Of Vampires and Writers

It is always exciting when one of our client books gets media coverage, but when both the client and our writer are mentioned at the same time, it is an extra special event. That is just what happened a couple weeks ago in the Canton Repository.


The article is about H.P. Stephenson’s new work of fiction, in which he gave our writer Kathryn Tedrick co-authorship (usually our authors remain ghost writers).  Appropriately enough, this book straddles the realms of science fiction and fantasy, Kathryn’s two specialty genres.

It’s the third item in this round-up article. Here is what it says:

Buy on AmazonAkron author Kathryn Tedrick, along with co-author H.P. Stephenson, has put a new modern twist on a popular subject — vampires — while “returning to the roots of sci-fi,” says the publisher of “War of the Staffs: Quest for the Staff of Adaman.”

The novel is the first book in the proposed “War of the Staffs” trilogy about “a myriad of mythical creatures.”

“ ‘War of the Staffs’ is a fresh new series for all those who love dragons, wizards, elves, dwarves, and mayhem,” said Tedrick in publicity material for the book.

Tedrick, who writes articles for magazines and websites, also has ghost written several books.

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Was my writing stolen?

Was my writing stolen?

I invited Briana Myricks to write this guest post.  When I heard her story, I knew that all writers – not just blog writers – will relate to what she experienced.  I am curious to hear your comments once you have read her post.

Have you ever written a blog post that you put your figurative, or even literal, blood, sweat, and tears into? If you are a blogger, chances are, you have on numerous occasions.  Most other writers have, too.  What about a post you spent hours researching and perfecting to be not only logical and understandable, but also fun and entertaining? Writers and bloggers everywhere are probably nodding their heads in unison. Think back to how proud you were when your hard work was noticed by your peers, your supervisor, and even other media. When your writing was featured in roundups and bigger blogs, you probably patted yourself on your back for a job well done. You were getting the recognition you’ve always thought you deserved.

Now think of a time when someone stole either your idea or your work outright. How furious were you? If you’re a blogger and your content was scraped onto a spammer blog, you may or may not have even flinched. But what if your work showed up on a more authoritative site with a large readership, a more expansive reach, and higher SEO value than your site? You wouldn’t feel too good, would you?

A few weeks ago, my childhood came to an end with the final movie installment of the Harry Potter saga. I felt that I had learned so much from the Hogwarts students, and was compelled to blog about it. I took to StupidCents, a personal finance blog that I’m a staff writer for, and explained to readers the financial lessons I learned from each Harry Potter story. I spent hours doing research and writing the post, wanting it to be accurate and a quality post, rather than simple link bait. My diligence paid off; the article was featured in the Carnival of Personal Finance, the Best of Money Carnival, and even Canada’s largest national newspaper, Globe Investor. The post is the most popular on StupidCents.

Friday, I was going through my RSS reader and found that Business Insider’s War Room had a post about financial tips from Harry Potter. I was excited, assuming that my post was also featured on the huge news site. As I read the article, I saw that there were several points that I mentioned, but another person as the author with no credit to my article. I was livid! Was Business Insider stealing my content? I left a comment voicing my suspicion, and I consulted several friends and colleagues to compare the two posts. After reading both posts, they felt that although my post may have heavily influenced the one featured by the War Room contributor, it was not stolen. I felt a little better about it. I was put a bit more at ease when the author pointed out differences in our articles with a reply to my comment.

This situation got me thinking: how many other times has this happened in the blogosphere? No doubt, there are sites that exist specifically for content scraping. Content farms, where high quantity and low quality are the name of the game, were also known for taking quality articles from other sites and passing it along as their own. Thankfully, Google’s Panda update has discredited thousands of those sites, including content farms like Associated Content, AllBusiness and HubPages. Of course, there’s going to be articles that echo many of the same lessons, much like there are so many articles offering mostly the same tips on “how to save money on gas”.

What are the odds that you get several of the same personal finance lessons from 4,195 pages (from the US edition of the Harry Potter books) and 19.6 hours of film?!

Another issue is when your content is featured word for word on a higher authority site. I was in this situation a year ago. I wrote a post on my now defunct Internet marketing blog about why “Facebook Quit Day” was a flop. I was a tiny blog getting very little visitors, and a small blip on the Internet radar. I was also a member of Social Media Today, and had my blog feed imported. My article was featured on the website, word for word, and received tens of thousands of page views…on the Social Media Today site. Sure, there was a link to the “original article” but who’s really going to go to a little known blog to read the exact same article on a bigger site? Even the number of tweets was more than I could imagine but I didn’t prosper, as my Twitter profile was not connected to the auto-tweet. So was Social Media Today not stealing because they linked my original article? It’s tough to say.

It’s understandable that people look for research online and can come up with similar ideas, or even base their posts off another one. I even understand that as unique as you may think your idea is, someone could have the same idea as you without it being content theft. Internet publishing still doesn’t have the same rights and protections as physical works like magazines, newspapers and books. However, if you are using another story or someone else’s ideas in your creative work, always give credit where credit is due. It’s common courtesy at the very least.

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As part of the “High Tech GooseBlog Tour,” we showcase author and tour host Karen Cioffi…

Wang bound the last bunch of wheat stalks as the sun beat down on the field. Sweat poured from the back of his neck drenching the cotton shirt he wore.

I hate doing this work. He hurled the bundles on a cart. “Father, the bales are stacked. I am going home; it is too hot.”

Twelve-year-old Wang longed to be an Eternal. He craved wealth . . . and power….

So opens Walking Through Walls, Karen Cioffi’s retelling of a classic Chinese fable. In just a few sentences of this 40-page children’s book, she establishes the main character, a disgruntled twelve-year-old boy, and the conflict, his dreams of a life away from unending hard work on his family farm. She also hints at a mystery: what is an Eternal?

In short order, Coiffi-Ventrice also introduces us to a bit more of Wang’s personality. Like any 12-year-old, he fights with his sister and his father. He knows his father wants him to work on the farm rather than daydream about learning magic and being “the richest man in all of China”.  When he receives a dream visitation from the dragon illustrated on the cover—think ERAGON set in China—Wang decides his father can’t keep him on his peasant farm any more.

After Wang goes to the Elder of his village, a lemon-loving mystic, and asks the way to the Eternals’ home, he ends up more confused than ever. In typical martial-arts movie fashion the Elder speaks in cryptic messages before scolding Wang for seeking wealth and power for their own sake: “I cannot give you the information you seek. Your heart has already spoken. Go home and set your sights on learning patience and virtue.”

