Gotham Ghostwriters is the nation's premier ghostwriting agency.Gotham stands alone as the first and last word in ghostwriting a one-stop solution for any author or speaker looking for help telling and selling a story.
SUMMARY: Gotham Ghostwriters, the country’s premier agency for ghostwriting and related publishing and profile-building services, is looking for a communications/marketing manager to join in a key role on our small team, to build and manage the visibility, reach, and reputation of Gotham.
We are a disruptive start-up in full growth mode. We have built the largest network of freelance writing pros in the country—more than 2,000 book ghostwriters, speechwriters, white paper whizzes, book development pros, and other assorted specialists—and are adding to that rich talent pool on a weekly basis. The depth and diversity of our network, along with our sterling reputation for delivering high-quality content and service, are attracting an expanding list of authors and thought leadership clients (Fortune 100 brands, TED talkers, leading entrepreneurs, global advocates, etc.) who need help telling and selling their stories.
You are a nimble, confident communicator with a passion for building visibility, and are comfortable taking the reins on all traditional communications and marketing functions, while also being a creative writer and storyteller for Gotham’s content marketing and brand-profile development.
RESPONSIBILITIES: We are looking to hire someone who will do for Gotham what we do for our hundreds of clients: create powerful, insightful, high-value content, that expresses our brand, authority, and expertise in a way that invites sharing and leads to new client engagements. We want to attract a personality who revels in having a broad mandate, and who is excited about overseeing external communications, content and traditional marketing efforts, and working with the CEO and BizDev on managing our brand’s story.
More specifically, the Comms/Marketing Manager will be responsible for:
• Employing both content and traditional marketing practices to spread and share Gotham’s expertise and value proposition
• Working with CEO and BizDev to shape editorial approach, creative voice, and overall brand strategy
• Taking the lead in creating the overall content marketing strategy, social-media strategy, and traditional marketing strategy
• Creating and/or overseeing the creation of high-value content and thought leadership on the topics of publishing, book-writing, speechwriting, profile-building, executive leadership, and, yes, thought leadership
• Managing the day-to-day distribution of original content via our own website/blog, social media channels, content distribution channels, and partnership channels
• Creating content/distribution partnerships with aligned business partners and publishing partners; always be on the lookout for new high-value partnerships
• Managing all traditional communications tasks: write and distribute press releases; secure press coverage for Gotham news when appropriate; handle event ideation, promotion, and management, as led by CEO/Biz Dev; seek out high-profile speaking opportunities for Gotham management
• Working with CEO and BizDev to create sales presentations about each of our core practices (books, speechwriting, thought leadership, branded content,editorial services)
• Analyzing content performance in order to direct future content creation with the greatest impact
• Proposing, implementing, and tracking ROI of social marketing campaigns
• Seeking out and developing an external network of Gotham referrers
QUALIFICATIONS: Key for this position is smarts, passion, flexibility, relevant experience, and the desire to be the architect of a strong, engaging communications/marketing strategy for Gotham Ghostwriters at a time of rapid growth. Specific requirements are:
• 4-6 years’ experience in a communications and/or marketing role; experience in publishing strongly preferred
• A solid portfolio of compelling content developed for a variety of channels and platforms
• A solid portfolio of marketing and comms materials produced by you
• Strong project management and prioritization skills; ability to operate independently once strategy is set
• Superior written, oral and interpersonal communication skills
• A love of making connections and being in the mix, both to broadcast Gotham and to bring talent, ideas, and opportunity to Gotham; highly social personality a plus
• Impeccable attention to detail and a desire for consistency in all materials
• Excellent judgment for what types of content expose us to risk, and when to confer with management
• Strong appreciation for data-driven content and campaigns, and a knowledge of how to create SEO-driven content
• Ability to receive constructive criticism and edits, and then revise and refine your work
• Expertise in WordPress, Google Analytics, LinkedIn and Facebook Ads, and other relevant platforms
COMPENSATION: Salary commensurate with similar positions at small- to mid-sized companies. Health insurance provided. All the coffee you can drink.
APPLICATIONS: Please submit cover letter and resume, as well as 3 examples of your writing and 2 examples of your marketing/comms work, along with your anticipated salary range to: firstname.lastname@example.org
SUMMARY: Gotham Ghostwriters, the country’s premier ghostwriting agency, is seeking an entrepreneurial wordsmith with a strong background in book publishing to manage our stable of book ghosts and editors and oversee the assignment of projects for our clients.
