NaNoWriMo And Your Ghostwriter Consultant

“Do you do NaNoWriMo?”

This is one of the first questions people ask me when I tell them I am a writer. My answer? No. I’ve never done NaNoWriMo but I am all too familiar.

For those unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Taking place every November, the project helps new and aspiring writers write a novel in a single month.

50,000 words. 1,667 per day. Every day. A daunting task.

NaNoWriMo is as much about support as productivity. The umbrella site organizes local groups. It encourages writers with positive words. On almost every social media platform NaNoWriMo groups post daily word counts and sprint together under hashtags.

On one hand, it is one of the most inspiring times in writing.

Our culture is fascinated with marking off processes with chunks of time. Consider the RPM challenge, which is an album written and recorded and released all in February. In April there is a monthlong script sprint. The shelves of every bookstore in America are teeming with books in which an author takes a period of time to abstain from or indulge in something.

Sometimes I wonder whether anything takes on its natural process anymore.

As a ghostwriter, I am particularly fascinated by NaNoWriMo for a couple of distinct reasons. For one, it gets people thinking about writing. Anything that accomplishes that makes me happy. Another aspect is the sheer audacity. Asking participants to wake up on November 1st and produce 1,667 words when they likely have not produced a single line of fiction in their lives is crazy, perhaps dangerous. Would you encourage the guy in the cubicle next door to run a 26.2 mile marathon without training simply because he wore tennis shoes on Fridays?

Writers are readers and readers buy books. The sheer act of staring down 50,000 words raises the bar for everyone in the business. When I am asked, I usually caution writers who want to take part in NaNoWriMo to perhaps consult with a ghostwriter or manuscript consultant first. Get an idea of your story. Flesh out some of the uncertainties. Give your concept a much needed test run and see if it works out. Not everyone wants to do that with their mother or wife or a brother who are likely going to be nice no matter what you have.

Get in shape first. The advice applies to marathons and NaNoWriMo. Bring on a ghostwriting professional to bring it into shape before you try and bring it to life.

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Ghostwriter as editor

Ghostwriter As Editor

Hiring a ghostwriter as editor of your manuscript re-write might be the difference between completing it, or not.

Sometimes I get the uneasy impression that there are an equal number of magazines and blogs about writing as there are writers. In my ghostwriting research, I often find that those magazines are chock full of articles directing aspiring writers to a formula for crafting award winning work into their busy nine-to-five and family life schedule.

These kinds of articles draw eyeballs. They work well for click bait. After all, who doesn’t want to get to the finish line faster?

If I had a guess though, those formulas leave more writers disappointed than fulfilled.

A wise person once said that a movie’s editor is the last writer. This acknowledges a reality any aspiring storyteller should understand. Creative products go through many phases before they are polished and market ready. A movie is written first by a screenwriter. Then it is acted out and directed by its director. Then comes the editor.

Each one of those roles adds a little and takes a little away. By the time the movie makes it to the audience it resembles what the screenwriter wrote. But in no way is that script line for line.

Writing manuscripts takes a lot of time. Between developing concept, building a coherent plot, breathing life into characters worthy of a reader’s time and executing those artfully, there is no magic formula besides pressure and time. We’ve all read those articles about marathon writing sessions or work that came in a flash but what those tall tales ignore is the hard work.

And hard work on a manuscript often translates into re-writing over and over.

Frequently, I am approached by writers who have taken that first draft as far as they can. Often those writers have been lured in by the promise of a quick fix. The truth is, in the craft of story telling there is no magic bullet to success. A writer must at all times be methodical and they have to be aware that there are starts and stops. It is a part of the process.

Hiring a ghostwriter as editor to help move that process along, going back to the drawing board is not indicative of a failure. Instead, it should be thought of as the next step.

You cannot watch the pages of a screenplay on the big screen. It may be helpful to think of ghostwriting on a novel re-write like hiring a director to bring the story closer to life.

Call me today and let’s discuss your manuscript and the potential benefits of working with a ghostwriter.

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Hiring a memoir ghostwriter

The market for a memoir ghostwriter is exploding in a big way. And why not?

Recent studies have shown time and again that reader interest skews toward memoir. They prefer the tell all and personal account over fiction by a significant margin.

