Category Archives: Client Management

Best Man Speeches – 11 questions for the speaker

There are plenty of generic best man speeches on the Internet, and just as many one-liners to toss out on the table. While a one-liner or two can add a little extra humor to a best man speech (or any speech, for that matter), the essence of the speech should be personal.

Best Man Prince HarryIt should speak from the heart.

It should speak to the groom and his bride.

It should be yours, all yours.

That is why so many people come to us to ghostwrite their best man speeches, and sometimes other wedding speeches. But making it personal is not simple for a ghostwriter. So we start by asking a few questions. Here are eleven of them.

How do you know the groom?

This is the top question. If you are the best man, it is because you know the groom. Well. That is why you stand before the room full of wedding guests. So if the speech is based on anything, it is based on your relationship with the groom.

How well do you know the groom’s family?

This will help us integrate other key wedding guests into the speech, if possible.

How well do you know the bride? Her family?

This will also help us integrate other key wedding guests into the speech, if possible. Ideally, there will be more than just a passing mention of the bride.

Who are the people you want to and/or need to mention in the speech?

This will capture anyone else important and hopefully keep the best man from being persona non grata in the years ahead. Being the best man is fraught with unintended risks, so best to bring shark repellent.

Are there any anecdotes that you really want to mention?

This is usually where the best man starts getting long-winded – which is a good thing. We often get the best material for the meat of the speech in response to this question.

Is there anyone important that will be slighted if you don’t mention them?

Ah, you noticed. Yes, this is a second safety net for the best man, in case any critical people were forgotten when we asked earlier: “Who are the people you want to and/or need to mention in the speech?”

Is the groom’s life about to change in any other way?

This is important. If a baby is on the way, or the couple plans to move across the Atlantic, this is something that should at least be mentioned. The best man speech is an ode to the past and a toast to the future.

Are there any cultural, religious of family sensitivities/taboos you wish to avoid?

This is another safety net. It is rare that it needs to be used, but sometimes there are some sensitivities and it is important no tot put the best man on the spot, especially if the caterer’s buns are not the freshest.  For example, Prince Harry is said to have toned down his best man speech due to the presence of his grandmother, the Queen.

Is there a lesson from your own marriage (or other inspiration, if not married) you wish to impart?

For some reason, when you get married, everybody wants to give you advice. Everybody is an expert. We would not want the best man, armed with the microphone, to miss his chance to dispense whatever wisdom he might wish to share.

What is your comfort level with humor? What style of humor?

And since best man speeches are usually on the lighter side, it helps to understand whether the speaker will be more comfortable in slapstick, self-depreciating, dry or some other kind of humor.

Anything else I should know?

Finally, a wide open question that the speaker can answer however he wishes should capture anything left out up to that point.

Want to hire a speech writer?
Hire a ghostwriter for your book
So there you have it. The eleven top questions that a ghostwriter needs to ask of someone before writing his custom best man speech.  Are you ready for the big day?

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Before you sign a Ghostwriter contract

You have found a ghostwriter that you want to work with.  You are ready to sign a contract.  But does the contract cover everything? Here is a quick guide to what you need to know…


The most important thing to make sure is covered in a contract is rights.

(NOTE: Nothing in this blog posts constitutes legal advice; for that you must contact a duly recognized attorney.)

International copyright conventions recognize the writer as owner of his or her own words.  So it important to make sure that any contract between you and your ghostwriter assigns all rights, including foreign rights, film rights, etc.  So important are rights, that I would say this is the main reason we work with contracts when writing books rather than just a hand shake, as we do mwith most other projects.


Price is the most obvious item to include in a contract.  You want to know how much you will pay and when it is due, and it should be clearly stated.  Some ghostwriting agencies will include a calendar schedule for payment, others (like us) base it on milestones.  We typically divide payment into thirds, but we are flexible on that.


This might also be obvious, but be careful.  All our contracts specify a range of words rather than an exact count, and there is a reason for that.

Word count is important, because it defines the quantity of work you will receive.  If you pay $12,000, you don’t want to wind up with just 10,000 words.  On the other hand, if you pay $12,000, the writer does not want to be stuck writing 120,000 words.

