many book reviews and copies sold, various people will want to interview you. You will be asked to guest blog, speak at conferences, be featured on podcasts and quoted in other books and articles.

Your visibility will be catapulted into a new realm.

It’s wonderful when, year after year, new people discover your work and write fresh reviews for your book or quote you in their articles. You become a recognized expert in your niche market. This increased visibility will certainly organically increase your client base.

A feeling of peace and well-being

There is no better feeling than helping another. When you write a business book in which you share your successful actions, you might be aiding others who are just starting out and struggling through the problems you have overcome. Or you might be assisting your clients or future clients, complementing the services that you already provide.

Sharing your knowledge in a book will allow you to give advice to a large number of people that you might not be able to help on a one-on-one basis. Instead of helping dozens of people in a week, you can help hundreds or thousands. Take a moment and imagine creating that effect.

Financial gain

Financial gain from a business bookNot only will you make money each time you sell a copy of your book, but your customer base will rise exponentially as your book sales increase. As you market your book, you’ll come up with ways to collect new names and email addresses. Your readers could become new clients and be your best word-of-mouth referral sources.

For some, the money earned from increased sales far exceeds the cash received from selling the book. If you sell a high-ticket product or service, just one new client can make a huge difference.

There are many ways you can make money indirectly through your book. How you channel this resource is only limited by your creativity.

Mike Schultz, president of the Wellesley Hills Group and a well-known marketing consultant, surveyed 200 authors of business books and discovered that 96% experienced a positive impact on their business from writing a book. That doesn’t surprise me. It just makes sense!

Let’s get started

Now that you know the value of a business book and have an inkling of how to proceed, it’s time to take the plunge. The best thing to do is to set aside a dedicated time every day when you write a business book. It may take a year to get it done, depending on the amount of time you spend on it. But like the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, it’s the steady progress that will get you to your goal.

But if you find the project overwhelming or just don’t have the time (or desire) to write a business book yourself, it may be time to consider hiring a professional ghostwriter.

A ghostwriter will interview you and assist you in all aspects of creating your book. She will collect your notes from your idea folder. She will help you find your focus, determine your readership, outline your book, and then write it for you.

Keep in mind that you’ll still be a part of the project and will need to dedicate a few hours a week to it. You’ve basically hired a silent writing partner who will do all the legwork for you. Still, you’ll need to review pages, give feedback, and answer questions from time to time.

I’m passionate about helping people create an engaging book with useful information that readers can’t put down. I have a special spot in my heart for entrepreneurs as I feel they are artists.

Would you like me to help you write a business book? If so, please contact me and share your idea. I’m here to help!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Write Your Family History in 2020

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book

What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter

Working with a ghostwriter to write a bookYou’ve made the leap—you’ve decided to author a book this year. Bravo! This is a wonderful goal. If you’re similar to many other busy successful people, you may need a little help. If so, you may find you learn a lot just from a simple interview with a ghostwriter.

Over the years I’ve discovered that authors sometimes aren’t aware of everything that goes into the development of a book. Some have a vague idea of the process, but most have a lot of questions about structure, format and content. That’s completely normal. I’m more than happy to share this information with you during our initial interview.

The initial interview with a ghostwriter

Naturally there are questions you want to ask to determine whether a particular ghostwriter might be qualified to take on your project. I cover this topic extensively in my article, Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter.

However, while you are interviewing her, she is also gathering information which will help her decide if she is the best ghost for you. Through this initial interview with a ghostwriter you will take the first step toward understanding what will be required to complete your book.

The genre of your book

Know your genre for your book when you hire a ghostwriterThe three most popular book requests I receive are: fiction, business nonfiction, and memoir. Within those classifications, there are many subcategories. For instance, if you’re writing a fictional story, you have various choices of genre: drama, science fiction, fantasy and young adult, to name a few.

If you’re writing business nonfiction, there are a wide variety of subjects as well as a few choices of styles of presentation of the facts and information. Some authors prefer text only, while others opt to include many photos. When I wrote Chess Is Child’s Play, we included many fun text boxes with tips and anecdotes for the reader to enjoy.

Memoirs are pretty straightforward. They are typically written in the first person and look and feel like a novel (even though they are true stories). However, some are presented as a diary or journal.

Keep in mind, there is some cross-over, too. For instance, you can have a memoir that is only loosely based on fact but is primarily a novel. Or a novel that feels like memoir but is actually completely fictional. In addition, many entrepreneurs who have important lessons to impart will write a nonfiction how-to book and sprinkle many humorous anecdotes throughout. Another option is to write a memoir and include many tips and tricks of the trade to educate the readers.