Most of the top grossing memoirs got there with some assistance from a ghostwriter. Here are five reasons why you should consider hiring a memoir ghostwriter to help with your project.

Objectivity:

A memoir’s success requires balance. The book needs to be a personal and honest account, but it has to show a measure of objectivity as well.

The best ghostwriters on the market are well-versed in how to maintain an objective eye. This becomes a critical skill when the book project is so close to home for the client.

Depth:

I love interviewing clients. I can say that it is my favorite tasks as a ghostwriter. Among my favorite responses (one I get often too) is: “wow, I never thought of it that way.”

This response speaks to what I have come to see as an almost universal truth. We become so honed in that our perspective on experience narrows and we tend to neglect detail.

Consequently, we leave out areas of a story that might seem insignificant. Bringing a ghostwriter on is key to ensure you’re digging deeper, beyond those first impressions.

Freedom:

Another thing I hear from my clients is how trying to figure out how to tell the story they have lived (or are living) can be suffocating. Quite often, memoirs tackle tough social issues and to write one, a storyteller has to attain a position of remove.

A ghostwriter allows the storyteller and subject to do just that. Tell the story. That freedom to simply tell makes a big difference in the story breadth.

Polish:

Last but maybe the most crucial is polish. Another universal truth? There are storytellers and there are writers. And rarely do those roles reside in the same person.

A ghostwritten memoir delivers an air of polish. That professional touch is so crucial to success in a very competitive market place. To ensure that your memoir reaches its full prospective audience, acclaim from early readers on Goodreads and Amazon is vital.

Don’t go out with a book that’s not ready. A ghostwriter can help give your memoir that professional shine and that may be the difference between ten sales and ten thousand.

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Four Truths For Increased Success In The Fiction Market

The fiction market today is as mercurial now as ever before. Working as a ghostwriter, I have watched those shifts first hand.

The ghostwriting fiction market that we explore today is vastly different than the one that will greet us tomorrow when the manuscript is done. This reality applies to everyone along the publication food chain. Everyone from authors and ghostwriters to publishers and agents and editors must navigate an ever shifting landscape in order to put fresh books on the shelf.

As unpredictable as the fiction market may be for a ghostwriter there remain a few simple guides that if you follow them, you exponentially increase your chances of success.

After all, readers remain hungry for new material and here is how you can get that to them.

Four Truths For Increased Success In The Fiction Market:

Rule #1: Accept That There Are Rules:

Ever hear that acceptance is the first step? That counts in for ghostwriters too.

One of the things I try and inform my ghostwriting clients is to play by the rules. We all relish heroic stories about rule breakers but the fiction market is very competitive.

You can break all the rules you want on the page (as long as you do it artfully). Your contact needs to feel comfortable working with you as well, or else they will move elsewhere.

Where I advise my ghostwriting clients to play by the rules is in how they engage people in the marketplace. For example, if the publisher is seeking female driven romance manuscripts there is no use in sending them volume one of your geopolitical thriller series.

So many authors apply a blanket approach though but a wide net is never as successful as a targeted on. It is important to remember that everyone from the author up is doing a job.

Rule #2: Regard For Self Publishing Is Increasing:

Dreams of a big publishing contract? We all have one and it’s OK to indulge it…

Just don’t let that get the best of you.

As a ghostwriter, I advise my clients to at least consider self-publishing. Over the last five years, self-publishing has become a vital proving ground for story property and new talent.

When I go to conferences these days (at least a few each year) I invariably hear stories about successful authors who self-published the first book and off of that success, they earned their first commercial break.

If you follow a strong game plan, self-publishing is as viable as any other avenue.

Rule #3: Think In Worlds:

The classic Hollywood ending is mostly a thing of the past. Walking your hero off into the sunset only kills the goose that lays the golden egg.

What readers want is vital characters and stories they can follow for multiple books (and movies and comics and TV shows and… and you get the idea). If you’re hiring a ghostwriter or development consultant to work on concept, discuss with them on how to give your story a life beyond the back cover. Answering the question of what comes next for your story world after your book is done is one you will answer at least a hundred times. Have a good answer.

Rule #4: Be Open To Form:

A hundred years ago, many books were published in serial form. Classic literature came out in installments in magazines and newspapers and in many ways, those days are back.

