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Monday, October 31, 2011

Just in Time for Halloween: How to Become a Ghost

I couldn't have timed it better, choosing Halloween to announce my online class with Writer's Digest...on ghostwriting. If you've been curious about this lucrative field and want to break into it, here's your chance.

My Ghostwriting 101 class starts on Thursday, November 10; at the end of the six weeks, you'll have identified your own unique niche, drafted a letter of introduction, created a marketing plan to reach possible clients, and garnered some ghosting experience. The class is based on Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books, but is personalized for you. In addition to weekly lessons and homework assignments, you'll get feedback from and access to me (yay!) and the opportunity to interact/connect with your fellow students.

So consider making an investment of money and time in this class. You'll be done before Christmas and be able to add ghostwriting to your freelance repertoire for 2012. And if you know of writers who may be interested in the class, please share this with them. Thank you! :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Do a Great Job--and Make Sure Everyone Knows about It

This post title was written by one of my clients; it's from his new book. And it's smart advice not only for professionals in his field, but freelancers as well.

So as a freelancer, how do you apply this to your business?

Open your mouth! In other words, tell people what you do. If you're a new freelancer, start with your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues. (And hey, even you seasoned freelancers may need to remind those around you what you do!) Make sure that the people closest to you know what kind of writing projects you take on and what types of clients you typically work for. Ask them to pass your name along if they know of someone looking for a writer. Worst case scenario, you're inundated with potential clients who you don't have time to take on. Wait a minute--I think that's a best case scenario.

Use social media. Yeah, you're probably on Facebook. And I'm sure your kid/dog/cat/hamster is adorable. But do your Friends know that you freelance? Make sure that fact is part of your profile. Update your status with work-related comments occasionally. Your Friends may turn into clients, or know someone who is looking for a writer. Same goes for blogging--no matter what you blog about, include the fact that you freelance. And don't forget LinkedIn and Twitter, which are both tools for marketing your business as well.

Ask editors and clients for referrals. Sometimes freelancers feel awkward about asking a current or former clients for work leads, but here's how I look at it: if you did a good job for your client (and I assume you did), she's probably willing to connect you with one of her peers--or at least give you names of editors who may be looking for freelancers. You won't know until you ask. My latest ghostwriting gig came not from a client, but from a personal trainer and author I've interviewed several times over the years who knows that I'm a ghostwriter and editor. His personal referral turned into a fun, worthwhile editing project.

Make every email a sales call. You should have at least one "standard" signature for email, more if you do different types of work. My current one reads:

Kelly James-Enger

Author, ghostwriter, freelance journalist, and speaker

Check out my contemporary women’s fiction (both set in Chicago!) at:

Did you Get the Vibe?

White Bikini Panties


I tweak it occasionally, depending on what aspects of my business I want to highlight, but I always include my blog in it, and whatever book(s) I'm focusing on selling.

Think outside the box. Okay, so you've spread the word to friends and family about your work. You've asked clients for referrals. But do you tell everyone else you can think of about what you do? I have several "Instant Ghostwriter" t-shirts I wear occasionally (check out CafePress for tons of fun ideas) , and they often spark conversations with people I meet at the Y, my son's school, and the Caribou I often write at.

Brag. Is your latest piece a cover feature? Has your new book garnered great reviews? Did you just nab a regular contributor gig at a favorite blog? So brag a little! Tell people! When you do stellar work, you're likely to get even more referrals; it's human nature to want to work with people who are successful and good at what they do.

You can be the most talented writer in the world, but you won't be successful unless people know who are and what you do. So spread the word. The more people who know what you do, the more referrals and work you're likely to get.

***Readers, what about you? Do you have any proven ways for marketing your biz you'd like to share?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Don't Forget--My Writer's Digest Webinar is TOMORROW!

There's still time to register for my Writer's Digest webinar tomorrow. If you want to make money writing freelance articles for magazines, newspapers, websites, or blogs, sign up for Make Money NOW Writing Freelance Articles. It'll be the best $79 you invest in your freelance-article-writing career.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why Not be the One in Four? What Freelancers are Making Today

I'm a big believer in sharing information, especially about money, among freelancers. That's one reason I conducted a freelance income survey earlier this year and one in 2010. Since then, I've collected more responses; so far 210 freelancers have participated in the survey. (And a big thank you to all who have!)