When you interview with a ghostwriter, make sure to know your book’s genre so you can hire the best ghost for the job; most writers specialize in certain genres.

Your readership

When you hire a ghostwriter, let her know your demographicOne of the biggest errors a new author can make is to try to write his book for “everyone.” While some books are very popular with a lot of people, you always want to direct your creative energies to a certain demographic.

For instance, a how-to book giving practical parenting advice for single parents will be written very differently than a science fiction novel aimed at the young adult market. The voice and style will vary depending on the readers you wish to entertain or educate.

During your interview with a ghostwriter work to determine the right readership for your book and make sure your ghost can capture the style and voice required to resonate with them.

Your goals for your book

A good ghostwriter will ask you to reveal your goals for your book early on. Over the last twenty years, I’ve heard a variety of goals from many clients. Some are interested in financial gain, while others want to share their story or wisdom with others. Many simply wish to complete their books for their loved ones.

Know your goals for your book when you hire a ghostwriterAnother popular goal of many is to see their name on the cover of a book. I understand—it’s a bucket list item. As an author, I know there’s no better feeling than seeing your story in print.

I love to work with clients who wish to share their expertise or life lessons with others. I have seen that sometimes books written with a strong purpose to help, enlighten or entertain others also result in fame and fortune. On the other hand, fame and fortune seldom come when the author is purely money-driven. Your ghostwriter must know what drives you to write your book so that she can help you achieve your goals.

Publishing plans

It’s a good idea to share your publishing goals early on as well. While this information is not vital when it comes to writing the outline of a book, it does help to bring the ghostwriter in on the overall strategy. We’re a team, after all.

If you don’t know yet, don’t worry. You have time. I always suggest my clients decide about halfway through the writing process. That gives you time to make a more educated decision and prepare a query letter if that’s what’s needed.

Subsequent Interviews

After you complete your initial interview with a ghostwriter, you will probably immediately know if this writer will be your ghost. A rapport and bond should form quickly. If you have to “think about it,” the answer is probably no. Interview another writer.

Once you sign the contract and send the down payment, the next step will be to send all the written information you might have to your new ghostwriter. For me, one of the best sources of research is in written form. This gives me a great foundation to start learning what I need to know to write your book.

A ghostwriter needs a lot of notes to write your bookSome clients have a first draft that needs a complete overhaul, while others have a lot of detailed notes. Some provide journal entries or articles, while some have notes or documents written on cocktail napkins. Gather up all these pieces so you can send them to your ghostwriter. These written samples are invaluable, as they will help your ghostwriter capture your voice.

I always tell my clients that they can never give me too much data. It’s a bit like creating a sculpture from a large block of marble. You need a lot of material to start so you can carve out a beautiful piece of art.

After your ghostwriter has reviewed all your written material, she will need to continue to interview you. I often conduct these over email and phone. Sometimes clients send me audio or video files, which I transcribe.

Note: while I prefer to receive most of the information in writing, I also need to talk to the client now and then. Live conversations help a lot.

Please know that these ongoing interviews are vital. They help your ghostwriter get the detailed information she needs to fully and accurately capture your style and written voice.

Getting personal with a memoir

Share the good and the bad when writing your book with your ghostwriterIf you want your writer to accurately portray you to your reader, it’s important that you participate in each interview with a ghostwriter fully.

That means if you’re writing a memoir, you must share your most personal experiences, thoughts and feelings sincerely and honestly. While you don’t need to include everything in your book, you can’t hide from all the negative events that happened.

Don’t try to make out that your life is wonderful all the time. You need to show your flaws and share your errors. Readers need to be able to identify with you. They need to see that you’re human. If you portray yourself as perfect, the reader will know that you’re lying.

And your book will be boring.

Just like life, a good story must have conflict to be interesting. So, you must be willing to open up to your readers. That begins with your ghostwriter. Your ghostwriter will help you by asking broad questions. If the questions spark an idea, feel free to elaborate. It’s fine to go off-topic for a bit because that may open the door to more ideas and even bring up interesting incidents which might have been a bit buried. Most of my clients remember many details when they interview with me, their friendly ghostwriter.

One word of warning: if you’re thinking of speaking ill of someone, be aware that her or she may read your book. Consider carefully if you are willing to face the consequences. After all, anything you put in writing is permanent.

Other categories

If you’re writing a fiction book or a prescriptive nonfiction (how-to book), keep in mind you still need to interview with your ghostwriter. She will need to coordinate closely with you and collect all the pertinent facts. In addition, she’ll require regular feedback on her work.

