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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How to Say "No" to a Client You Don't Want to Work For

I've found that as a ghostwriter, I get a lot of leads that don't lead to actual work. Last week, I spoke with a potential ghostwriting client by phone. He had been referred to me by another freelancer, a friend of mine who doesn't ghostwrite books. We connected via email, and I asked him my standard list of questions I send to potential clients, which include: 

  • Do you plan to try to sell your book to a traditional publisher, or will you be using a print-on-demand company? Do you understand the pros and cons of working with each? 
  • What’s your purpose in writing the book? 
  • Who’s the audience for your book? Do you plan to sell your book, and if so, why will readers want to buy it? 
  • What’s your timeline? 
  • What’s your budget? (Ghostwriting an entire book typically costs $35,000+ depending on the length, scope of the project, author involvement, and other factors. If you have a manuscript or material already written that needs reworking or editing, we can discuss an appropriate fee.)
  • Do you have material for your ghostwriter to use (such as the beginning of a book, an outline, some chapters), or will your ghostwriter work with you to create the book from scratch? 
  • What’s your biggest hope for your book? What’s your biggest fear about writing a book?
The potential client didn't mention his budget (he said it was flexible) but it become clear during our brief call that he couldn't afford me. So I gave him suggestions about how to find a local ghostwriter who would be willing to charge less than I do, wished him all the best with his project, and thanked him for his time. 

I've written here before about the importance of knowing your rates, and knowing how much (or how little) you're willing to charge for different types of work. But there is an art to saying no. There's nothing to be gained by being rude or dismissive; I'd rather have him think of me for other possible projects, or if he knows someone else who may hire a ghostwriter in the future.

The lesson? While I don't waste time with someone who I know can't afford me, I do make an effort to help the person who contacted me. Even a brief call can lead to a referral that turns into work. Keep that in mind the next time you say "no" to someone. 

**Want to know more about how make money as a ghostwriter? Check out Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks, Second Edition: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs, and More, called the "comprehensive guide for getting started as a ghostwriter."  

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

10 Questions You Must Ask Before You Hire a Ghostwriter

Do you dream of writing a book--but lack the time, ability, or both to do so? Like many would-be authors, you may be considering hiring a ghostwriter. 

The question is--how? Do you post on craigslist--and then try to weed through dozens or even hundreds of responses? Or Google to find the right person? Regardless of how you winnow your list, I suggest you ask the following questions of a potential ghostwriter: 

1. How many published books have you ghostwritten or coauthored? 

Be wary of ghosts who only have a few credits to their names. You want an experienced ghost who has ghosted books before--in general, the more, the better. At the minimum, you want a ghost who has authored and published his or her own books.

2. How many different publishers have you worked with? 

The more publishers a ghost has worked with, the better. Every editor and every house is different, so a ghost who has worked with different ones has more experience pleasing different editors--and meeting their requirements--than someone with less experience.

3. Have you worked with authors who have chosen 
POD, or print-on-demand, publishers as opposed to traditional publishers? 

Many authors decide to use a POD publisher instead of pursuing a traditional publisher. If that's the case, hire a ghost who has worked with clients who chose that route. An experienced ghost can also advise you on the right publishing package to buy from a POD company--and which things, like YouTube videos costing thousands of dollars to help "promote" your book--that are a waste of money.

4. How much do you charge? 
I've seen a trend (disturbing to a ghost like myself) of clients wanting to pay as little as possible for a book. Well, you get what you pay for. Depending on the scope of work, experienced ghosts typically charge in the range of $20,000 to $50,000+ to ghostwrite a book. If you think you'll find someone who will do it for significantly less than that (and forget about working for a "share of royalties" or some other nebulous promise), you can expect less-than-professional work. (Can't afford that? Consider writing your book on your own, and hire a developmental editor instead.) 

5. Can you show me samples of published work? 

While your voice is unique and a ghost will capture it, you want to see samples of his published work.  

6. What's your background? Have you written about the subject of my book before? 

One of the reasons I ghost books about health, wellness, fitness, nutrition, and psychology is because I've been writing about those subjects for more than 19 years. As a result, I have a deep background in these topics, and as an ACE-certified personal trainer and I know much more about fitness than the average writer. If you're writing a book about real estate, you want a ghostwriter who knows what "comps" and "curb appeal" mean. If your book is a memoir, you want a ghost who specializes in true-life stories. And if you're writing a cookbook, you may want a ghost who has experience developing recipes or meal plans. 

7. How do you typically work with clients? 

Some ghosts like to spend a lot of time on the phone with clients; others (like me) work almost exclusively via email. In general, the more phone time and back and forth, the more your ghostwriter will charge. Make sure to ask how the ghostwriter typically works with clients, and consider whether that jibes with how you want to proceed.  

8. Can I see your ghostwriting contract? 
An experienced ghostwriter will have a standard contract; make sure you read it carefully before you sign and pay a retainer. 

9. What kind of work can you perform for me? 
In some cases, you may provide all of the material your ghostwriter needs to write your book. In others, you may want your ghost to do background research, conduct interviews, and do other work in addition to writing. If that's the case, you'll want a ghostwriter who has a journalism or freelancing background. If your ghost can conduct independent research for you, that will save you time in the long run. 

10. Can you give me the names of former clients?  
An experienced ghost should have plenty of satisfied clients who will recommend him or her. (At this point in my career, 95 percent of my work comes from personal referrals.) If you're planning to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a book, it's worth it to vet your potential ghost. If you're not happy with what you learn, continue your search for the right ghost for your project.

**Kelly James-Enger ghostwrites books for a variety of clients, primarily those in the health, wellness, fitness, nutrition, and psychology fields. She's also the author of Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks, Second Edition: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More