Grace Lavigne

    • Member Type(s): Content Publisher
      Media - Print Journalist
      Media - Web-only/Blogger
      Media - Other
    • Title:Reporter
    • Organization:American Metal Market
    • Area of Expertise:Writing, Editing, Social Media

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    Internet Browsers: A Survey of ProfNet Users' Preferences

    Thursday, June 2, 2011, 2:55 PM [General]
    0 (0 Ratings)

    In an effort to better serve the ProfNet Connect community's technology needs, we asked you to tell us which Internet browsers you use by responding to a poll that I posted recently.

    The results show that 50 percent of you use Mozilla Firefox, 25 percent use Internet Explorer and 25 percent use Google Chrome. There were also two other options in the poll, "Safari" and "Other" (which would include browsers like Opera), however, none of the respondents said they used those alternatives. The poll allowed respondents to choose more than one browser, to compensate for users (like me) who use different browsers for different purposes. (For example, I use Internet Explorer at work, but I use Chrome on my laptop at home.)

    According to data posted on Net Applications, a website that shares usage statistics for Internet technologies, the poll results are not consistent with national market shares. At 50 percent, half of ProfNet Connect users use Firefox. However, as of April, only about 22 percent of the overall market (according to Net Applications) uses Firefox. Similarly, a quarter of ProfNet Connect users have Internet Explorer, against 55 percent of users in the overall market share. In other words, the ProfNet Connect poll for Firefox and Internet Explorer statistics showed inverse results of those posted on Net Applications. Firefox usage is highest on ProfNet Connect, while comparatively low in the overall market, and Internet Explorer is fairly low on ProfNet Connect, but claims more than half of the market nationally.

    As for Chrome, Net Applications statistics show about 12 percent of national users have it, but Chrome usage for ProfNet Connect users, at 25 percent, is more than double that. Net Applications also shows that about 7 percent of the market share is Safari, 2 percent is Opera, 1 percent is Opera Mini and 1 percent uses another browser; compared to my poll, which showed that none of the respondents use anything but Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome.

    Thank you to all those who took the time to participate in my poll. Your answers will help us serve your technologically needs better!

    How to Break Into Ghostwriting

    Thursday, May 26, 2011, 3:02 PM [General]
    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    "How to Break Into Ghostwriting" was a fascinating workshop hosted by Gotham Ghostwriters and cosponsored by American Society for Journalists and Authors (ASJA) (@ASJAhq). It was held at the NYU Journalism Institute (@nyu_journalism) in Manhattan.

    About 40 professional and amateur writers attended, but the event was also streamed live online, which is available for download here.

    The goal of the workshop was to help wannabe ghostwriters:

    • Understand the field of ghostwriting.
    • Find work via networking.
    • Establish a trusting relationship with the expert.
    • Learn tips on contracting and what to charge for the work.
    • Know when to hire a PR agent.

    The discussion was led by three ghostwriting experts:

    • Dan Gerstein (@dangerstein), president of Gotham Ghostwriters (@GothamGhosts), a firm that connects experts with ghostwriters, as well as the workshop's moderator.
    • Ellen Neuborne, professional ghostwriter, specializing in business, who has worked on more than a dozen book projects, and also former BusinessWeek editor and USA Today reporter.
    • Jason Ashlock (@jasonashlock), founder of Moveable Type Literary Group, a publishing agency.


    What Is Ghostwriting?

    Ghostwriting is not necessarily anonymous book writing -- it's just writing in someone else's voice, says Gerstein. Ghostwriting includes writing speeches, books (fiction and nonfiction), and white papers and reports.

    There are three stages of the ghostwriting process:

    • Creating a book proposal (which often requires collecting research, conducting interviews, etc.) and pitching it to a publisher who will accept or deny it for publication
    • Writing the manuscript
    • Editing

    Ghostwriting is all about finding and establishing the expert's voice. It's a pretty easy jump from freelancing, mentions Neuborne, because freelancers are used to writing in different voices. She started calling herself a "professional ghostwriter" after she had finished three projects.

    According to Ashlock, at least half of nonfiction books are written by ghostwriters. His duty as a publishing agent is to look for the right writer for the right project. The writer's track record at producing a certain type of content is important when searching for the right writer, since their voice will already be established for that subject. For example, if a project has a short deadline, then he'll search for a ghostwriter who is usually fast. 


    Networking, Finding Work and Maintaining Relationships

    "Write what you know," says Gerstein. If you're familiar with a certain subject, and already have an established voice, it's a great way to seem credible and get work. Networking is therefore very important, because you can get work from the experts already in your circle.

    Neuborne started ghostwriting through contacts she had made when she was an editor at BusinessWeek and a reporter at USA Today. She mentioned that even now, those jobs still help her get gigs, because business experts look at her as a ghostwriter and think: "She knows business. She gets me."

    It's essential that the expert trusts and respects the ghostwriter (and vice versa), so that the working relationship stays professional and the project turns out successfully. Gerstein notes that he thinks about 50 percent of success is based on the relationship between writer and expert, so maintaining confidence is key.