Each interview with a ghostwriter will help her hear how you put together phrases, learn more about your philosophies on writing and life, and better understand your ongoing thoughts and goals for the project.

Helpful material for a ghostwriter

My clients usually wish to write their book with me. I always embrace this partnership and strive to teach them about the process every step of the way, if that’s what they desire. However, some authors prefer a more hands-off approach. In those cases, I simply write pages and submit them on a regular basis.

There are various key research elements a client can provide that make my job a lot easier.

Biographies of characters

ghostwriters need to know about the characters in your bookNo matter what the genre, it is always helpful to collect biographies of the people mentioned in the book (whether they be fictional or not). If I’m writing a memoir for a client, I like to know the following information so that I can write a truly three-dimensional character:

  • Full name
  • Birthdate (month and year)
  • Birthplace and residences
  • Hair and eye color
  • Body description
  • General mood
  • Hobbies or interests

This is a good starting point, but, really, there is a lot more that can be added to this list. Consider all the things that make this person truly unique.

A detailed list of incidents

Any fiction book or memoir is really comprised of a series of incidents. It’s a timeline of the events that happen to your characters.

In order to get started on your outline, I need to know what happened. This list doesn’t have to include a lot of information. In fact, when you’re just starting out, it can just be a list of key words that triggers the right concept for you. Then, during your interview, your ghostwriter will pull out the relevant details to understand the scene as well as you do.

For instance, if you’re writing your memoir, you might jot down:

  • The time I got food poisoning in LA
  • The first horror movie I attended with a boy
  • The time I flew to Paris to meet my sister

Ghostwriters need to know who, what, where to write your bookOnce you make a giant list of all these incidents, you can even delve in a little further and add a few more pertinent facts:

  • Who was involved?
  • Where did it take place?
  • When did it happen?
  • What was the significance for you?

Snippets of dialogue

When you’re writing a memoir, it is very helpful to note down any actual conversations that you might wish to recreate in your book. Of course, your ghostwriter will change it around to work for your book, but these words will give her a sense for how you and others in your story speak and interact with one another. If you think about it, you speak very differently with the different people in your life. I know I don’t talk to my mother-in-law the way I speak to my children or my neighbor.

The same goes for fiction if. If you have a good handle on the characters you wish your writer to portray, I’d recommend that you provide a little sample dialogue. That way your ghostwriter can build from that and meet your expectations easily.

Additional information

I find it extremely helpful to get the addresses of former homes, offices, schools, etc., so I can research details about the locations various characters visited throughout the story. This helps me set the scenes accurately, especially if the research turns up photos of the interior as well. I love to pore over local maps to get a feel for the area.

Of course, if you have any pertinent photos, those help tremendously because they give a complete picture of how people, places and things looked.

Use your senses

use your senses when you write a bookAs you are writing down all the above information, do your best to fully describe everything so that your ghostwriter can see and feel what you did. Use all your senses. For example, if you’re describing your first girlfriend, mention the color of her hair, the sound her high heels made as she clicked across the floor, the way her perfume reminded you of the rose garden at your grandma’s house, or the silky feel of her dress when you held her as you danced.

If you’re writing a memoir, each interview with a ghostwriter may bring out a lot of emotions. Let them out. Be honest about how you felt when certain things happened. Open up and share the fear that gripped you when your car spun out of control on an ice patch, the raw anger you experienced when your brother teased you as a young child, or the pure joy you felt when you held your first-born child.

And through it all, seek the themes that you wish to impart. Share the messages you wish to communicate through your book.

Enjoy each interview with a ghostwriter. You’ll learn a lot and, through the process, you and your ghost will create an excellent book.

Additional articles you may enjoy reading:

How to Conquer Writer’s Block

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

Write Your Family History in 2020

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Is It Charged?

 

 

 

How to Conquer Writer’s Block

writer suffering from writer's blockHave you ever stared at a fresh, new document in frustration because the words just wouldn’t come? Not the dreaded writer’s block. No, anything but that. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t get your fingers to perform the chorus of taps you need.

Writer’s block…

These two little words evoke fear in the hearts of many brave warrior writers, causing them to spiral down into a swirl of anxiety and self-doubt. It’s a writer’s worst nightmare.

While some claim that there is no such thing as “writer’s block,” the fact is that if you’re reading this article, you probably feel it’s real and that’s enough for me. Perhaps your well of inspiration has run dry. It isn’t “all in your head” and it isn’t an imagined curse.

