In Your Corner : Do I need a ghostwriter?

How do you know if it’s time to seek out a ghostwriter to help you complete your book?  And what all is involved in the process of ghostwriting, anyway?  Is it really any different from detailed copyediting?

If you’re asking these questions, I hope what I write here will help to answer at least a few of them.

As with any writing venture, ghostwriting is a unique experience that presents unique challenges in addition to unique benefits.  You won’t ever find me pretending otherwise, just as you won’t find me beating around the bush when it comes to recommending a thorough and professional edit of your manuscript once it’s been written––and just as I held no punches when I worked to draw a dividing line between copyediting and proofreading in my blog post two weeks ago.

So, what is ghostwriting?  It is, according to the “Publishing” page on About.com, “the practice of writing for and in the name of someone else. It is most commonly associated with book publishing, but today it is also widely used in public relations, corporate communications, social media, and many other industries and fields that are producing greater and greater amounts of written content.”  Many of our most prolific “superstar” genre specialists, like John Grisham and Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts (and so on and so on to infinity) employ a combination of understudies, assistants or secondary writers, and ghostwriters.  They are called upon to generate, quite simply, too much material for a single human being to keep pace.  But many if not most niche storytellers––whether famous or indie, traditionally published or self-publishing––lead hectic and busy lives that keep them from writing the books that they want to.  We just can’t ignore the fact that self-publishing authors deserve to know that there is another option out there for them!

ghostwriting

The process is relatively simple: most ghostwriters work on a contract or freelance basis for companies like Outskirts Press, so the fastest way to get yourself set up with an accomplished and expert ghostwriter is to go through one of these established websites.  Perhaps the best reason of all to go with someone who has been vetted and proven trustworthy is this: ghostwriting is, at its core, a collaborative venture between you (the author) and your ghostwriter.  How you choose to work depends more on you and what your vision for a piece demands than it does on time constraints, or one hopes for such a truth in a perfect universe.  (Being too rushed for time to go it alone is a wholly valid reason to hire a ghostwriter!)

Ghostwriting has been around awhile.  Long enough, in fact, that industry supergiants like Forbes have taken a look at it––and, circling back to my comment about collaboration:  In this article for Forbes, contributor Sydney LeBlanc writes that “you can turn [your] entire book project over to the writer (research and writing) or you can provide research, notes, periodicals, etc that will help the writer.”  That’s one option, but “You can also have regular ‘interviews’ with the writer who will take notes or record conversations with you about the topic. The writer will write draft chapters for you to review, edit, or make suggestions.”  LeBlanc says that, ultimately, “There are many ways to work with a ghostwriter; it all depends on what is convenient or best for you and what is in your budget.”  (Emphasis mine.)

Hopefully this is enough to convince you that seeking out a ghostwriter is a simple and easy thing to do, and that therefore we can move past one of several possible obstacles to taking that course of action!

(PERSONAL ASIDE & RANT: Enough with the stigma, already!  Everyone’s writing method looks different, anyway, so why do we feel guilty over choosing to bring someone else in on the process?  Let’s celebrate diversification through collaboration rather than taking ghostwriting as a marker of a lack of creativity!)

So, how do you know it’s time to start researching ghostwriting as a viable option for your book?  Well, here’s a simple rule of thumb: if you can answer all or even most of the following questions with “yes,” then it might be time:

  1. Are you overworked, overstressed, or overcommitted?
  2. Do you have a story to share?
  3. Do you need a little help developing your ideas beyond the outline or draft stage?
  4. Do you believe in artistic collaboration?
  5. Can you trust the ghostwriter you pick to do justice to your vision?

Here’s where ghostwriting diverges from that other industry-specific term, “copyediting” : a copyeditor’s job is to take a finished draft and polish it up for final publication.  A thorough copyedit involves more than just shuffling commas around, but it won’t substantially change the core content of a piece.  Ghostwriting, on the other hand, involves the conceptualization and generation of a great deal of new material.  Your ghostwriter becomes your collaborator and your partner in crime, your sounding board and scribe.  Ghostwriters become folded into your stories, and it is in their best interest as paid professionals to deliver the best service they can––but if you’re both lucky, your ghostwriter might even become your ally and friend.  And what could be better than that?  Writing can be such an isolating experience, but I’d like to assure you as I do each and every week:

 

You’re not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner : Decoding the Divide Between Copyediting and Proofreading

Have you ever wondered what, exactly, is the difference between “copyediting” and “proofreading” your manuscript––and whether you ought to invest money into paying someone else to help you with one or the other?  I’ve worked with many, many self-publishing authors who have asked this exact question, and over the years I have compiled what I hope to be an answer that is both comprehensive and workable for you.  So what exactly do these two terms mean?  Let’s start with proofreading.

