Mercedes – another ghostwriting success

We are celebrating another ghostwritten book off to the publishers: Mercedes, by Alan Truax.  This one is a thriller epic set in the…oh, why not just read the official synopsis below.  Kristin, one of our best ghostwriters and a frequent blogger here, helped Alan bring this novel to life.

MERCEDES is a multi-generational epic which begins in Germany at the brink of WWII and ends seven decades later in the California Napa Valley wine region. Several memorable characters contribute to this intriguing saga of the human spirit, but the primary protagonist is Mercedes Steinberg, who is born in the backseat of a new 1934 Mercedes Benz Tourenwagon.  The life of this resilient woman, and the car in which she is born, become entwined as she escapes Nazi Germany for a life in London, Paris and California, all the while pursuing her unrelenting quest  to love a daughter the way she was once loved by her parents.  Her dream is simple, but its achievement is not.  But despite many challenges such as living as a Jew in Nazi Germany, a failed marriage, and the deaths of loved ones, Mercedes Steinberg never gives up her dream.  While her story involves the drama of life’s injustices, it also presents the joy that comes from being with those you love, and confirms that the love of family and friends is the best cure to healing the wounds of life’s hardships. And it reminds us that it is never too late to realize one’s dream.

If you wish to pre-order a copy and be one of the first to read Mercedes, just complete the form below and send it to Alan Truax at allynntruax [a] sbcglobal.net  (replace the [a] with @, of course).

MERCEDES

FIRST EDITION ORDER FORM 

Name:

Address:

City:

Sate:

Zip:

E-mail Address: 

Order Quantity
Please send me _____  copy/copies of MERCEDES 

Billing
Bill me a total of $_______ for the quantity of books above at $20 each (includes shipping)

Referral Acknowledgement.
Mercedes was recommended to me by ___________________________
 
Signing Option

No author’s autograph___

Author’s autograph only___

Please address signing to (person’s name):___

Please include specific message (1-3 sentences):
[Example:  Your good friend Mary thought you would enjoy this story.  She and I both wish you a very happy 45th birthday!]

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Yes, Even Warren Buffett Can Be Boring for a Writer

I was reading BARRON’S over the weekend and came across a book review of a Warren Buffett business biography, to which the book’s author was apparently assigned.

Buffett’s Great, This Book Isn’t

What? How could a book about the philanthropist Oracle of Omaha, who saves companies, advises Barack Obama, and refused to get sucked into buying bad mortgage CDOs, be boring?

First off, I am a book reviewer as well as a writer and ghostwriter. Like Andrew Bary, I have struggled in the past to like some books that should have been good. An example of this is BAD BOY BALLMER, an exploration of Microsoft CEO Stev Ballmer. The anti-Microsoft bias damaged the book in my opinion. The author took exception to my review even though I attempted to be positive—because I’ve been in the trenches. I know what a feat it is to complete a book, especially one with a complex subject. One memorable line from the book “Ballmer is large. Ballmer contains multitudes.” I also know what an even bigger coup it is to get a book published, by a major publishing house at that.

And when the subject, such as Buffett, has been extensively written about, and by his own admission doesn’t have any outside interests or juicy stories (the article by Bary admits this), writing an 838-page book (an even more Herculean achievement) is bound to be an uphill task. You are going to annoy some people with the way that you do it and never mind the hours of wishing that you’d never chirpily agreed to take it on, because after all, how hard could it be with a famous subject?

What, you may be asking, does this have to do with ghostwriting? As ghostwriters, we often start out with a subject we think is going to be fabulous, phenomenal, the stuff of dreams and blockbusters. David Leonhardt notes in his post “Ghost writers need to eat, too” that clients often come to us with an idea they think will make a bestseller even though there’s no money now.

I’ve taken on pro bono work because I believed in the cause.

I rarely do it now. 

It’s all too easy to spend hours getting carpal tunnel syndrome and backaches and ignore the outside world, then lose the fire and stubbornly continue because you’re stuck. It happens in our own projects, except we can usually set those aside without guilt. When there are other people involved, it’s harder to clear all moorings and push off from the desert isle of No Name where all once-glittering novels and screenplays languish. I’ve had a few clients/friends realize on their own that they weren’t ready for prime time.

Was the Buffett book this author was commissioned to write ready for prime time? I’m going to reserve judgment, as I haven’t read the book.

I can speak in defense of the author from a purely practical standpoint, however. Once again, I have been there.

I have written about subjects I had no attachment to and could care less about (coin collecting, for example), but had fun with them at times. I have done writing jobs that were so obscure only five people who knew about the subject would be interested. This does not describe any current THGM clients.