The good news is that there is a remedy.

I think of writing in terms of flow—a steady, continuous stream of ideas being put into a document. Now, sometimes a flow can get stuck, just like a river can be stopped by a variety of blockades.

So, what is the solution?

Remove the barrier and get the flow moving again.

Write something, anything

My main remedy for writer’s block is to write.

Okay, I realized that might sound oversimplified. The truth is, solutions to problems don’t have to be complicated. The best ones are usually very straightforward.

prime the pump to combat writer's blockIf your creative well is dry, then you may need to prime the pump. Simply flowing words onto paper might just unstick you and pull you out of the stagnant doldrums.

Find something you can write about very easily and just let yourself go. Don’t think about your current project. Your job is to simply get words out so you can get the river of words flowing again.

A few ideas

writing a letter to a friend can help fight writer's blockIf you’re stuck for ideas of things you can write about, here are some suggestions:

  • Compose an old-fashioned letter or an email to a close friend. Share a recent experience you know she’d enjoy.
  • Write in a personal journal you know no one will ever see.
  • Pen an article for a blog, sharing advice with your readers about something you know a lot about. If you don’t have a blog, now is a good time to start one.

Even short pieces can help you get back into the swing of writing. You can write out a detailed to-do list, post messages on your favorite social media sites, jot down notes for your roommate or spouse, etc.

It really doesn’t matter what you write, so long as you put words on paper. Remember, writers write.

It’s in their blood.

It’s in your blood.

Note: It’s worth mentioning that reading can also help you write. If you’re stuck, try reading a book you really enjoy. You may become inspired!

Plotters versus pantsers

I’ve recently learned that in the writing world there are “plotters” and “pantsers.” Yeah, this was news to me, too. These terms describe authors who “plot” out an outline or those who “fly by the seats of their pants” and develop their story as they go.

In case we haven’t met, Hi, I’m Laura Sherman the Friendly Ghostwriter, a dyed-in-the-wool plotter. I blog a lot about how to outline a book. I can’t even begin to write a short story without a detailed road map of where I’m going. It would be a hot mess. I’d be a hot mess.

I realize that not everyone is a plotter. Many great writers are pantsers. That’s fine. Some of my best friends are pantsers.

However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that you can always switch from one method to the other mid-stream. It doesn’t mean you have to give up your membership card to your team. No, if you are a pantser, you can secretly plot out the rest of the book and see if that helps you steer your way out of your writer’s block. Or, if you are a plotter, you can diverge from your outline to free flow a section just to get your creative juices going.

Plotters, adjust your outline

Outlining can help you find your way out of writer's blockNow, if you’re a plotter like me and you find that you’re stuck, it could be that the writer’s block you’re experiencing is simply your common sense saying that you’ve headed in the wrong direction. If the words don’t fly off the keyboard, go back and make sure you’re on board with the direction of the story. It can be an easy fix; just make some adjustments to your outline.

A book can be boiled down to a series of incidents. I often create my outline by listing all the events that will occur in chronological order. However, where an outline can fail is when the purpose of each individual incident isn’t specified or understood.

With fledgling writers, I’ve found this to be a common problem. They’ve created a spectacular scene, but ultimately discover that it really has no purpose in the book they are creating. It just doesn’t tie into their themes.

If this happens to me, I toss it from the current project and save it in a file for future use in a different story.

As a side note, if you find that you’re bored with a scene, but it is vital for your story, just sketch it out and move on. You can spice it up in editing. Your immediate goal is to get a good rough draft under your belt.

Give yourself a break; it’s a first draft

I’ve seen too many new writers spiral into vortex of self-invalidation regarding their first drafts. One of the biggest pieces of advice I have for them is to just bang out the first draft and don’t edit.

Your first draft is the rough draft. The goal is to get your ideas out of your head and onto the page.

The first draft won’t be perfect.

It might even be ugly.

That’s okay.

Save editing for the editing stage of the process. Don’t edit as you write. The first draft should have tons of typos and errors. Mine always are littered with them.

You write, you fix, you write, you edit, you write, you go back three pages and re-read it all, maybe even deleting whole paragraphs.

You sit back and ask, “Is it perfect?”

No.

Ack! Now what? Stop writing.

woman has writer's block because she edits too muchIf this is what’s happening with you, it could explain your “writer’s block.” The above scenario can become very choppy very quickly, because the sequence of actions is confused. You should write, write, write, write the first draft until it is complete. Then, and only then, do you take out the proverbial red pen and edit. Or hire an outside editor to help you. I’ve written an article about the different kinds of editors you might consider hiring. There are quite a few.

