Category : Collaborating and Ghosting

  • April 2, 2012

    How do you set up your writing business?

    by

    Chantrelle asked, “How do you set up your writing business? What are the benefits to treating your writing business as a ‘real job’ by setting it up in a professional manner? And what did you do to make that happen?” 

    Let me offer a handful of thoughts for you…

    1. Find a place. Make this your writing place and designate it as your office. 

    2. Make that your official home office, then read up on what the IRS will allow you as a tax deduction.

    3. Establish a writing time. For most authors, that's simply "morning." Protect a time each day when you can do some actual writing and not just checking email, answering letters, meeting people for coffee, etc. When I started, I set aside 6 to 8 every morning. (I had young kids. Later that would not have worked. I hate mornings.) Tom Wolfe starts writing at 9 and stops at noon. Find a time that works, in which you'll just WRITE.

    4. Create a filing system. ("Alphabetical by title or author" works well. Don't rely on the "Eureka!" system.)

    5. Set up a bank account that is just for your writing business. Sign up for PayPal.

    6. Set up your address list. Keep emails and phone numbers handy… and if you want to move into the bold new world of, say, 1996, invest in a phone that will keep those handy.

    7. Create a calendar. Not just for your day, but for the big projects you've got. It'll help you figure out what you're writing when. It'll also remind you that you've got to take Fiona to the orthodontist.

    8. Group similar activities. Do all your mail at one time. Group your phone calls back to back so you get through them more quickly. Ditto email, if that were possible. Things that are "occasional but regular" should be scheduled — for example, I look at submissions every

    Continue Reading "How do you set up your writing business?"
  • April 2, 2012

    How do you set up your writing business?

    by

    Chantrelle asked, “How do you set up your writing business? What are the benefits to treating your writing business as a ‘real job’ by setting it up in a professional manner? And what did you do to make that happen?” 

    Let me offer a handful of thoughts for you…

    1. Find a place. Make this your writing place and designate it as your office. 

    2. Make that your official home office, then read up on what the IRS will allow you as a tax deduction.

    3. Establish a writing time. For most authors, that's simply "morning." Protect a time each day when you can do some actual writing and not just checking email, answering letters, meeting people for coffee, etc. When I started, I set aside 6 to 8 every morning. (I had young kids. Later that would not have worked. I hate mornings.) Tom Wolfe starts writing at 9 and stops at noon. Find a time that works, in which you'll just WRITE.

    4. Create a filing system. ("Alphabetical by title or author" works well. Don't rely on the "Eureka!" system.)

    5. Set up a bank account that is just for your writing business. Sign up for PayPal.

    6. Set up your address list. Keep emails and phone numbers handy… and if you want to move into the bold new world of, say, 1996, invest in a phone that will keep those handy.

    7. Create a calendar. Not just for your day, but for the big projects you've got. It'll help you figure out what you're writing when. It'll also remind you that you've got to take Fiona to the orthodontist.

    8. Group similar activities. Do all your mail at one time. Group your phone calls back to back so you get through them more quickly. Ditto email, if that were possible. Things that are "occasional but regular" should be scheduled — for example, I look at submissions every

    Continue Reading "How do you set up your writing business?"
  • February 1, 2012

    Ghostwriting: Not as Spooky as it Seems (A Guest Blog)

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         There’s no middle ground. If you are a person’s ghostwriter, that person will either hate you or love you. It’s all about ego.

         If the person whose name is going to appear on the cover actually wants people to think that he or she wrote the book, that person will want you to write a brilliant manuscript and then drop off the face of the earth so that he or she can go on radio and TV talk shows and take kudos for writing such a brilliant artistic masterpiece. (I actually had a client break into tears recalling how “emotionally gut-wrenching it was to write chapter nine.”  Oh…pul-leeese!)

         So, let’s put our cards on the table. Most ghostwriters, including me, do this for the money. Thus, rule one is to charge plenty.  I mean it.

         Let’s get the negatives out of the way. First, ghosting causes a split personality: the publisher is expecting the ghost to deliver one kind of book, but very often the client wants a totally different kind of book. (When it doubt, favor the one paying you.) Second, ghosting is hard work, but usually you get no credit for your labors. (One woman, whose entire book was written by me, thanked me on the acknowledgements page for “proofreading assistance and help with typing.”) Third, no matter how the book fares, you, the ghost, will come off the loser. If the book hits #1 and sells five million copies, you won’t get a dime more than the work-made-for-hire flat rate you were originally paid. If the book tanks, everyone will blame you, personally, for producing an inferior manuscript.

    WHERE’S THE UPSIDE?

         By now you may be wondering why a guy like me, who has written 34 books under his own name, would also have ghostwritten 18 books for other people. One reason is because writing is what I do, and

    Continue Reading "Ghostwriting: Not as Spooky as it Seems (A Guest Blog)"
  • February 1, 2012

    Ghostwriting: Not as Spooky as it Seems (A Guest Blog)

    by

         There’s no middle ground. If you are a person’s ghostwriter, that person will either hate you or love you. It’s all about ego.

         If the person whose name is going to appear on the cover actually wants people to think that he or she wrote the book, that person will want you to write a brilliant manuscript and then drop off the face of the earth so that he or she can go on radio and TV talk shows and take kudos for writing such a brilliant artistic masterpiece. (I actually had a client break into tears recalling how “emotionally gut-wrenching it was to write chapter nine.”  Oh…pul-leeese!)

         So, let’s put our cards on the table. Most ghostwriters, including me, do this for the money. Thus, rule one is to charge plenty.  I mean it.

