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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Last Chance to Sign up for my Ghostwriting E-Class

Want to start 2011 with the background you need to break into the ghostwriting business? My last ghostwriting e-class for 2010 starts on Monday, November 1. Check out my website or email me at kelly at with any questions.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Double-Dip Technique #3: Speak and Sell Books

As a professional speaker and author, I’ve found that I have to decide which takes first priority. And if you do both--write books and speak as well--you must do the same. In other words, are you an author who wants to sell her book, or are you a speaker who happens to be an author as well?

Here’s the thing: as the former (an author with a book to sell), people will expect you to speak for free. After all, you want to sell your book, so you’re probably willing to show up anywhere and everywhere (think bookstores, book clubs, luncheons, conferences, you name it) to promote your book, which will hopefully results in book sales, and eventual royalties. And that’s fine—that’s what I did with my first couple of titles. I put a lot of miles on my car and took a lot of time away from my business to sell as many books as possible.

But along the way, I began speaking professionally, focusing on topics including healthy lifestyles. I had started out doing writing programs at writers’ conferences and local libraries but as a health and fitness writer (and coauthor of Small Changes, Big Results), soon branched out to covering health and lifestyle subjects for corporations and associations. These gigs paid much better even if I didn't sell any books, and I made a conscious choice: to give up speaking solely to sell books. Speaking for free (even if I sell a few books) is simply not worth my time. And it devalues my work as a speaker.

If you’re a speaker who happens to have a book to sell, you don’t speak for free, or just for exposure for your title. You speak to make money, and hope to make extra income with “back-of-the-room” sales. That means you get paid twice—once for the speaking gig, and once for any books you sell while there. That’s the double-dip technique I use. (In a future post, I’ll talk about how to launch a paid speaking career.)

So which are you? An author who speaks to sell books, or a speaker who happens to have a book as well? Knowing where you fit will help you decide to how to market yourself and your book.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ten Signs to Run Away from a Potential Client

As a freelancer, your time is limited--and precious. When you ghostwrite, you're likely to get plenty of interest from potential clients. Determining which of those have promise (along with a budget to pay you) and which do not is an essential skill for successful ghosts--otherwise you could go broke listening to people tell you about the bestsellers they think you should write for them (no money up front, of course--but you'll get a share of the profits).

Red flags vary, but when they pop up, I suggest you tread very carefully--and decide now whether you want to waste any more of your time on this "client". Here are 10 warning signs that should make you flee for the hills--or at least have a plan to do so:

1. Potential client insists book will be a New York Times bestseller (or wants you to guarantee same).

2. Potential client uses phrases like “shocking cover-up, “once-in-a-lifetime story,” “plenty of people want me dead,” “you’ll never believe that this really happened,” etc.

3. Potential client refuses to talk money. Run away, now.

4. Potential client refuses to sign a written contract with you. (Why not?)

5. Potential client misses phone calls or fails to do something (such as sending you a signed contract or check) that he said he would.

6. Potential client insists that he could write the book, but he doesn’t have the time. (Really? And I could perform brain surgery...if only I had the time.)

7. Potential client wants a writer “like Jon Krakauer or Malcolm Gladwell” or some other big name. Unless you can write like them, you've got a problem. (Usually this desire is paired with a budget of about $400.)

8. Potential client doesn’t have a working knowledge of technology—i.e., wants you to mail hard copies so he can edit by hand and you can “type” his changes in.

9. Potential client wants you to meet constantly, or spend weeks face-to-face working on the book. I'm a self-employed business person, not your new best friend.

10. Potential client doesn’t know what he wants. Or keeps changing his mind, or waffling on going forward. Let him go--if he's waffling early in the game, it will probably get worse in the future.

Readers, what about you? What warning signs scare you off? I'm sure there's more and I'd love to add to this list!

Want to know more about qualifying potential clients--and kicking the rest to the curb? Check out Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books. Or for a more in-depth intro into ghosting personalized for your background and experience, consider signing up for my ghostwriting e-class. You'll come away with everything you need (an idea of what clients to pitch, a letter of introduction, and a marketing plan) to break into this lucrative field.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The 20 Percent Rule: Market No Matter What

New freelancers often think they’re going to spend their time, well, writing. That’s actually a misconception. As a self-employed writer, in any given day you may be researching queries, articles, and books; marketing yourself to potential clients; reviewing and amending contracts; tracking business expenses; sending out—and following up on—invoices; reworking pieces per editors' requests; and oh yes, writing for pay.