We are a disruptive start-up now in full growth mode. We have built the largest network of freelance writing pros in the U.S. –- more than 2000 book ghostwriters, speechwriters, white paper whizzes, and other assorted specialists –- and are adding to that rich talent pool on a weekly basis. The depth and diversity of our network, along with our great reputation for delivering high-quality content and service, are attracting an expanding list of thought leadership clients (Fortune 100 brands, TED talkers, global advocates, etc.) and individual authors who need help telling and selling their stories.
You are a standout writer/editor who: 1) has honed their editorial skills at an established literary business; 2) has a keen interest in and facility with business, public affairs, and other idea-driven writing; and 3) is ready, willing, and able to help our agency meet our rising demand and reach our full potential.
RESPONSIBILITIES: The CBM will be the chief quality control agent for Gotham’s core service offering and main selling point – our ability to deliver the right writer for a given book client’s needs. They will be in charge of maintaining the standards and expectations of our network of writers. And they will run the
matching process we go through to maximize the chances of a successful book collaboration.
More specifically, the CBM will be responsible for:
• Vetting and approving new writers who are seeking to join our network
• Recruiting writers who specialize in high-value fields and genres
• Conducting inventory taking sessions with new clients to assess their needs and priorities
• Screening and recommending candidates for specific book projects from our network – and occasionally outside it
• Contributing to the agency’s brand promotional efforts
• Suggesting specific clients and book packaging opportunities
QUALIFICATIONS: Strong writing and people skills, excellent judgment, and a keen eye for making strong connections are the top prerequisites for this position. In addition, the ideal candidate will have:
In addition, the ideal candidate will have:
• A minimum of 5 years experience working in a related role at a book publisher, literary agency, or another publishing-related business
• Previous service as an assignment editor or manager of editorial talent and experience working with book ghostwriters and collaborators
• Creative ideas for expanding the firm’s brand awareness and reach
• A zest for working in a fast-paced, entrepreneurial environment
COMPENSATION: Salary commensurate with comparable jobs at a publishing start-up, as well as commissions for bringing in new business and bonuses tied to company performance. Health insurance provided.
APPLICATIONS: If you are interested in being considered for this position, please send a cover letter, resume, and writing samples to: email@example.com
Six years ago I helped a young Army officer who was dying of cancer to write his memoir. The first edition, published by Beaver’s Pond Press, had my name on the cover, because that’s what the author and I felt was most honest. When Random House bought the rights, they wanted me off the cover on account of people look askance at an as-told-to book.
Caring about book sales the most, I readily agreed to this change. Unfortunately the author died the same week the book cracked the NYT best-seller list, but before he could do a book tour. And since I wasn’t on the cover, I certainly couldn’t fill in even had Random House wanted me to, and I doubt they made back the fat advance.
“Books by public figures, especially when written with help from others—Lauren Peterson is a speechwriter—are often pretty deadly,” wrote reviewer Katha Pollitt, “but Make Trouble manages to be genial, engaging and humorous.”
If you want to see deadly, check out books by public figures not written with help from ghostwriters. My Army officer collaborator happened to be a fantastic writer, and the book is most definitely his. But when I got to it it was a stack of well-written diary entries, and without me—without my organizational thinking, without our brutally, wonderfully honest conversations—it would never have seen the light of day. As he wrote in the acknowlegements, “David listened, observed the common threads of my life, and then aggressively helped me find an approach I never would have found on my own. His candor, humor, objectivity, empathy, and keen eyes helped me transform my stories in to My Story.”
Acknowledging that didn’t diminish the book, which was so much his in the end that when people commented on its quality—for good or ill—I was almost uninterested in what they had to say.
I don’t know about the reading public, but I’m coming to the conclusion that the authors I trust are the ones who do want their collaborators on the cover with them, because they have the confidence and candor to acknowledge the help they got in telling their own story.
And by the looks of it, publishers are beginning to agree. Collaborators are getting cover treatment more frequently these days—at least my speechwriter friends have. Lauren Peterson is a Facebook pal, and it’s sweet (and just) to see her nieces talking about how this book has made their ebullient aunt “basically famous.”
Longtime AARP speechwriter Boe Workman got cover billing with AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins, about their book Disrupt Aging. He even did some first-person promotional press for that book.
And Former James Clapper speechwriter Trey Brown is on the cover of Clapper’s forthcoming book, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence. Trey is appearing, with his boss, at the 2018 World Conference of the Professional Speechwriters Association, to openly discuss their collaboration.