Now, I’m not going to tell you to hire a ghostwriter to break your novel into ten parts for the local newspaper BUT consider a series short stories. A novella.

A novel is a mighty undertaking. The market is increasingly looking for “proof of concept” from new authors. If you can publish a hand full of short stories in that market, you can feel confident in bringing that editor or publisher a proven story.

They’ll listen. You have, after all, done some of their job for them. Everyone loves that, right?

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Hiring a ghostwriter for your screenplay

In many ways, the market for screenplays is as vibrant as ever. Success there though depends on understanding a few truths. Here are four things that you should be aware of before hiring a ghostwriter for your screenplay.

There Are More Diverse Markets Than Ever:

Remember when thirty-six cable channels and your local video store was the video menu? Twenty-five years ago the media landscape was relatively simple to sort out.

Today it is almost impossible to come up with an accurate estimate of how many so-called channels there are available for media consumers to choose from. What all of those streams really add up to is a lot of opportunity for your product to find its audience.

A staggering variety for consumers translates to an increasing number for content creators. Someone has to write all that programming. Why not consider hiring a ghostwriter for your screenplay?

The Spec Market Is Not Dead (It’s Just Different):

For a while back in the 1990’s writers could name their price for a spec written screenplay. People in the industry still enjoy talking about those days of million dollar auctions.

Sorry, but that isn’t the case anymore. A smaller number of screenwriters are selling for six and seven figures but a growing number are selling at a pretty decent price.

When you’re discussing a ghostwriting budget, be sure that its with an eye on what is realistic to recoup on the end sale. Screenwriting is a business. Your ghostwriter should be able to advise on how the story you’re writing together fits into the screenplay market.

It’s About Who You Know:

When you’re choosing which ghostwriting professional is right for your screenplay, be sure to find out who they know. It matters.

It really matters.

Work is done on a person to person basis. That is why the old myth about going to LA used to be so prevalent. While that isn’t necessarily the truth anymore (after all, I can take a Skype meeting in my pajamas and sometimes do) connections matter. People want to work with people they know and trust already. Whether through by conference, local community or by an on-line community, your ghostwriter should know someone above the line.

Think Bigger & Broader:

The American screenplay and screen and television market is vibrant. So are markets across the globe though and your ghostwriter should be aware of that.

Most films find their funding in a variety of forms. Finance is a global business and the bigger your concept and broader your scope, the more likely your project is to find investors.

Writing screenplays with a broad and global appeal is perhaps more important now than ever. Does your goal include an international audience? Tell your ghostwriter to be sure elements that will enable reaching that audience are alive and well within your work.

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Professional Ghostwriter – Ghostwriting As Path to Publication (Part I)

Ghostwriting can be an effective way to learn how to make craft into a business. As a long time professional ghostwriter, the best practices I have developed have gone a long way to prepare me for more success in where my ambitions lie.

Here are a few handy tips on how you can parlay a successful ghostwriting practice into a better platform for your own publication:

Clear Client Communication:

Writing is a solitary pursuit. Yet it is an equal truth that no successful writer can be an island.

Whatever you choose as the path for your project (whether that be a novel or a memoir or a feature length screenplay) at some point you will need to communicate clearly with a team of editors and publishers, designers and marketers. Even if you choose to go with the self-publishing route to bring your book to market, you will still find yourself working with a team.

Use your ghostwriting experience to hone these skills. Learn how to discuss project specs. Talk about time lines. Be clear about expectations. Discover the value of saying no.

Receiving Notes:

No one ever wants to hear that they need to go back to the drawing board. As difficult as that may is for anyone to hear though, re-writing is the soul of good writing.

Humble yourself. Take good notes while listening to your ghostwriting client. Have your own ideas to add. Most importantly though, do not take getting notes as a personal attack.

Bring what procedural feedback you get back to the table and dive into draft two. Learning how to deal with criticism (especially the bigger monster: self-criticism) is key to becoming a professional in any creative venture.

That Professional Feeling:

This may seem a little corny… but feeling like a professional goes a long way toward becoming a professional. Call yourself a ghostwriter. Imbue that definition with class.