According to the latest responses:
  • 30 percent of freelancers make less than $20,000/year;
  • 22 percent of freelancers make between $20,000 and $39,999/year;
  • 20 percent of freelancers make between $40,000 and $59,999/year;
  • 12 percent of freelancers make between $60,000 and $79,999/year;
  • 8 percent of freelancers make between $80,000 and $99,999/year; and
  • 8 percent of freelancers make more than $100,000/year.
Sure, I find it a little depressing that nearly one in three freelancers is making less than $20,000/year. I don't know anyone who can live on that kind of money, but it's impossible to tell from the survey how many hours these freelancers are working--or how seriously they're taking their careers. I prefer to focus on the fact that one in four freelancers is making $60,000 or more a year--and that six in ten say they're on target to make more in 2011 than they did in 2012. That's awesome news.

My point? If you're new to freelancing, don't think that you have to settle for making a few bucks here and there writing for content mills or other per-click sites. Plenty of freelancers make good money--real money--as writers. The purpose of this blog is to help you do so.

With just over two months before 2012, I hope you're thinking about next year already. The end of the year is the perfect time to retool your career, whether that means changing the way you work, pursuing new markets, or exploring other types of writing like ghostwriting (responsible for the majority of my income and work these days) or writing for corporations. In future posts, I'll talk about how to retool in 2012.

***And if you're new to freelancing, don't forget to check out my Writer's Digest webinar (Make Money NOW Selling Articles) this Thursday, October 27. If you're serious about freelancing for print and online markets, it will be the best $79 you ever spend.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

For Chicago-area Freelancers: ASJA-Sponsored Event Fri, Nov 11

A special announcement for Chicago-area writers about an upcoming program:

Surviving—and Thriving in—Today’s Freelance Market: ASJA Board Members Share Strategies that Work

The freelance market can be challenging to negotiate today, but it also offers new opportunities to both new and seasoned writers. This special event features members of the board of directors of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Whether you’re interested in writing books or freelancing for a variety of print and online markets, you’ll benefit from decades of experience from these seasoned, successful writers.

Location: Silversmith Hotel, 10 South Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL

Date: Friday, November 11, 2011

Time: 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Price:$10, payable in cash or check at the door

This event will include two concurrent panels, one on book publishing and one ongeneral freelancing and is open to both ASJA members and non-members. ASJA board members speaking include:

On the Successful Book Publishing Today panel (moderated by me!):

  • Caitlin Kelly, author of Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail (Portfolio, 2011) and Blown Away: American Women and Guns (Pocket Books, 2004).
  • Russell Wild, author of more than a dozen books, including, most recently, Exchange-Traded Funds for Dummies, Bond Investing for Dummies, Index Investing for Dummies, and One Year to An Organized Financial Life.
  • Janine Latus, is the author of the international bestseller If I Am Missing or Dead: a sister’s story of love, murder and liberation, which has been translated into six languages.

On the Successful Freelancing Today panel (moderated by ASJA president Salley Shannon):

  • Minda Zetlin, author/coauthor of five books and regular contributor to Inc. magazine and the Inc. website, as well as many other online and print publications.
  • Gina Roberts-Grey, who has written scores of health and consumer issues articles for women's print and online markets including Glamour, Better Homes & Gardens, Woman's Day, Redbook, Self, Essence,,, iVillage and others, as well as numerous celebrity profiles.
  • Randy Dotinga, who writes stories, blog posts and book reviews for The Christian Science Monitor and a daily email newsletter for Voice of San Diego (a leading non-profit investigative news organization). He also regularly writes for, HealthDay News Service, Health Behavior News Service and other outlets.

Hope to see some of you there! :) If your'e a follower of my blog, please come up and introduce yourself. I'd love to meet you in person. :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Who, You? Five Ways to Develop your Voice (and Make you Stand out)

One of the biggest challenges of ghostwriting is the challenge of capturing your client's voice. When you ghost, what you write should sound like your client, not you. So you may be surprised to learn that I do believe in having a unique voice as a writer, regardless of the type of work you do.

But how do you develop a unique voice? How can you make your voice stronger? And what is voice, anyway? I'm frequently asked about voice, especially by newer writers who want their work to stand out from the crowd—and there's nothing wrong with that. But voice isn't something that can be forced. It develops over time, gradually announcing itself in your choice of phrase, your rhythm, your style.