Yes, writing a book calls for a leap of faith. So, close your eyes, let go of any preconceived notions, and just start typing. You’ll be amazed at what may come to you if you just allow yourself to create.

Can’t find the right word?

If you’re stuck on finding the exact word or phrase to describe something, don’t obsess over it. Sure, Google the word for synonyms or pull out your trusty thesaurus, but if nothing really works, put down something as a place holder and move on.

Personally, if a word eludes me, I know it won’t be for long. When I move away from it, it never fails to pop into my mind, sometimes in the shower. It’s kind of the same with recalling names:

Who was that woman at the party with the cheese plate?

You know, the one with brown hair and glasses…

Gladys, no.

Judy, no.

Then, a little bit later, while I’m washing the dishes…bam! It comes to me. It was Sarah Jones.

So, whatever you do, please don’t waste hours staring at the blank screen, trying to retrieve the exact right phrasing now. It will come to you. Later.

Surround yourself with supportive people

Your inner critic can cause writer's blockSometimes writer’s block goes deeper than the writing process. Some writers fall prey to their “inner critic,” which is basically the voice inside your head telling you that what you’re doing is not good enough. Being blunt, critics aren’t my favorite class of people.

If you’re taking on the role of your worst critic, it can paralyze you to the point where you can’t write at all. There is absolutely no benefit to cutting yourself into shreds. Show your inner critic to the door of your mind and ask it to leave.

One very real cause of writer’s block can derive from peers who discredit your abilities. If you have helpful friends who jokingly tell you, “Hey, Joe, don’t quit your day job!” this can be damaging to you as a writer. The only purpose of such comments is to get you to stop writing. Don’t seek advice from these people. Surround yourself with supportive people who have your best interests at heart, people who want to see you succeed.

This isn’t to say that constructive criticism isn’t very helpful to a new (or an experienced) writer. Every writer can always improve and grow. I personally LOVE it when some kind soul writes in to tell me I have a typo in a blog article or gives me tips on my writing. It’s quite wonderful!

When you’re trying to sort out whether someone’s feedback is helpful or not, the trick is to look at the intention behind the comment and really observe how it makes you feel. That will help you figure out where to file the suggestion. If the critique leaves you feeling good about yourself, listen to it. If you feel like you’re a poser who should never write again, toss the advice and the friend.

Final thoughts

As a writer you are engaged in one of the most amazing activities in the world: creating. It’s a wonderful and impressive ability that you have!

Now, that’s not to say that writing isn’t hard work. It has its challenges.

Writer’s block can be a bump in the road. But rest assured that it is a small bump that can be handled fairly smoothly. With a bit of experimentation, you can find the actions that will help turn things around. And if the remedy works once, it will probably work again. Soon, there will be no stopping you.

If you need advice or help in the area of writer’s block, please don’t hesitate to email me!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

Write and Publish a Book in 2020

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter

 

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

Become a ghostwriterMany writers wish to earn a living through their craft. Some choose to write their own books and sell them, while others prefer to become freelance writers who sell their wordsmithing services to others while still receiving credit for their work. If you enjoy helping others share their ideas with the world through the written word, perhaps you might wish to become a ghostwriter.

A ghostwriter is someone who writes for another and receives no author credit. If you’re a professional writer who wishes to become a ghostwriter, you should know that although there are some similarities between authoring and ghosting, a ghostwriter flexes different muscles.

I have been a ghostwriter for twenty years. During this time hundreds of experienced writers have emailed me, asking what it takes to venture into this world. I’m ever eager to encourage others to explore this unique writing opportunity. At the same time, I always caution that this move isn’t right for everyone.

A few drawbacks

I love being a ghostwriter. There’s nothing more rewarding than helping an author write a book. However, there are some aspects of the trade you might not like. It’s good to be aware of these before entering the field.

A ghostwriter works for someone else

A ghostwriting client is king. He is the author.As an author, you’re the boss. You decide what to write, how to communicate your ideas, and ultimately how the book turns out. When you’re ghostwriting, you give up this control. For example, if you’re building a world in a sci-fi story and want to develop the main character into a strong independent woman, but your client wants her to be less so, that’s how she’ll be.

I always tell my clients, “I’ll tell you what I honestly think, but in the end you’re the boss and I’ll follow your wishes. After all, it’s your book.” And I mean it. My job is to educate my client on the process and guide him to the best-possible book. It’s not my job to push a particular agenda. You need to be okay with the idea of following the course set by another if you want to become a ghostwriter.

