Work With Me
Erick Mertz Writing
Working with a professional ghostwriter is a process. From beginning to end, it can take a lot of time, during which there are many very important steps that you should know before getting started.
On this page, I’m going to do my best to cover what those steps are. Maybe along the way I will answer a few questions you may be thinking about. If after you’ve read this page, you still feel you have questions needing answered, feel free to pop them in the comments, or an email, and I’ll answer them.
Do You Have A Team Of Writers?
I am not an agency or referral service. I work as a single provider.
Every client that comes through my website, and personally interviews with me, is someone that I would be willing to work with. When I tell you I’m going to write the best memoir you’ve ever read, rewrite your novel, or craft your screenplay, that means I’m going to do it.
There are occasions, however, when I am too busy to take on a job. If the situation is right, and the client is amenable, I will refer them to someone I know.
By someone I know, doesn’t mean a person I found on-line. Any referral we agree on would be with a professional quality writer that I know personally.
I’ve been in this profession for many years. I’ve been networking with exciting writers, many of whom I would count as immensely talented in their craft. If I am not available, I would be happy to send you to one of those writers, while sticking around to ensure everything goes according to plan.
What Are The Starting Steps?
Every step begins with signing two key documents. A non-disclosure agreement and a contract. Without these in place, we can’t get started.
Why do we sign a non-disclosure agreement? This document ensures that your intellectual property (namely, your story idea) is kept safe and secure. The idea we work on has immense value, so I feel it is important to protect that, giving you peace of mind that I’m not going to be going out there, talking about your work without permission.
A contract protects both of us. In my standard contract, I outline everything from definitions of service, timelines, payment breakdowns and benchmarks. Much like a non-disclosure agreement, we enter into a legal contract to protect both of our interests.
When is the first payment due?
A lot of potential clients look at the total cost and say, “I can’t afford to pay all that at once”. Fortunately, for you, I don’t charge clients up front for services.
In a majority of my agreements, I break the total payment due for the project down into three or four separate, equal payments. For most of my clients, this is a more easily digestible way to move forward. Instead of one lump sum at the beginning, the agreement creates three (or four) payments spaced out roughly three or four months apart.
Suddenly, that larger lump sum looks a lot easier.
Alright, Payment Has Been Made, What Next?
Now is when the exciting time begins. Contracts are signed and the first payment has been made. Now comes the time when we get down to business.
In most instances, clients come to me with a story. Whether that’s a screenplay idea they think will be really hot on the spec market, a novel they’ve been dying to write, or a memoir, the story resides with them. I, as the writer, need to get that story.
How do I do that?
I love interviewing my clients. This is one of my favorite parts of working as a ghostwriter. Ever since I was in journalism school, working on newspapers and magazine articles, I’ve gotten a thrill out of connecting with subjects. Sitting down with a client, talking about their story, asking questions, and learning what makes that concept tick is a joy and I love doing it.
The interview process, however, is different for everyone. In my experience, over many years and literally hundreds of projects, no two clients bring their story the same way.
This is why I like to say, how we go about interviewing is up to you. Some of my clients like to sit down in a series of Zoom meetings (or in person, if pre-arranged) while others prefer phone calls. I’ve worked with clients who have delivered their story predominantly through email or voice recordings.
The process comes down to finding a rhythm and process that makes sense to you. If you’re comfortable sitting down, talking to me over Zoom (and I hope you are) then that’s what we’ll do.
You’ve Got My Story – Now What?
Once I’ve gotten your story, the next step is to create an outline. For many writers, getting the story is the easy part; more difficult is what comes next, figuring out how to tell it.
Perhaps the most painstaking part of the process is outline development. Getting the outline right is the difference between telling the story and telling it well.
When I create an outline, I take many things into consideration. I look at the whole scope of the story as it was told to me. The who, what, when, where and, most importantly, why. I try to find the main and supporting themes in the story. Is it about lost love? Or is it about a brilliant idea? Once I understand what the story is truly about, landing on the organizing concept, I start ordering chapters and scenes into a structure that best tells that story.
You’re probably asking yourself how I do that. There is really no set method. Each book has its own unique way of coming together and I try, using my experience as a writer and a reader, to make sure the book feels like other published books with similar themes. A factor I always consider is marketability. When I structure a memoir, screenplay, or novel, I ensure that there are well known, successful stories structured in the same way.
In this business, it’s important to break through with something unique, that reminds your reader of something they already know.
