Category Archives: finding an editor

Hire a Ghostwriter to Write Your Book? 4 Questions to Ask Yourself

You’ve dreamed about writing a book someday. You believe you have a story inside you that will amaze and inspire people. You’ve tried to write it down, and have sketched out some ideas here and there. Maybe you have notebooks or computer files that are filled with writing but you’re realizing that all these bits and pieces aren’t adding up to a book. Do you need to hire a ghostwriter?

Perhaps, but first there are four crucial questions to ask yourself:

1. Do I understand what a ghostwriter can do for me? A ghostwriter, or “work-for-hire” writer, writes for other people but does not receive public credit and her name won’t appear on the book jacket or the book’s copyright notice. She’s a “ghost” because she works invisibly, behind the scenes. A ghostwriter for a book structures and shapes the book, including its scenes or sections, and renders the expert’s ideas on the page in a way that is true to her client’s vision. Her client, not the ghostwriter, retains the claim to the book’s copyright and takes responsibility for the material in the pages. A professional ghostwriter can alert her client to potential legal issues, but ultimately, the book she will ghostwrite will be her client’s baby. In fact, you might think of a ghostwriter as a professional midwife for books.

2. Do I secretly want to be a writer, or do I simply want my story and ideas told in my voice? An excellent ghostwriter will listen to how you express yourself in person or over the phone. She will notice the complexity of your sentence structure, your pet phrases, and your tone. Then, as she begins to ghostwrite your book, she’ll create a voice that sounds as if it were yours. She knows that if you’re serious and dignified, your voice on the page should be different than if you’re playful and whimsical.

If your heart tells you that it’s you who must write every word of your book, you must be willing to master the craft of writing a book. Hire a writing coach, take writing classes, and read books on writing. Commit to the time it will take to master your craft and write your book. If you hire a ghostwriter when you truly want to be the writer, you’ll find it difficult to create a good partnership with her. You need to trust the ghostwriter to capture your voice and ideas or she won’t be able to do her job properly.

A ghostwriter or developmental editor may be key to getting your book written

3. Do I have the money to hire someone to interview me and write a book based on my life or ideas? It can take hundreds of hours of a ghostwriter’s time to interview you and ghostwrite a quality book for you. You’ll need tens of thousands of dollars to hire a professional ghostwriter to ghostwrite a memoir, self-help book, or novel based on your ideas and synopsis. If you procure a book contract and an advance against future earnings from a publisher, you can use that money to hire someone to ghostwrite or coauthor your book. If your budget is too tight to pay a five-figure fee to a book ghostwriter, remember that you get what you pay for. Will you be content with a book that isn’t well structured or well-written, a book that doesn’t have rich ideas and a narrative flow that’s engaging and entertaining? If you don’t have a publishing contract and paying a ghostwriter will be a problem for you, see question #1 and rethink whether you might be willing to learn to write the book yourself rather than hire someone to ghostwrite a book for you.

4. Do I know what I want to say? Everyone has ideas and stories to write about, but you may not have enough to say to fill a book unless you work with a professional ghostwriter who can draw stories out of you, find the narrative arc to your book, and help you develop your ideas. In fact, if you want to write your own book and you have good writing skills, but are stuck on what to say, you may not need a ghostwriter so much as a developmental editor. A developmental editor can help you flesh out your ideas and structure your book.

Whatever your goal, don’t let fear, insecurity, or embarrassment influence your decision about whether to write your book yourself or hire a ghostwriter to ghostwrite it for you. If you honor your strengths as well as your weaknesses, you’ll come to the right decision for you regarding who should write your book. Know what type of assistance you need and you won’t regret your decision, whatever it turns out to be.

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On Rejection Letters

I had just read and responded to an interesting blog piece on rejection letters when I received an email from an agent I know telling me that she’d just received a response to her gentle rejection letter to someone I’d given her name to. Apparently, this writer was under the impression that she was owed some constructive criticism–free advice, that is–by an agent who was not going to take on her project.

Now, I’ve often given writers free advice about where to take the project next–I don’t work with young adult or children’s books, for instance, so if someone contacts me about a project in that genre I will suggest where they might submit the book, or if they contact me about a sci fi novel I may, if I’m not too busy, note where they should begin their search for a sci fi agent. However, like most industry professionals, I do not believe it is an agent’s or in-house editor’s job to give constructive criticism unless they have strong interest in a project and are turning it down with great reluctance. In fact, if a writer receives a reject that gives a specific reason, such as, “I’m not big on novels featuring cats as protagonists,” I would suggest that writer make a mental note and move on. If she gets a cluster of responses that are similar, then she can start thinking about the possibility of rewriting her book proposal to address the criticism.

 

It simply makes no sense to give someone subjective advice when you have no intention of representing the book or offering a publishing contract. And it makes no sense to demand free constructive criticism from busy professionals. In fact, I would call that rude.

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Kindle Will Be Publishing Works That Are Too Short for a Book, Too Long for an Article

Often, potential clients will tell me they’ve written a book, but when they tell me it runs 30,000 or 40,000 words, I have to break the news that they’ve written an animal that’s too long for an article and too short for a book. No more! eBooks break us out of the limitations of bindings and paper orders, allowing us to create books that are of that “in between” length. You can learn how to submit your book to Amazon’s new Kindle Singles program for those “in between” works here.

Of course, this opens up the question of, when will Amazon/Kindle and B&N/Nook take over the traditional job of publishers by wading through submissions and choosing the best ones, then providing editorial guidance to make the books “sing”? Will they soon begin working with freelance book publishing professionals to create an editorial vision or voice, weeding out the marginal material and highlighting the works truly of value to readers who aren’t related to/best friends with the amateur author?

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How to Find a Literary Agent

People often ask me how to find a literary agent. Because literary agents work entirely on spec (meaning they don’t earn a dime until they sell your book AND the check has cleared their bank account), they’re not always easy to procure. This is my basic advice:

1. Check the Literary Market Place (LMP), latest edition (it comes out annually) in your library and submit a query letter to agents that are listed as representing your genre. The top tier agents are listed in LMP so this is a great place to start.

2. Check, too, The Writer’s Market and Jeff Herman’s Guide to Literary Agents, the latest editions. The second- and third-tier agents are listed here as well as some first-tier agents. Do not bother sending your query to anyone who does not list your genre as one of the genres they represent.

3. Check the acknowledgments pages of books that are similar to yours for the names of agents (whom the authors often thank) and even editors (it helps to have an editors’ list for when you do submit–keep track of which editors bought which books that are like yours). You can do this by looking at the physical book or through Amazon.com’s Search Inside This Book or Google Books (search for Thanks or Thank you or Acknowledgements or agent).

4. Go to Publishersmarketplace.com and subscribe to Publishers Lunch for one month for $20. Research agents, and editors, and deals made, in your genre like crazy all month long.

5. Read Publisher’s Weekly, the publishing industry’s trade magazine which is now online. Check outany  round up articles on particular genres. Notice who is quoted. The editor or agent quoted may specify what types of books they are currently looking for.

When you approach an agent–or if you’re daring and decide to approach an editor sans agent–mention WHY you chose to submit your query to them.. Including statements such as  “I know you represented Marianne Williamson on The Gift of Change” and “Like that book, mine is a poignant coming-of-age tale featuring a woman of mixed ethnic heritage/an erotic science fiction novel/a self-help book based on sound psychological principles and the latest neuroscience” will go a LONG way toward piquing a potential agent’s (or editor’s) interest if he (or she) has already shown an interest in that type of book.

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