Every writer has a voice. If you're still trying to identify yours, or make it more compelling, try these five techniques:

Write for a variety of markets. When you write for different markets, you must be able to analyze the magazine's voice and perspective—and duplicate it, or at least conform your work to it. Articles I've written for a magazine aimed at 20-something women sound quite different than those I write for markets aimed at an older audience, or for men, for that matter. Writing for different audiences is one of the easiest ways to play with different voices and see which feel most natural and comfortable to you.

Write for yourself. Of course, if you're always worried about pleasing your editor, your own voice may slip through the cracks. That's why I recommend personal writing, whether it's blogging, writing letters, or keeping a journal. When you write for yourself, you may find your voice begins to assert itself. Make a habit of this kind of "selfish" writing—it will improve your craft and help you develop a unique style.

Compare before and after. After a story is edited, compare your original version to the version your editor produced. How did the story change? Did it affect your voice? Are you happy with the edit? Why or why not? Even small changes to a piece can have a dramatic impact, and becoming aware of those changes (especially when introduced by another writer) can help your own writing in the future.

Read widely. Don’t limit yourself to one genre, one subject matter, or one author. I read everything from popular nonfiction to novels to The Star (hey, I've got to keep up on my celeb gossip.) The broader your base of reading, the deeper your "language well" will be, and you'll notice a difference in your writing.

Be yourself. At the same time, don't strive to be the next Hemingway or Atwood or Clancy or Morrison. Imitation may be a form of flattery, but it won't help your writing. Instead of trying to be like someone else, focus on your perspective—that's something that no else can duplicate. I don't read fiction when I'm working on a new novel because I don’t want to be influenced (even unconsciously) by another author. I want the voice in my book to be authentic. I want it to be mine.

Whether you ghostwrite or freelance for different markets, you’ve got to be able to capture the voice that your client or editing is looking for. Just don’t forget that you have your own, too—and strive to develop a strong one. It will make you more marketable, and more memorable, as a self-employed writer.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Upcoming Webinar: Make Money NOW Writing Freelance Articles

I started my freelance career fifteen years ago, pitching and selling articles to magazines including Cosmopolitan, Brides, Good Housekeeping, and Complete Woman. I'd never taken a journalism class in college and knew nothing about writing queries (believe me, my first ones were terrible!) or articles. As a result, I made a lot of mistakes that wasted my time and effort. Fortunately, you can avoid those mistakes and learn the secrets of successful magazine freelancing in my first webinar with Writer's Digest on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

  • How to analyze a potential market.
  • How to make your query stand out from the competition.
  • How to locate and interview sources for articles.
  • How to reslant article ideas and make more money in less time.
  • How to get your first assignment when you have no clips.
You'll also get a free query critique by me, and have a chance to ask questions during the webinar. If you're a new freelancer or already have some experience but want to have more success and make more money from their work. I hope to "see" many of you at the webinar, and please spread the news about it to other writers!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Above Average: Straight Talk about POD Sales

After nearly a decade of working with traditional publishers, last year I opted for a POD publisher for Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books. At the time, I didn't know that the average POD author sells about 150 copies of his/her book. (Considering the relative success of a small number of POD authors, the median number of sales is probably significantly lower. That's sobering news for would-be POD authors.)

Because I believe in talking about money, I've shared my actual sales figures for the first six months before. Now let's look at the entire year's worth of sales. Since October, 2010, I've sold:
  • 159 print copies through CreateSpace (including expanded distribution);
  • 50 e-books;
  • 50 copies through a special sale; and
  • 36 copies as "hand-sales," or copies I sell at speaking gigs, writers' conferences, or directly to readers who want a signed copy, etc. (If you do--or want to buy a copy as a gift for a writer, shoot me an email at kelly at becomebodywise dot com.)
That's a total of 295 copies, which means I've already doubled the "average" number of POD sales. But what does this figure mean in real dollars? To determine that, I have to know what I make per-book on each type of sale:

For each print copy sold through or, I make a "royalty" (though it's not a true royalty) of $5.32.

For each print copy sold through what CreateSpace calls "expanded distribution" (e.g., your local brick-and-mortar bookstore), I make a royalty of $2.33.

For each Kindle edition sold in the US, UK, or Canada, I make 70% of the cover price, which is $9.99--that's a royalty of $6.95.