PROOFREADING is a catch-all term for the kind of feedback you might receive when submitting an annual financial report to your teammates or supervisor for final checks before it lands on the desk of your company’s board of directors.  That is, a proofreader generally conducts a line-by-line review of your piece with an eye for spelling, punctuation, spacing, and syntactical issues in addition to double-checking your numbers and figures are accurate and correctly used.  Proofreading is an intensive and often gut-wrenching process, but it only touches on what many authors call “superficial details”––details that may cause a reader to become stuck or bothered while thumbing through your book, but aren’t likely to require substantial revision of really “core” material.  It’s all about correcting little glitches.

COPYEDITING, on the other hand, is an altogether wilder animal.  A copy editor will look at your grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and syntax––but won’t stop for breath before diving into your manuscript format, bibliographies, references, and citations (particularly if you’re writing nonfiction).  And that’s just the beginning!  A copy editor’s job encompasses many of these finer details, it is true, but it also entails sifting through endless details that you as an author are likely unaware of or don’t have the time and/or expertise to address without sacrificing valuable writing time.  Latin abbreviations?  Check.  Foreign words?  Double check.  Proper use of quotations?  Absolutely.  Because a copy editor is working alongside the author throughout the manuscript revision process––not just showing up to make final checks before printing, like a proofreader––he or she is in a good position to comment on much more comprehensive changes, like addressing continuity errors, inconsistencies in characterization, and matters of organization.  A copy editor keeps the big picture in mind when recommending changes.

And therein lies a key difference between copyediting and proofreading: proofreaders swoop in at the last minute and fix things before they go to press without altering the greater framework of a pieces, whereas copy editors work with you throughout the revision process both to fix minor details and to suggest further revisions that you as an author may or may not be interested in making.  A pronoun/antecedent error is always going to be an error, but some things come down to a matter of taste, and you have to determine whether or not to make certain changes based on what your original (and ongoing) vision for the piece happens to be.

copywriting vs. proofreading

With these differences in mind, how do you as a self-publishing author decide what services your book actually requires, and how do you go about choosing someone to meet those requirements?  In large part, the decision may come down to time.  And by that, I mean that it may come down to what stage of the writing process you are at.  Have you already finished your manuscript and brought it to a stage that you consider fully complete and polished?  If you have, and you are looking to publish immediately without entertaining the possibility of substantial revision or editing, then you probably need to look into hiring a proofreader to scan through your work for typographical errors and so forth.  But if you have a little time, and you’re looking to publish the best possible book that creates the most memorable and pleasant experience for your readers, I cannot recommend a professional copyedit enough.  There is literally nothing, in my opinion, that will set you and your book up for ultimate success than the insight of an expert whose trained eye and experientially-honed intuition may prove to be both your staunchest ally and your secret weapon in differentiating your book from all the others out there.  And that’s really what success in self-publishing (or any kind of publishing) boils down to, isn’t it?  You want your book to stand out from the pack, and there’s no better way to do that than bringing a copy editor in on the process.

I must admit that I am not entirely unbiased when it comes to this conversation––I do work for a hybrid self-publishing company that offers professional copyediting services, after all––but I do believe that the facts and the canon of success stories in self-publishing bear me out as truthful, transparent, and utterly in your corner on this particular subject!  Because when push comes to shove, it’s not about what I want for your book that matters, much less about the bottom line and making a profit.  It’s about realizing your dream and your vision for your book, and communicating that vision to your readers in the most beautiful, professional, and captivating finished product possible.  This is your book––and most importantly of all:

You’re not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

6 Self-Publishing Don’ts

Unfortunately, some people have a negative perception of self publishing. This is because some self-publishing authors make detrimental mistakes that prevent their books from being taken seriously. If you want to be seen as a professional author with a successful book, be sure to avoid these six self-publishing don’ts:

1. Don’t attempt to create print-ready files if you don’t already possess that particular skill set.

You’re a writer; not a book designer.  Leave this task to the professionals and focus your time on writing and promoting your book.