But – and this is critical – you do not want to identify a specific number of words that the writer is compelled to write.  If a writer has to write exactly 60,000 words, she will be far too focused on reaching that word count – at the expense of the quality of the manuscript.  Added fluff or cut corners is not to your advantage.

Our contracts always specify a range of words, such as 55,000 – 65,000 words.


This might or might not be important to you.  If it is, make sure it is included.


If you are expecting the writer to do research for you, best outline that in detail.  Our default contracts specify no research.  Our writers typically do some research, such as small fact-checking or details about a location, but if there is anything specific you need, that will need to be specified and paid for.

If you are dealing with a high-priced agency, one that charges something like $25,000 for a 75,000 word book, you should expect unlimited research (in my opinion), but don’t try telling them that I said so.  Just make sure that it is clearly stated in the contract.


You might want to specify what type of contact you will have with the ghostwriter.  For a few people, face-to-face meetings are important, although they obviously lead to higher costs.  Some clients want frequent contact with the writer; others want to let the writer run with the topic.

Our default contract makes it clear that it is the client’s responsibility to make sure he is satisfied with the content as it is being produced, which means there is a chapter-by-chapter contact built in.  It also offers a default price for face-to-face meetings, should the client wish to do that after signing the contract. Of course, we have the ability to be flexible in areas like this.


This is the trickiest element.  Often a client wants to specify a timeline, so that the writer does not drag on too long.  Understandably, you are eager to see your book published.

But the writer is a professional who pretty much sticks to a rigorous schedule.  The client, on the other hand, has a life.  And the client does not always have the time to review each chapter as it comes back from the writer.  A busy person might take a month to get back to the writer with an “OK” or a list of changes required.  A six-month job sometimes takes 12 months, as a result.

Ironically, the few times a client has insisted on specific dates, they have inevitably failed to provide timely information required for the project.  Not even close.

Our contracts all specify an expected end date.  It is important to have mutual expectations, but nobody benefits from rushing either the writer or the client.  We once had a client disappear – phone, email, mailing address – for nine months, then return to complete his book.


The bottom line is that you want a contract to address the legal matters and perhaps also to set parameters.  But you do not want contracts to cramp the creative process.  Keep one eye on the legal aspects (specific) and the other on the creative process (flexible) and you have the basis for an effective ghostwriting contract.

Just remember that no contract will ensure a successful ghostwriting project.  For that, you need to decide if the ghostwriter is easy to work with, whether she knows her craft and if the writer and the agency are accommodating in their approach.


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Are Ghostwriters Really the Slimebuckets of the Planet?

Somebody has written a sales page that most cruelly slanders ghostwriters.  I will not post the URL and give him the benefit of a link, but the challenge cannot go unanswered. My comments are in RED below. Once you have read his sales pitch below, it’s your call whether he is:

  • A demagogue, lying about ghostwriters to make a quick buck
  • The most incompetent person you will ever have the misfortune to meet
  • Stark, raving mad


What do you do if you have a story or expertise to share, but are not a writer yourself or simply don’t think you have the time to write a book? The typical belief is that you need to hire a ghostwriter. You Don’t!

I’ve managed dozens of ghostwriters for clients over the years and now work with best-selling authors and writers at the highest level. Let me share with you what I have learned, and the reasons I no longer hire ghostwriters for my clients. Let me save you from the aggravation, unhappiness and wasted money (Read on to find out why this guy wasted so much of his client’s money!) that I’ve seen too many endure. Then, once you’ve heard the reasons why you should not hire a ghostwriter, stick around and I’ll share with you what I believe to not only be the better approach for your voice and your message, but also the less expensive option!

Remember the movie where the guy hired a hitman to kill his wife? A ghostwriter is kind of like the hitman: they both walk away when the job is over. And they both want the money up front.
Remember when you wanted someone to build an addition on your house?  Remember when you needed someone to sell you a car?  Remember when you wanted someone to fly you across the ocean?  Remember when you wanted someone to provide you with a TV or a computer or a sound system?  Remember when you wanted someone to rent you a hall for a wedding or a baby shower or a 50th anniversary? They also wanted to be paid.  And they all walked away when their job was done, to serve their next clients – the way they are supposed to.
When was the last time you saw a ghostwriter touting his new book in a local newspaper? Never, because he’s a ghostwriter. It’s not his book. He has been paid and has moved on to another project. Where do you think that ghostwriter will be when it comes to marketing, branding, packaging, and publishing your book?
Probably the same place as the marketers, branders, packagers and publishers were when the ghostwriter was writing your book. (I was advised by one of our writers, to resist the temptation to say “Du-uh” here.)