You can’t share what you’ve written

Everything you write as a ghostwriter is protected by a confidentiality agreement. Although some clients are extremely generous and allow me to share portions of their books as writing samples, it was not always so. In the beginning, people had to hire me on faith or simply based on my blog or short stories. I can tell you from experience, it’s not always easy to encourage someone to take this kind of leap of faith. Lack of writing samples makes getting a new client difficult for new writers in the industry. Even now, after having written over two dozen books, I still can’t share the titles with others.

When you become a ghostwriter you must keep the secretIn addition, if your friends ask you about the projects you’re working on, you won’t be able to discuss the details of the book. So, when I’m delving into the history of a new cryptocurrency or uncovering the secret remedy for a disease, I can’t share much with my friends and family. And they know not to ask. Unfortunately, this can make for awkward silences when people are talking about their day around the dinner table.

Bottom line, you must be willing to keep mum about your work and find ways to promote your writing skill without samples if you want to become a ghostwriter.

Your name won’t be on the cover of the book you wrote

I think this is the toughest pill to swallow for most writers. Being a ghostwriter is a bit like being a surrogate parent. Once you finish the manuscript, your baby is out of your hands. The completed book rightly belongs to the author who hired you. This can be emotionally rough. For many this is a deal breaker.

After spending a year creating a masterpiece, you must be willing to hand over the project and disavow having played any part in its creation. You must be willing to silently step back and allow someone else to claim full credit. I honestly don’t mind this, but many do.

Having laid out all the drawbacks, I must say there are many perks for ghostwriters. Aside from the financial rewards, it’s an emotionally rich and satisfying career. We get to walk in the footsteps of many different people, learn their crafts, feel their emotions, and then share their experiences with the world. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Skills required to become a ghostwriter

If you’re a writer who wishes to become a ghostwriter, you might need to develop a few skills. These will set you apart from a solo writer.

Learn to listen

When you become a ghostwriter you must learn to listen to others.A ghostwriter is a great listener.

She not only listens to the words her clients speak or write, but she also listens to their messages, themes, and writing goals. A ghostwriter breathes with her client, gets in sync with him and does her best to fulfill all of his intentions and purposes for the book.

For instance, when I interview a client and discover she wishes to write a memoir chronicling how she became a successful entrepreneur, I’m jazzed. Not only can I help her share her life story, but I can help her help others follow in her footsteps. Now, if her goal for the book is also to gain new clients, that’s important to know, as I’ll need to write her book with that in mind. Since her readership will include her future client base, these people will be interested in how specific aspects of her business might benefit them.

If you wish to become a ghostwriter, but are concerned that listening is a weak point for you, don’t worry. It’s a skill anyone can learn. It just takes some practice.

A little exercise

Start with your friends.

Listen to them.

Really listen.

After they leave, write down what they said.

Can you recount what they said in the way they said it? Keep in mind, you’re not only listening to the content of what they’re communicating, but you’re observing the nuances of their language. Everyone has a different way of speaking. You need to hear how they put words together.

If you find yourself drifting off as your friends speak, that’s not good. You need to quit that bad habit. It’s like biting your nails. How would you handle that? Yes, you can just quit doing it.

Rein yourself in and really listen to what your friends are saying. Work on improving the accuracy of your perception of the conversation until you capture the full content and tone of it.

You also need to become adept at hearing what people don’t say. If you’re writing a memoir, you are hired by your client to get at the truth. When he says something that begs a question, bring out your inner journalist and ask for details. Or if you sense that he is hiding a pertinent fact, pry a little. Of course, he has a right to his secrets, but his memoir will fail if he doesn’t open up to his public. They will be able to tell if he’s not being genuine.

A good ghostwriter will find a way to get her answer. Interviewing clients is another necessary skill to become a ghostwriter. That sounds like a good topic for another blog article!

Become a good writer

A ghostwriter is a compelling and competent writerIt goes without saying that in order to be a ghostwriter, you must first be a writer: a competent, compelling, and confident writer. Writing comes from experience; you don’t need a college degree, nor must you be a published author. While both could help, neither is absolutely necessary.

Having said that, I believe it would be difficult to ghostwrite a book if you’ve never completed one yourself. There are lessons one learns simply by seeing a project through to completion. For instance, how do you overcome writer’s block? Are you able to edit out a cherished character that just doesn’t quite fit in? Every time you conquer an obstacle, you learn a lot. This helps you write a better book for your client.