Put your title on your business card. A professional ghostwriter carries a certain feeling about them that amateurs do not. That can go a long way toward distinguishing yourself from others vying for the same publisher or agent’s attention. At a writer’s conference, everyone is out applying for the same job. It’s a helpful boost to feel as though you’ve been there before.

Stay tuned for more another set of tips on how to use your ghostwriting practice as a path to publication in the second installment of this blog.

 

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How does ghostwriting work?

You have a story to tell. Now that you have hired a ghostwriter, a natural question follows. How do you get my story? How does ghostwriting work?

Before I landed in the ghostwriting game, I worked as a college journalist. One of my favorite aspects of that job was interviewing subjects.

In my career before becoming a ghostwriter, I also served as a social worker. For more than ten years, part of my daily routine would be sitting with clients and asking questions. Some questions were easy and others more difficult. As a result though, we would delve deep and get at the heart of their narrative in order to build a basis of story on which their file will live.

Before I ghostwrite a book, we undergo a similar interview process. I gather up all of the information necessary in order to give that manuscript life.

With modern technology at our disposal, our options on how that information gathering works opens up and the effect is, it breaks down borders. More so now than ever before, long term, intensive interviewing can be done in an economical manner as well.

I have worked with clients face to face in Portland, Oregon, my home town. I have ghostwritten for clients half-way across the world in Kenya, personal manuscripts brought to life by some early morning phone calls on Skype (and a lot of coffee).

As a ghostwriter, I keep every channel open for clients. A few things to consider though:

How often works best for you?

I like to tell new ghostwriting clients that we need to come up with something that we can sustain. Three times a week for three hours sounds great but it rarely works in the long haul.

Ghostwriter and client are in a marathon, not a sprint.

What mode of communication gives your voice life?

Part of ghostwriting is capturing the client’s voice. If you believe your emails are well crafted enough to convey voice, that will work. If you’re a talker, we get on the phone.

Are you comfortable being recorded?

This is a growing necessity for ghostwriters and once again, modern technology plays a role in making it easy. Rather than frantically trying to keep up with interview flow with pencil to paper, I tend to to record my clients. I turn the Garage Band program on my computer on and press record, freeing my attention up to focus on the conversation and ask better questions.

Often a client gets the ball rolling on email. We exchange messages and rough ideas. Being able to work by phone is critical too. Some things are best said rather than written.

In considering the question, how does ghostwriting work, communication is the most critical aspect of getting a project ghostwritten. Most likely, taking a manuscript from concept to completion will require a little bit of everything.

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Working with a ghostwriter

For as many roles as a ghostwriter can fill, there are an equal number of ways that working with a ghostwriter can get from start to finish of your writing project.

One size fits all solutions simply do not work in the creative the arts. Project scopes are unique by nature but there are a few benchmarks that should be a part of every agreement.

A non-disclosure agreement serves to protect a client’s intellectual property.

We’re all familiar with the term, usually reserved for top secret computer code and the development of big inventions. Once you reach out to a ghostwriter to work on your project, your idea, your story becomes intellectual property and it needs protection.

When you begin working with  a ghostwriter, he or she should offer a non-disclosure agreement, even before the contract. This is critical in part because an NDA protects the ghostwriter later on down the line in the rare instance that there is slight project overlap.

A project should line out a clear scope of work. Every ghostwriter that I know would love to work on indefinite retainer but that is not realistic. Draw out the project steps start to finish. Build in the achievable benchmarks that represent progressive steps toward the finish.

A project should also have a timeline (although there is a caveat to this). There is nothing more frustrating for a client than to make their payment, get their chosen writer started and then wonder when the deliverables start rolling in. A client is paying for results and it is always a good idea to show when those results become reality. The caveat is, be flexible and realistic. Look ahead. We can’t predict the future but there are easily recognizable pitfalls.

A timeline is also important for the ghostwriter. Keeping two or three projects in the air can be very stressful as well as unrealistic. A series of well timed benchmarks keeps the project moving but it also ensures you get the best, most focused writer that your money can buy…

Which leads to the most important factor. Money. The subject no one likes talking about is one that must enter the conversation and the earlier the better.

A well thought out payment structure can make or break a project. Too much on the front end reduces incentive and puts the burden of risk squarely on the client’s shoulders. The opposite problem, too much money in the back end, devalues the groundwork.

