Who’s Your Ghost?
From nameless entities to book doctors, ghostwriting is a whole new world today. Ghostwriters are not discussed much in the publishing industry, yet they are a vital component. But how do you know if you need a ghost or what type of ghost would work best for you and your manuscript? We will discuss the options and the pros and cons of each so you can decide which ghostly friend to find.
The Invisible Ghost
The traditional ghostwriter arrangement is one where no one knows that you and/or your publisher have employed a ghostwriter. Their name is never anywhere to be found in the book, even on the copyright page or in the acknowledgements. They usually sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and in no way publicize or take any credit for the work in question. They won’t even share their participation with potential clients without another NDA from that client.
This arrangement is very common for celebrities, since publishers want a well-written book but still want the appearance that the celebrity wrote it. It’s also not unheard of for seasoned authors to have great ideas for books but no longer have the desire to write the entirety of the book themselves; meanwhile publishers still want to take advantage of their name recognition. Enter the ghost.
This is the most expensive form of ghostwriting, but with good reason. They are responsible for writing the entire book. They do all the research, they interview the ‘author’, and they are responsible for much of the work required during the editorial process. Ghostwriters here could get a flat fee, a percentage of royalties, or a percentage of royalties as well as an upfront fee. Some ghosts will charge a per word fee, up to $1 per word. When you have a 100,000 word manuscript, this can be a pretty heavy investment.
The Partner Ghost
This new type of ghostwriter relationship has become far more common in recent years. This is where an author partners with a ghostwriter who can assist with the writing of the book. This is common for new authors as well as seasoned authors who no longer want to write exclusively. In this kind of relationship, the ghostwriter gets cover credit. You typically see this listed as J.D. Author with G. Writer. The main author gets primary credit and then in smaller text, you see the partner writer’s name.
This type of relationship ranges widely in costs. Just like in a traditional arrangement, ghostwriters could get a flat fee, a percentage of royalties or a percentage of royalties as well as a small upfront fee (smaller than the traditional ghostwriter’s fee). It all depends on the arrangement the author/publisher and ghost work out.
The Ghost M.D.
There is another type of ghostwriter that has become more common. This one has a variety of names associated with it, but I prefer the term ‘book doctor’. One step up from developmental or substantive editing, the book doctor will take your manuscript and actually rewrite portions for you (rather than leaving the bulk of the rewriting up to you as in the case of editors).
Book doctors, like traditional ghostwriters, often do not get cover credit. They do, however, usually get credit in the acknowledgements, which is not always the case for traditional ghostwriters. Book doctors also have a wide range of upfront fees, usually dependent on the level of work needed, but you can expect it to be more expensive than developmental editing.
The Ghost Named Coach
Okay, I’ll be honest; author coaches are not really ghostwriters. However, they are included here because they can help with your writing skills. If you are not confident in your writing, an author coach can help with the writing process, will give frequent feedback, and should coach you in developing your writing skills.
Author coaches usually charge by the hour or half-hour. Rates range from $50 to $150 an hour. But the good news is that you can use that time in a variety of ways. Finished writing but still have some time with your coach? Ask about the publishing process, develop your pitch, discuss marketing options, or discuss anything else you have questions about.
Who’s your best ghost friend?
Now that you have an overview of some of the options in ghostwriting, how do you tell which is for you? Much of that will depend on your budget as well as how much work and time you are willing to invest. Aspiring authors who want to write a book on their specific expertise but don’t have the time to actually do it themselves should investigate the first two options. If you are willing to write the majority of the work yourself but are unsure of your skill-level or know you need significant help, the latter two options may be best for you. Some really big names in publishing (including most celebrities) have worked with ghosts of some kind. Don’t be afraid to hire a ghost if it fits within your goals and budget.
***First published on OC-Writers.com
Have you ever wondered what your editor isn’t telling you? The little manuscript details that aren’t mentioned in the effort to craft a better story? The points of order that would make your editor’s life that much easier, if only you knew what they were?