I believe it will be helpful to you if you develop your own writing style and voice before you embark on the grand adventure of helping your client develop his.

Learn to capture another’s voice and style

One of the signature skills of a ghostwriter is to discover and bring out the voice and style of your clients. In order to do that, you’ll need to take a lot of notes and study all their current written work. Some clients will give you pages of a diary or blog articles they’ve written. You need to pick out the phrases they use, hone in on their style of communicating, and create a voice that will accurately portray them.

While you wouldn’t want to pass on the grammatical errors of your clients, you want their unique speech patterns and mannerisms to shine through. For instance, one client might use endearments for everyone around her, while another pauses dramatically between meaningful thoughts. You want to be sure to weave these into your book.

On the other hand, if your client has a lisp or stutter, you wouldn’t pass a speech impediment on to his character. Find the qualities that highlight who he is without amplifying the negative characteristics.

A little exercise

Capturing someone else’s style and voice is another skill you can practice. Jump on the internet and find a prolific writer who blogs. See if you can pick out her voice. What makes her uniquely her? Find those nuances.

Zero in on any cultural references. For instance, if the author is from the UK, he might use some colorful phrases unique to his region. “Blimey” or “dodgy” might be sprinkled into his dialogue.

As a ghostwriter, when you capture the author’s dialogue, you can even drop a few foreign words here and there, as long as their meaning is clear.

Guten Tag, Herr Schmidt!” helps us know the character is of German origin.

When the foreign word’s meaning isn’t completely clear, define it within the text.

“She handed out the Stollen to her family. The buttery fruitcake was enjoyed by all.”

Ultimately, there are many ways a person communicates his thoughts and ideas. If you want to become a ghostwriter, know that it’s your job to spot these and create your client’s voice using their distinct style.

Capture your client’s viewpoints

As a ghostwriter you need to see another's viewpoint and capture their style.People have a unique take on things; they see things from their particular point of view. Some will tell you outright how they feel and what they believe, while others won’t. For those who don’t, you’ll need to glean their viewpoints using interview questions. You must be able to identify these so you can help the reader see things from the author’s standpoint.

Recognizing the viewpoints of others is another skill that can be learned. You can start by observing others around you. Slip into their shoes and really see things from their perspective. Their point of view might not be yours. That’s OK. Simply understand how they feel and think about things.

In order to be a great writer, you must be able to adopt the various viewpoints of your characters. That’s one way they come to be three-dimensional (and beloved).

Another tip to differentiate characters in a book is to observe how different people react to the same situation. For instance, one friend might shriek when surprised, while another will do his best to suppress his reaction. Then there is the person who will laugh hysterically. These little details go a long way to creating believable characters.

The Business Side of Ghostwriting

One of the chief differences between being an author and being a ghostwriter is that when you’re a ghostwriter you’re running a business. That means that you’re in charge of everything—all aspects of the enterprise. You must:

  • Procure new clients
  • Complete all projects on time
  • Collect testimonials from existing clients
  • Write the entire book yourself
  • Ask for payments from your clients
  • Hire outside team members to help when needed

It’s important to be highly organized, to keep track of all your deadlines and to answer emails and texts from clients as quickly as possible. I have a policy of answering all incoming emails within 24 hours, but usually do so within hours of receiving them.

As with any business venture, you must be professional in all aspects of the business. Of course, you should never deliver any piece late; in fact, I recommend being early. Exceed expectations.

And above all, respect the confidentiality agreement as if you were a secret agent. Your word is your bond.

Always work with a contract

Always work with a ghostwriting contractDon’t try to go into business without a good professional contract. Trust me, if you work on a handshake basis, it can become a disaster. Part of running a successful business is making sure to provide the services you promised your clients. In order to do that, you need to be clear about what your services are.

I outline all the pertinent details for a good ghostwriting contract in another blog article, but here is a summary of what a good contract should contain:

  • A confidentiality agreement
  • The rough word count of the book. Note: Word count is much more accurate than page count.
  • The deadlines for all the major milestones. This would include:
    • The outline
    • The first draft
    • The final manuscript
  • The ghostwriter’s fees
  • Confirmation that the copyright of the book belongs to the client
  • The number of revisions included in the price

While you can find decent contract templates on the internet, I highly recommend that you hire a lawyer who can draft one to fit your particular needs. An ambiguously worded agreement will cause you and your client trouble down the line in the event of a disagreement.