Don’t think of money in terms of dollars and cents. Think of it in terms of value. A good payment structure fosters value in the work. I prefer to contract as follows: 30% up front with 50% at a major watershed benchmark and 20% to finish.

This type of spread, while it’s not realistic for everyone is effective because it values work’s commencement, which is exciting, and it doesn’t breed contempt in the end.

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What is Ghostwriting?

Among the most frequent questions that I get asked when a prospective client contacts me about a ghostwriting job are: “what is ghostwriting” and “what exactly do you do?”.

These questions are not as silly as they might sound. They come more often than “how much are you going to cost?” The reason that it is so common is because “ghostwriting” is a catch-all term and it gets thrown around without a clearly defined meaning.

Ghostwriting can be broken down in a multitude of ways. In the broadest terms however, ghostwriting is professional writing that is done without credit. So, what is ghostwriting?

If in some manner writing is the job that you need completed, you’ve come to the right place.

Most work scenarios end up very simple. A client tells me what they want out of their manuscript, we decide on a course of action, and I deliver on those needs. When I am finished, they take their book and that constitutes the end of our agreement.

My words. Their name on the cover. When someone buys the book, the client profits.

Ghostwriters are brought in to contribute to a wide variety of projects. Over my many years in this mercurial field, I have been called upon to work on everything from celebrity autobiographies requiring professional touch, to adaptations from screenplay to fiction (or vice versa), all the way down to memoirs meant to tell a family story through generations.

If the job requires a narrative touch, hiring a ghostwriter is definitely an appropriate step.

Beyond the sorts of writing that ends up on the shelf and between the covers, ghostwriters offer their services to a whole host of professional documents. There are ghostwriters who specialize in the specific arena of business writing. If a CEO or account manager is running short on time and needs to complete their training presentation, calling in a ghostwriter can be a very effective use of time and resources. And because ghostwriters work on a flat fee basis, there are no hidden costs to sneak up on you.

More often than not, I am hired as a second set of eyes. I help my client sort out what the next step for their manuscript should be. Call my role, a writing consultant.

Usually my clients are so full up with a story project (or life in general) they are not quite sure what to do. Does what I have look like a memoir? Should I write a novel or a screenplay? I have this ornery first draft but I need someone to come in and help me implement changes.

A ghostwriter can prove valuable, not only because they have experience, but because they are removed enough to make those changes. We are naturally too close to our work to make those necessary improvements. A ghostwriter offers fresh perspectives and new strategies when it feels as though a dead end has been reached.

Anyone seeking a professional’s touch on their manuscript should consider a ghostwriter.

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Ghostwriting and getting your work published

A conversation about what comes after we are done becomes a natural part of getting started. Ghostwriting is a small part of the publishing industry and I like my clients to understand that we are into a business venture together. There is nothing more vulnerable than a client out in the market with a manuscript they cannot maneuver.

One of the realities I try and share with each client as we enter our working agreement is this: the publishing and production worlds are very unpredictable. With a whole slough of new emerging markets each season, the rise of self-publishing as legitimate avenue and the enigmatic realities of authorship in an internet world there is a whole lot to keep track of.

What has happened is quite simple. Our vision of a writer is changing rapidly and a professional ghostwriter needs to keep up. What might pass as the standard approach in March when we begin may very well change by the time we’re done in September.

Processes like agent and publisher submissions and queries, and an overall view at the market’s taste coalesces in a delicate balance. While I can never promise to have all of the answers to how a particular manuscript will get from our desk to the shelf, I can offer advice.

As your ghostwriter, I can also work behind the scenes as your publishing consultant. Your eyes and ears on the mercurial publishing world. Reading trade magazines and going to weekend conferences amounts to a part time job. But that is part of my job.

Sometimes my clients don’t want that advice. A ghostwriter for their purposes is working on assignment. This is a fine arrangement too. I can be the silent partner.

If you’re going into a ghostwriting project though it is critical to understand how a manuscript fits into the puzzle. However much you understand that the market has changed, it still feeds on new material and is ravenous for the next talent and brilliant concept.

Google search and message boards can only get you so far. Your best bet is working side by side with a ghostwriter whose finger remains on the pulse of the business and does not shy away from talking about the collaboration accordingly.

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