Oddly, Wang’s younger sister helps him, because of her sweet nature—or perhaps she wants to teach the arrogant Wang about a girl’s worth. The true value of a person—character, kindness, integrity—is a common theme in this story and Cioffi-Ventrice brings it out quite well. She also subtly highlights the Confucian society of the time, where “respect your elders, especially males” is paramount, and the Asian ethos, in which the group is much more important than the individual. Wang, like many child heroes, rebels against his family and society to seek his own way—and learn a lesson. You have to give Wang credit for pursuing what he wants and for undertaking his perilous journey to the distant mountaintop to find the Eternals (This is what you want: you must follow through, he thinks). While Wang’s journey may seem reckless, he shows some guts and courage in leaving his family to pursue his dream.

There’s a lovely moment in which Wang’s father gently touches him and asks him to stay. It’s an understated and in-character way of showing that Wang’s father is concerned, for the first time, about his son leaving home—a deeply human emotion.  Wang does not understand until much later—he is too excited about seeing the mystical temple of the Eternals materialize after his long perilous trek.

Wang’s impressions of the temple capture my own awe whenever I visit Asian temples such as Wat Pho, Senso-Ji, Sanjusangendo, and shrines in Taiwan, even though in keeping with a fable like this, the temple’s plain exterior belies its grand interior (representing, perhaps, the richness of the Eternals’ spiritual life). Although I have never met an Eternal Master, I imagine he (she?) would be just like the one in Walking Through Walls (many of the Buddhist rimbans and reverends I’ve met have senses of humor to package their lessons). The Eternal Master is the equivalent of a magical drill sergeant—not what Wang expected. Everything about the Eternals, from their strict regimen of simple food and hard work to their habit of appearing and disappearing, confounds Wang—although he begins to understand a bit more of the world when he meets his roommate Chen and hears of Chen’s quest to help his village and rescue his sister by becoming an Eternal. Chen’s story kindles compassion in Wang’s heart, but not enough to make him gain patience. With all the magic around him, Wang is hungry to become an Eternal himself, especially after he sees the more advanced students walking through walls after a midnight feast. Is it a dream? Is it a test? Wang decides he must learn to walk through walls.

Wang endures his peculiar education for a year before deciding to leave, despite his best friend Chen’s hope of having an ally in his quest. The Eternal Master teaches him the longed-for spell of walking through walls, even though he lectures Wang about not being pure of heart or worthy of the Eternals’ great power. Of course, Wang does learn the spell—and faces a test of his character once he returns home. During that test, I bit my nails and then screamed, “Don’t do it,” when Wang was about to make the wrong choice. Cioffi-Ventrice makes us care about Wang in spite of, or perhaps because, of his character flaws. In addition to the magic of the storytelling, the sense of wonder never lets up—enchanted snakes and other creatures follow Wang as he chooses his destiny, and we learn that the Eternal Master is even more extraordinary than he appears…

In addition to the story, Cioffi-Ventrice provides dragon lore, a brief, easily readable history (and cultural facts) of the Ming Dynasty during which the story is set, and activities and questions for young readers.



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Guest Blogger: Karen Cioffi–Is Your Character One, Two, Or Three Dimensional?

Ghost Blogger Kristin Johnson’s Note: As we announced, Walking Through Walls author Karen Cioffi is one of the hosts for the “High-Tech GooseBlog Tour”. She is also honoring us with a post that speaks to the advice my fellow Ghost Bloggers and I have provided previously. If you read Karen’s book, which I will review in a subsequent post, you will glimpse her 3D Character System at work…and you don’t even need 3D glasses!

Thanks for this wonderful article, Karen.

Is Your Character One, Two, Or Three Dimensional?

By Karen Cioffi

Between your characters, the plot, and the other writing elements, you develop a story. If the mix is right, and the characters are believable, you can create a story worthy of publication.

Creating believable characters is an essential part of writing, and they need to be as life-like as possible. To accomplish this, you need to have a three dimensional protagonist.

So, which is your protagonist?

Is your protagonist flat – lacks any type of emotion and action, like the simple and safe kiddy rides at a children’s amusement park, the carousel horse that goes round and round, but does nothing else? Then you have a one-dimensional character on your hands.

Is your protagonist a little bumpy – he has some quirks, life and emotion, but no real depth of character or history, like the carousel horse that goes round and round and up and down at a steady easy pace? Then you have a two-dimensional character struggling to break into the world of believability.

Is your protagonist a full blown amusement park – a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, knowledge, emotion, character, quirks, life, and history? Now you have it; you have a believable three dimensional character that is strong enough to bring your story through to the end.

Now the question is: how do you create a wonderful, believable life-like three dimensional character?

There are a number of methods you can use that will help you create a believable character, here are two:

1. Create a character sheet or use an index card before you begin.

On your sheet, list all the characteristics, quirks, moods, mannerisms, physical attributes, artistic attributes…you get the idea. Keep this sheet handy as you’re writing your story. If you tell the reader Pete has blonde hair in the beginning of the story, and then you describe it as black, unless he dyed his hair as part of the storyline, stay true to the character. Readers pick up on errors very quickly.

The more detail you add to your character sheet the easier it will be to know what your protagonist will do in any given circumstance. This will take the element of wondering out of your writing process and save time: Pete finds a bag of money next to his neighbor’s car. Hmm . . . will he keep the money or try to find out if it’s his neighbor’s? Oh, wait a minute, on your character sheet you wrote he’s an honest guy! Simple.

2. Add characteristics and attributes to your protagonist as you write your story.

Write your protagonist’s characteristics, quirks, moods, mannerisms, and so on, on a character sheet as your story evolves. There are some writers who use different methods to create a story. Maybe you’re using the ‘seat-of-the-pants-method’ and your character evolves as your story does. With this method, you want to be sure to note each new development in your protagonist’s character or being.

Let’s go back to Pete again. Pete scratches a car as he’s parking. Does he leave a note on the car he damaged? Does he quickly leave the scene? Does he just ignore the incident as if it didn’t happen? Whichever one of these actions he chooses will establish another element to his character – be sure to make note of it.

No matter which process you use, remember to add life-like qualities to your character. Readers need to develop a relationship with the protagonist. If they feel Pete is three dimensional and they are drawn to him, they’ll be sure to read to the end of your book.


Karen Cioffi is an author and ghostwriter. Her new MG/YA fantasy book, Walking Through Walls, is based on an ancient Chinese tale.

Wang longs to be rich…and powerful. At twelve-years-old, he already knows more about the Eternals and their way of life than many of the adults in his village. Learning about these mystics takes his thoughts away from the possibility of working in the wheat fields all his life, like his father. Wang has far grander goals.


Walking Through Walls should now be available through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and book stores. If it’s not yet listed, it will be very soon!
You can also order the book today at:

To learn more about Walking Through Walls, its touring schedule and contest, and purchasing information visit: http://walkingthroughwalls-kcioffi.blogspot.com

To learn more about Karen and her books, visit:



Please be sure to stop by Eylsabeth Eldering’ site http://jgdsseries.blogspot.com on July 19th for the next stop on the Walking Through Walls Tour.



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The High-Tech Gooseneck Putter Blog Tour–Christmas in July!!!

These Golfing Geese Are About To Ruffle Some Feathers

Meet Sami DeMani, a Canada gander with a legendary golf game. He’s on track to win the prestigious Waterfowl Tour — and put his nemesis, the ruthless Pete Swan Lake, in his place once and for all. But right as Sami prepares to take a critical swing, a surprise scare changes everything — ruining the shot and putting Sami in the hospital. What happens next dashes any hopes for golf glory — or does it? No longer able to play, Sami throws himself into coaching his nephew, Myles, in the game he loves. Then the golf pro hatches a plan to help his nephew win a tournament with the aid of the specially designed Gooseneck Putter. This breakthrough device has the potential to change everything — including the confidence of the golf prodigy who uses it. But none of them are prepared for what’s about to occur as the tension rises on the course. Along the way, Sami and Myles will learn a powerful lesson regarding sportsmanship, perseverance, love, and what really matters in the game of life. A heartwarming and inspirational tale, The High-Tech Gooseneck Putter is about the power of golf to boost self-esteem, change lives, and bring a community together.

This is the latest Happy Guy Marketing success–my collaboration with artist, singer and Laughter Yoga leader Samuel DiMatteo. I am excited that Sami listed me as co-author because Samuel is one-of-a-kind. He, along with the colorful cast of golfing geese, sportscasting squirrels and business-minded beavers in the book, has won over several lovely lady authors. Suzanne Drazic will host us for Christmas in July on her blog to kick off our tour! A schedule:

And of course any of these lovely ladies has a standing invitation on this blog.

Our tour has a special significance: each date corresponds to golfing events in honor of our hero. A sample of the events:

  • July 18, Karen’s stop–Ernie Els’s charity golf tournament Els for Autism Golf Challenge, TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Illinois
  • July 24–Skins and Pins Shootout, Strategic Fox, Fox Hills Golf Club, Plymouth, MI
  • August 5–36th Junior PGA Championship, Sycamore Hills Golf Course, Fort Wayne, Indiana
  • August 22–Las Vegas PGA Expo, also Boy Scouts of Omaha Invitiational
  • November 5–PGA Tour President’s Cup in Australia

We have teed and shouted “Fore!”

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A Ghost Writer Reviews “Ghost Writer”

Finally! Our profession gets its own movie, thanks to a novel written by Hannibal Lecter creator Thomas Harris. We should be flattered that the mind responsible for one of the most compelling characters of all time thought of our profession as worthy of a novel, and that Hollywood finally gave us our due.

I finally got to see “Ghost Writer” on a recent flight and thoroughly enjoyed it. For one thing, it adds a little glamour to what we do, and in the movie, the titular ghostwriter, played with wry perfection by Ewan McGregor, gets a nice hefty paycheck of ten million pounds to ghost the memoirs of former British PM Adam Lang, played with heavy creep factor by Pierce Brosnan. Famous client, great pay, and the manuscript is already written…by the previous ghost, who died mysteriously.

This is where fiction and fantasy enter in. The movie, while true to the spirit of what we do, is about as realistic as TV cop or medical dramas.  I personally have never gotten an assignment because the previous writer died. (In fact, as a previous blog post points out, clients are far more likely to do a vanishing act.) I also have never gotten such a notorious client as Adam Lang, who’s under investigation by the International Court for war crimes in the Iraq War. (But who’s to say it couldn’t happen?) I do have clients with stories that can tear you up, but I’ve never been thrown into an international controversy. Or been the potential witness to dirty deeds. (Thank God.)

However, I found that “Ghost Writer” treated the profession with respect and accuracy in many ways. To wit…

1. Tough deadlines. The Ghost is given a month to polish and finish what his predecessor started. Granted, this month of intensive exclusive work includes complete in person access to the client. After the media frenzy reaches the remote American island where Lang stays, the ghost writer gets to sleep and work in Lang’s residence. Useful for meeting deadlines…even if The Ghost may literally face life and death meeting his.

2. Research. Although my research has taken my projects down unexpected paths, with the clients along for the ride, I’ve never gone to the extremes The Ghost does. His efforts in piecing together what happened to his predecessor efforts prove the value of researching a client…Also, his insistence on clarifying the timeline of his client’s political activism prove to be the kind of tenacity you need as a ghost writer.

3. NDAS. I have been under a code of silence, but never been told, “the manuscript is not to leave this room. It is not to be copied.” Still, client confidentiality is a hallmark of the business.

4. Bad openings. Lang’s manuscript starts with his family history! McGregor’s utter frustration and disbelief are spot on when he reads the opening.

5. Personal entanglement. So many of my clients become my friends, and in many respects it’s like adding a dozen or more family members. However, there’s something sinister and codependent in the way that McGregor’s character gets entangled with Lang, his wife, and Lang’s admin/mistress.

6. Reading between the lines. The Ghost meets with Lang’s enemy, an MP who advises him the previous Ghost coded a hidden message in the manuscript. Proof positive that an eye for detail is necessary in this profession!

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Write your book!

Entrepreneurs! Consultants! Experts! CEOs! Professionals! Have you written your book yet? If not, now is the time. This blog post is specifically written for anyone whose personal reputation is vital to their business success.

If your credibility, if your knowledge and skill, if your personality can help increase your conversion rate, keep reading.

If your credibility, if your knowledge and skill, if your personality can help increase the value of your sales, keep reading.

If your lack of credibility, if your unknown skills, if your personality can – oops! – lose you sales and cost you business, keep reading.


Your name.  Your face. Your book. Here are ten reasons why you should write a book with your name as the author, with your face on the cover, with your expertise buttered across the pages in an easy-to read manner designed to impress the reader that you are the undisputed expert who can solve their problems and fill their needs.

It sure makes a business card look amateur: Do you hand out business cards. Yeah, so does every other real estate agent, every other advertising account representative, every other business consultant. But how many of them hand out a book, with their name and face on the cover? Guess which one – the business card or the book – will make a prospect take notice. And when nobody you compete with has their own book, you stand to gain the most; Real estate agents, take note.

“I wrote the book on [insert your expertise here]“: That’s right. As a new author, you can proudly adopt a new stance, clearly spoken or subtly implied. To “write the book” on a topic means that you are the ultimate expert. That is a competitive advantage that does not go unnoticed even at the subconscious level.

“Published author”: Those two words just might be the most powerful words on your resume. They open doors for clients. They open doors for speaking opportunities. They give you, as a consultant or a speaker, the ability to raise your fees – significantly!

Get the media to call you: Journalists are always looking for credible sources to quote. They often seek out authors who – wait for it… “wrote the book” on the subject. 1. So make sure the media have a copy of your book. Why bother? Potential clients see your name and look you up. 2. “As quoted in The New York Times” is a powerful testimonial (You are not only an expert published author, but also an expert because the New York Times says so. Wow! 3. Your stature within your industry or niche rises when others see you in the media.

Book reviews give you exposure: Exposure is good, as long as it is not of the x-rated kind.* Exposure that positions you as an expert, is even better. Make sure book reviewers in your niche get a copy.

Each chapter is a new online marketing tool: If you distribute articles online as part of your marketing efforts, try spinning each chapter into and article. Or into several. Imagine how much more persuasive your article will be when your bio box reads: “Based on chapter 3 of [insert name of book here]”

Book signings: People love getting autographs and they love free stuff. Whether you arrange for a signing at your local book store or set up a free signed book element to your trade show booth, you are bound to attract people who otherwise would overlook you.

Higher speaking fees: Yes, I know, I mentioned this in reason number 3, but it is a reason in itself. Give the same speech to the same people, but charge $1000 or $2000 or $5000 more. Yes, publishing your own book is like printing money. Don’t tell the FBI – they do n ot approve of private money-printing.

Back-of-the-room sales: If a few thousand more dollars in speaking fees is not enough, you can make a mint selling your book after the speech. This is called back-of-the-room sales. I have known many speakers who make more selling – and autographing – their books after their speech than they make delivering their speech. (Not speaking yet? Hmmm…maybe it’s time to publish a book and start speaking.)

R.O.I.: It costs nothing but time to write, and if you feel you need to hire a ghostwriter, it likely will cost just $5000 – $15,000 for an effective and professional manuscript.

It really is amazing how many entrepreneurs, consultants and professionals have not yet written their book. It is one of the first things anyone should do when trying to establish himself or herself as an expert in any field. Write your book and reap the rewards.

* Except if you are in the adult entertainment industry.

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17 signs you need a proofreader

Many people have atrocious spelling. Even intelligent people. Even educated people. And other people, too. And sometimes they leave “signs” all over the place that say “I need a proofreader!”

Here are 17 signs that all say “I need a proofreader!”

1. When you want a sense of “occassion”…

2. Back to “shcool” for this spelling bee contestant…

3. “Hipocracy” is for the hipos…

4. If you can edit this sign, “your” smarter than its writer…

5. The masked proofreader strikes again!…

6. This lady might not know English very well…

7. Sign’s need more apostrophe’s…and what is “beyone”?

8. A sign that maybe the staff should stay after class…

9. What do you do when you run out of space to finish your sign?…

10. West Newbury is a town that desperately needs a “scolarship” fund…

11, Whoever “THE CHURH” is, I’ll bet he’s not as ashamed as the person hiding her face behind her sign…

12. Get a brain! Moron*…

13. This lady is so excited about English, that she double-underlines the words she misspells…

14. When peeling them once isn’t enough…

15. Too bad. He should be “useing” a proofreader or editor instead…

16. Demonstrating just how badly someone might need both an editor and a proofreader…

17. Here’s a sign that you are insulting your customers…

*No morons were harmed in the creation of this post. The damage was done years ago.

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18 Tips to Save Money on Ghostwriting Fees

Everybody has a book inside them just screaming to get out. Some books are for personal pleasure, some are for business promotion, some are to sell as a product. Everybody has a book inside them, but not everybody knows how to set it free.

That’s where ghostwriters come in. But ghostwriters are expensive. Let’s face it, you are hiring a skilled professional for several months, and the costs can add up. But there are ways to keep costs from spiraling out of control, and below are 18 tips to save money without skimping on quality. In fact, some of these tips will virtually ensure a better quality manuscript, regardless of the quality of the writer.

Some ghostwriters charge by the hour, others by the project. We always provide a project price (and you will soon discover why that makes more sense for ghostwriting clients) but the list below covers tips that help lower hourly ghostwriting costs.

Be prepared to save on ghostwriter fees

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE: Know what type of audience you’re aiming for; this helps to shape the material and save time on discussions beforehand or rewrites later on. If this is something you can’t do yourself, that’s OK; that might be one of the reasons to hire a ghostwriter in the first place, so make sure this is one of the first things you discuss with her.

GET A STYLE: Have an idea of the genre and style you want to use. There are just so many to choose from, and it really pays to get this right from the start. This is especially true if you are paying by the hour; you don’t want the writer to have to needlessly rewrite whole chapters because you had not carefully thought it through.

DON’T RUSH: You will have to decide when you want the manuscript to be completed. Ideally, you want to give the writer enough time to do a proper job without rushing. For books of 50,000 to 100,000 words, this is typically 4-6 months. A shorter deadline could be more expensive (if it is a “rush” job) and might even compromise the quality of the manuscript.

DO YOUR RESEARCH: Have all the details ready. This is especially crucial for non-fiction, where facts must be accurate. You can always ask the writer to do the research for you, but that can really sink you in the hole. I mentioned before that we charge on a project basis, but we make an exception for the research. This can be a bottomless pit of work for the writer, so we charge by the hour; don’t let is become a bottomless pit of costs for you.

BE ORGANIZED: This is the single most important factor in keeping down the costs of ghostwriting. It’s one thing to have done all the research, but if you provide a box of papers and news clippings, even with information highlighted or underlined, the writer still has hours of sorting and weeding to do – hours that will cost you money. Yes, we take that into account when finalizing the project price. Best to organize information by date (especially for biographies and true stories, by character (especially for fiction), by location, etc. If using research or interviews, double-check and correctly cite your sources so the writer doesn’t have to. This can get expensive if you are paying by the hour, and if paying by the project, the writer might leave it up to you to do anyway (and that information might have been useful to include in the text itself.

WRITE IT DOWN: What is in writing can be easily reviewed, saving countless hours of work. Nevertheless, lots of people offer us video or audio recordings. Can you imagine the pure torture a writer would have to go through, spending hours winding, rewinding, searching for a certain reference? Well, ghostwriters can imagine it, and if you provide audio or video information, we will tell you what the transcription fees will be. To avoid those fees, provide written notes.

GO ELECTRONIC: Electronic (Microsoft Word is the standard in the publishing industry) offers two major benefits over sending paper notes. The writer can easily search the documents much faster than by flipping pages. And often there is material that can be cut and pasted, such as quotations, long names of places or documents or diseases or Latin names of animals or…well, you get the idea. That saves time writing and it also saves time editing. Electronic is also instantaneous and easily shared, cutting down on distracting delays that ultimately can affect the quality of the writing.

GIVE CLEAR OBJECTIVES: If you make it very clear from the outset what you want, the writer won’t have to keep asking questions. Fewer questions, less back-and-forth and the less-frustrated, more-inspired writer (hint, hint – higher quality manuscript) will charge fewer hours. And for companies like us that charge by the project, we can tell pretty quickly if we need to factor teeth pulling hours into our price.

KICKSTART THE PROCESS:Create an outline or do a draft (if you can). This is a great way to make sure that not just your information is organized. It can save a few hours of back-and-forth with the writer. If this is something you can’t do yourself, that’s OK; that might be one of the reasons to hire a ghostwriter in the first place, in which case the money for this is well-spent.

Negotiating the ghostwriter contract

HIRE ON A PROJECT BASIS:That is the only way we operate. There are two benefits to hiring on a project basis, and both have to do with the tedious and time-consuming process of accounting. If a writer has to spend time and effort keeping track of hours, you pay first for the time she spend on “accounting” matters and then in the inevitably lower quality manuscript from a writer distracted. When we negotiate a contract with a client, all the accounting for hours is removed from the equation. Our writers focus on writers. They don’t have to spend their time accounting. Or marketing. Or networking. They focus on writing, and that’s what you want them to focus on.

ASK FOR THE BEST PRICE:This is pretty obvious, and you may already be getting the quoted price, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. If a ghostwriter is able to give you a better price, you’ll know right away. If she says the quote is final, don’t become a pest; the price won’t change. If the price is really too high for your budget, the writer might suggest reviewing some of the items on this list.

SHORTEN UP:The single most effective way to reduce the price is to reduce the word count. In some instances, this makes sense. In others, it does not. Ultimately, there is an ideal size for almost every book, and you don’t want to skimp. However, I have seen times when reducing the length of the book by as much as a third from the original intentions could save money without compromising effectiveness.

GET A FINAL EDIT: Make sure to ask if the manuscript will be in publishable form or will it still need to be edited. We always deliver publish-quality manuscripts. One big caveat: any editor will be able to take any manuscript, no matter how polished, and edit it further. And most publishing houses will want to edit whatever you present them to meet their own criteria. So “final” edits don’t really exist. But you don’t want to end up with a manuscript that still needs serious editing.

ASK FOR A BONUS: We are happy to provide free synopsis and query letter for any book-length manuscript. This saves time, headaches and costs for our clients who decide to approach publishers and agents. Obviously, this won’t work when hiring on an hourly basis, nor for clients who plan to self-publish, but many of our clients appreciate it. If you plan to self publish, you might ask for back-cover text as a bonus.

NEGOTIATE A FLEXIBLE PAYMENT PLAN:I should not that this won’t reduce your overall costs, and in some cases it might increase costs (like leasing a car costs more than buying it, even though monthly payments are less). But if cash flow is an issue, if you have only a certain amount of funds available each month, this might be for you. We usually request payment in thirds, but we have put clients on a monthly payment plan when asked. Our golden rule is that until we receive payment, the writer does not begin work. So when payment comes in monthly, it means the work flow follows the same schedule. I personally believe this is disruptive to the creative process, as the writer must stop and hold back at times when she is on a roll. But if your cash flow is limited, this might make sense.

Communicating with your ghostwriter

BE EMAIL ACCESSIBLE:Ghostwriters frequently have questions for clients. It saves a lot of disruptions if the writer can fire off a quick email and have it answered in a timely manner. Email saves a lot of time , because phone calls inevitably take longer and they often take time to set up, not to mention the distraction of trying to set up phone meetings. There is a cost to using the phone, and that cost is paid in both time (money) and distraction (manuscript quality).

BE PHONE ACCESSABLE: Yes, this contradicts what I said in the point above. Except that some question just are not simple enough to answer by email; sometimes the writer will have to probe. If you are easy to access by phone, you can cut down on telephone tag (and if you are email accessible, it is much easier to set up phone meetings).

LISTEN: Listen to your ghostwriter when she suggests a new story direction…it may cost you less in revision in the long run! You might have a good reason to go in another direction, but a professional ghostwriter also has a pretty good pulse on what publishers are looking for.

Many thanks to Debra, Heather, Kristin and Kathryn, four of our senior writers, for their assistance in putting this list together.

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Top Ten Tips To Make Sure This Sign is Not About Your Screenplay

While this is an “only in L.A.” billboard, having your screenplay unsold is a worldwide reality for many anguished writers. We know your pain. We offer you our hard-earned bits of wisdom to make sure you can prove Chase Bancorp’s marketing and advertising department wrong.

1. Read screenplays. SimplyScripts.com, the Internet Movie Script Database, and DailyScript.com all have a plethora of screenplays. You can learn as much from reading the scripts for B-movies as you can “Chinatown”. You’ll see how screenplays are constructed. A tip: Don’t put camera angles in scripts just because you saw them in shooting scripts. That happens once the producer buys your script and/or hires you to write another script. Similarly, the long blocks of description in, say “Spartacus” may have worked in 1960, but not today.

2. Proofread your script or hire someone to do it. This may sound obvious, but typos indicate a lack of professionalism.

3. Learn structure from Syd Field, Robert McKee, Linda Seger, Aristotle, and Chris Soth.

4. Too personal? Don’t assume everyone cares about your alcoholic parents or that you were raised by circus midgets — unless you can make it funny and commercial. “A boy starts his own circus to escape alcoholic circus midgets,” on the other hand, might inspire an agent or development executive to laugh. “But that’s not how it happened” shows a lack of imagination. Give yourself permission to rewrite your life — or someone else’s, if you have the rights to the story.

5. Have a clear protagonist (hero) with a clearly defined goal. Who is your lead character and what does he/she/it want? If you have an ensemble piece, you still have to have one main character — at least for casting purposes.

6. Don’t have your antagonist drown puppy dogs and steal money from orphans. A great villain, or even a great antagonist who’s not necessarily a villain, has motives for what he/she does. For example, Bill of “Kill Bill Vol. 1″ and “Kill Bill Vol. 2″ keeps the Bride, aka Black Mamba, alive instead of having her murdered by stealth because of his honor code. Although this gives the Bride time to plot her revenge against the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, Bill has his own motives for allowing her to do so.

Similarly, in “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” Vice-Principal Gene Wolters doesn’t decide to cut Mr. Holland’s music classes because Vice-Principal Wolters hates music and teenagers or wants to hurt Mr. Holland (although he admits to jealousy). His stated motive (supported by hisactions) is, “I care about these kids just as much as you do. And if I’m forced to choose between Mozart and reading and writing and long division, I choose long division.” Even if Mr. Holland (and the viewer) feels that the decision is wrong, Vice-Principal Wolters has a motivation that stems from who he is: an administrator who feels he is doing is best with the resources he has.

7. Assume your audience is intelligent. Remember your alcoholic circus midgets? Don’t have your hero sit around and talk to his circus buddies (unless they’re circus animals) about how unhappy he is with his situation. Show us in a brief scene or two why the hero must change his circumstances, why he must start the circus. You don’t need to show us scene after scene of the circus midgets mistreating your hero. Give your hero other obstacles and smaller goals that complicate the quest — he needs to smuggle his favorite elephant out of the circus, for example–but watch the budget, you may have to change the elephant to a dog that wants to be an elephant.

8. Write more than one script. Your first screenplay is usually practice. Your second, third and fourth scripts are, most likely, practice. It’s usually a good idea not to send out your first screenplay.

9. Nonhuman characters must have their own personality and motivations. Pixar does brilliantly at this. “Wall-E” takes a nonhuman robot that barely speaks, and creates an endearing character who wants to escape his loneliness. The rabbits in “Watership Down” are far from happy, cute and cuddly bunnies. Some of them scheme and some behave like tyrants.

10. Hire a pro. To make sure your screenplay hits the right beats, that the format looks perfect, and that you have your pitch, e.g. alcoholic circus midgets, hire a professional ghostwriter who can (a) edit your dialogue/formatting or (b) polish your screenplay. Get an independent evaluation.

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High Blood Pressure Hits Amazon.com

Our ghostwriting and editing team has helped another expert travel that exciting and challenging road from expert with important advice to published author. Dr. Chad Rhoden’s new book Bringing Down High Blood Pressure is now available for pre-ordering from Amazon.com .


Learn straightforward solutions you can incorporate both immediately and in the long term. Focusing on lifestyle factors readers can change, Dr. Rhoden weighs in on alternative therapies for reducing blood pressure, while Sarah Schein brings her dietary expertise to the table with practical advice on nutrition, tips for healthy food selection and preparation, and 70 tantalizing recipes each with its own nutritional breakdown.


Kristin Johnson was the writer helping Dr. Rhoden find the right words to express the ideas and information he is conveying – vital information that everybody should read for their own health.

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The Frugal Book Promoter: Review

Authors who help, support and educate other authors are to be admired. This is the aim of the Book Publicists of Southern California IRWIN Award-winning book The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, a wonderful author and friend to authors who understands the need for authors to maximize their resources, especially in today’s economy.

I had the honor to review the book for MyShelf.com, and the review, reprinted for this blog, has become popular. MyShelf.com, founded in 1998, is a high-traffic and award-winning Web site that does a tremendous service to reading, literature, readers and writers. The dynamically designed and attractive site offers a plethora of thoughtful and thorough reviews (by a passionate corps of volunteers, several of whom have publishing credits and a desire to contribute their talents)  and Holiday Reading Lists, as well as monthly columns that explore literary genres and subgenres.  Each month it brings the love of the written word into homes and businesses with a newsletter and a network of discussion lists that are no doubt eager for their dose of MyShelf.com’s literary magic. Many thanks to MyShelf.com and to Carolyn Howard-Johnson!

The original review also included an Author of the Month interview.

The Frugal Book Promoter
How To Do What Your Publisher Won’t 
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
August 2004
ISBN: 1-932993-10-X

When Joyce Spizer’s Irwin Award winner Power Marketing Your Novel debuted in 2000, writers everywhere realized how much they didn’t know about book promotion.  How effective is Spizer’s book?  Even stellar promoter/self-publisher Dan Poynter gave it raves. After reading Spizer’s book I thought I’d need no other book on book marketing.

I was wrong.

Novelist/poet/columnist/reviewer Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s new book, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won’t, picks up where Spizer leaves off.   Armed with both Spizer and Howard-Johnson, writers can actually capture book sales.

Do you know about writing book reviews and articles–often for free–to get your name and your book out there in the press and, more importantly, into the minds of the vampire fans/bodice-ripper devotees/true crime aficionados you want to capture? 

Harlan Ellison once famously said, “Don’t give it away!”  As Howard-Johnson explains, you aren’t giving anything away, although with mailings, you’ll be spending your own money.  Oh, and creating a press kit.  And doing your own Web site.  Don’t have one yet?  Get one.  Send out advance review copies–your publisher won’t.   For that, you’ll need your own media contact list.

Howard-Johnson offers a hot tip that even seasoned writers forget: Meet the media face to face, from the crime beat reporter to the lady who writes a gardening column–for that matter, you can start your own column.  Or blog.  (If you’re working up to that, Howard-Johnson advises doing the next best thing, using Amazon.com to promote yourself, by writing reviews, lists in Listmania, and “So you’d like to…” guides, features I only began using as marketing weapons after my third book came out).  But when you take a breather from all this promoting, invite your neighborhood reporter to lunch. Howard-Johnson makes the point that relationships sell books.

Oh, and when you’re writing articles and reviews, don’t forget to add your tagline with information about your book, like my sample tagline in this review.  Free publicity may not be free, but you can start spending your publicity dollars wisely by buying The Frugal Book Promoter.

For more information, visit http://carolynhoward-johnson.com/.

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Editing gone too far

In the previous post, Kristin itemized ten key things to tell your editor.  A good editor is important to your success.  You want to make sure your words, tone and method of rolling out the story are consistent.  You want the action to feel real.  You want the characters to feel real.  And you want to remove unnecessary words that far too many people put into their writing. 

However, please don’t take this to government-secrecy extremes…

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Ten Critical Things to Tell Your Editor

“Black eyes” have been around forever. EEI Communications’ Editorial Eye newsletters feature reader-submitted black eyes, or mistakes in print. Imagine those mistakes on your cake, and you have the inspiration for 10 Unfortunate Cakes, which in turn inspired this blog post.

A birthday cake with a misspelled name or worse can be eaten without too much fuss (it is a cake, after all), but a manuscript filled with errors and contradictions is quite embarrassing. When you’re working with an editor, such as the ones here at The Happy Guy Marketing, or with a book editor, here are ten crucial ingredients to ensure that your book turns out in a way that does you and your subject credit.

Always tell your editor:

  1. The exact spelling of your name, or any important name in the book – especially in nonfiction. Just ask Geri in the article.
    Many ways to spell Geri

    Many ways to spell Geri

    The spelling of the name should be consistent throughout. The exception might be if you’re tracing a family name or noting errors in the recording of a name over time, in which case the editor should be alerted.

  2. Any important dates that need to be kept consistent.
  3. Precise place names. Angola, Indiana is different than the African nation.
  4. Foreign-language words, which can be embarrassing if misused. For example, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used the wrong Russian word with her gift of the “Reset” button. (As an aside, Opechatka is Russian for ‘typo’).
  5. Any obscure term thrown in, such as a German beer law in a food article.
  6. Correct quote attributes. For example, a writer could write, “John Wayne said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’” Actually, the famous quote by Patrick Henry reads: “It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
  7. Any information from the Internet that is not yet verified.
  8. Whether or not your controversial scientific book has been peer-reviewed (vetted for accuracy). Medical terms always need to be checked.
  9. Photo captions that need to be checked. RegretTheError.com has some fine ones.
  10. Any copyrighted material that you need permission to use. You can slip in a poetic quote, but the editor might not realize that you’re copying Ella Fitzgerald’s lyrics. No joke. “Fair use” is misunderstood.

I can’t guarantee that writing and editing your book will be a piece of cake. However, communicating with your editor (and proofreader) will ensure that when you’re showing off your book to agents and publishers, you can feel proud of your book. A publishing contract will be…the icing on the cake!

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Social Bookmarking – the indispensable tool for writers

Whether you write novels or blog posts, marketing materials or business books, articles or self-help books, the Internet provides a wonderful resource for writers, and no aspect of the Internet provides such a versatile writer’s toolset as social bookmarking websites like Digg and Propeller and Zoomit. Some of the uses of social bookmarking website might be obvious to you; others I am sure you have never thought of. Without further ado, here are the ways a writer can harness the tremendous power of social bookmarking.

Understand how people think – headlines

You don’t have to spend very long on a website like Digg to see that there are certain headlines that attract more attention than others. There are a number of variables in the Digg algorithm, but obviously the headline plays a big role in a site where users vote on the popularity of the content. Take a look at the stories that make it “popular” (on the home page of Digg or on the main page of any of its major categories) to see what really works. 

Study the chapter headings of the posts with the most votes, and you will understand how to pique people’s interest. A few of my own observations:

  • First ever items attract interest
  • Precision attracts interest (“Seven ways to…” works better than “How to…”
  • Sex sells
  • Shock sells
  • Titles that appeal to topics of interest, even if the topic of the item is a little off
  • See what other patterns you can discern

These lessons will be most useful to marketing writers and blog writers, but really they are important for anyone writing a book or article on pretty much any subject. Headlines always have been critical to drawing the reader into the article or chapter.

Understand how people think – comments

It’s one thing to understand how people react to headlines, it’s another to see how they react to the content. For that, it’s worth reading the comments they leave at websites like Digg, because members often feel safe in their anonymity to say what’s really on their mind. Sometimes this leads to great thoughts; other times to pure rudeness.

If you want full-fledged, raw rudeness (say that ten times fast) try Reddit. There is more anonymity there (no avatars, less internal communication and relationship-building) and you’ll find sharper comments. I was going to post an image here, but let’s just say that if you are sensitive about language, you’ll thank me for not doing so.

For more polite option, try Propeller. But don’t get caught up in judgments; understanding the full range of reactions to various types of topics is a great way to understand your audience or even to develop characters (in the case of fiction). Uncensored feedback is gold.

If you are a blog writer, you’ll probably have encountered some reactions to your writing. Studying the comments on websites like Digg, Reddit and Propeller gives you insight into a wider range of reactions to a wider range of writing. It’s worth spending the time.

Research topics

Want to know what topics are of interest to a certain audience? Study the topics that make it popular within various categories at Digg and Reddit, or at specialty social bookmarking websites, such as Tipd for financial topics.

Research details

I won’t tell you that everything you find on social bookmarking websites is the most accurate; writer beware. But I will tell you that the most exciting and most popular sources are all there, and you might as well use information that the people have said they like – the stuff that really engages the reader – when you do your research.

Research reactions

Not to get too repetitive, but just as reading comments can give you an understanding of how people react to various kinds of information, studying comments on specific topics can give you an idea of how people will react to specific things you might write. Yes, you may now take out the eraser and rewrite that paragraph that might draw ridicule.

Seek feedback

I know writers who have built up a bit of a feedback circle. They post their poetry and prose, usually to Digg, and people let them know what they think. This extra feedback from people beyond their real-life circle helps them improve their writing and know when they have a winner. Here’s an example of feedback that MyscticDave received for one of his works (Click the image for the complete submission).

Promote your writing

And social bookmarking websites are the ideal place to promote your writing. This is obvious for blog writers, but you can also promote your book, chapters of your book, poetry and articles. Here is an example of an article that EnglishChick was able to share with social bookmarking (Click the image for the complete submission).

There are a number of other great social bookmarking websites, like Zoomit for Canadians and Mixx and Plime. For research, you don’t need to even join any of these websites. However, to really promote or get a decent amount of feedback for your writings, you need to get involved by voting for and commenting on the submissions of others and marking people as friends.