There are a number of edits you will probably never notice that your editor makes before she even begins reading your work. They’re so standard, they won’t even be included in the tracked changes. However, if you are looking to improve your writing (and make your editor especially happy), here are five easy editing tips to help you better prepare your manuscript before it hits your editor’s desk. NOTE: All are consistent with The Chicago Manual of Style and assume editing in Microsoft Word; keyboard shortcuts will work on most platforms.
#1 Drop the Double Space
It’s a hard habit to break, but it’s time to drop the double space at the end of a sentence. This is an old holdover stemming from the typewriter days. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with typewriters—I even collect them—but the double space is just not necessary anymore. Computers today can recognize the end of a sentence and automatically program in the correct amount of space. Adding in another space can actually mess with the formatting in your manuscript and especially in writing online.
Having trouble breaking the habit and can’t tell where you’ve used the double space? There is a great feature in both Word and Google Docs under the ‘Edit’ tab called ‘Find and Replace’. In the ‘Find’ field, type in two spaces. In the ‘Replace’ field, type in a single space. Then click ‘Replace All’. Click ‘Replace All’ two or three more times until it yields zero results. Your document is now free of the double space!
#2 Embrace the Oxford Comma
This is a tricky one because it’s not a consistent rule across every style guide. However, the Chicago Manual of Style is the standard for book publishing and it calls for the Oxford Comma—in other words, the use of a comma before the word and in a list of three or more. For example: Writer is such a vague term; I prefer wordsmith, scribe, and inkslinger. However, it should be noted that some other style guides like the Associated Press (AP) Style, only call for it when it prevents misreading.
Unfortunately, there is no easy trick to fix this in Word. This is one tip that you will just need to be aware of when you’re reviewing your own work.
#3 The En Dash–Em Dash Dilemma
The dash system can be complicated. Most beginning writers tend to use a hyphen or a double hyphen with a range of spacing options to represent either the en dash or em dash. Here are a few tips for using both properly and using the correct keyboard shortcut.
En dashes are most commonly used to indicate a numbered range like years (2016–2017), times (11:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m.), or page numbers (6–10). It can also be used to replace the word to; for example, the New York–London flight leaves at 6:15 p.m. Learning when to use these and learning the proper keyboard shortcut can really polish your writing and will definitely save your editor some time. On Mac computers, the shortcut is alt–hyphen (or option–hyphen) and on PC computers, the shortcut is control–hyphen. NOTE: There is no space either before or after the dash, it should be immediately next to the number or letters on either side.
Different than the en dash, the em dash is longer and is commonly used in place of commas, colons, and parentheses to set off an important or explanatory element in a sentence. It can also be used to indicate an abrupt break in thought. Just be careful not to overuse it, especially near another instance of the em dash. Add variety to your writing by using a mix of em dashes with other marks. On Mac computers, the shortcut is alt–shift–hyphen (or option–shift–hyphen) and on PC computers, the shortcut is control–alt–hyphen. NOTE: Like the en dash, the em dash should not be offset with spaces, it should be immediately next to the letters on either side.
#4 The correct ellipsis . . .
Ellipses, while often used correctly, are often formatted incorrectly. This is always one of the first things that editors check. According to The Chicago Manual of Style, ellipses should be formatted as spaced periods. Or in other words, you should type them in as ‘space-period-space-period-space-period-space’ and it should look like this ( . . . ). Also, be sure that if your sentence ends with an ellipsis, you end the ellipsis with a period (for a total of four). WARNING: If you just type three periods, Microsoft Word will autocorrect these incorrectly! Don’t use their auto-formatting option; make sure to type it in manually. NOTE: AP Style handles ellipses differently, so again, make sure to note which style guide you need to follow for different types of writing!