Word to ghOStwriters and ghostwriting clients: The most exciting and glamorous subject or personality in the world can become as difficult a project as, to use David’s example, ditchdigging. There are several reasons for this.

  1. The subject is already completely well-known, as with Warren Buffett, Elvis, “Star Trek” (with its legions of love-to-argue fans), Bill Gates, Martha Stewart, Marilyn Monroe, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Marie Antoinette (Antonia Fraser’s book, which inspired a movie, is reputed to have broken new ground). An essay of mine, “Abraham Lincoln, YouTube and History Reconsidered,” excerpedt in a forthcoming Lincoln Bicentennial anthology (NLAPW), reexamines Honest Abe in the context of modern politics. But chances are that your subject has been so well-covered that you might have difficulty finding something new to say–unless you’re interviewing Abe’s ghost.
  2. The subject is completely controversial, or the angle is opposite to the accpeted view, and you are certain to risk offending people, to the point of death threats, government interference and, even worse, media/publisher ostracism. My dear friend Joyce Spizer Foy and Claude Rogers wrote THE CROSS-COUNTRY KILLER about serial killer Glen Rogers, Jr–Claude’s brother. I won’t go into the eye-opening experiences Joyce had in writing and promoting this book that she calls “a blueprint for how to raise a serial killer”.  Joyce and Claude didn’t pull any punches, but many people, faced with a controversial subject, may water down the book or shrink from revealing details that would ruffle feathers. The ghostwriter may be forced to fill pages with regurgitated facts, unless the contract and the personal rapport (and the publisher and/or agent, if applicable) allow the ghostwriter to push for more flexibility.
  3. The subject or the subject’s representatives won’t tell certain facts, or try to impose their own ideas about a book, which may not always be interesting to write, let alone read, and therefore may not be marketable. I’m aware that some poorly written and ho-hum books  have been marketed and sold to publishers and the public because of successful promotion and a sexy subject. However, as ghostwriters and clients we want to aim above that. Right?
  4. The people bankrolling the project or producing/publishing the project have their own agendas, and by the time they’re through designing a horse by committee, the writers are completely burned out and just want to move on to the next gig (or do their own writing on a tropical beach with no cell phones). This is why so many movies start out with a dream cast and a great story and end up boring you to death and/or being panned by the critics (these are not always connected).

I’m not saying that the above apply to the process of writing the new Buffett book.  The BARRON’S article simply struck a chord in me. I hope it’s of some help to my fellow ghostwriters and their current and prospective clients.

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Would you do it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why quality counts

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

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

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

I need a more researched article which focuses following issues:

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

- Some interesting stories / incidents of this industry

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

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

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Beware self-help authors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That oughta solve the problem.

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

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Dead end ghostwriting projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What’s your story?

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, so what’s the plot?”

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

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

“Er … what do you think?” He asked.

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

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

“Character? What character?”

So we went through the notion of character.

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

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

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

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

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

I suggested a few countries.

“It has to be a republic and the …”

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

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

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

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

So what your story?

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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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Should You Self-Publish?

You have a great idea for a book—or a book you and rewritten/polished by a ghostwriter. You have the visions of touching people’s lives, of being mobbed with adoring fans (or people who care passionately enough about your book to argue the inconsistencies endlessly in online forums), of being on “Oprah”.

However, the idea of dealing with submissions, agents and publishers may make you think twice. You don’t want a cast of thousands involved with your book. You want the final say, you want the control over marketing, publicity, book covers and, of course, profits. Yet self-publishing has a stigma attached to it, based on the faulty thought, “Well, if a book is any good, surely a publisher will buy it.”

The stigma persists and ignores the story of a man who wrote a book for his daughters, submitted it to agents and publishers, got the brush-off and self-published it. When he persuaded local bookstores to take the book, the booksellers found that the book became a local bestseller. Simon and Schuster snapped up the book we now know as The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans. The book is good, and a publisher did buy it—but only because Richard Paul Evans persisted and believed in his book.

You might want to self-publish your book for a variety of reasons, even though you’ve hired a ghostwriter to make the book perfect. As good as the best ghostwriter is, the publishers, even the small presses, and the market dictate what gets bought. It’s selelection, not rejection.

The ghostwriter’s job is to make sure people want to read your book once it’s in their hands and they’ve opened the cover to look at Page One. The ghostwriter may or may not, depending on your contract and the agreement you’ve reached, help you with publishing or self-publishing advice. As a ghostwriter, however, my potential reasons for self-publishing are:

  1.  You want a greater share of the profits, bearing in mind that you’ll also assume all the costs (including the ghostwriter fees).
  2. You only want to pay for the books you plan to print.
  3. You want to “test the waters” and see how much demand there is for your book—a limited-release rollout beta-test, as it were.
  4. You want total control over which groups you speak to and what publicity you do (bear in mind that if you want to sell books, 100 percent of the responsibility for publicity is on you, as it usually is for everyone but the big-name authors).
  5. You want total control over the content of the book, right down to whatever proofreader you hire (a proofreader is different than a ghostwriter or editor, and is essential to the finished product). You also assume the risks there, even if you publish under a pseudonym.
  6. It’s your family history or other material so niche-oriented that a publisher wouldn’t accept it.
  7. You can’t wait for a publisher because the material is time-sensitive. For example, if you or someone you love have a life-threatening condition and you want to tell your story to ask for help or to help someone else, you might not want to go through the delays of submitting the book to a publisher or agent. Or the material is about some personal nightmare you’re suffering—for example, medical malpractice (documented) and you want to win public sympathy. (Be certain to check with an attorney.)
  8. You intend to start your own publishing company.

You are probably asking yourself, will a ghostwriter take me on if I announce firmly and decidedly that I want to self-publish? That depends on the ghostwriter. In my case, it’s a firm yes. Other than the satisfaction of completing a job that you’re happy with, I have no ego stake in your book.

In fact, a ghostwriter will probably be pleased to help you prove that old chestnut about self-publishing somehow being inferior wrong, wrong, wrong. To quote screenwriter William Goldman on the movie industry, “Nobody knows anything.” Today’s self-published book may well be tomorrow’s hit or life-changing vehicle.

Don’t assume that a ghostwriter won’t work just as hard to get your book right if you’re self-publishing as if you’re submitting to the William Morris Agency or HarperCollins. Ghostwriters will ask the same of you in return. If you’re determined enough to publish your book yourself, to get an ISBN number, to obtain distribution, to file for copyright and to incorporate your own publishing company, the odds are good that you’re determined to make your book the best it can be by working with us and getting at least three separate people to proofread it. You can be a success.

 And we’ll even coach you the night before you appear on “Oprah”.

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Organizing Your Book: Clustering

Let’s say you work in marketing or you are a manager. Your job calls upon you to write presentations, convincing letters and reports every week. You have a great idea for a business book (or even a sports book, let’s say, if you’re a Yankees fan). However, books are entirely different animals than business communications. Science fiction writer Ben Bova calls writing a book “the long siege”.

You know that you don’t have the time or the motivation to write anything longer than a marketing presentation, so you hire a ghostwriter to spin your marketing, managing or baseball vision into (you hope) bestseller gold. At a minimum, you want your book to connect with people, to affect them in some way and to entertain or inform them.

The problem is, you don’t know how to get started. And after phone calls, e-mails and maybe even a face-to-face meeting, your ghostwriter, who may be juggling several projects simultaneously, has only a vague idea of what you want to say and what the content of the book is.

While ghostwriters have a spooky sort of intuition and a supernatural ability to inhabit your voice so that the words on the page sound exactly like you, ghostwriters are not omniscient or mind-readers. Your ghostwriter will need some direction, some signposts to mark the path from idea to finished book.

As a businessperson, you have probably participated in brainstorming white-board sessions. You can do this on your own, for your book, without a committee looking over your shoulder, thanks to a technique called clustering.

Writers Tristine Rainer (The New Diary, Your Life As Story) and Ellen Sandler (“Everybody Loves Raymond,” The TV Writer’s Handbook) discuss clustering in their books on how to write diaries/nonfiction and television scripts, respectively. Clustering helps you free-associate and gather together all the ideas associated with your main idea.

Here is how I explained clustering recently to someone who sought my advice about how to get started writing a book.