Whether we’re talking about Facts & Fears or Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas—if a book is legit, it out to be able to survive conversation about its making.
Even if a “speechwriter,” God forbid, was involved.
David Murray is the executive director of the Professional Speechwriters Association. This article originally appeared on Vital Speeches of the Day.
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
That’s not bad, but it reads like it was written by a committee. Naturally, I’d like to improve on that. So here’s my definition:
Content marketing means regularly sharing valuable (useful or entertaining) content with your customers.
It has to be regular, because one “campaign” or post or video is not sufficient. It has to be useful or entertaining. And it has to be aimed at customers.
But I don’t say much about marketing. There are thousands of posts on how frequently to post, what format to post in, what words to use in your titles, how to use social media to drive traffic, and how to get that traffic to convert. These are all part of content marketing. But unless you have something to say, there is no point in the tactics you use to spread what you are saying. No one converts unless they believe you. So I prefer to concentrate on the content, and leave the marketing to the marketing experts.
If you share something valuable with your customers, you will succeed. The marketing optimization is just about how to maximize that success.
Why content marketing is good for your soul
So, content marketer, what are you going to say?
Answering this question is difficult. It requires you to understand who your company is and what your brand is.
If your company does something valuable for your customers, you will have something to say.
If you are HubSpot, you are about helping small and medium sized companies succeed. Go read the HubSpot blogs. You’ll learn a lot about success for small- and medium-sized businesses.
If you are Zendesk, you are about better customer service. Go check out the Zendesk videos. They’re excellent at surfacing the ironies of customer service.
If you are Nike, you are about the clothes and equipment that make athletes perform at their best (and look great, too). Check out Nike’s Instagram feed.
If you read or watch these, there is no question what these companies are doing, why they are doing it, and who they are. Their feeds are who they are.
Now, let’s talk about you and your content marketing goals.
Your company does something useful for customers, right? If not, give up right now, content marketing is not for you.
What do you do? Do you help them look great? Do you help them make airline reservations? Do you clean their swimming pools? From all that repeated work, you must have learned something. In fact, you must have learned a lot things.
If you have not learned a lot of things that would be useful or interesting to your customers, give up right now, content marketing is not for you.
If you have learned a lot of useful or interesting things, now your job is to organize your creation and delivery of that knowledge. You might blog, create podcasts, post on a Facebook page, tweet, release a series of videos, post on Instagram, maintain a board on Pinterest, answer questions on Quora . . . the list is endless. Which of those you should do is a useful discussion, and if you attend one of these content marketing events you’ll probably get a lot of advice on that.
But organizing what you want to say is more important than how you want to say it. Because you’re going to have to be producing content on a regular basis, so you need a plan that’s not going to run out of content.
Whether you are a sole proprietor or a massive company, this means you need to think about a few things.
• What is the single, most important thing you want to get across? How will you circle back around to that in multiple posts?
• How will you organize your content? You could do it by different verticals, different use cases, different parts of the client company, different stages of a process, different size companies, and so on. This is how you get to diverse and rich content.
• What is the relationship between your content group, your company’s brand owners, and your PR department? Can you publish without an onerous approval process? This is only going to work if you, the content marketer, develop into a trusted voice for your brand.
• How will you respond to people who react to what you post? Will you answer their questions? Will you use their ideas to drive you to new and better ideas, not just for content marketing, but for your company?
And if you develop this level of understanding, not only will you be a valuable member of your company’s marketing team, you will feel good about what you are doing. Because your inspirational work and your company’s goals will be aligned.Answering these questions will get at fundamental questions about your company, its brand, and how it relates to customers. This is a good thing for your brand. Clarifying and deepening your understanding of these questions could make a fundamental difference, not just in your company’s marketing, but in its overall strategy.
This is why content marketing is good for your soul. I hope it generates a lot of business for you. But it ought to make you and your company succeed together, too. Isn’t that what work ought to be about?
This one distinction forms the basis of all our workshops, client work, and even my next book in the making:
And here’s why —
Story, in its simplest form, is about a character and the things that happen to them. As author Michael Lewis defines it, “a story is — people and situations.” A story has a beginning, middle, and end. Where we explore the desire, dilemmas, and choices that a character faces. Think of a story as an anecdote or vignette that recounts specific moments, with a time and place. It provides us with entertainment, insight, or even a lesson on life. It creates a shared emotional experience that can bond us together. A customer story. A “values in action” story. A new employee on-boarding story.