         Let’s get the negatives out of the way. First, ghosting causes a split personality: the publisher is expecting the ghost to deliver one kind of book, but very often the client wants a totally different kind of book. (When it doubt, favor the one paying you.) Second, ghosting is hard work, but usually you get no credit for your labors. (One woman, whose entire book was written by me, thanked me on the acknowledgements page for “proofreading assistance and help with typing.”) Third, no matter how the book fares, you, the ghost, will come off the loser. If the book hits #1 and sells five million copies, you won’t get a dime more than the work-made-for-hire flat rate you were originally paid. If the book tanks, everyone will blame you, personally, for producing an inferior manuscript.

    WHERE’S THE UPSIDE?

         By now you may be wondering why a guy like me, who has written 34 books under his own name, would also have ghostwritten 18 books for other people. One reason is because writing is what I do, and

    Continue Reading "Ghostwriting: Not as Spooky as it Seems (A Guest Blog)"
  • August 13, 2010

    Metaphors, Collaborations…and a Story

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    Daniel asked, “Is the ability to craft great similes and metaphors a gift, or can it be learned?”

    My guess is that it's a gift. I've watched some people in the industry and been amazed at their ability to "see" the link between one action and another. I wish I could do that.

    And his follow up question: “What are some good learning tips for creating great metaphors?”

    Beats me. I've never been good at metaphors. (Or, in metaphor, "When it comes to creating metaphors, I'm a lawn chair." See? Awful. I hate coming up with good metaphors.) Maybe you could just learn to steal the good ones.

    Lynn asked, “I've been asked to collaborate on a book with someone — what are some of the legal necessities I need to keep in mind?"

    It’s a random list, depending on the topic of the book, the audience, the authors… but here are a handful of suggestions:

    1. What's the subject of the book?

    2. How long will it be?

    3. How many words/chapters are each person's responsibility?

    4. What are the due dates for each?

    5. Who gets to pitch the idea? (me? the partner?)

    6. What's the split of the money? (50/50? 60/40? 70/30? In whose favor?)

    7. Are both names on the cover, the title page, the copyright?

    8. Who owns the finished product?

    9. Who has to get permissions?

    10. Who pays for permissions?

    11. Will each writer warranty their work?

    12. Will we promise each other not to create competing works?

    13. Who takes the lead with the publisher on things like title, subtitle, cover, art, etc?

    14. Is there a kill fee if the book is cancelled?

    15. If killed, who owns the work that's been done?

    16. Can either party withdraw? If so, how?

    17. Worst case #1: does moral turpitude effect this?

    18. Worst case #2: upon death, what happens to the

    Continue Reading "Metaphors, Collaborations…and a Story"
  • August 13, 2010

    Metaphors, Collaborations…and a Story

    by

    Daniel asked, “Is the ability to craft great similes and metaphors a gift, or can it be learned?”

    My guess is that it's a gift. I've watched some people in the industry and been amazed at their ability to "see" the link between one action and another. I wish I could do that.

    And his follow up question: “What are some good learning tips for creating great metaphors?”

    Beats me. I've never been good at metaphors. (Or, in metaphor, "When it comes to creating metaphors, I'm a lawn chair." See? Awful. I hate coming up with good metaphors.) Maybe you could just learn to steal the good ones.

    Lynn asked, “I've been asked to collaborate on a book with someone — what are some of the legal necessities I need to keep in mind?"

    It’s a random list, depending on the topic of the book, the audience, the authors… but here are a handful of suggestions:

    1. What's the subject of the book?

    2. How long will it be?

    3. How many words/chapters are each person's responsibility?

    4. What are the due dates for each?

    5. Who gets to pitch the idea? (me? the partner?)

    6. What's the split of the money? (50/50? 60/40? 70/30? In whose favor?)

    7. Are both names on the cover, the title page, the copyright?

    8. Who owns the finished product?

    9. Who has to get permissions?

    10. Who pays for permissions?

    11. Will each writer warranty their work?

    12. Will we promise each other not to create competing works?

    13. Who takes the lead with the publisher on things like title, subtitle, cover, art, etc?

    14. Is there a kill fee if the book is cancelled?

    15. If killed, who owns the work that's been done?

    16. Can either party withdraw? If so, how?

    17. Worst case #1: does moral turpitude effect this?

    18. Worst case #2: upon death, what happens to the

    Continue Reading "Metaphors, Collaborations…and a Story"
  • February 25, 2008

    The Hard Questions

    by

    I’ve been sent some tough questions lately — questions that you might have been wondering about in your own writing career. It seems like there are some difficult publishing questions that frequently get ignored, so I’ll try to tackle a couple of them today…

    Donna wrote to say, "It seems like there are a ton of books that have sold a million copies lately. Can you tell me what the top books last year sold?"

    I can, but prepare to be surprised. There were only four books last year that sold more than a million copies — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (which sold more than 7 million); The Secret (just shy of 3 million); Eat, Pray, Love (just shy of 2M); and A Thousand Splendid Suns (sold 1M). That’s it. Four books.

    There were another 15 titles that sold between a half-million and a million copies: The Dangerous Book for Boys, Kite Runner, Water for Elephants, and The Memory Keeper’s Daughter all sold just under a million. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious, Stephen Colbert’s I Am America, Sidney Poitier’s The Measure of a Man, John Grisham’s Playing for Pizza, Bob Greene’s The Best Life Diet, the two You titles (You: On a Diet and You: Staying Young), The Glass Castle, Eclipse, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince all sold more than 500,000 copies. And that’s it. There were 250,000 new books printed last year in this country. 19 of them hit the big time. Yikes.

    John wrote to ask, "Do you have ethical problems with ghostwriting?"

    I hate this question, because too many people are quick to say "YES!" without understanding the terms. I used to make my living as a collaborative writer. A well-known speaker would send me his notes and his seminar on tape, and I’d turn it into a book for him. It was all his material — I was

    Continue Reading "The Hard Questions"
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