Although some of our ghostwriters do help with publicity and occasionally we do, too, but it is not a service we market. In many cases, our clients don’t want us to be further involved. That’s why they seek out a ghostwriter. In the words of Kristin, one of our top writers, “There’s such a thing as privacy and anonymity that the clients themselves insist in. Some are downright paranoid.”

Ghostwriters don’t need to make nice with publishers or literary agents, but they like to pretend they have a proverbial foot in the door to gain your business. You may be dazzled by their so-called industry connections, but you’ll be sorely disappointed when you discover these connections are nothing more than cousins, friends, and college roommates.
Industry connections? Ha!  We are ever-so-forthright with potential clients that we don’t have many contacts with publishers and even the ones we do are irrelevant, because publishers have in mind what they are looking for, and they do NOT base that on who they know.  And most ghostwriters who contact me to work with us are just as candid.  It makes me wonder under what rock he found the “dozens of ghostwriters” he managed for clients.
Are you a good manager? We hope so. Because that’s part of the role you’ll play when it comes to hiring most ghostwriters. With their “You are not the boss of me attitude”, ghostwriters aren’t particularly motivated by your looming deadlines, pleas for urgency, or even whip-cracking threats.
So…just exactly what rock did he find those “dozens of ghostwriters” he managed for clients. I have yet to meet a ghostwriter that fits any of those descriptions.
Excuses. Tantrums. Drama. Personal problems. You’ll foot the bill for all these little extras when you work with many ghostwriters. Shouldn’t the drama remain in the writing?
OK, I admit – now I am totally baffled. Not only have I never met a ghostwriter with this description, but how would a ghostwriter’s personal issues cost a client more money? Certainly at The Happy Guy Marketing, the price is the price. You don’t pay a penny more, nor a penny less, than what was quoted…unless you change the specifications of what you want us to do. (Are you sure I can’t say “Du-uh”?)
Pull out around $30 grand from your savings. Wait, you don’t have that much expendable cash? How about your 401k? Wherever you get it, you’ll need a boatload of cash just to finish your book using a ghostwriter, leaving you little for your marketing.
Ah, OK. Now we get to something that at least we can reasonably talk about. There are some high-end ghostwriters, such as those who write for sports celebrities and elder statesmen who are used to being paid $30,000 per book. Some much, much more, in fact. Occasionally one of those approaches me, and I just have to tell them that we don’t have work for them. We have regular clients for the most part, and the typical manuscript is written for $8000-$15,000.
Did you grow up dreaming of writing a book that sounds like it was done by someone else? Probably not. But what sometimes happens is the words that end up on the page read like they came from a ghostwriter’s pen not yours.
That is true. If you hire a crappy ghostwriter, the words won’t sound like yours. So again I find myself wondering…if he managed “dozens of ghostwriters”, did he not vet any of them before he hired them for his clients?
When you make a huge life decision, you only ask the opinion of one person you barely know, right? Of course not! So why would you trust your manuscript, the one you’ve labored over forever, to a lone stranger, hoping he can make the words from your soul sing?
So… you go to court without an attorney, because you hardly know him? Smart move. Perhaps you remove a tumour on your own without asking the opinion of a cancer surgeon you barely know? Oh, yeah. Well, this bright chap seems to do things that way (which might explain why he hired dozens of over-priced, tantrum-throwing, attitude wielding writers incapable of adapting to the client’s voice).


At this point, you might be asking whether I have ever had any problem with ghostwriters – whether there ever was a situation where somebody was getting ripped off by ghostwriters.  The short answer is “yes”.

The long answer is that three times ghostwriters we worked with showed gross ethical lapses.  You see, we can easily screen writers for the quality of their writing, and make a reasonable guess as to how well they will attend to our clients….but we do not have a means to know ahead of time if a writer is likely to reveal herself to be two-faced.

In one case, the ghostwriter tried to make a private arrangement with the potential client, cutting us out of the deal – against both the word of our contract and all manner of ethics.  The potential client informed us, and we immediately stopped using that writer.  Pity, because she wrote well.