The most important task, other than completing your assignments (and doing a good job on them), is marketing yourself and your business. No matter how busy you are, you must continue to market—otherwise you’ll finally come out from under to discover you have nothing waiting for you.

How much time should you spend marketing yourself? That depends on where you are in your career and what kinds of writing work you do. Starting out, you’ll likely spend 80 percent or more of your time hunting for work—researching potential markets, responding to job posts on craigslist and the like, and sending out queries and letters of introduction. As you start developing steady clients, however, you should find that you spend more time writing on assignment (i.e. for paying clients) and less time pitching yourself.

What about you? How does your time break down? As you develop regular clients, you should see your marketing time decrease, but you should always devote about 20% of your time to selling yourself and your business. That will help ensure a steady flow of work and income.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Do Editors "Steal" Ideas? And How to Prevent Idea Theft

Every time I teach a magazine writing class or speak at a writers' conference on magazine freelancing, at least one person asks the big question: do editors steal ideas from writers?

But the real question, at least to me, is how do you prevent it from happening to you?

Do editors "steal" ideas? Well, yes--but not as often as you probably think. Magazines tend to run the same types of evergreen stories again and again. Just because a parenting magazine rejected your pitch about fun family summertime activities but ran a similar piece doesn’t mean the editor stole your idea. She may have already assigned the idea to another writer or had a similar piece in inventory.

Editors, especially those at national magazines, are inundated with hundreds of queries about popular topics like health, fitness, diet/nutrition, parenting, technology, and business. Chances are slim that you’re the only writer who has ever pitched a story like “Ten Easy Ways to Lose Weight" to a fitness or women's magazine, for example.

On the other hand, I once pitched a very specific fitness idea to an editor who had called me personally, asking for story ideas. I followed up on the query but she never responded. Six months later, I saw “my” idea in the magazine, complete with the sidebar I’d suggested. Did she "steal" my idea? I can’t say for sure, but I never queried her again. (The fact that she'd asked me for ideas, then blew me off after I pitched her, sunk her in my eyes.)

So, how do you prevent an editor from taking your idea and assigning it to another writer?

First, show that you’ve done your homework. Your query should reflect that you’re already spent time researching and exploring the story idea. If you’ve already spoken to possible expert sources, mention that. If the piece is a profile and you’re received the subject’s permission to write about him, let the editor know. Highlight your relevant background or experience with the subject matter, especially if you're a new writer.

Your goal is to convince the editor to let you write the story. A detailed, professional query that demonstrates why you’re uniquely qualified to do so is the most effective weapon you have against idea theft.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Double-Dip Technique #2: Write Articles and Books

I started out as a freelancer writing for magazines and newspapers, seguing into writing books a few years into my career. Later I added ghostwriting and coauthoring to my work mix. I've found that writing both articles and books makes me much more efficient and boosts my income.

Here’s the thing: I retain as many rights as possible to my work. That means I can sell reprints to articles, which results in thousands of dollars’ worth of “free” money each yeah.

But retaining rights to articles also means I can repurpose them as I see fit. So when I collaborated on a book with a client and wrote all of the fitness content, I had articles ranging from how to launch a walking program to staying motivated to work out that I owned the rights to and could use for the book. Of course I still have to rework my content to fit the book, but it’s a lot easier than starting from scratch.

Authoring articles and books about the same subject saves you time, and helps build your platform as a specialist in a particular area. When I sold my book Six-Figure Freelancing to Random House back in 2003, it garnered only a $15,000 advance. But I already had about 25 percent of the material for the book on my hard drive, from columns and articles I’d written for publications like The Writer, which meant writing the book took less time overall.

This double-dipping works in reverse, too. As I write a book, I often come up with ideas for articles. Again, I have to do some additional research and interview sources, but much of the background research is done, which saves me time. That's why writing articles and books is another of my favorite ways to double-dip.

Renegade Writer Interview on Ghostwriting

Hi, gang!

Linda Formchelli, freelancer extraordinaire, interviewed me for her popular blog, The Renegade Writer. It's up now.

Coming later today (and later this week): more double-dipping techniques.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Double-Dip Technique #1: Squeeze More from your Interviews

One of the easiest ways to work more efficiently is to write about the same subjects more than once, approaching each from a different angle for a new audience and market.