What happens to the outline?
The first step is that the client approves it. Once I’ve carefully thought out and written the outline, I submit it to you, the client, for approval.
Most of the time, clients want to tinker. It is an empowering moment to see your story, once a loose series of ideas and concepts, come together in a structured outline. This is usually the phase where the client asks to include omitted storylines, scenes or moments. Other times, they look at the outline and decide we’ve overemphasized a part of the story.
The key is, you, the client, get final say on the outline. I’m known to say, I may be the expert on writing books, but you’re the expert on your idea.
Is This The Point You Actually Start Writing
Yes. Once the outline has been approved (and the second payment securely made) I sit down at my desk and start writing the book.
The writing phase, while busy for me, can sometimes be a bit… boring for the client. Why? Well, first off, writing the first draft takes a long time. On average, for a book, this step takes anywhere from three to five months, depending on length and story complexity. Some books with shorter, clearer concepts are easier to write, while the longer, more complicated ones take longer.
When I say this is a boring phase, what I mean is, this is the time when our connection is limited. I’m over here writing, while the client patiently awaits the delivery of the first draft. I love keeping in touch and usually connect with my clients once every couple of weeks, but, for the most part, the writing phase has me working and the client waiting.
Is there anything I can do while you’re writing?
The answer to this question is actually yes. Besides dreaming up your next book, you can prepare for the arrival of this one.
What does this mean?
Just like an expectant parent, arranging for leave, painting the nursery and making sure they have enough baby supplies, an expectant author can get their affairs in order. What does that look like?
This is a great time to build your author website. You can start looking for publishers or agents that may be interested in your book. If you’re self-publishing, looking for cove designers would be a great idea to fill the time. Any marketing or launch strategy is, during this phase, your path to success. The same goes for screenwriters. If I’m working on a screenplay,
I just received my first draft
Boy, I really hope you like it. For me, the ghostwriter, submitting that first draft is exciting but it’s also a bit nerve wracking, too.
Why? Let’s talk about realities.
Even though I’m a professional writer and we agreed on the outline, first drafts still have problems. It’s impossible to write 50,000 words or more perfectly the first time.
One of my favorite things to say is that the best writing comes as a product of careful re-writing.
Typically, I expect clients to request changes on 20-30% of the manuscript I’ve just submitted. Maybe some of the scenes didn’t work or the characters are inconsistent. Most often its as simple as saying that an element we thought would work in the outline didn’t work in the manuscript.
This means it’s time to re-write draft one.
Wait? Does That Mean You’re Starting Over?
No. Re-writing a manuscript doesn’t necessarily mean tearing up the old draft and starting over fresh. I’ve heard of this happening from time to time although, in my experience, it’s extremely rare.
What it means is that I, the ghost writer, take those client notes and go back to implement the series of requested changes. I’m accustomed to writing new scenes, removing some, changing character direction, changing dialog, and a whole series of other changes.
It sounds like a lot, but really, nothing takes a manuscript from just good to great like a thorough re-write. The best part, I make this phase a part of every contract I create.
The Final Draft & Beyond
After the changes are made, the book is re-written and you, the client, love the project you paid for, we’re done. The last payment is made and now you’re free to take it out to the market.
What happens after a book is written is a wild and wooly journey. It is always unpredictable, comes with a high degree of uncertainty and, unfortunately, offers no guarantee of success.
Books don’t have to flounder though. There are practical steps you can take to give your project a better chance at finding its desired audience. Whether you’re self-publishing, seeking a traditional deal, or still trying to decide, I offer services to help you navigate what comes next.
I can help you connect with publishers, agents or literary managers if you’re going the traditional publishing route. Want to put that book out on Amazon right away? I do professional quality book layout, consult on market ready cover design, and work with a team of line editors and proofreaders.
Whatever you’re looking for, I can help.
I Had A Great Time – Do You Take Repeat Clients?
Of course I do? Right now, I have multiple clients on my roster whom I have worked with before. There are a few who have come back four and five times.
When a collaboration works for everyone, coming back to it feels natural.
One of the benefits of return business is it affords you cost certainty. Rates are changing all the time. Almost every year, an array of factors makes raising my rates a necessity. Some years it’s a 5% spike. Others it’s more. If you come back for repeat business, I guarantee to bring you on at your old rate.
Get in Touch!
Hiring a high level, professional ghostwriter for your writing project has never been this easy before.