Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review: Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks by Kelly James-Enger

I realize I’m incredibly late to the party as far as the many, many books on building and improving your freelance business go, so I do apologize to those of you who probably read this book years ago. But since diving into freelancing without much of a plan, I’ve been trying to make the time to read the books that I’ve heard positive buzz about.

And Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer’s Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Co-Authoring Books by Kelly James-Enger is certainly buzz-worthy. She offers a clear, step-by-step process for establishing yourself as a ghostwriter, warts and all. While ghostwriting can certainly be a lucrative income stream, some writers may not want to put a major amount of work into a book project and not get any credit for it. This is where co-authoring—collaborating with another writer and seeing both names on the cover—may be a better option.

Enger, who has ghostwritten and co-authored a number of books, provides pointers on what to charge, how to decide on a client (will they be amiable or a total PITA?, will they be easy to reach and accessible or difficult to track down?), how to get down to work with authors (whether as a ghost or a collaborator), assembling book proposals, and how to tackle 10 common problems many ghosters experience.

While I haven’t tackled any book-length projects, I’ve ghostwritten blogs and other materials and my ego was fine with it. Of course, a book is considerably more work, so I think all of the elements would have to be in line before I’d agree to such an arrangement. I could see the pros and cons of both ghosting and co-writing, and I think both come down to one thing: being able to work well with others (and that goes for the collaborator, too). The other person must be willing to pull their share of the weight in order to get the project done, and Enger doesn’t sugar-coat the fact that not all clients are a joy to work with (as any freelancer would agree!) But her suggestions and input for how to deal with different types of roadblocks are helpful, and could be useful for dealing with any type of writing client.

What about you? Have you ever ghosted or co-written a book with another author? Care to share your experiences?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How Far Would You Go in the Name of Research?

A few weeks ago a few fellow writers and I made our annual trek to the regional writers’ conference we attend every year. As usual, we came home with minds chock-full of useful tips and tidbits about advancing our writing careers.

I attended a very interesting session on capturing “aha!” moments led by a writer and forensic psychologist who is well-known in these parts for her subject matter (forensics, serial killers, ghosts, vampires, and essentially anything related to the dark side of human nature) and her researching methods. She’s a loyal practitioner of immersion research and has produced a number of interesting books as a result. She went “underground” with a group of modern-day vampires in order to learn about this subculture firsthand. She’s also gone ghost hunting with a group of paranormal investigators (yes, think Ghostbusters) and who knows what else.

Immersion research has always fascinated me. I’m expecting 2 books she recommended at the session: The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean and The Mole People by Jennifer Toth, about New York’s other population—the folks who have established whole communities in the city’s subway tunnels and underground nooks and crannies –and I’m anxious to read both of them. It’s gotten me thinking. How far would I be willing to go in the name of research? I complete the majority of my assignments using the traditional methods. I’ll do a face-to-face interview if the subject is particularly interesting or if the story relies heavily on capturing the mood and/or tone of a place or experience, but I’ve certainly never gone ghost hunting or traveled into the depths of New York City to interview the city’s homeless population (not that I’d turn down either opportunity). I guess my limits would be if I’m asked to do anything that puts me in physical harm, if I must spend an exorbitant amount of money on the experience (and won’t be reimbursed), or if the subject matter just doesn’t feel right and I have an ethical objection to it. Otherwise, I like to think of myself as being pretty open-minded and if I’m offered the chance to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I think I’d be pretty agreeable to it.

What about you? How far would you go in the name of research?