Today on New Year’s, everyone makes resolutions for self-improvement. This year, more people are making resolutions that involve helping others.
One of the resolutions on your mind this year may be: I will write my novel/memoir/how-to/screenplay/business ebook, even if I’ve never written in my life and don’t particularly enjoy it. And after all the champagne and celebration, you might just add enthusiastically, “And I’ll hire a GHOSTWRITER! That will make it easier!”
By hiring a professional, you have just followed one of the experts’ tips about keeping New Year’s resolutions: Be realistic.
Think of it this way. If you want to get fit and toned/lose weight/stop smoking/get organized, you hire a personal trainer, consult your doctor or call a professional organizer. A ghostwriter is no different. Ghostwriters are the personal trainers of the written word.
After you make that resolution, however, I strongly suggest reading the following articles from The Happy Guy Marketing:
The next step is to resolve to gather your thoughts and any materials you’ll need. Here’s a tip: If you think you don’t need to tell about the murder suspect in a mystery or what the hospital smelled like when your identical long-lost twin, who you’ve just reunited with, was born, write that detail down.
Some experts recommend making a list of a series of small steps to achieve your goal. Your list might look like this:
While it may sound like a lot of work, the steps you’ll put in (according to my experience) will bring you closer to your goal within weeks or the first two months of 2009 than you would be if you hadn’t made a list of steps and if you hadn’t resolved to hire a personal trainer for your manuscript.
Whether your project is a mystery plot you’ve been dying to write or something that will benefit mankind (or at least help someone through a difficult time), the goal is important to you. So make your New Year’s resolution specific, actionable. Investigate ghostwriting services or put your thoughts down on paper. Then you can look back on next New Year’s Eve and say, “I did it.”
A lot of clients seem to think that when their book is written, it will get published, and that’s a wonderful idea too. It’s what we all hope. Note the operative word – hope. It won’t get published if you don’t get out there and hunt a publisher down, or indeed have one lined up before hand.
No one will publish your book if they don’t know it exists. Take two clients of mine. Both books were similar in that they dealt with the same topic – child abuse. Both were deeply distressing stories and affected each client differently. One was determined that others should not suffer as she did and immediately did the rounds to get her book published. It will be in the shops come February. The other wanted to prevent such abuses occurring again, but her whole life was so affected by her experiences, that once she had used up her energy telling her story, she had no more for the exhausting business of attracting a publisher. Her story languishes for the moments when she can be bothered to do something about it, which is a great shame, because although there was little to laugh about in these two histories, the as yet unpublished client managed to find some wonderful humour in hers.
Sure, I try to help her with advice etc. whenever I can, but I am a writer, not an agent, and I write for a living, which leaves little time for me to run around after someone who doesn’t make the effort to help herself.
So what’s required after you get your manuscript back from your ghost?
First, know thy publisher. Send it to as many publishers whose interests are appropriate to your story. You wouldn’t send an ‘adult’ book to a children’s publisher, so why send your fictional work to an academic publisher? Why send your memoir to a publisher of science fiction? If you cannot find an appropriate publisher at home, try another country.
Second, consider hiring an agent. The ones who are well established with the biggest mainstream publishers take a cut of the book’s profits. They take no up-front payments. They can be as hard to find as a publisher, so make sure they represent your genre of book before contacting them. Again some of them can be unimaginative, yet others can be wonderfully helpful.
Third, be prepared to accept rejection. I had a rather snooty publisher say of one of my books that the characters were flat, yet the same book was snapped up the very next week by another publisher who found the same characters ‘fulsome and rounded’. Remember publishers are people too, and one man’s meat and all that …
There are some very famous writers who will tell you about all the reject slips they got. Shall I just slip in the name J. K. Rowling? Yep! Harry Potter’s creator! Some unimaginative publishers cringe every time they hear her name. So don’t give up. I heard of a very famous writer of scary books who apparently had to wait for five years before someone took him on.
Fourth, there are e-publishers, many of whom are pretty good. Just make sure that you find one that doesn’t mess with your rights to the book. There are a few who magically make your copyright theirs, so be aware of the problem.
Finally don’t give up trying to get your book published. If it was worth your paying a ghostwriter to knock it into shape for you, why would you not seek a publisher just as energetically? Fortune favours the brave!
In teaching a virtual seminar for the Muse Online Writers’ Conference about “Writing the Short Screenplay from Concept to ‘Fade Out,’” I’ve read the following comment in online forums: “I wrote this as a short story/novel, but I think it would be better as a screenplay.”
I’ll talk about adaptations of books to movies in another blog post. Everyone out there has an opinion of books on film. Sometimes the movie actually improves on the book, or at least offers a true translation–by that I mean it keeps to the essence of the book without reproducing it word for word (the “Harry Potter” films, especially the last one, “Order of the Phoenix, accomplished this magic.)
What about the reverse—the novelization of a screenplay? It’s a growing business. “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry himself wrote the novelization (with curious academic-like footnotes) of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” from 1979, the one every critic has panned. Studios hire writers to novelize popular movies such as the “Batman” franchise. Then there are all those kids’ adaptations of kids’ movies such as “The Incredibles,” “Cars,” “Underdog” and ”Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” the movie that launched the new animated series on Cartoon Network.
It’s difficult enough to transmute a publicly beloved property into fiction. For a ghostwriter, the pay may be great and the challenge satisfying, especially if you happen to be a fan of the franchise, because after all, the characters are the stars. Nobody cares who transcribes the words of Anakin Skywalker (or his feisty female apprentice Ahsoka Tano), Lightning McQueen or Captain Kirk.
However, when the script in question is personal, when a ghostwriting client hopes to have both a book and movie based on characters he or she has created, the challenge is greater, and in many respects even more rewarding despite the long hours at the computer.
David Leonhardt made the announcement last week about our client Alan Truax’s novel Mercedes being published. Alan has been a delight to work with. I rarely meet ghostwriting clients, but I had the privilege of dining with Alan and his wife last December. It was a wonderful evening. Alan is a remarkable man who believed in his story enough to condense a 300-page screenplay trilogy to a two-hour movie and to transform it into a novel.
As both a screenwriter and a novel writer who has adapted my own novel to a screenplay (and award-winning short story to a play), I understood the specific demands of the project. I understood that:
In a future blog post I’ll talk about “Identity Crisis: Helping the Client Decide If It’s a Novel or a Screenplay”.