 

I find being a ghostwriter a very rewarding experience. Over the last twenty years I’ve worked on ten novels, eight nonfiction how-to books, and seventeen memoirs (along with a few children’s books and screenplays). I enjoy the diversity: getting to know all different kinds of people and stretching my writing muscles in a variety of genres. I have learned so much from each project and have found fulfillment in helping others meet their goal of creating a book. If you’re a writer who wants to become a ghostwriter, please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions. I’m here to help!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Write Your Family History

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

Different Kinds of Editors

How to Conquer Writer’s Block

How to Write Three-dimensional Characters

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

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

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

Keep it real

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communicate with dialogue

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three-dimensional characters have a unique style

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

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

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

Create bonds between characters 

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

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

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

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

Mannerisms speak volumes

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

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

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

Draw from life

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Write Your Family History in 2020

How to Hire a Ghostwriter

Write and Publish a Book in 2020

A Ghostwriter’s Fee

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

What to Expect In An Interview with a Ghostwriter

Write Your Family History in 2020

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

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

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

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

Here are some tips to you get started.

How to determine the focus and format

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

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

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

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

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

    • Memoir
    • Narrative

Memoir format

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

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

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

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

Narrative format

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

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

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

Know your goals for the book

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

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

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

 

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

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

This is a valid concern.

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

Appoint a family historian

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

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

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

Tip #1: Capture a person’s exact words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #4: Select your theme

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

A few powerful themes you might consider are:

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

Tip #5: Use your senses

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

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

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

 

So, when should you start?

Now!

I mean it!

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

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

Additional articles you might find helpful:

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Is It Charged?

How Can You Research a Memoir?

Write and Publish a Book in 2020

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

How to Write a Business Book

 

Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

Get help in writing your book

Do you need help writing a book?

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

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

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

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

Steps required to write a book

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

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

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

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

The research phase

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

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

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

The outlining phase

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

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

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

The first draft phase

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

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

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

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

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

The editing phase

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

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

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

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

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

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

When you need a little help writing a book

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

Hire a writing coach

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

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

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

Hire a friendly ghostwriter

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

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

It isn’t cheating to hire a ghostwriter

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

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

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

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Write Your Family History in 2020

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

Hiring a ghostwriter

Should I Write and Publish My Memoirs

Four Different Ghostwriting Methods

Writing a Book: Your First Few Steps

What You Need in a Ghostwriting Contract in 2020

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

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

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

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

Hire a lawyer

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

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

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

Dates

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

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

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

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

Price

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

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

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

Expected Length

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

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

A Description of the Project

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

Ghostwriter Services

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

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

Copyrights

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

Revisions

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

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

Confidentiality

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

Things That Could Go Wrong

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

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

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

If you’re serious about writing and publishing a book in 2020, and wish to hire a ghostwriter, please email me. Once we determine that I’m a good candidate for your project, I’d be happy to send you a copy of my contract to review in detail.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

It’s Good Business to Write a Book

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

How to Hire a Ghostwriter

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Eight Reasons Why You Should Write a Book

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Is It Charged?

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

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

How to calculating a ghostwriter’s fee

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

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

Per project

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

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

Per Word

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

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

Hourly

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

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

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

Per Page

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

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

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

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

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

Cost for a book proposal

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

A typical book proposal contains the following components:

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

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

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

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

Incentives to offer a ghostwriter

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

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

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

Here are a few inducements you might consider:

A percentage of the back end

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

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

A cover credit

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

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

An Acknowledgment

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

Write a testimonial

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

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

Make sure to sign a legal contract

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

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

Key points for a contract

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

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

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

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

Additional articles that you might find helpful are:

Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

So, how does a ghostwriter work anyway?

Write great dialogue

Improve your writing: Feedback versus Criticism

What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter

How to Write a Business Book

 

 

Good Memoir Themes

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

What is a theme?

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

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

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

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

How do themes relate to memoirs?

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

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

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

How do I find my memoir themes?

Memoir theme of achieving life goal

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

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

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

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

Persistence always wins in the end

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

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

Continual courage can lead to victory

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

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

Family is important

Family is a good memoir theme

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

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

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

Ethical people lead better lives

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

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

Crime doesn’t pay

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

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

Being true to oneself brings rewards

integrity is a good memoir theme

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

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

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

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

Journeying outside of one’s comfort zone expands horizons

Journeying outside your comfort zone is a great memoir theme

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

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

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

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

Life transitions can bring new experiences and joys

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

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

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

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

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

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How to Conquer Writer’s Block

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

Ask a Ghostwriter: How Can you Research a Memoir?

Write Your Family History in 2020

What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter