Who You Gonna Call? Ghostwriter!

By Kristy Horine

The Great American Novel. It’s the dream of many a writer, but it’s not the only way to break into publication. During the month of July, the Inspired Prompt Team will bring you other publication options to explore. It is our prayer that you are drawn to just the right one at just the right time! Thanks for reading and write on.

Me? A ghostwriter?

I was nearing the end of a writers conference and I still couldn’t figure out why I was there. After all, I was a journalist, sitting with a bunch of fiction writers.

As I stood at the fringes of the group, a man I hadn’t seen before came up and asked, “So, what do you write?”

I took a deep breath and pushed out air and words, “I’m a freelance journalist.”

He paused. He stared. Then, he smiled.

“Cool,” he said. “I know someone who is interested in telling her story, but she doesn’t really write. Ever thought about ghostwriting?”

Since that providential meeting, I’ve learned much about ghostwriting, about me, and about the way God moves to equip and encourage His writers to work with excellence.

If you are considering ghostwriting, here are some aspects you need to think on:

Prayer

Ghostwriting is an intense endeavor. Cover every aspect in prayer. Pray not only for your writing abilities, but for your client’s storytelling abilities. Pray every day, for every step.

Compatibility

symbiosisIn science, a symbiotic relationship is one where two organisms live really close to one another, sometimes one within the other, in a way that could be beneficial to one or both of the parties involved. This is ghostwriting.

As a ghostwriter, you must be inside your client’s story, mind, and voice. You must be compatible enough – especially in your differences – so you can get the job done. How do you know if you are compatible? Compare your values and your missions. If those two things align, you’re probably going to be okay.

The Story

Ghostwriters can be contracted to work on many different types of writing:

  • Business Writing (web copy, newsletters, press releases, policy & procedures manuals)
  • Full-length non-fiction or fiction
  • Memoirs

No matter what type of writing you will produce, you must decide if you are willing and able to live with the moral, ethical, social, and cultural impact that the writing might have.

For example, if you are a vegetarian, you are probably not going to write for a meat packing plant. If you are a devout Christ-follower, you are likely not going to write the memoirs of a person entrenched in witchcraft. These are hyperbolic examples, but they do make good points. Can you live with the entire story that may or may not have your name attached to it?

Anonymity

“Am I willing to spend hours/days/weeks/months on a project that might not ever mention my name?” If the answer to this question is no, you might want to run now. If the answer is yes, then continue reading. Find out what your client has in mind in terms of attribution. Some clients don’t mind sharing the author spotlight and will include the ghostwriter’s name on the cover. Some clients will mention a ghostwriter in the acknowledgements page. Some clients want the world to think they alone are the brilliant writers. Most ghostwriters give up bylines in what is called a nondisclosure agreement.

Understanding where you are in terms of anonymity is very important.

  • If your name is on this story, is it a story you want to be associated with in ten years?
  • If the client doesn’t want anyone to know they hired a ghostwriter, what are the terms of your silence?
  • Will the client be willing to be a reference and acknowledge your work to a future client?

Decide what you are willing to live with and put it in writing.

Method

This is basically how the project will move from your client’s mind, through you, to the page.

  • Will your client hand you a box of papers and say, here are my notes, go at it?
  • Will your client write the bones and you fill in the blanks?
  • Will you transcribe recordings and write from them?

In addition to how you will gather the facts of the story in the first place, you also need to know what your client expects in terms of editing, marketing, revision, and so forth. Writing is a process that involves so much more than scratching words on a paper. Ghostwriting is no different in that respect. Make sure you talk about how your client expects you to gather information, write, and revise.

Fees

This is the hard part, right? Deciding how much your work and time are worth is tricky. To know the best fee scale for your business, and your life, you need to find out what your rhythms are, how good you are at record keeping, and the parameters of each job.

Consider:

  • Will you apply a per word, per hour, or per project fee?
  • Is there travel involved?
  • Will you be required to purchase extra supplies for the project?
  • Will you need to pay an attorney for contract fees?
  • Will you be responsible for marketing? For editing and revising?

