Monthly Archives: September 2008

Would you do it?

Often would-be clients come to me with ideas for books they would like me to write. After several discussions about the whys and wherefores, we come to the point where fees have to be discussed. It is then that they tell me sweetly, that if I write their books and find them an agent or publisher (which requires considerable expenditure of time and money – for postage, materials such as printer ink, paper for say 300 page books, envelopes etc. multiplied by how many tries you make before you are finally accepted), then I would have dubious honour of getting a ‘percentage’ of the books’ profits.

Okay, imagine that the ghostwriter really believes the project is hot, spends three to six months writing a book, and is willing to fork out to have it seen, lets look at some of the logistics. Many agents are as hard to engage as the publishers themselves. They and publishers often will not consider a manuscript, which has been sent elsewhere so you have to wait for them to reject you before you can try someone else. Many will tell you to expect their answer from anything between three and six months time. In other words just approaching 2 publishers or agents can mean a wait of six months to a year!

Lets say we get lucky and find a publisher within six months, many will want amendments which can add perhaps another couple of unpaid months to the ghostwriter’s time. Then the publisher rolls into gear in a process that can see your book take another year before it hits the shops. That means the best part of two years has passed since the book was completed!

Unfortunately, when your book is released, it clashes with a momentous event! Elvis, who has been hiding in the desert while he wrote his wonderful epic, which is very similar to your own, has been published just a fortnight before your book is in the shops. People flock to buy his. Your opus, over which the ghostwriter slaved over in anticipation, gets left on the shelf and earns exactly nothing. For giving up a large chunk of his or her life, the ghostwriter earns a percentage of air … which I grant you might just be fresh, but even so, not nourishing.

So tell me, if you were a ghostwriter, would you do it?

Harlan Ellison sure wouldn’t and to see why, watch this video.

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Why quality counts

We were approached by a potential client with the following proposition:

Over the past couple of weeks I have been talking to a lot of writers from different parts of the world. But none of them have been able to provide what I need.  What I need are very unique, highly informative, gripping article. I had some individuals and companies write for me some sample articles.

They wrote articles on subjects like “What is Outsourcing”, What is Inbound Call Center” etc. Everyone knows all this.

I need a more researched article which focuses following issues:

- Some unique facts about the Call Center / Customer Relationship management industry

- Some interesting stories / incidents of this industry

- Some eye-opening problems solving approach specific to this industry.

That’s why we are here.  We can work with you to develop a marketing plan and then write the articles that fit into the plan.   Articles that just repeat drivel are pretty useless.  Even if the same information can be found in many other places, the article has to be written like the information is unique, like it is the first time anyone has thought of it….like “What color is outsourcing?” or “When the call center phone rings…”

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Beware self-help authors

Sorry, but this will be just a little humorous.  I am a self help author, among other things, and I think I received a backhanded complement recently, which I just blogged about at my happiness blog.

Just because I feel like it, I will reproduce that blog post, “Happiness books versus real books“, here:

Lloyd Garver of the Norwich Bulletin is obviously not a big fan of happiness books, but at least he refers to mine as… ”Some of these popular happy books include, ‘Climb your Stairway to Heaven: The 9 Habits of Maximum Happiness’“.

The problem with Mr. Garver is probably not so much his grumpiness, but his poor sense of direction.  See what else he says, “The reason you can’t find the kind of book you’re looking for is that all the self-help books about how to be happy fill up the shelves. Ironically, this makes some of us quite unhappy.”

Fortunately for us and for the sake of clarity, he does specify what kind of book you’re looking for.  A real book.  Hey, those are his words, not mine.

If books about happiness and self-help are not what he is looking for, why is he looking in the self-help section?  I have to assume he is simply lost, because obviously he won’t find any real books there.  Either that, or he is a very grumpy man with a great sense of theatrics (not to mention irony).  And nothing makes a grumpy person grumpier than a happy person saying to him, “Smile!”  (Yes, grumpy people really, really hate happy photographers!)