Therein lies the challenge — in business, we are swimming in a sea of stories.
Everybody has a story. From the boardroom to social media. Infinite stories. Billions and trillions of stories. Where every story matters. In such an environment how can you make sense and meaning of things, much less get everyone aligned around a shared common story? That’s the role and power of narrative. Defining the frame.
Narrative in contrast to story, is much bigger. It’s a way of looking at the world. An overarching concept that influences thought, meaning and decision-making. A symbolic frame like the American Dream or Just Do It. It doesn’t necessarily have clear beginning, middle, and end like a story, but rather is still usually unfolding over time. Which means the conclusion is still up for grabs! If stories are each like a pearl, then narrative is the necklace or string of pearls. It’s what connects the dots at the big picture level. A good narrative, will use a range of stories to illustrate, animate, and validate its message. Narrative gives meaning to a broader vision, a view of what’s possible, and why we should head in that direction.
At Facebook, we work with multiple product teams including one with over 100M power users. How many stories exactly are there? For another client, we framed their vision to almost 20,000 employees for the next generation of a $2B corporate campus. If you try to communicate at such an epic and high-stakes level, without a clear distinction between story and narrative, your message is likely to get lost in translation.
That’s why Strategic Narratives matter more than ever.
In the face of complexity, disruption, and business transformation — what organizations need is a bigger story: aka a Strategic Narrative.
The purpose was to elevate the discourse before any decisions are made on the future of any aspect of Amazon’s products, services, or divisions.
Visual: The Difference Between Story vs Narrative
Hopefully, you’re starting to see how narrative is crucial for anybody trying to shift the status quo. It’s what helps people see the forest from the trees. To make strategic sense and meaning. And align the trajectory forward.
So where can you learn how to craft a narrative?
Few companies give their leaders a structure or model for this. To communicate the breakthrough work being done by you or your team, it’s not enough to tell a simple story. One closed loop story does not go deep enough to portray a disruptive visions, product, or idea. You need to go further. You need to think in narrative.
Are you ready to go from story to narrative?
Then join us for our next 1-Day Masterclass in San Francisco.
You will learn our breakthrough 3-step narrative sequence for any high-stakes presentation. Discover how to humanize data, get executive sponsorship, convey your product roadmap, align your team, and create conviction around big bets and high stakes outcomes.
This training is unlike any other storytelling or communications workshop you have ever taken. Many participants describe it as a life-changing experience and catalyst for career advancement.
Hosted in partnership with Cooper Design, you’ll be amongst product, design, research, and marketing leaders.
Michael Margolis is an expert narrative strategist and the CEO and Chief Storyteller at GetStoried. This piece originally appeared on Medium. You can learn more about his narrative training course here.
‘There comes a time when patience is no longer a virtue.’ These seventy-year-old words hovered over the dunes during a misty run along the North Sea coast. It was a Tuesday morning in October. Green leaves turned into brown. In the silence I pondered the words Prime Minister Louis Beel solemnly spoke to the Dutch people in 1947. Words that prepared our small country for war in Indonesia — police actions as they where called. The Prime Minister, one journalist observed, ‘moves through political language like a poisonous snake cunningly stalking his prey in a tropical jungle’.
A new voice arose as I ran on. It was President Jimmy Carter’s, diagnosing America with a crisis of confidence. ‘It strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.’
Phrases, anecdotes, fragments of political language — simmering in the back my head, bursting into song as soon as I start to run.
In the beginning was the word, I learned as a little boy, the word was with God and the word was God. It is a mystical truth, ringing more true each time I open my Twitter feed. These god-like qualities may sound overblown too many. They are taken deadly serious however by a small group of craftspeople (of which I am one): speechwriters. Practitioners of the oldest literary craft: the spoken word. What started as sagas whispered around campfires is now a well-oiled profession where politics and literature collide.
A speechwriter helps others — especially politicians — turn emotions, ideals and truths into understanding. From the shallow wordplay during election time to the word therapy in the wake of a national disaster. Politicians’ words flow like cement and then cure within the joints of society. Political rhetoric is ‘art for democracy’ — for God and country, one could say.
A speechwriter’s life often is the schizophrenic’s life. Being John Malkovich meets Ground Hog Day: crawling under someone’s skin and into his or her head — over and over again. You are part of ‘the political sphere’, but half of you stands outside as well. You are in that world, but not of that world.
‘You’ve got to be one to become one’, I once said — a fumbling answer to the question how one lands such a job. Grotesque as it may sound, there is some truth to it. One can hold a degree in rhetoric, but being a speechwriter is different. The job just suits you or it just doesn’t.
It only suited me after years of dealing with an unfocused longing to write. I tried my hand at a novel which — according to the publisher — went off track somewhere half way. As one door shut, another opened. I was offered the chance to write a speech for the principal at the Ministry where I worked: an energetic and glib young man who could sell policy like a shiny sports car. A future Prime Minister according to many. I wrote about a new highway using phrases like a major endeavour and promising local residents a blissful future behind beautiful noise barriers. The speech was approved, but on his way to the event the Minister threw the eight single sided, double spaced pages through the car. All part of the job, I was told. The pages where quickly put back in the right order and the Minister spoke as if he had spent a week carefully crafting the speech himself.
After he had finished speaking I knew I had found my dream job. This curious form of spoken nonfiction — leadership by speech, governmental performance art, political spoken word artistry, call it what you will — had somehow fulfilled the longing.
Every speechwriter silently wants to be Sam Seaborn, the idealistic word wizard from The West Wing. Reality bites, though. Nine days out of ten are spent brooding behind a computer screen. Every speech starts with a stack of horribly written policy papers, one or two cues from your speaker and a head full of words and lines. And a looming deadline.
After the flashy young Minister left I went on to write for his successor: an introverted, easy-going liberal lady who carefully weighed her words. She excelled behind the scenes and accepted public speaking as an unavoidable task. Whenever I offered her a penny for her thoughts, she happily obliged. But when pressed for a story or anecdote, she offered an apologetic look. ‘I’m sorry, but I always forget those…’ And on we went, two Dutch people practicing the correct pronunciation of the word drought.
The office next to the minister was occupied by her colleague, the State Secretary. She was a social democrat and before entering government largely unknown in government quarters. Her policy portfolio was heavy, ranging from global warming to failing trains.
She helped us take the leap inside her head by taking a photo of her book shelves, from which I picked the novel Open City by Teju Cole — a slowly meandering story of a psychologist from Nigeria with a grandmother in Brussels and a life in New York City. My boss had not yet read the book. But after I finished it I saw a fitting metaphor for her aviation and public transport policies.
Two years later she resigned. As in every good story — I now knew — political tension built for about a year until it hit boiling point somewhere in October. She was seen as ‘out of control’ and ‘mired in governmental quicksand’. It was a ritual of political penance. Parliament demanded a sacrificial lamb. Then, a press conference — I stood silently in a corner of the room, back against the wall. The magical word was spoken, blood was shed, the ritual completed. Living rooms across the country went back to regular order. And I had lost my voice.
All the while our Minister was still going strong. During the strange days — in which political ritual and business as usual intertwined — I started to see myself from a distance: whispering behind my computer screen, trying out new words or sitting in the Minister’s office talk her through a draft. Or I found myself sitting anonymously in a packed conference room, feeling the stage fright my boss was supposed to have. Sometimes I did catch myself muttering through the studied silences in her speeches — as if she needed me as her prompter.
I started to detect a parallel with the short stories I wrote before. Just like then I thought up words that befitted a character. But now they were characters made of flesh and bones, with morning moods and their own peculiarities. But I also realized that for most people they were just faces vaguely recognized during the eight o’clock news.
Maybe I hadn’t failed at literature after all, but unexpectedly found it in the bloodless realm of a governmental office space. A story with living characters wanting to shape their world with political acts and public words. Introverts and extraverts, consensus builders or humming with joy at the sight of conflict. Confidently moving or carefully treading.
Almost unconsciously a strange relationship is built between a speaker and his or her writer. Sometimes there’s a professional intimacy, at other times there’s nothing like that. Sometimes there’s a slip of the tongue like: ‘moral leadership… The term means practically nothing to me…’ Sometimes a speaker treats a staffer horribly — with me lacking the courage to stand up against indecency.
But despite these rough edges life around the bully pulpit seldom is black and white. Faulty leadership, political cynicism, insensitive and shallow behaviour go hand in hand with enormous political pressure, hard choices between two evils, honesty, insecurity and dreams. Even when struggling I felt drawn to the ideas and ideals that shimmered through the dust. Almost every speaker I’ve worked with truly strove for something bigger than his- or herself: a world without drought and flooding, a society in which everyone has a fair chance, ‘an incredibly cool country.’