Consider, also, that little issue of anonymity. Now, if you are like most people who are writing a book, you want to make sure that you receive every penny people are willing to pay for your work, not just now but in the future. Will you receive royalties? Will you give up royalties? If you ghostwrite a memoir that becomes a smash best seller for six months straight, that’s a lot of royalties to give up. How will you feel about that? What does your contract say about that?

contract

And speaking of contracts, make sure your ghostwriting contract addresses all of these questions according to each project. If you are writing web copy, you won’t mention royalties. But if you are writing a non-fiction book a publisher asks to be re-written or edited in any way, make sure your initial contract makes room for these contingencies.

One day after the writers conference where I first felt the tug of ghostwriting, I received a phone call. The potential client was a very high profile personality. She and I went back and forth. She interviewed several ghostwriters. I did a lot of research and offered a bid, or a proposal, on the project. Yes, she would include my name on the front cover. No, there would be no royalties. Yes, she was willing to pay a tidy sum for my ghostwriting fee. Yes, the book idea had already been accepted by a publisher, with a promise of more books to come.

After a few more weeks of negotiations, I had to write a hard email. I turned the project down, even though it would have meant more than a year’s worth of freelance income for me and my family.

Why?

Because even though the client initially said she wanted to glorify God and lead others to Christ, she didn’t want the names of God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit in the book at all. She wanted to use curse words in the narrative, and she didn’t mind being explicit in glorifying worldly passions and pursuits because she wanted to “be real.”

At the end of my days, I will stand before the Lord. I will make an account for my actions, my inaction, and every single word, even those I write that belong to someone else. When I stand, will the ghosts come back to haunt me?


Click-to-Tweet: No matter what type of writing you will produce, you must decide if you are willing and able to live with the moral, ethical, social, and cultural impact that the writing might have. Who You Gonna Call? Ghostwriter! via @InspiredPrompt

WRITING PROMPT: You are a ghostwriter. Your client is the only granddaughter of an heiress in your small Arkansas town. Before she can receive her inheritance, the granddaughter must find someone who can take an attic full of notes and transform them into a memoir to top all memoirs. You accept the project, are firing on all cylinders, until you find the box that will change the entire town forever. What does the box contain? 

Let the Truth Flow

Research: Current Events
by Kristy Horine

“I can’t believe you gave an interview without asking permission,” she said. “I thought you were more professional than that.”

The call completely took me off guard. An editor who had trusted me for two years with at least one full-length feature article in every single edition was on the phone speaking words that just didn’t make sense.

“I don’t give interviews. I do interviews,” I said. “There must be some mistake.”

It took three phone calls and an hour’s worth of research to discover the heart of the mistake.

One of the magazines I wrote for published my article on a small hospital that offered specialized care for patients with a specific , yet common condition. No one else within several hundred miles offered this care.

I did my due diligence as a freelance journalist. I researched the history of the place, gathered amazing, heart-wrenching stories from patients and their families, secured all the proper releases, shot photos, spoke with administrators and public relations officials. I even ate at a diner near the hospital so I could gather the impact of the facility on the townsfolk. This hospital worked miracles. It deserved the best I could give.

But here, a few weeks after my story went public, I learned that a student journalist from a major university had used word-for-word information from my article that she submitted as her own work for university publication.  The student never spoke with me, she never mentioned the original article, and she got some very important facts very wrong.

In this rapid-fire, often-questionable, 24-hour news streaming culture, proper research on current events can be the difference between earning the respect of your editors and your next paycheck, or simply adding your byline to a growing list of news trolls.

This experience made me think: What if I had been the sloppy journalist? What damage could I do to my sources, or to a worthy story that deserves to be heard?

There are hundreds of articles released every day that are well-researched, well-written articles. There are thousands of articles released every day that are not. With the deluge of information from around the world, how do writers know that the information they are including in their articles is trustworthy?