If the bookstores would kindly provide visitors with maps when they enter the store, people who don’t want to be happy can avoid accidentally finding themselves surrounded by all those threatening smiley faces.  And they can get on with the business of finding “real books”, which apparently bookstores don’t seem to stock anymore.

That oughta solve the problem.

Hmm…I wonder what he would think of a happiness blog.  

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Dead end ghostwriting projects

In a recent post on how even ghost writers need to eat, I mentioned that:

In fact,  if the insurance companies had access to my statistics, it would be justifiable cause for them to cancel your insurance right now on the spot, as well as the insurance of everybody related to you. 

I feel that I should expand on this a little.  So far this year, we have had four books writing projects that have hit dead ends for various reasons…

  1. Divorce
  2. Bankruptcy
  3. Indecision (Does he really want to proceed with the book?)
  4. Inertia (To be fair, this one has stopped a few times and with a lot of prodding we have been able to get it back on the rails, which hopefully we will be able to do again).

2008 has been a fortunate year.  No clients have passed away part way through.  None have gone missing in action, disappearing into thin air without a trace. 

However, some almost-clients have disappeared.  We’ve entered into discussions, chosen the best writer for their project, put them in contact with the writer, negotiated the contract and then, POOF! nothing more.  In fact, there are several contracts that have never been signed sitting on our computers.  One of them was an MIA from 2007 who has returned and we are very hopeful to begin work on his project within the next month, because he really has a fascinating concept.

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What’s your story?

You want to write a book and you have a great story running around your head, but writing it is not as easy as you thought. You need a professional to prepare your manuscript. So what’s your story?

For any book to be interesting, it needs a good plot. Plot is what gets the reader’s attention … what’s it all about? And plot is what keeps it … what happens next?

The following is true, unbelievable but true. I once had a would-be client contact me with an idea for a children’s book – and that was all he had.

“What is your book about?” I asked him.

“These children run away and save the world from itself.” He replied.

“Okay, so what’s the plot?”

“They run away and save the world from itself.”

“That’s your idea. Why do they run away? Why do they need to save the world? What do they do?”

“Er … what do you think?” He asked.

“There a few things you have to before you employ a writer.” We chatted for a while of his need to think about the action he wanted in his book. I gave him a few tips about how to proceed and added,

“ … and while you’re at it, you also need to think about the children’s characters.”

“Character? What character?”

So we went through the notion of character.

“Well what do you think they should be?” He asked.

“This is your book. Therefore you have to know what you want in it.” I added as gently as I could. “If I conceive of and develop your plot, characters, location and everything you wish me to, it would be my book. Now why would I write a book of my own and give it to you?”

Finally we agreed that while he would think of some of the children’s characteristics (one of whom was the son of the king), I would help him to develop them as the plot itself developed.

“So where does this action take place?” I asked.

“Erm … they run away to the snowfields so it has to be somewhere with lots of snow.”

I suggested a few countries.

“It has to be a republic and the …”

I interrupted him. “This country is a republic with a monarchy?”

“Yes, and I have an idea for one of the children who all go to the same private school. He is the hero of the book. He is the white adopted son of a black woman, who works at someplace like McDonalds.”

Needless to say, this story had no chance for I was left with a group of children who have to save the world from some unknown calamity. In addition, a black waitress at a fast food outlet, whose son was white could afford to send him to an expensive private school attended by royalty. This boy and a group of his chums, including a prince used only to the lap of luxury, run away to the ‘snowfields’ in a republican monarchy, where they presumably manage not to freeze to death while finding nourishment in all the snow and ice around them. Perhaps they might find a polar bear to hunt and eat, or catch a whale through a hole in the ice. (I didn’t suggest that to the young man).

He had no idea of how to move his vague idea forward. He couldn’t develop his characters or his story because he had no plot. The very least a ghostwriter needs is an idea of the nature of the book (for example is it a mystery, comedy, etc.), a believable plot written in outlines (starting from the beginning of the story and proceeding in an orderly fashion to the end), some idea of the characters, and location. This applies whether you wish to write fiction or non-fiction. It is then up to the ghostwriter to craft the manuscript, moving the reader fluidly from one chapter to the next.

So what your story?

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