‘I can’t remember a speech I heard in five years that was actually meant to persuade, though I heard dozens that faithfully recited party talking points’, wrote Canadian academic Michael Ignatieff in Fire and Ashes — a brutally honest account of his failed political career. One only has to watch the evening news to see that what goes for Canada, goes for the entire western world. Too often political language is just a cheap Tweet or a flat sound bite. Moreover, my own country lacks a strong public speaking culture.
But all who wander are not lost. We still hear memorable words from political leaders, even in The Netherlands. Almost thirty years after Louis Beel another prime minister — Joop den Uyl in December 1973 — announced another sobering reality. ‘The world before the oil crisis is not returning. This will certainly change our way of life. Certain prospects will disappear. But it should not necessarily make us less happy.’ Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers (whom we just lost last month) announced the Gulf War in January 1991 as if the fighting happened in the streets of Amsterdam. ‘Now, the weapons speak… Let us hold each other… praying that this violence will not last long; praying that as few people as possible will die, as few as possible too of the poor people of Iraq.’ And I can still feel the disbelief hitting Prime Minister Wim Kok, gasping for breath after the murder of the up-and-coming populist Pim Fortuyn in 2002. ‘Words totally fail me… I am broken. I am truly broken after what happened here, today, in this country…’
To supply these words and increase their value is the speechwriter’s mission. Despite the noise we soldier on believing that words remain man’s best way to express ourselves. Even in the small middle class country full off ‘ordinary people acting normal because that’s crazy enough.’ A good speech remains a beautiful way to show your hand. It is, to use an antiquated word, a confession of faith. To paraphrase George H.W. Bush: true words are a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.
I went on to write speeches for a Minister who concurred. She constantly challenged her advisors, dared to doubt out loud, showed her emotions and wanted her words to bridge gaps in society. Her words offered vulnerability, curiosity and courage. We leaned on great thinkers and on small words, like Franklin D. Roosevelt’s I hate war.
Together, speaker and speechwriter mould words into reality. You ditch grammar rules, ponder the needed style, grasp for an alliteration or a fine chiasmus. Then you scramble the structure or screw up a sentence. Sometimes whole paragraphs are crossed out, including the joke that took you hours to get right.
On many days you harvest a meagre applause. Sometimes words are really lacking. At other times it all works out. You feel like you have the words on a string and your speech is turned into pure poetry.
The morning mist grew thicker and thicker while I ran down the winding path. I thought about the speakers I worked with so far. Ten or so voices blended in my mind’s ear. Half of them were ready to pass the baton to a new government. Their successors, new characters, waited on the wings. I remembered T.S. Eliot: For last year’s words belong to last year’s language / and next year’s words await another voice.
It was just a hop step jump from Eliot to W.H. Auden, whose words from 1939 — what a year for political rhetoric that was — came to mind. I suppressed the crosswinds and accelerated. Through gritted teeth I whispered words that rendered beautifully the vulnerability of the spoken word: All I have is a voice / to undo the folded lie.
Jan Sonneveld in a speechwriter from The Hague (Netherlands). This essay was originally published in Liter, a Dutch literary magazine.
I speak with people all the time who are hoping to publish a non-fiction book but don’t know how to get started. One of the first things I ask is whether they’ve considered going with a traditional publishing house or self-publishing. There are a variety of pros and cons to both routes and the best choice truly depends on the author’s situation and goals. Some people know this already, but most people don’t know that it can actually be smart to decide on the publishing route before they start writing. Publishers won’t review a manuscript to decide whether they want to work with a non-fiction author; they review a book proposal. So the question really comes down to whether would-be authors should focus on their manuscript or a proposal.
In this post, I lay out the top three things to consider when choosing between a publisher and self-publishing.
Platform: To obtain a book deal from a traditional publisher, it’s essential that you have a “marketing platform.” In a nutshell, this means that you’re in contact with a lot of people who would buy your book. (You didn’t think the publisher would do all the work in making the book a success, did you? That would be nice, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.)
The publisher serves as a brand name for the author, and they want the author to repay the favor. That’s why publishers opt to work with authors who can sell copies on their own. In fact, there’s an entire section of the standard book proposal that’s dedicated to the author’s marketing efforts.