Here are a few tips:

  1. Only use direct quotes from primary sources with whom you have direct contact. Using another writer’s quotes as if you had done the work to capture them is lazy, breeds mistrust, and the sources can never be verified.
  2. If you reference information like poll data, dates of space shuttle launches, the wingspan of an Andean condor, or the number of seeds a sugar beet farmer in the Dakotas plants per year, make sure that you give a trusted reference for your information. There is no shame in consulting an expert. Use phrases like “According to …”, or “In a May 2017 Gallup Poll …”, or “The Cincinnati Zoo, which has partnered with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Andean Condor Species Survival Plan …”
  3. ALWAYS gather research information from a reputable source. Wikipedia, tabloid webzines, and most blogs do not promise accuracy. If you use online information from a company’s website, make a quick phone call to verify the present-day accuracy of the information. In this digital age, using hard bound books or printed professional journals might seem archaic, but it is often a great source for specific, proven information.
  4. Make a personal editorial decision before you crack your first book, read your first article, or contact your first source, to be completely honest no matter what you find – or don’t find – in your research. Good research often leads to better interview questions and broadens the writer’s perspective on a topic.
  5. Most of all, have fun with research. You never know what next story you might find there.

Click to tweet: Research. There are hundreds of articles released every day that are well-researched, well-written articles. There are thousands of articles released every day that are not. #research #amwriting

Writing Prompt: Consider the importance of truth. Where might the absence of truth lead a society? Pretend you are the last writer on earth and write a scene of building trust with folks who have never known the truth.

 

Do you Know your Rights?

Google search

I am an author, but I’m also a multi-published freelance writer. In fact, I got my start in writing by freelancing small pieces such as articles, devotions, stories for anthologies, etc. I have been freelancing successfully since 2010 and now have somewhere around 200 published pieces in numerous publications. I also teach workshops on freelancing at writers’ conferences. When I do, I always start with a brief lesson on writer’s rights. Understanding the different types of rights is so important!

These rights are true regardless of whether you are negotiating a contract for a small piece or a larger work. It’s always good to know what your contract says; what rights you are selling the publication / publisher and what rights you are keeping.

Types of rights:

First Rights also called First American Serial Rights (FASR): If you sell a publication First Rights, it means you are selling them the right to be first to publish the piece. (In other words, you are telling them that it has not been published before, and you will not allow it to be published until after whatever time stipulated in the contract. Contracts differ on this—many say one year after the date it appears in their publication, others say six months, and a few say it can be published again immediately after the date it first appears in their publication.)

When you sell first rights, after the time stipulated in the contract, the rights revert to you as the author and you can use it any way you like (you can post it in a compilation of your own, or sell a reprint to it.)

First rights can only be sold once—the first time it is published.

Reprint Rights sometimes called Second American Serial Rights: If you sell a piece that has already been published, you are selling the new publication reprint rights, i. e. the right to publish a reprint of your work. Not all magazines will purchase reprints and those that do often pay less. Not always though; my highest paying article the first time for .25 a word (it was a 1500 word article so that came to $380), the second time as a reprint for another $375 to a magazine that paid just as much for reprints as it did for 1st rights, and has sold two more reprints since then (for $75 & $240) and I’ll sell it again if the opportunity presents itself.

You can sell reprint rights as many times as you can find someone to purchase them. You own the rights to the piece.

One-time Rights are a little tricky. They work more like reprint rights in that the writer owns the rights to his or her piece and can sell them as often as possible. Some well-established writers sell these because there is a demand for that writer’s work. Most publications do not buy these, though. Most stipulate in the writers’ guidelines what kind of rights they are willing to buy, and it is usually first rights, reprint rights, or all rights.

All rights or Exclusive Rights: I generally caution against selling all rights or exclusive rights to a piece. If a magazine buys all rights that means they will own the piece if the writer is willing to sell it. Personally, I do not ever sell all rights to my work. It feels to me like I am selling my babies. They are mine, created from my head and though I am happy for someone to publish it, I do not want that entity to then own it. I want to own my own work! All rights you sell only once, because then it is no longer yours to sell. Selling all rights do, however, tend to pay more and some writers are happy to sell them.

Work for Hire is a term that also refers to the kind of rights a writer will have to a piece. It means the publication has hired you to write for them. Therefore, that publication owns whatever you write. Many journalism jobs are work for hire—where the writer writes for that newspaper, or magazine and as such, writes whatever that magazine wants them to write, and the magazine then owns the content.

I do take some work for hire jobs. I have taken and will continue to take assignments from a couple different devotional magazines. These assignments are considered work for hire, so I do not own the devotions I have written for them. The two I write for are Open Windows (Lifeway) and Reflections (Smyth & Helwys) These are the only instances where I give up ownership of anything I write.

That’s it in a nutshell. Usually you find the rights a magazine wishes to buy in their writers’ guidelines.