For a Kindle edition sold outside of those three countries, I made 35% of the Kindle price of $9.99, or $3.49.

For hand-sales, I purchase copies of the book directly from CreateSpace for $3.65 each, plus shipping. At a cover price of $14.95, I net about $11.30/book, less if I mail copies to purchasers myself.

For special sales, I can set my own price (and do give discounts on bulk purchases. That's a good deal for me and for buyers. For special sales, I average a profit of $4-5/book.

Bottom line? The first six months, I made $587 in book sales. After 12 months, I've made (drumroll, please): $1703.

This number isn't nearly as high as I'd like. However, Goodbye Byline continues to sell steadily, has gotten good reviews, and has little competition. That means that I should continue to see steady (if not stellar) book sales and encourages me to continue to promote and market the book.

And there have been other benefits as well. The book has led to other work, including a feature in Writer's Digest on ghostwriting, and speaking gigs at writers' conferences on (surprise, surprise) ghostwriting. I'll be teaching a class through Writer's Digest University on ghostwriting, and my book is a useful calling card for potential ghostwriting clients and helps build my platform as a ghostwriter/collaborator.

The bottom line? If you're going POD to make money, be realistic about what you may make--and make sure you read your contracts carefully so you'll know exactly what you make on every version of your book.

Readers, what do you think? Are you surprised by the different amounts you make on POD books versus ebooks, and how "expanded distribution" royalties are so much lower? Have you learned something from this post? Please let me know. :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Criticism Can be a Good Thing: A Four-Step Process to Make it Work for You

When you freelance, you take a critical step from writing for yourself and writing for others—editors, clients, and readers. That means you can sell and get paid (hopefully well!) for your work, but it also means that you’re subject to criticism. The way you respond to it can impact your success as a freelancer.

How you respond to criticism depends on a on a variety of factors, including who’s making the comment, your relationship with that person, what’s said or communicated, and how it’s communicated.

Consider an editor who tells you she loves your approach to a topic but wants you to add a couple more anecdotes to the piece. If you have a good working relationship with your editor, you’re likely to accept the criticism as fair (especially if you know her market tends to use anecdote-heavy stories), and make the requested changes. If the same comment comes from an editor you’ve had trouble with in the past, your reaction may be anger or annoyance--and you may be less willing to make the requested edits.

In a perfect world, every article, blog post, book, and book proposal I write would be accepted "as is," and I’d never have to rewrite anything, ever. But that’s not the case, nor will it be for you.

Here’s my four-step method for handling criticism:

1. Consider the source. If the criticism is from a client or editor, I pay attention. If it’s from someone like the person who just posted a nasty (and untrue) review about Goodbye, Byline, I try to let it go. (Obviously I'm not always successful as my ire resulted in this blog post.)

2. Consider the criticism. Several years ago, an editor took me to task for using the phrase “read on” too often. A quick check of the stories I’d written for her revealed that she was right. I was encouraging readers to "read on" constantly. (I also had been overusing pet phrases like “you’re not alone,” “fear not,” and “good news/bad news” comparisons. Oops!)

3. Consider how you can address it. Often with a client or editor, it’s as simple as reworking a piece. That's part of freelancing. But if you get a nasty email (almost certainly anonymous) from a reader who hates your latest piece on Huffington post or find someone trashing your book on Amazon, you can’t do much. Do you really want get into a toxic email exchange with a scary stranger? If you have seven glowing reviews (several from people you don’t even know!), should one negative one make you question the value of your book? I think not.

4. Consider how it can help you. In the case of my editor’s comment about my “fear not” overuse, I focused on eliminating my go-to phrases from my work. It made my writing stronger, and meant fewer edits, too! If a ghostwriting client complains that a chapter doesn’t sound like his voice, I make sure I do a better job with that, not only with him but with other ghosting clients as well. In other words, instead of tuning out well-founded criticism, I use the negative feedback as an opportunity to improve my work.

No writer enjoys being criticized, but instead of ignoring it or getting angry, turn it into a positive thing for your writing. Consider whether it’s legit, and if it is, let it spur you to take your work up a notch. And if you know it isn't legit. let it slide...and move on.

Readers, do you agree with this four-step analysis? How do you react to criticism? Do you find it a helpful tool for stronger writing?