This is where you would share stats like:
• Average number of visitors to your website per month
• Other websites and publications that have published your writing
• Number of speaking engagements per year and the average audience size
• How many people are on your email list and connected to you on social media (And whether they are engaged in your content, opening your e-newsletters and retweeting your messages)
• YouTube video views
• Partnerships with influencers in your industry
• And the list can go on and on
I’ve written several book proposals that were accepted by a publishing house or even started a bidding war between publishers. In each case, the author had a really impressive marketing platform. They didn’t all have huge numbers for every criterion listed above, but when one was lower, another more than made up for it. (One author had fewer than 5,000 email contacts but had 50,000 twitter followers. One had fewer than 5,000 social media contacts, but had many impressive business partnerships and spoke in front of 10,000 people a year.)
This isn’t to say you can’t get a non-fiction book deal without a huge marketing platform, but it certainly makes it harder. The bigger and more successful the publisher, the higher their expectations are likely to be.
If your platform isn’t up to snuff, you could work on it before you dive into writing your book, or you could self publish. But even if you self-publish, you’ll still need to work on your platform if you care about getting your book into people’s hands. There are so many books in the world, people don’t just stumble upon unknown titles and turn them into best-sellers. Yes, it can happen, but 99.999% of the time it doesn’t.
You have to be active in marketing.
Money: No doubt you’re familiar with the allure of book deals where publishers pay authors six-figure advances to fund the writing process. You’ve probably thought to yourself how nice that sounded. Yep, kind of like winning the lottery would be nice. Publishers still dish out big advances like in the old days, but only to authors who are a sure thing. If you aren’t a celebrity, you haven’t already written a book that sold thousands of copies, and you don’t have a massive following, you probably won’t get a huge advance. You might get enough to cover a ghostwriter, but it’s smart to plan on funding the creation of your book either way.
Advances aside, the way you make money through a traditional publisher and self-publishing is very different. Through a publishing house you make royalties, which is a percentage of sales. Royalty deals can be complex and vary greatly, but we’re typically only talking a dollar or two per book. If you sell a million copies, you’re golden, but most books don’t come anywhere near that number. When you self-publish, the money you make is the price of the book minus your costs. Depending on the variables, you could make closer to $10 per book. As you can see, your sales can be much lower and yield the same revenue.
Even though these models are totally different, the thing to keep in mind is that the vast majority of non-fiction authors won’t make most of their money on book sales. They will make it through bringing in more clients, booking more speaking engagements, and being able to charge more for their services.
Think of your book as a marketing piece.
Freedom: It usually all comes down to freedom, doesn’t it? When you work with a publisher, they own the rights to your book. You agree to the terms of what they’ll pay you in various sales scenarios, but they’re running the show. That means they have final say in your title, cover art, timeline for release, length of the book, and any edits to your manuscript. The idea is that publishers have more experience than individual authors in making good choices on these matters, so authors benefit from handing over the decision-making power. For the most part, I agree with that. However, it might not be enough to give up this freedom if you don’t feel like you’re getting much in return. Most publishers don’t help very much with marketing the books they represent. They might do a few things for authors, but not enough for authors to lean on them. That’s one reason why self-publishing is becoming more and more popular.
If you don’t want to give up your decision-making power, well, more power to you. Just know that unless you are a seasoned writer and publishing expert, you should still get professional help with the editing and production process. (Heck, everyone needs an editor.) There are plenty of companies that will print your book or create an e-book with no questions asked, but there’s a good chance it will look like you slapped it together by yourself.
Channel your freedom into hiring whoever you want to help you.
There’s a lot to know about publishing, but these are the three most important factors for new authors to consider. Instead of determining the one “right answer,” you must decide which path is best for you as an individual.
Amelia Forczak is a Best-Selling Ghostwriter and the Owner of Pithy Wordsmithery, a company that provides strategic ghostwriting, marketing, and consulting for authors and businesses.
Both potential clients and fellow ghostwriters are uncertain about ghostwriting fees. Clients always want to know what the ranges are. Fellow ghostwriters always feel they are not charging enough or perhaps they are charging too much. It’s all a muddle.
I wish there was more transparency in the fees ghostwriters charge. Very few ghostwriters I know of list fees on their web sites. My own blog on ghostwriting was recently selected by Feedspot as one of the 40 best ghostwriter blogs in the world. I appreciate the honor. So I used that list to see if any of the top ghostwriters listed fees on their web sites. None do.
I do. My web site is very clear that my minimum fee for ghostwriting a book is $50,000. Does this statement scare away potential clients with a budget of, say, $45,000? I doubt it. What it does do is cut down on the number of calls and emails I get from prospects who are in no position to hire me.