#5 Towards is going nowhere
Another common mistake I see all too often is the addition of an s to toward, afterward, backward, upward, downward, and afterward. In American English, you shouldn’t add an s to any of those words. However, this is not the case for British English where the opposite is true. So unless you’re writing for the British crowd, dropping that s is another way to add a bit of consistency to your writing.
There’s always more to learn
These are just a few quick editing tips, however don’t forget to have a conversation with your own editor(s) about these and similar issues. They can help you identify other areas in your writing where you can improve. Many editors and author coaches offer services beyond editing to help you with your writing skills and help you learn the ins and outs of any style guides you need to master. The publishing industry is complex and ever-changing; there is always more to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
What other common errors have you dealt with in your writing? Do you have any grammar or style questions? Post in the comments and let’s chat!
***First published on OC-Writers.com
Throughout history, it has never been easier to share your story with the world. We are fortunate to live in a society that allows such freedom of expression. Expression that was inconceivable to the average citizen just decades ago in our own country, and that is still restricted in many other countries around the world. It’s easy to forget how lucky we are.
And yet, while there can be much joy and freedom in the ease of publishing your story today, too often I see authors get bogged down in fear. How do they navigate the process of publishing a book? How do they learn the ins and outs of the publishing industry? Will their story interest people? How do they know if their book is well written or if it looks professional? What if people don’t buy it or even see it given all the competition?
929 New Books Each Day
According to the International Publishers Association, the U.S. had 338,986 new books published in 2015 alone (IPA Annual Report 2015 - 2016). That averages out to almost 929 new books each day! So how do you make an impact in a field that is already so flooded with options? The key is simple (in concept, if not in practice)—build your own personal publishing team.
Wait… wait… I know what you are going to say. What if you’re not going with a traditional or even hybrid publisher that provides those services for you? What if you are self-publishing and don’t have the resources that the big publishers do? Whatever path to publishing you are planning on using, a publishing team is still a necessity and there are many options out there to choose from.
Building Your Team
When starting to build a publishing team, there are some essential people you will need, including (but not limited to) editors, designers, book printers, and more. There are companies that can provide every service you need, consultants who can help find your providers, or you can build your own team of freelancers where you have control over the options and the finished product. Whatever you choose, if you want a professionally produced book, you will need to invest in the project.
Luckily, there are a lot of affordable options out there to choose from, but you’ll need to spend some time researching the possibilities. For example, Createspace is a company that prints and distributes print-on-demand paperbacks. They also offer several free options for cover design and basic interior formatting. The question, however, is if the finished product you receive with these free services meets professional standards.
The old adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover” no longer applies. People absolutely judge books by their covers first, and the quality of the writing second. Librarians won’t buy books that don’t meet their standards, reviewers won’t pick it up, and even the general public may miss it if it doesn’t have a good cover. In other words, a good designer and a good editor should always be the first two people you add to your team.
Honest Feedback, Mutual Respect, and Collaboration
However you choose to go about building your team, make sure you are gathering a group of people you can rely on to do quality work and give honest feedback for this project and all your books to come. Focus on creating long-lasting professional relationships. This is especially important if you are planning a series of books, so you can maintain continuity of design and voice.
Professional relationships require trust and respect, and the ability to take constructive criticism with grace, even if you don’t always take their advice. If you make an effort to collaborate with your team rather than just hire them for one specific task, they are more likely to contribute to your overall goals. You may hire someone for editing, but that doesn’t mean they don’t also have a lot of experience with covers. A collaborative team will give feedback beyond the scope of their individual tasks, and they will be more likely to naturally promote your book for you to their own networks. It’s good for them and good for you.
Publish with Confidence
Never forget that a good publishing team wants your book to be a success as much as you do. A good team can free you from that paralyzing fear that keeps your book in the hidden recesses of your computer. A good team will give you the confidence that you have produced a professional book worthy of the message you are sharing with the world.
***First published on OC-Writers.com
Kimberly Peticolas is an Editor and Publishing Consultant. She lives in Broomfield, Colorado.