    However, maintaining a professional atmosphere can be challenging. From experience, Neuborne recommends setting boundaries from the get-go. For example, tell your expert when you are available to talk; don't be available 24/7 and don't give out all of your phone numbers. "Go into ghostwriting with the mindset: 'I run a business. I sell a service. I'm a professional,'" she says. It's like running a small business out of your home.

    Gerstein also adds that ghostwriters should keep a professional-looking website. "Don't post pictures of you with your cat!" he jokes. Your blog is an extension of your professional self.



    Neuborne mentions that there are two kinds of contracts for ghostwriters:

    • Collaboration agreement: determines publishing rights, financial splits and ghostwriter acknowledgement/credit.
    • Service agreement: more informal and states in plain English what the ghostwriter will do and how much they will be compensated for it.

    As her portfolio grows, Neuborne continuously updates her contract templates, adding extra clauses as she learns from experience. In particular, she notes that it is important to specify who is responsible for what and by when (using specific dates). For example, by what date should the expert have written and made edits to the ghostwriter's work? Different writers will have different requirements depending on the individual, the expert and the project. Neuborne's projects typically take around three to five months each.

    Ashlock doesn't recommend looking for ghostwriting contracts online. His advice is to get an attorney or agent who can draft a contract for your specific collaboration project.

    Typically, it's part of the contract if ghostwriters must be thanked or acknowledged in the text, and if they can include it in their resume afterwards. The ghostwriter is usually paid more for projects that do not give credit.

    It's also a good idea to make separate contracts for the book proposal and the book manuscript/editing, says Neuborne, so that no one can steal your book proposal idea and research. Charge separately for each part, she says. If the proposal is sold, it's a good idea to include a clause in the contract stating that you get first choice if you'd like to write the manuscript or not, since you did the initial research, adds Gerstein.

    (For fiction, a book proposal is normally the entire completed manuscript, unless the proposal is from a notable or previously published author, says Gerstein.)

    He also mentions that lots of people and self-publishers are looking for ghostwriters just to create outlines, make edits, etc. -- and not necessarily to write the entire manuscript -- because their budgets might be smaller or they just don't have the resources.



    Resist the pressure to give the expert a price immediately, says Gerstein. Talk about the project very specifically with them, and then come back with a hard estimate before you agree to anything.

    Neuborne concurs, telling the audience that her biggest mistake when she first started was pricing her work. She lost money on her first three projects because she didn't know how long a project could take or how much work it could require. Ghostwriting isn't measured by words or length, she says, it's measured by time and effort. Every ghostwriter is different: some are better at research, some are better at writing, some are better at speed. If the ghostwriter knows where they excel and where they struggle, then they'll also have a better understanding of how long the overall project will take.

    Talk about compensation as soon as the project idea has been fleshed out, Neuborne recommends. If the raw material/research for the project is already available and can be used immediately, then the price goes down. If the ghostwriter needs to do all of the research, then the price goes up. Neuborne's paychecks have ranged from anywhere between $12,000 and $60,000 for a single project.

    In terms of income levels, Ashlock says that of all of the fiction writers he knows, none of them are living solely off of that work. However, nonfiction is a different market; most nonfiction ghostwriters make enough money to live off of it.


    PR Agents

    A PR agent can be beneficial to an expert and their ghostwriter because they create a platform by developing the expert's image and brand, says Gerstein. PR agents can help the expert reach a specific audience, or spread the expert's name and raise their profile in order to help get the book proposal accepted. It can't be quantified, but it's definitely easier to sell a book with a household-name name attached, says Ashlock. PR agents are particularly useful for speakers, he adds.

    Got Questions? Dear Gracie Has the Answers

    Thursday, May 19, 2011, 1:38 PM [General]
    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Abigail Van Buren, the famous advice columnist who started "Dear Abby," once said: "If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we'd all be millionaires."

    At ProfNet, we heartily agree with Van Buren -- experience is fundamental to knowledge. Taking inspiration from "Dear Abby," we've decided to take advantage of our network of over 44,000 experts and start an advice column, which I have dubbed "Dear Gracie" (it has a nice ring to it, no?).

    The aim of the column is to educate and entertain. However, unlike a typical advice column, the guidance will feature expert's advice, rather than mine personally (whew!). Every Wednesday, I'll be answering questions previously submitted via email from anyone (ProfNet members or not) who's got a question and would like some sound, professional advice from qualified specialists. So if you ask, I'll find the right expert to answer.

    Has there been a question burning in your mind lately? Something you've been wondering that none of your friends can answer? Or maybe just something you've speculated about for awhile but haven't gotten the chance to research yet? We're interested in featuring serious and silly questions, from "Is it safe to live near a nuclear power plant?" to "How do I brew my own beer?"

    Questions can be featured anonymously if you prefer, with the signature in that case assuming the problem that is being expressed instead of your name. Feel free to include your location too, if that's relevant to your question and you don't mind sharing.

    Whatever you're wondering about -- whether its tips on how to pick out a new smartphone, ideas for throwing a backyard barbecue, advice on using semicolons, or counsel on submitting a ProfNet Expert Alert -- I'm here to take your questions about life, leisure and labor. Fire away!