  1. Get a piece of paper — letter size will do, but a long sheet is preferable.
  2. Draw a circle in the center and write your main idea or subject inside it. For example, you might write “baseball marketing” if you decide to combine your passions, say if you use baseball as a metaphor for marketing, or talk about marketing of baseball as a case study,
  3. Without stopping, write down as many ideas as you can that relate to the subjects of baseball marketing, baseball or marketing. They may seem silly or irrelevant. That’s all right! The whole point is to get you thinking. Circle each idea and draw a line from it to the main idea. Sometimes these smaller ideas will relate to each other, so you can connect them with lines or arrows.
  4. When you’ve filled the paper with ideas or you can’t think of any more ideas, review the ideas that you’ve written down. Some of them simply may not make sense or you may not be able to use them. You thought, for example, that you could use all the RBIs (runs batted in)  for your favorite players to illustrate a point about marketing, but it doesn’t work on paper.  Odds are that will save a ghostwriter considerable time and energy in writing that section only to have it slow down the work.
  5. Take one of the ideas, for example “Boss Coach”. This could a be a former boss who always used stories about the Yankees to illustrate points in meetings. Use a separate sheet of paper and repeat the exercise for “Boss Coach”. Your cluster of ideas could help you develop a chapter that shows “Boss Coach” was the leading marketing manager of your company and a motivator of people. “Boss Coach” could even be a main subject of your book, or maybe a clever hook for each chapter who introduces the marketing concepts.
  6. Sometimes those ideas will lead you to the meat of your book. For example, you might discover that Boss Coach’s favorite player was Mickey Mantle. What does Mickey Mantle have to say that can apply to marketing? Could you marry Mickey Mantle with marketing and use that as the focus of the book? Anecdotes about Mickey or highlights from Mickey’s career could serve as the subject for each chapter. If you have Mickey Mantle written down on your original clustering sheet, do another mini-clustering exercise for Mickey Mantle—all his plays, all the marketing wisdom that might be related to those plays, and even low points in his career. You might have to consult an attorney to see if you can legally pursue the Mickey Mantle angle, but if you can, you have the focus for your book.
  7. Consider showing your clustering exercise to the ghostwriter (writers love to learn). You might work with the writer to create an outline based on your Mickey Mantle mini-clustering exercise, and the writer might spot other subtopics in your original cluster.  Or you might produce a rough outline yourself and show it to the ghostwriter. Either way, now the ghostwriter has a clearer, more specific vision of what you want.

One last point: Clustering might help you in your working life while you consult with the ghostwriter. You may find yourself using the technique for marketing presentations when you’re hard-pressed for inspiration and material. It’s something to keep you energized and motivated while you wait for your big break into publishing.

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What’s in a Character?

Character development is a critical part of any story. When a book is being written by a ghostwriter, it is especially important for the client to transmit a clear and concise picture of those individuals they have worked so hard to develop in their mind. Otherwise when the ghost writes the story, the characters may not quite measure up to what the author has envisioned. As the originator of the manuscript, a client usually has a picture in mind of the various people for the story, what they do for a living, what type of person they are, and what is going to happen along the way.  

One of the best ways to transmit this to the ghost is to write a couple of paragraphs about each of the main characters that will be featured in the book. These should include physical characteristics like eye color, hair color, length, and style, height, build, any scars or deformities, and style of clothing worn. This is especially critical in period and fantasy or science fiction manuscripts. 

But don’t stop there. Now that the ghost writer knows what a character looks like physically, he or she is going to need to know some facts about other attributes. Smart or dumb? Brilliant, genius, average intellect, clever, street smart, stupid, dumb-witted, or lacking in common sense? Mean, nice, good natured, funny, stubborn, or evil? What is the relationship to other characters? What about social status? Is the person rich, poor, middle-class? Sometimes it is also important to include where the person is from, birthplace, or connections to other locales. Race, ethnicity, gender, and religious beliefs are more considerations to keep in mind, as these are traits that fascinate many readers.  

 In the case of science fiction/fantasy or horror, the writer also needs to know if the person is human. Various individuals can be anything from a demon, god, or an angel to an alien, elf, dwarf, dragon, gryphon, orc, or even a ghost. An author also has been known to make up an entirely new species previously unknown to any reader. In that case, the writer is going to need a lot more information that not only describes this new species but also gives an excellent frame of reference about how the species accomplishes the tasks set before it and how it thinks and acts. For example, if the new species does not have ears, how does it hear or determine sounds? Does it pick up vibrations that can be translated into meaning? Or maybe it has a squiggly little appendage on top of its head that enables its brain to receive the information and process it into words and actions.  

A ghostwriter needs to know what makes the character unique. Armed with this information, the writer has a much better chance of making the client happy when reading the finished manuscript. Added to that is the goal of catching and holding a readers’ undivided attention in meeting “people of the book.” 

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The Ghost Writers Blog is Ready

We have been planning this for some time.  It just made no sense to occasionally post about writing on the SEO blog, so now we have a dedicated ghost writers blog, which will be run by some of the writers we have been working with the longest.  This is an opportunity for them to dazzle you with their brilliance, provide tips on how to make the most of your ghostwriting project and give some insight into the life of a ghost writer.

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