Guest Blog Post: Ghostwriting Best Practices
Let’s talk about being a specialist, how to write a bullet proof contract
and how to always get paid in advance.
By Robert Bruce Woodcox
Building on Marcia’s recent column about specializing, I thought I’d add my two cents worth and expand in to two other topics and see if I could do that in less than 1,000 words.
Being a specialist is almost as simple as saying, “I am a specialist in ghostwriting memoirs”—so I am. Of course, it helps to have written a few memoirs in case you’re asked for samples. But mostly being a specialist is a matter of attitude and enjoying the process of telling someone else’s life story. If you have some samples and you say you are—you are a specialist. Who’s going to argue with you?
The important part of saying you’re a specialist or expert, is promoting yourself (Google Adwords, et al.) as one. Your search keywords need to use that word liberally. Your Adwords ads need to use phrases using the word specialist and memoir in various combinations.
In Google Adwords (the only search engine left really), the closer your keywords match your ad headlines and subtexts, the more clicks your site will get.
Of course, your website must also be built around that premise using those same keywords and headlines liberally throughout. Adwords is built on relevancy, so the more you mention specialist, memoirs, life stories, memoirist—those types of words and phrases using those words, in your ads and on your site, the more clicks you’ll get.
People feel more confident when they think they are in the hands of an expert or a specialist. I know when I went in for my back surgery, I wanted a surgeon who had done thousands of my surgery. If I’m going to spend upwards of $50,000 to $100,000 on a ghostwriter for memoirs, I want someone who’s done a lot of them. If you haven’t done a lot of them, use what you do have to your best advantage. You can even take a little creative license if you want to get hired and at the same time increase your library of memoirs to make future sales easier, by telling prospective clients you’ve ghosted more than what they see on your site, but due to confidentiality agreements, you cannot speak about those works. This kind of falls into the “fake it till you make it” lie.
However, just because you’ve only written two or three memoirs does not mean you aren’t an expert. Being an expert just means you’re very, very good at what you do and if you feel good
about your past works, well then, you’re an expert. And, believe me, having written 43 books, about 18 of them memoirs, I know I truly felt like I was an expert after the first two or three. Of course I wasn’t, but that didn’t keep me from saying I was a specialist because I already happened to have been an excellent interviewer and listener.
I’d studied the techniques in at least 15 books on how and what to ask people about their lives in order to flesh out the best of their story’s.
If you have only written two memoirs, you can always do the same and read all you can get your hands on about those techniques and how to be a better listener (that’s what small digital recorders
are for) and how to write more compelling stories, even when the subject matter might not be all that captivating. Remember, you are mostly writing for the satisfaction of that individual, not the book buying world necessarily. So, do your research, be creative a little if you have to to get started in your particular specialty, or make sure your specialty is something that really fascinates you or that you are passionate about. Do your research so you are an expert. Rework your website if you need to to present that quality, veteran look, the look of a real memoir pro. Remember, people generally believe what they read in websites, because after all, that ghostwriter is paying for that ad space, paid for that website to be designed and is telling the world he or she is a specialist—hmm? Must be a specialist, or at least worth a call from me to hear what they have to say.
Now, the part about contracts. I have spent my entire career (26 years) reworking my original contract. It never ends, but at least now gets revised less and less.
Right now, I feel like it’s bullet proof. It covers every misstep I’ve made, everything I used to think was already in it, all the things that I need to protect myself, all the things all my very professional colleagues have learned and shared with me, and all the legal advice I’ve gotten. It is yours free for reading this and for going to my site: theghostwriter.net/theghostworks and contacting me.
Getting Paid in Advance
That leads me to my final point: billing in advance. Here is my advice—never, ever, ever take on work on a speculative basis. Never start working and continue working on the premise you will get paid after each section of work. Never, never start work without a retainer or deposit.
I charge $75,000 to $100,000 to write a major book, i.e., memoirs, novels, etc. I charge that amount in three payments, each one commensurate with 1/3 of the anticipated word count; not page count. Each payment is due in advance of ANY work being done. All that is spelled out in my free contract.
You are no less than any attorney. Attorneys work on retainers—always! Doctors bill you in advance if you don’t have insurance.
You are no less important. Act and work like a top-notch professional. Pros get paid in advance. Never, never accept less. It is the rule of the road in this business.
Good luck and stay safe.
Robert Bruce Woodcox