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.

The Importance of a Dynamic Back Cover Copy

You’ve finally finished your self-published book, and you can’t wait to share it with readers. But how do you convince them that your book is worth reading? One of the most powerful ways to lure in readers is the back cover synopsis.

Think about when you visit a bookstore. You might be searching in a particular genre or just browsing the entire store for something that catches your attention when the title or cover of a book catches your interest. What do you do next? Most likely, you turn over the book and read the synopsis on the back cover. What is written there influences whether or not you purchase the book.

Now, think about when you are shopping for books online. You probably enter keywords in the search engine. A list of books pop up. The results are based on the keywords found in the book’s title, the author’s name, and the product description. Again, a title or cover catch your attention. What do you do next?

You probably click on the book and read the description. This description is usually the same as the text that appears on the back cover of the book. Just like when you were shopping in a store, this text influences whether or not you decide to purchase the book.

Just as you are influenced by the back cover synopsis when purchasing books, so are your readers. Therefore, it is essential that you take the time to write a compelling, professional back cover synopsis for your self-published book. For more information on writing a great back cover synopsis, check out these posts:

Is Your Back Cover Copy Driving Away Potential Readers?

Five Tips for a Great Synopsis

Copywriting Services in Self-publishing

I’d love to know, how much does the back cover influence your book purchases?

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 Importance of a Compelling Back Cover Synopsis

You’ve finally finished your self published book, and you can’t wait to share it with readers. But how do you convince them that your book is worth reading? One of the most powerful ways to lure in readers is the back cover synopsis.

Think about when you visit a bookstore. You might be searching in a particular genre or just browsing the entire store for something that catches your attention when the title or cover of a book peeks your interest. What do you do next? Most likely, you turn over the book and read the synopsis on the back cover. What is written there influences whether or not you purchase the book.

Now, think about when you are shopping for books online. You probably enter keywords in the search engine. A list of books pop up. The results are based on keywords found in the book’s title, the author’s name, and the product description. Again, a title or cover catch your attention. What do you do next?

You probably click on the book and read the description. This description is usually the same as the text that appears on the back cover of the book. Just like when you were shopping in a store, this text influences whether or not you decide to buy the book.

Just as you are influenced by the back cover synopsis when purchasing books, so are your readers. Therefore, it is essential that you take the time to write a compelling and professional back cover synopsis for your self published book. For more information on writing a great back cover synopsis, check out these posts:

Is Your Back Cover Copy Driving Away Potential Readers?

Five Tips for a Great Synopsis

Copywriting Services in Self-publishing

I’d love to know, how much does the back cover influence your book purchases?

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.

Copywriting Services in Self-publishing

More important than copyright registration for many self-publishing authors is professional copywriting assistance. That’s right, a writing service for writers. This is a step to be completed during the pre-production or production phases of your book in preparation for publication and marketing efforts.

The back cover copy and author biography is second only to a dynamic cover when it comes to motivating a reader to buy. Many talented fiction, non-fiction, children’s book authors are wonderfully just that—talented fiction, non-fiction, etc. writers. Writing sales copy is a different skill all together. It is the art of using words to create hype about a product and convince consumers to spend money. The fact is, most authors of any genre are capable of generating decent sales copy, but don’t like the idea of having to justify or brag about their hard work. Sales copy is an important element in getting books in reader’s hands. The good news is with this service, others can do that work for them.

Look for this optional service when researching and partnering with your self-publishing choice. The content should not be entirely out of your control though. Make sure you can submit your book summary and author biography draft to your publisher who will employ its professional staffers to rework it into shiny, packaged sales copy. Do also make sure you have the option to review and approve the final copy (your content control should not be limited to just your manuscript).

You can then continue to use the powerful copy on your webpage, on your book’s back cover, in media, and virtually anywhere you find a productive venue as your book promotion efforts unfold.


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Copyright and Copywrite in Self-Publishing

Many authors often confuse the terms copyright and copywrite. Both are important elements in quality self-publishing and your publisher should offer both.

Let’s start with copyright – often the source of a deeper misconception. Some may be under the impression that copyright registration is a must prior to submitting their work to a publisher. That is not the case. Protecting your work is a good idea and should be on your radar, but actual registration is not necessary prior to submission.

The Basics: Copyright law provides the creator of a work (manuscript in this case) exclusive rights to control who may copy or create derivatives of that work. When do those exclusive rights take effect? The instant that creative effort is placed in tangible form – the first sentence put on paper. This specific protection was originally drafted under what is commonly known as The Berne Convention (for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works), an international agreement governing copyright law. This agreement has been signed by nearly every major nation including the United States.

So what does official registration with the US Copyright office accomplish? Protection in the event litigation concerning the creative work, or book, arises, the likeliness of which is rare.

Publishers should offer official registration with the US Copyright Office nevertheless. Make sure yours does. It’s a good idea to let them take care of that process through their professional services. Here is how it works: once your book is published your publisher will likely have you submit the required forms to complete the registration process with the Copyright Office on your behalf. Your copyright is registered on the date the Copyright Office receives all the necessary information, regardless of how long it takes them to mail your Copyright Certificate to you. Keep in mind it is taking the Copyright Office roughly 12 MONTHS to mail the certificates and this is a timeframe outside the control of any publisher.

If you have already applied for a copyright don’t wait for that to become official to begin working with your publisher. Remember, your work is already protected, and readers are ready for your book now.

There is a work-around for concerned authors called the “poor man’s copyright”. Simply mail a hardcopy version of your work in a sealed envelope to yourself and keep for your records. The sealed document will contain proof of ownership in a stamped and dated form. This is not a substitute for registration, but provides a measure of temporary protection.

Side note: Titles cannot be copyrighted.


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Importance of Book Cover Copy in Self-Publishing

Readers really do judge books by their covers. That is what your cover is designed to do – communicate the value of all of the great material in between. Keep this in mind when developing your back cover copy and make sure it’s professionally drafted by your self-publishing provider – this is marketing writing; artistic writing.

The BACK COVER COPY is restricted by the size of the book’s back cover.   Ideally, the size of the cover should be taken into account when composing the back cover copy to ensure the ultimate balance between font size and aesthetics. You don’t want too much copy so as to require an illegibly small font. You also don’t want too little copy, leaving big empty spaces on the back cover.   There are three main components to the back cover copy: 1) the headline, 2) the synopsis or marketing copy, and 3) the author biography.  There may also be quotes, cover blurbs, or other testimonials about either the book or the author. In some cases, these cover blurbs may justify more exposure than the summary of the book. Ultimately, the entire back copy should be composed with the goal of getting a browser to become a buyer.  Bullet point and numbered lists are good, effective elements of back cover copy for non-fiction books.  Cover copy for fiction books should demonstrate highly effective prose.

Have fun and keep writing.

– Karl Schroeder

More Copyright Information for the Self-Publishing Author

Copyright infringement is not a pleasant topic. Some self-publishing authors find themselves in trouble without even knowing it, by doing something as innocent as including the lyrics from their favorite songs in their book.

Music is one of the most protected copyrightable works; infringement of copyright can carry heavy fines for which the author is responsible. If you are going to use the lyrics from a song in your book, you will need to have permission from the original copyright holder. This includes cases where you are only using a stanza or two and sometimes even if you are using anything more than a single line.

Only song lyrics created and first published prior to 1923 are in the Public Domain in the United States. If the song was created after that, you will need permission to use it (or parts of it) in your work.

There are two great resources on the Internet for finding the rights holders for most music and song lyrics, from the two leading music entities, ASCAP and BMI, respectively:

http://www.ascap.com/ace/search.cfm?mode=search
http://www.bmi.com/licensing