***The book cover at the top of this post is the one for my new book, Writer for Hire, which will be released in April, 2012 but you can preorder it on Amazon already.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What Every Writer Should Know about Copyright

As a freelancer, you make a living from your words. That’s why I’m always so surprised at how few writers actually understand what copyright is--and how to protect it.

No, copyright isn't sexy. But if you take a few moments to read this post, you'll come away with a working knowledge of what it means for writers. Ready? Let's do it!

Here’s the least you must know about copyright:

1. When you write an article, book proposal, or book on your own, you automatically own the copyright to it.

2. You retain copyright, or ownership, of the work unless and until you sell, transfer, or grant the copyright to someone else.

That’s it! But let’s talk about what copyright actually is. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “copyright” is a form of protection provided by U.S. law to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual rights. Copyright means that the author of the work has the exclusive right to do what he wishes with his work and to authorize others to do the same.

So as the copyright owner, you (and only you) can do whatever you want with the work you’ve created—until and unless you sell, transfer, or assign those rights to someone else, like a publisher. That’s copyright law in a nutshell.

New writers often think they have to register their work with the Library of Congress to create copyright. That’s not true. Copyright protection is created concurrently with the work—as you get the words down on the page (what the law refers to as “in fixed form”), it’s automatically copyrighted. But it’s got to be “in fixed form.” An idea is not is fixed form, and so isn’t protected by copyright law.

The Work-for-hire Exception

Of course there is an exception to every rule. With copyright, the exception is when you are an employee, creating work for an employer. Then, the company you work for owns the copyright to anything you create at work under what’s called the “work-for-hire” doctrine. In that case, your employer, not you, automatically owns the writing you do at work. (Some freelance contracts also have work-for-hire provisions; legally speaking, though, a work-for-hire can only exist between an employer and an employee, not a freelancer and a client.)

Making Sense of Copyright Notice

Simple enough. So then what’s with the copyright symbol (©)? Why do people stick that on written work? The reason has to do with something called the “innocent infringement” doctrine.

Copyright notice simply lets everyday people (i.e. those who know nothing about publishing law) that this work is someone’s property. If there’s no copyright notice on a piece of writing and someone copies or uses it for their own purposes (assuming in good faith that it’s okay to do so—what the courts call an “innocent infringer”), that person may not be liable for damages. That’s why notice is required—to let would-be innocent infringers know that they can’t use your work.

The notice required is the copyright symbol ©, followed by the date the work was first published, and the author’s name—for example, © 2011, Kelly James-Enger. That’s why books have a copyright page—to help protect the work from no-longer-innocent infringers. Just keep in mind that if you’re sending work out to anyone in the publishing biz—agents, editors, or publishers—you needn’t stick a copyright notice on your work. They know it’s copyrighted—and it looks amateurish.

For More Effective Protection...

There’s one last thing about copyright that freelancers should keep in mind. Yes, your work is automatically protected by copyright simply by writing it. But if you want effective protection, you should register it with the Library of Congress. To pursue a copyright infringement case, it’s easier and more lucrative if you have registered your work “in a timely fashion” (within three months of publication) with the LOC.

The copyright statute provides that if you prevail, you can get attorneys’ fees (which can easily reach tens of thousands of dollars) and statutory damages—in other words, monetary damages set out by law. (Contrast this to having to prove your damages in court, which is much more difficult.) If you’ve registered your copyright, you can introduce that fact at trial to prove you’re the legal copyright owner. That’s big. If you don’t register your work within three months after it’s published, you may still have a cause of action for infringement, but you’re limited to injunctive relief and/or actual damages—that is, the amount of money you have lost because of the violator’s actions, which may be impossible to conclusively prove.

Registering Work

So, once your work is published, you have three months to register it. (Registering is retroactive, which means that registering within those three months protects you back to the publication date.) Current fees to register with the Copyright Office are:

$35 to register work online;
$50 to register work via paper registration; and
$65 to register a group of articles or other work for periodicals or database updates.

For more information about copyright registration procedures, visit

***Want to learn more about legal, business, and tax issues that impact freelancers? Check out Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, which is still available as an ebook. If you're interested in adding ghostwriting to your freelance repertoire, you'll want to read Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books (Kindle edition).

Readers, what do you think? Did this post make copyright understandable for you? Let me know!