In fact, I often find that as I'm researching one story, I have an idea for another one—and I may already have information I can use for my next query. For example, when researching a piece for a women's magazine, I interviewed an expert from the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research. I used that interview for my new query to a custom magazine for business owners on a similar subject:

Dear Mr. Fuller:

Millions of people frequently resolve that we’ll get more exercise. But if you're running your own business, it may seem impossible to fit regular workouts into your busy schedule. How can you reap the benefits of a more active lifestyle—and still have time for everything else?

First, toss out the notion that exercise only "counts" if you do it for thirty minutes or more. Even ten-minute sessions of everyday activities like walking stairs will help strengthen your heart, burn calories, and tone your muscles, says Cyndi Ford, research associate at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research.

“Sneaky Fitness: Get More Exercise into your Day” will include a number of easy methods that business owners can use to incorporate more activity into their busy lives. I’ll include advice from experts such as Ford as well as real-life anecdotes to flesh out the story. While I estimate 1,000 words for this article, that’s flexible depending on your editorial needs.

Interested in this topic for your “For your Health” section or as a feature? [rest of query deleted]

Does it matter I used information from researching another story for my query? Nope. Once I get the assignment, I'll do another interview with the source for quotes for this particular piece, and use other experts as well. This technique (one of the ways I "double-dip") helps me spin off other ideas and cuts my marketing time as well.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More Good News for Would-Be Ghostwriters and Coauthors

Hey, readers!

I'm thrilled to announce that the Kindle version of Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books is now available on Yay!

And if you're interested in my six-week e-class on breaking into this lucrative market, I'll be starting another session on Monday, November 1, 2010. Let me know here or via email (kelly at if you have any questions about it.

Commercial over...we'll return to our regular programming (practical tips about making more money in less time as a freelancer) next post, promise.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Interviewed on Amanda's Wrinkled Pages

Just to let you know that a "Q and A" with me (and why and how I got started in ghostwriting) is up at Amanda's Wrinkled Pages.


Clients, Clowns, and Craigslist: Searching for Work Online

I’ve found work on

Shocked? I can understand why. Every few weeks, I take a spin around posts looking for writers. The overwhelming majority of them are, quite frankly, ridiculous. I see rates like $.02/word, or $15 for a 500-word article—but with the promise of as much work as you can want.

Woo hoo! As much poorly-paid work as you want! Um…thanks, but no thanks.

But here’s the thing. I have gotten work from craigslist postings over the last four years. I’ve written for a local magazine and a custom publisher that posted looking for freelancers. And I’ve even found ghosting work from craigslist, including two book proposals. As a result, I’ve gotten good at deciphering ads.

Language like “perfect for new or inexperienced writers” or “students encouraged to apply” is craigslist-speak for “we don’t pay.” Avoid ads that promise “exposure” for your work (remember, people die from exposure!) or that say you’ll be paid from royalties. I also skip the ones that ramble on about the person’s personal experience with drugs/crime/sex/fill-in-the-blank story or talk about a “shocking cover-up” or “unbelievable-but-true” tale.

So, what should you look for? Your mileage may vary, but for me, a promising ad:

*Provides a description of the project. “Need a writer for my book; send a resume with your qualifications” doesn’t give me any idea if it’s worth my time.
*Asks for writers with experience. That tells me the poster values my abilities and wants a good writer instead of the cheapest he can get.
*Describes actual compensation (as opposed to “a share in the proceeds” or some other nebulous amount). Or, it may say “DOE,” or depending on experience.
*Sounds like a person with a brain wrote it. I like working with smart people, and if someone’s one-paragraph ad is riddled with mistakes or misspellings, I doubt that he has much promise as a client—at least as a client of mine. (Want to know more about how to separate potential clients from clowns? I've got a whole chapter in Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books on this very subject!)

What about you? Have you found work on craigslist? Are there any words or phrases you look for to weed out potential gigs?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pros with Platforms: The Most Lucrative Clients for Ghostwriters

For the next few posts, I'll be talking more about ghostwriting--after all, my new book, Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer’s Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books, is now in print (with an e-book version coming by week's end).

Of course you can't be a successful ghostwriter without clients. And while ghosting clients range from everyday people to book publishers to packagers, most of my ghostwriting and coauthoring work comes from a type of client I call "Pro with a Platform", or "PP".

Who is a PP? She's a businessperson who doesn’t just want to write a book; she wants to add “book author” to her CV, or curriculum vitae. Maybe she’s establishing herself in a particular profession and knows a book will build her credibility. Maybe she’s a motivational speaker who wants to a book to boost “back-of-the-room” sales. (In addition to speaking fees, speakers make money by selling books, DVDs, and other products to attendees.) Maybe she’s a plastic surgeon or an investment advisor or a personal trainer who knows a book will help her attract more clients.