Click to Tweet: From @harrietemichael Do You Know Your Rights? What you need to know about writers’ rights. @InspiredPrompt #devotional #writer


Writing Prompt: Write why you would or would not be willing to write on assignment where the publication keeps the rights to your work.

Five Reasons Why You Should Attend a Writer’s Conference

By Jennifer Hallmarkpen-994464_1280

It’s August and we, at the Writing Prompts blog, are dedicating the whole month to writer’s conferences. I’ve attended several, and they’ve made a major difference in moving my writing from hobby to serious vocation.

We’ll be sharing our own experiences this month about some of the different conferences we’ve attended, both large and small. You’ll see what you can expect if you’re trying to decide whether or not to take this big leap of faith. What goes on there? What do people wear? Whom can I meet? What if I don’t have a clue about what I need to do? Hopefully, we’ll answer these questions and more. So stick around and learn a little more about the place where writers go to connect with others, celebrate accomplishments, attend classes, challenge ourselves, and conquer fears and doubts about their personal writing journey…

What are five specific reasons to attend a writer’s conference?

  • Connect-Writers tend to work alone so connection with other writers is always a positive. I’ve made some wonderful friends at these meetings and enjoyed talking shop. And don’t forget about meeting editors, agents, and publishers. I like to discuss current trends in the industry and if I have an article, short story, or novel ready, to pitch my idea.
  • Celebrate-At most conferences, there is some type of writing contest. It’s a good place to enter your work and celebrate victory if you’re chosen. It’s equally important to celebrate with others for their achievements. I always buy a few books and chat about good news with other like-minded people.
  • Classes- And don’t forget all the classes and workshops offered to strengthen your writerly skills, learn about marketing and current trends, and just be encouraged to keep going a little bit longer. I can’t tell you how many times I felt like giving up, only to attend a class that filled up my depleted soul.
  • Challenge-As an introvert, conferences are extremely challenging, and that’s the main reason I try to go as often as possible. I need to be stretched and take chances if I plan on writing material that will lift up, build up, and stir up the people that God wants to reach through me. I also make sure to schedule appointments, though I’m usually shaking and sweating by the time I make it to their table. I keep finding out that people really are nice at these conferences.  🙂
  • Conquer-By the time a conference is over, I’m tired and overloaded with new information. I’ve exchanged business cards with numerous people and usually have arranged with at least one editor or agent to send a query or proposal. I load everything back in my car and release a giant sigh as I drive away. Once again, God has helped me to put most of my anxiety and uncertainty aside so I could enjoy and benefit from another conference. I’ve conquered, and there is no better feeling when I make it home and rest a day or so before going back over all that I’d learned.

 

2015-08-22 14.34.56

Betty and Jennifer at the Atlanta Christian Writers Conference

Below I’ll list a few of the ones that you can attend in the upcoming months. I would encourage you to schedule one of these conferences to visit in the future. You’ll be glad you did…

Aug 3 – 6, 2016: Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference  (Langhorne PA)

Aug. 12-14, 2016: Writer’s Digest Conference East (New York, NY)

August 15-18, 2016: Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference

Aug. 1820, 2016: Atlanta Christian Writer’s Conference

Aug. 20, 2016: Toronto Writing Workshop

Aug. 25-28, 2016:  American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) annual conference, Nashville, Tenn.

Sept. 9, 2016: Sacramento Writers Conference (Sacramento, CA)

Sept. 10, 2016: Writing Workshop of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)

Oct. 7 &8, 2016: The Tenth Annual Breathe Christian Writers Conference (Grand Rapids, MI)

Nov. 5-6, 2016: Show Me Writers Masterclass (Columbia, MO)

Nov. 19, 2016: Las Vegas Writing Workshop (Las Vegas, NV)

Feb. 17-19, 2017: The Asheville Christian Writers Conference – Writers Boot camp (Asheville NC.)

Feb. 22-26: Florida Christian Writers Conference (Leesburg, FL.)

Feb. 26 – March 3, 2017: Writers Winter Escape Cruise (departs Miami, FL)

Writing Prompt: Deanna placed her hand on the door knob, biting her lips. Her first class at her first writing conference. What was she thinking when she signed up? Too late to back out now. She turned the knob…