Advances and Royalties
Besides the writing fee, ghostwriters also want to know about indirect compensation. Here we are talking about the ghostwriter sharing the advance or royalties, if any, with the client. I’m very clear on this matter. I don’t ask for any share of the advance or royalties. I make it clear that my writing fee represents the total compensation I earn. Advances and royalties go to the client.
I think this is the cleanest way to do things. It also short circuits a conversation I really don’t want to have. Some clients have the impression that ghostwriters will write the book without a fee in anticipation of getting some or all of the anticipated advances and royalties. I’m a business ghostwriter. That model is not for me.
I know some ghostwriters do well with participating in the royalties. Some have gotten rich. (Think of Tony Schwartz, Donald Trump’s ghostwriter (really collaborator) on The Art of the Deal or UK ghostwriter Andrew Crofts.) These ghostwriters typically work on celebrity books that sometimes generate revenue far beyond any reasonable fee. And there’s an argument to be made that revenue sharing royalties aligns the long-term interests of the ghostwriter and the client.
Yes, risks sometimes pay off big. And early in my career I did well by sharing royalties. But lately I’m more comfortable just charging a fee and letting the writer benefit from the royalties. Like I said, it’s a cleaner model that avoids long-term financial entanglements.
Hope this discussion helps clients and ghostwriters have more informed conversations about fees and other compensation issues.
John Kador is an independent business writer whose best-selling books and insightful articles have been helping business leaders work smarter and more profitably for more than three decades. This article originally appeared on jkador.com.
The 2018 Virginia Festival of the Book has confirmed it will host Dan Gerstein, our very own founder and president, at the Omni Hotel Monroe Room on March 24th at 4:00 pm.
Gerstein will participate as a panelist in the program “Ghostwriting: The joys of NOT writing your next bestseller” discussing the role ghostwriting plays in today’s publishing market, why it is so prevalent, and how it can be used to an author’s advantage. Moderator and GG friend Tanya Brockett, along with three veteran ghosts, will join Gerstein. Specific information about the program can be found at VaBook.org.
A signature program of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) and the Virginia Center for the Book, the Virginia Festival of the Book brings readers and writers together for a five-day program of mostly free events including author readings, book signings, panel discussions, programs for children, and more. The 24th annual Festival will be held March 21-25, 2018, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Our proprietary actuarial calculations help us pinpoint risk more precisely than other insurance carriers. Moreover, our efficient system of claims assessment increases the number of damaged cars our employees can inspect in a day. Finally, our automation reduces the cost of customer interaction by lowering the number of customer service agents we need to employ, especially during peak hours. All this taken together means we are able to undercut the premium price of most other carriers.
I know you hated that. But you’ve written that way yourself, even if you don’t realize it.
When you know something that the audience doesn’t, you’re itching to explain it. Call it expert’s disease, the desire for other people to “get it” just like you do, and to explain it until they do. It’s natural. We enjoy the feeling of mastering a subject, and we want other people to feel it, too. Maybe we even want to show off a bit. So we explain what we know in detail, confident that this is how to get someone interested.
But that’s not how you gain someone’s interest, let alone change a mind.
Here’s how many GEICO commercials begin, and how all of them end:
In just fifteen minutes, we can save you money on your car insurance.
Here’s the takeaway for writers: audiences don’t care much about how something will be done. They care most that the thing in question benefits them. So tell them the benefit first, last, and often.
GEICO may have an amazing business model, but you won’t find a GEICO customer who even knows it exists. GEICO customers did not buy in because they love GEICO’s management style. They bought in because in just fifteen minutes, this company is going to save me money on my car insurance.
When you write op-eds and speeches, begin with the benefit. Simply state how your idea makes someone’s life, business, or career better and easier. Be specific – don’t just say “better” or “easier.” Tell us about saving time, cutting costs, driving up income, or trimming red tape. How it works is of secondary importance, and sometimes it’s not important at all. Explain methods and models to the extent they are required to create confidence, but no more than that.
Short of criminal activity, you don’t really care how GEICO keeps those prices down. You just want to pay less for insurance – and that’s enough to close the deal.
Audiences seek explication, but they won’t be interested until they know they know there’s a benefit to hearing you out. Focus first on what’s in it for them, not how it works.
Mike Long is a speechwriter and author who teaches writing at Georgetown University.