Whatever the motivation, the PP wants to write a book but lacks the ability, time, or patience (or all three) to do so.

PPs are my favorite kind of clients. They tend to be smart (at least about their particular subject area), and often respect the time, brainpower, creativity, and experience it takes to ghostwrite or collaborate on a book. PPs usually look for ghostwriters who already have some knowledge of their subject area whether they're hiring someone to write a book, an article, a speech, or even blog posts.

So how do you reach PPs? Play up your background and experience, especially if you specialize. When you write magazine articles and get a bio note (the brief line at the end of an article about its writer), identify yourself as a ghostwriter. Let the expert sources you interview for magazine articles know that you ghostwrite and collaborate on books. You never know who may know a PP who's looking for a ghostwriter or coauthor.

Want to know more about branching into the lucrative field of ghostwriting? I'll be offering my six-week ghostwriting e-class again starting November 1, 2010; let me know if you have any questions about it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Get Contract-Savvy: Three Ways to Retain Reprint Rights

Earlier this week, I gave you five good reasons to sell reprints. But to sell reprints, you must own the rights to your work. I've written before about how to negotiate more writer-friendly contracts, but let's focus specifically on how to retain reprint rights. Here are three options to consider:

1. If you're presented with an all-rights contract, ask if the magazine has another version you can sign instead. Many national magazines have more than one "standard" contract--one which requests all rights, and a more writer-friendly one which lets you retain some rights to your work. Sometimes simply asking will get you the better one.

2. If an all-rights contract is offered, ask if you can change it to something more writer-friendly. I've had success changing all rights to first N.A. serial rights and nonexclusive web rights, which lets me resell the work to other print publications.

3. If your editor insists on an all-rights contract, ask if you can retain nonexclusive reprint rights. This was the only option I had when writing web stories for a giant corporation with an ironclad all-rights contract. While my editor wanted all rights, he was willing to let me amend the contract to let me retain nonexclusive reprint rights to my work. That simple change has meant thousands of dollars in income from print magazines that purchase reprints; the editors there don't care that a story appeared online several years ago.

Hey, I do write for markets that insist on purchasing all rights, and won't let me retain anything. But I always try to negotiate a better contract--worst case scenario, the editor says "no." I've found it never hurts to ask.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Want to Add Ghostwriter/Coauthor to your Resume? Here's How

Are you a book author who wants to make more money, sell more books, or work more efficiently? Or are you a freelancer who wants to branch into a lucrative niche? Consider getting into ghostwriting. (I decided to start ghosting and coauthoring when I realized I could make more money as an author in less time by collaborating with experts on their books--but there are other compelling reasons as well.)

Not sure what you need to succeed in this field, how to attract and qualify clients, or set your fees? Need advice about marketing yourself, negotiating contracts, and working efficiently with clients? Then you'll want to check out my new book, Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books. (While you can get the print version now, I'll let readers know when the Kindle version is available.)

Just as with my earlier books on writing, Six-Figure Freelancing and Ready, Aim, Specialize, I don't rely only on my own experience--I want to know how others have succeeded as well. So, for Goodbye Byline, I interviewed twenty experienced ghostwriters, coauthors, and publishing experts to include their experiences and advice. Plus you'll find templates for letters of introduction, bids, contracts, and other essential documents you need to succeed in this growing field.

If you want to start ghostwriting--or simply want more information about the field--I hope you'll check out my new book. And please let me know what you think!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Five Good Reasons--to Sell Reprints

According to my survey of fulltime freelancers earlier this year, only 2 percent of respondents are selling reprints to their work. I find that surprising and hope to convert some of the other 98 percent.