2. Don’t skip the professional copyediting.

No matter how great of a writer you are, you cannot edit your own work! It is too easy to miss mistakes because you are too familiar with your work. This task requires a professional.  It is worth paying for professional editing services .

3. Don’t skip the custom cover design.

Most readers judge a book by its cover, so having an eye-catching, quality cover that professionally represents your book is essential. Most template covers will look and feel like a cookie cutter design, even if you make small changes to it.  Invest in a professionally designed, dynamic custom cover unique to your book.

4. Don’t forget the back cover text.

Once you are ready to self-publish your book,  one of the first things you’ll be asked for is your back cover synopsis and author biography. Don’t just throw something together without much thought!  Readers will look at this and determine whether or not they should buy your book.

5. Don’t rush.

Sure, you are excited to self-publish your book, but don’t rush. Producing a quality book  takes time. Be patient now, and you will be glad you did once you have a book to be proud of.

6. Don’t give up.

Some authors get so overwhelmed by all the options available to them when choosing a self-publishing company that they just give up. That doesn’t have to be you. Do your research, spend some time thinking about the decision, and then trust your gut. Don’t let fear stop you.

There are many great self publishing success stories! You can be one of them by avoiding these mistakes.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Professional Copyediting is a Self-Publishing Must-Do

Many authors ask me questions like “Do I really need to hire an editor?” and “I had my friend who is an English teacher read it. That counts as editing, right?” While having friends, family, colleagues, and even your writing group is a great way to get feedback on your manuscript, it does not replace the need for a professional copyedit.

Many services offered by self-publishing companies could be considered optional depending on your goals and personal skills. Copyediting is not one of those services I consider “optional;” authors who want their work to polished and professional must hire a professional copyeditor.

So how is a copyedit different than having trusted friends and family read your book?

1) Copyediting requires special skills.

Even friends who are writers or teachers probably don’t have the training necessary to perform a quality edit. (Unless you happen to be friends with a copyeditor.) Copyediting is different than proofreading. The copyeditor doesn’t just look for obvious spelling and grammar mistakes. He or she also corrects style issues, picks up on inconsistencies, and corrects less obvious mistakes.

2) They can look at your work objectively.

Writers who self-edit their work often miss mistakes and inconsistencies because they are too attached to the story. They know what they are saying, so they don’t read through the eyes of a reader who doesn’t know the story. Similarly, friends and family may be afraid of hurting your feelings or be to proud of your work to review it objectively. Copyeditors don’t have a personal attachment to your story and review the manuscript as a professional rather than a friend.

Before you hire a copyeditor, it important to remember these tips:

  • Proofread and spell-check your work before sending it to an editor.
  • Remember that editors are human and many work with about a 5% margin of error.
  • There are different levels of editing intensity: basic, moderate, and extensive. (Basic copyediting typically catches about 70% of errors in a manuscript.)
  • As a self-publishing author, don’t focus on what the editor didn’t find, but rather what was found.
  • Review your manuscript again after you receive it from the editor to check for errors they may have missed.

While copyediting won’t make your book flawless, it will substantially increase the quality and professionalism of your book.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

The Cost of Self Publishing

In trying to contemplate the “most asked” question by authors considering self publishing, it is difficult to narrow it down to just one question.  There are several questions that self publishing authors frequently ask. Since I only want to focus on one question in this blog post, I decided to address the common question, “How much will it cost me to self publish my book?” (Don’t worry, I’ll address the other common questions in future posts.)

Authors considering self publishing often want to know how much it will cost to publish their book. My first response: That’s a loaded question.  The answer varies greatly based on the goals and budget of each individual author.

While there is no one size fits all price for self publishing, there is some information that all authors considering self publishing should know before figuring out how much their self publishing project is going to cost:

1) It’s an investment.

You can’t think about the money you will spend on self publishing your book simply as an expense. Instead, think of it as an investment. By putting money into your project, you are creating a book that has a value and will earn a profit. Unless your goal isn’t to make money off the book (yes, some authors have goals other than earning a profit), you need to think like a business person and remember the cliché, “To make money, you must spend money.”