    To submit, please email me at or message me on ProfNet Connect.

    Which Internet Browser(s) Do You Use?

    Thursday, May 12, 2011, 10:32 AM [General]
    4.1 (2 Ratings)

    Tip Sheet: How to Submit a ProfNet Query

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011, 11:20 AM [General]
    3.7 (1 Ratings)


    Whether you’re looking for expert sources, research or even Average Joes and Janes for your article, ProfNet can help -- and we’ve made it easier than ever to submit a query.

    Following is a step-by-step guide for submitting queries, some including tips and advice from our editorial group:


    Open the Query Form

    You can find the query form in two places:


    Fill in Your Personal Information

    The form will ask for your name, news outlet and email address. If you are accessing the query form via the PR Newswire for Journalists site, your personal information will automatically be filled in. If you are using the alternate query form, which doesn’t require a login, you will need to enter your personal information for each query you submit.

    You can change the publication name and email address as needed for each query. However, your name cannot be changed. If you need to update your name, or any other personal information listed in your profile, please email to make changes.

    Tip: Some reporters prefer to use different email addresses for different queries to help them organize their responses. If you'd prefer not to publicize your email address, we suggest creating a temporary one using sites like or If you submit queries regularly, consider creating a secondary address just for ProfNet (via Gmail, Yahoo, etc.).


    Choose an Opportunity Subject

    "Opportunity Subject" is the title of your query. It is not necessarily meant to attract readers' attention like a news headline; it's meant to inform experts concisely and clearly about who or what you're looking for.

    Example: Tips for Small-Business Marketing

    In addition, ProfNet editors will add a subject “tag,” e.g., Science, Health, Business. So your query’s headline will ultimately look like this:

    BUSINESS: Tips for Small-Business Marketing


    Explain the Nature of the Expertise You Seek

    "Nature of Expertise You Seek" is the area where you can explain, in details, what kind of expertise you’re looking for. Queries typically begin by stating what type of experts the reporter is interested in, and why: "I'm looking for IT managers for an article I’m writing on high-tech security in the workplace."

    Be as specific as you can -- the more details you can provide, the more relevant your responses. Also, feel free to include any information you have about your assignment, including what you'd like experts to include in their responses. Please note: Queries cannot exceed 2,000 characters (including spaces).


    Include Your Phone Number (for ProfNet only)

    We ask that you include your phone number, in case ProfNet editors have any questions about your query. We will never publish this information without your permission; it's for our purposes only.


    Choose a Workable Deadline for Responses

    Your query deadline should be the date by which you'd like to receive expert responses -- not your final due date for the article.

    While we do distribute the majority of queries on the same day we receive them – if not within minutes – we ask that you give members at least two hours to respond to your query. Members receive queries at varying time intervals (some get them every half hour, others every six hours, depending on their preference), so you may lose out on sources if you don’t give everyone time to reply.


    To Cloak or Not to Cloak?

    If you are concerned about the confidentiality of your query, you can choose to “cloak” it, which hides the name of the publication for which you’re writing.

    If you are a freelance writer, ProfNet editors will remove the publication name and instead include just a generic description of the publication, e.g., top U.S. daily, national health magazine, Northeast newspaper. (Please note: Your name and email address will still be listed in the query; cloaking only masks the publication name.)

    If you are a staff writer, cloaking will remove all identifying information (your name, publication name, email address) from the query. If a ProfNet member wants to reply, they will do so via our password-protected website, rather than directly by email.

    Please note: Feedback from reporters indicates that cloaking does tend to reduce the number of responses you get. We suggest only using this option when necessary.

    Accordingly, we advise you always to frame your opportunity in a way that does not divulge your story's proprietary focus. We also encourage you to use our 'cloaking' option whenever you have a concern about confidentiality.


    Query Distribution Options

    One of the great features of ProfNet is that you can choose to filter your query by institution type and category.

    There are 14 types of organizations to choose from, ranging from small businesses to colleges to government agencies to PR agencies.

    You can also limit your query by geographic region. While the majority of our members are U.S.-based, we do have members in virtually every region of the world.

    Tip: Even if you are writing for a regional publication, we suggest sending the query to all of the U.S. The reason is that PR agencies often have clients all over the country, so while their client might be based in, say, New Jersey, they might not be, and would not see your query if you limited it to the Garden State.

    Instead, we suggest sending nationwide and listing your limitations explicitly in the text of the query text (e.g., "I'm only interested in experts from New Jersey").


    Additional Instructions

    The “Additional Instructions” box at the bottom of the query form is for any extra thoughts, details or concerns you might have regarding your query. If you'd like to send this information to experts, then check off the box that says "Please select this box to share above comments with members." If you are including info that is for ProfNet’s eyes only, then do not check off the box.

    After checking through your submission, click "send" to deliver it to ProfNet editors. We will check the query for errors and omissions, and will distribute it to our members.

    One last tip: Make sure you click on “Send,” not “Save,” or your query will not be sent to us!


    I hope you’ve found this helpful. Questions? Email us or list them in the comments below.

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