Sure, many writers say that selling reprints isn't worth the time or effort. I say, think again--and consider these five excellent reasons to jump on the reprint train:

1. Great per-hour rate. Let me give you an example--I have a local magazine that buys a reprint from me four times a year. She emails me, asking if I have something relevant, I send her the story, and she sends me a check. Total time invested? Maybe 15 minutes. Payoff? $75. That's a $300/hour rate...not bad at all.
2. Bigger platform. I've sold reprints to markets throughout the country, which helps build my platform both as a writer as a fitness/health expert. (In addition to freelancing, I'm an ACE-certified personal trainer and public speaker on topics including healthy habits and stress management, so I want my name "out there" as much as possible. And the bigger my platform, the better chance I have of selling my next book to a publisher, too.)
3. More book sales. When I sell a reprint about a health topic, I include a bionote ("Kelly James-Enger is the author of books including Small Changes, Big Results: A 12-Week Action Plan to a Better Life, with Ellie Krieger, R.D.). If it's a piece on infertility or parenting, I'll mention my book, The Belated Baby, which is for parents who experienced infertility. Not every reprint market will provide a bionote, but when they do, I get some free publicity.
4. More assignments. I just finished two original articles for a reprint market after the editor asked me if I was willing to write new pieces for her. The per-word rate wasn't as high as I'm paid by national magazines, but each story only took a few interviews and several hours to write, which made it worthwhile. And editors coming to me with work means I spend less time marketing.
5. Multiple sales--and free money. Sure, reprint markets may not pay that much--I have steady markets that pay only $35 or $50 for one-time reprint rights per story. Paltry, right? But almost all of those "low-paying" markets buy more than one story from me, often at once. One regional women's magazine requested about twenty stories from me earlier this year. I sent them in several batches so she could select the ones she wanted to use. So far, she's purchased eight of them, for a total of $520--and I haven't had to do any more work. I just find a check in the mail for $60 or $70 every month or so. That kind of "free" money is my favorite kind to get.

Of course to sell reprints, you need to retain reprint rights to your work. Next post, we'll talk about how to negotiate more writer-friendly contracts.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ten Good Reasons the Editor Said "No"

When you freelance, rejections are part of the territory. In fact, I don't tell students what to do if they get rejected--I tell them what to do when they get rejected.

But new writers (and even experienced ones) often wonder why. Why didn't their pitch sell? Why did the editor say no? Or worse yet, why did the editor fail to respond?

In no particular order, here are a few of the most common reasons:

1. You misread the market. Your idea may have been excellent, but it wasn't right for that particular publication. Remember, your query should answer the question, "why will readers care?"

2. Your editor actually loved the much that she's already assigned something similar to another writer, or has a piece like it in inventory waiting to be run. Sorry--you can't do anything about this reason, but at least you know it's not you.

3. She never got it. That's why following up is so critical. How can an editor respond to something she never received?

4. You pitched an idea that would be assigned to a staff writer. Make sure you read the magazine's most current guidelines so you know what types of work is assigned to freelancers. Pitching something that would be written in-house shows that you didn't do your homework beforehand.

5. You didn't provide enough detail about how you'd approach the story. How long will the piece be? What kinds of sources will you interview? How will your structure the article? Will you include a sidebar or two? The more detail you provide, the easier it is for your editor to envision your piece--and say yes to you.

6. Your query is sloppy, whether it has mispellings, grammatical mistakes, or other glaring errors (like spelling your editor's name wrong). To an editor, sloppy query=careless freelancer.

7. You pitched too late. In other words, you queried a holiday idea to a national magazine in October. Magazines have varying lead times, so make sure you've giving yourself plenty of time (typically about six months for national pubs) when you pitch a seasonal topic.

8. The editor is overwhelmed--and hasn't had a chance to read it yet. That's another reason to follow up on every query you send. You're not being a pest; you're being a pro.

9. Your idea is nothing special. To set your query apart, don't pitch an idea like "five simple ways to lose weight." A unique or counterintuitive spin, like "eat more, weigh less" or "laugh yourself thin" is more likely to stand out--and sell.

10. She thinks you stink, she thinks your ideas stink, she thinks your work stinks, and she wants you to lose her contact info--permanently. Kidding! That may be the first thing you think of when you get a rejection, but this isn't why editors reject you. More likely you just had the wrong idea for the wrong editor at the wrong publication at the wrong time.

Readers, what do you think? Have I missed any of the major reasons editors say no?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010: Talking about Changing Careers, Finding your Passion, and Ghostwriting

I'll be a guest on the new "Get Inspired" radio show on Monday, October 4, 2010, at 12:00 noon central time, talking about everything from changing careers to finding your passion in life (and work) and how I got started in ghostwriting. Check out the show, Get Inspired, hosted by Dick and Florence Nogaj, and let me know afterwards if you have questions about what we covered. And in the meantime, stay tuned for news about my upcoming book, Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books, which will be in print very soon!

Coming next week: more tips for busy, cash-crunched freelancers on making more money in less time.