In two other cases, the writer tried to extort money from the client.  In both cases, once a contract had been signed and work had begun, the writer asked for more money.  A myriad of excuses were given, but the bottom line was greed.  Unfortunately, the entranced clients would not let us replace them with ethical writers.  So the clients paid the extortion money, the writers finished the job (and did an excellent job, I must say), and we simply stopped dealing with those writers.  Good writers or not, we don’t cheat our clients.  Period.

So, back to the original question…

  • A demagogue, lying about ghostwriters to make a quick buck
  • The most incompetent person you will ever have the misfortune to meet
  • Stark, raving mad

Which is it?  What do you think of ghostwriters?  Have a story to share in the comments below?

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What writing services do people want?

Every now and then, I get asked this question: “What do people want written?” And I usually answer that people come to us for a lot of biographies and fiction manuscripts. But is that the most accurate answer?

I decided to do some number-crunching. And I cam up with three sets of data. First, here are the types of services people seek…


As you can see, biographies are the most popular project people seek.  Everybody has a story to tell.  Yes, most “biographies” are in fact autobiographies.

There are a lot of people who come to us with manuscripts – including websites and marketing materials, but mostly books – to edit.  These include biographies, as well as every other genre.

The three other popular genres are business manuscripts, online writing and fiction manuscripts.


Breaking it down a different way, 46 percent of people come looking for some form of book to be written.  Twenty percent of people seek some form of editing and 12 percent seek copy for use online.  Everything else is pretty minor.

Breaking down the books into the various types, you can see just how important biographies are – how many people have a story to tell.


If you have a story to tell or a book you want to help promote your business or career, we’ll be happy to help you.

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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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Ghost writers need to eat, too!

Every week or so, a potential client asks me whether one of our writers would be willing to work on spec, to accept payment when the book gets published, to work as a partner, or some other euphemism for assuming the risk of the client’s project.

For anyone considering asking me this question, here are my top reasons why this makes about as much sense as investing in the moat-digging business:

  1. The writer is your supplier.   Would you ask a plumber, landscape architect and roofer to accept payment on when — and if — your house sells?
  2. Asking a supplier to forego payment in the hopes of making a bigger ROI when you publish is essentially asking them to invest in your idea for a book.  These are writers we are talking about.  They have dozens of their own ideas they would rather invest in.
  3. It takes time for a book to get published.  Unless you happen to be a former president or major league MVP, your writer could starve while waiting for you to publish.
  4. The reality is that most books will never see the light of day.  What?  Does the writing suck?  Not with our writers!  Does the idea suck?  Actually, almost everybody who comes through the door with the greatest idea ever…has a pretty good idea for a book.  Maybe not the greatest idea ever, because the Bible and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy have already been written, but nevertheless the ideas are pretty good.  But it takes perseverance to keep knocking on doors, like the folks at Chicken Soup for the Soul did, year after year until finally a publisher agrees to give it a go.  And our writers don’t feel like gambling a couple months of pay that a client might just be the rare gem able and willing to do that.
  5. Believe it or not, life gets in the way.  Clients disappear all the time.  Seemingly reliable clients.  It’s really amazing how often people who decide to write a book get stricken by disease, get surprised by divorce, lose a very close relative or simple vanish without a trace (Yes, this has happened several times!).*  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.  Your writer doesn’t want to do a month of work for you and hope you’ll stick around, ignoring everything else in your life.
  6. If you are writing a book hoping to sell it, you are undertaking a business venture.  Every business venture requires start-up capital.  Even a hot dog stand.  What makes this business venture so attractive is that $10,000 or $20,000 is peanuts.  You won’t get a fast food franchise for those pennies.
  7. Our writers are professionals, not part-time college students looking to puff up their CVs.  Please treat them like professionals.

There probably are many other reasons why our writers don’t want to work for free, hoping that at some point in the future they might get paid.  I fact, I suspect that when they read this post, I might get a few more ideas.  And I might add them here. 

* One client who vanished into thin air, a really nice gentleman, popped up again eight months later.  A car crash, a marital breakdown, a move to a new city…and he was ready to start up again.  But most MIA clients never turn up again.

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