2) Think about what you are getting.

Rather than focusing just on the numbers, you need to think about what the money you are spending will get you. For instance, paying for a customized cover is getting you a unique cover design that will help draw readers to your book and will literally be the face of your project. After all, research shows that readers decide within eight seconds whether or not to purchase a book. Similarly, paying a copy editor will get you a clean, professional manuscript. If there is one service that I suggest all self publishing authors invest in, it is editing!

3) Plan to make a profit.

Many self publishing authors focus on how much is this going to cost them now, instead of thinking how this can make them money in the future. If your goal is to make a profit from your book, you need to create a solid marketing plan. Think of your book as a business. Would you start a business and then not advertise it?  Of course not!  So why would you publish a book and then not market and promote it?   So when you create your self publishing budget, you need to factor in the cost of marketing and promoting your book.

That said… 

In my years of experience in this industry, I would say the average cost range to self publish a marketable book is $2,500-$3,500.  This allows roughly $1,500 for a good publishing package with a custom cover design, plus $500-$1,000 for professional copyediting, plus $500-$1,500 for marketing services.  You will likely spend more on marketing and promoting the book down the road, but this provides a good snapshot of the upfront expenses.

Like I said, there is no one size fits all price. Some authors will spend more than others. The key is to look at your goals, needs, and plans when creating your budget, and don’t forget to consider the value of the investment you are making. Remember, you can’t make money, if you don’t spend money.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

5 Self Publishing Mistakes You Can Avoid

Unfortunately, some people have a negative perception of self publishing. This is because some self publishing authors make detrimental mistakes that prevent their books from being taken seriously. If you want to be seen as a professional author with a successful book, be sure to avoid these five self publishing mistakes:

1)Doing the interior yourself –  You’re a writer; not a book designer.  Leave this task to the professionals and focus your time on writing and promoting your book.

2)Using a template cover –  Most readers judge a book by its cover, so having an eye-catching, quality cover that professionally represents your book is essential. Most template covers will look and feel like a cookie cutter design, even if you make small changes to it.  Invest in a professionally designed, dynamic custom cover unique to your book.

3)Editing the book yourself – No matter how great of a writer you are, you cannot edit your own work! It is too easy to miss mistakes because you are too familiar with your work. This task requires a professional.  Pay for top-notch editing services – this means using a professional editor and not your sister-in-law or next door neighbor.

4)Skipping the back cover –  Once you are ready to self publish your book,  one of the first things you’ll be asked for is your back cover synopsis and author biography. Don’t just throw something together without much thought!  Readers will look at this and determine whether or not they should buy your book.

5)Rushing – Sure, you are anxious to self publish your book, but don’t rush. Producing a quality book (one with a great cover and copyedited pages) takes time. Be patient now, and you will be glad you did once you have a book to be proud of.

There are many great self publishing success stories! You can be one of them by avoiding these mistakes.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

The Benefits of Copyediting for Self Published Authors

Every author, whether self-publishing or traditional publishing, needs an editor. Even authors who work as editors need another editor to review their manuscripts because they know their own writing too well to view it objectively. When you’re too familiar with your own work,  your eye naturally skips over typos and errors. Hiring a copyeditor ensures that all those easy to  make errors are caught.

Additionally, storytelling and expression are different skills from language mechanics. You may be a brilliant storyteller but lack expertise in formatting, punctuation, and book style: That’s where editing comes in. Your editor cleans up the details, while you focus on the creative aspects of your work.

Also, copyeditors look for more than just grammar and spelling errors. They are experts in different styles, such as Chicago style and AP style, and they look for consistency and adherence to style guidelines in your manuscript. If you want your book to be viewed as professional, it must meet the appropriate style guidelines.

When hiring a copyeditor, it is important to note that there are different levels and styles of editing. Basic copyediting is a good choice for many authors, but there are more in-depth editing services available as well. Stay tuned for my upcoming posts explaining the different levels of copyediting.

I’d love to know, why do you plan to hire a copyeditor?

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in   sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services   for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department   is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants;   together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the   book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your   career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist   seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you   on the right path.