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Political Speechwriters Must Leverage Authenticity

What is the most important feature of a political speech?
  • Ideas?
  • Vision?
  • Alliteration?
  • Emotion?
  • Leadership?
  • Credibility?
No. No. No. No. No. No.  Authenticity is the key on which all of the above rest.  Our speechwriters capture the essence of who you are.  This is the one key ingredient that makes a political campaign successful – an ingredient most candidates overlook. 
Consider these two examples:
George Bush became President of the USA despite sounding hokey, despite malapropisms, despite the mockery of the media elite.  Why did so many people vote for a man that, even to this day, faces scorn and derrision in the media?  Why did they vote for him twice?  Because his hokey style was authentic.  People felt they could trust him, that he was revealing himself to them.  He was not pretending to be someone he was not.
Barak Obama was not supposed to succeed George Bush as President of the USA.  A lot of people forget this, but two years ago everyone was asking whether the United States would have its first female President.  Not to take anything away from Hillary Clinton, but she failed the authenticity test.  People felt she was trying too hard and was not revealing her soul to them.  Barak Obama, however, bared his soul.  People felt he was real.  People felt he was authentic.  Even people who usually didn’t vote, even people with racial concerns, even people with differing views warmed up to him — enough to make him President.
Not every speechwriter can create authenticity.  For that, the writer has to be able to capture the “you” in you.  She will need more than just information, she will need to understand you. Our speechwriters take the time and effort, and they have the skills to craft a speech the displays not just vision and leadership, but your authenticity.  Your audience will feel the connection and will warm up to you, not just to your message.
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New Year’s Resolutions for your Ghostwriting Project

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:

  1. Are You Ready For a Ghostwriter?
  2. Working With your Ghostwriter
  3. How Ghostwriters Can Help You Get Published

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:

  1. Read about ghostwriters
  2. Investigate ghostwriting agency
  3. Begin gathering thoughts and any documents (for fiction as well as nonfiction)
  4. Contact ghostwriting agency
  5. Discuss project with ghostwriter by phone or e-mail
  6. Organize ideas with clustering techniques
  7. Ask your ghostwriter about publishers, agents, producers

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.”

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Bigger royalties on their way?

I am reminded of the note I read about this a couple months ago.  Publishing giant Harper Collins rolled out a new imprint called Harper Studios, including ten books planned for celebrity chef Emeril.  What is unique about this imprint is that even for a fancy name like Emeril, they are not paying advances.  Instead, they plan to increase royalties to as much as 50%.  Royalties have traditionally been around 15%.

This is a big change, and if other publishers cleverly follow suit, it will dash a lot of dreams of big up-front advances.  Of course, every couple weeks we are told by a prospective client that they want us to find them a publisher who will provide a hefty advance…

1.  We write, we are not literary agents.

2. Publishers are doing you a favor by risking their necks on an unknown author.  They are not going to give you a big advance.

As Harper  Collins spokesman Robert Miller says, “Advances have skyrocketed but sales haven’t grown.”  Authors will have to convince not just the publisher of the value of printing their manuscript, but also the public of the value of reading it.

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A tale of two clients – so you want to get published.

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!

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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:

  1.  Not everyone enjoys reading screenplays—especially not producers and agents. This is because they usually have a stack of scripts to read and each year 50,000 scripts are registered with the WGA (Writers’ Guild of America). I do enjoy reading screenplays.
  2. Screenplays have to be minimalistic. Emotion has to be conveyed through dialogue and action, unless you have voiceover. Plot is sometimes conveyed through details—a sign, a phone call, a UFO suddenly descending. In that respect, writing a screenplay teaches you how to write fiction: show, don’t tell. However, novels can have diversions, side trips, and moments that, because of tiem constraints, wouldn’t make the cut.
  3. There are many times when telling/painting what a character is feeling and thinking is important. Example: Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the City”. What would the TV show and movie be without Carrie’s voiceover columns dishing about her friends’ adventures? In a novel, you can be Carrie Bradshaw. Nicholas Sparks and J.K. Rowling convey characters’ interior emotions and thoughts—in J.K. Rowling’s case, usually all Harry Potter’s.
  4. A novel gives you the opportunity to explore characters beyond the confines of a movie frame. In the case of MERCEDES, we could explore the thoughts and motives of some unsympathetic characters such as the title heroine’s first husband Dirk or another character named Helga, a Nazi supporter in 1930s Germany. We could add chapters and scenes in a point of view other than the heroine’s. A screenplay is told chiefly through the protagonist’s POV. By that I mean everything revolves around the protagonist. The screenplay is about the main character wanting something and achieving or failing to achieve it. The antagonist (not necessarily a villain) or group of antagonists (in Mercedes’ case, her ex-husband and the Nazis) acts against the protagonist, but is not the star of the story—even though the antagonist must be compelling, such as the shark in “Jaws” or Major Strasser in “Casablanca” (although you could argue Rick Blaine is his own antagonist), or even, in a comedic sense, Robert De Niro in “Meet the Parents”. Robert De Niro, as the father of the woman Ben Stiller loves, is the antagonist who threatens to keep them apart. In a novel, you can explore other POVs. Fantasy epics such as the Wheel of Time series by the late Robert Jordan excel at this.
  5. A novel allows you to “connect the dots” and talk about what a screenplay doesn’t express—within reason. After all, “Chinatown” says plenty when Jake Gittes confronts Evelyn Mulwray and produces the explosive revelation, “She’s my sister and my daughter!” However, many people get frustrated and think, “What was he thinking? Why did she do that? They never explored this, they never explained that,” and so on. Having sat through many movies with some of my friends, these are the questions I frequently have asked and heard. We don’t need to be spoon-fed, but some movies just defy understanding. Much of that may not be the scriptwriter’s fault. The editing and directing play a huge role. The studio certainly plays a role. In a novel, you are the producer and director—even though you may have to answer to a publisher and certainly you follow the client’s wishes. In MERCEDES, we could explore the relationship between the heroine’s father and his best friend. We could get into the head of Rick Willson, the man who wants to interview Mercedes for (surprise) a screenplay, and learn why he is doing what he’s doing.
  6. With freedom comes challenges. For example, we decided against a passage I had written regarding one of the characters’ experiences as a driver in post-WWII London. I spent too much time on incidental background that didn’t ehance character or story. It’s easy to get sidetracked, although explorations can sometimes yield different possibilities that a ghostwriter might pose to the client. However, the client is, as always, the one who has final say.

In a future blog post I’ll talk about “Identity Crisis: Helping the Client Decide If It’s a Novel or a Screenplay”.

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