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Wednesday, August 3, 2016, 10:51 AM
With the demand for ghostwriting on the rise, it can be a lucrative niche for writers. If you’re looking to break into the ghostwriting market, here are some tips from Jenna Glatzer, award-winning author and ghostwriter of 27 books, including Celine Dion's authorized biography (“Celine Dion: For Keeps”) and a Marilyn Monroe biography authorized by her estate (“The Marilyn Monroe Treasures”).
Jenna, how did you get started with ghostwriting?
It was an accident. I had really never given it much of a thought before. I had written lots of magazine articles and a couple of books of my own. I had also put together an anthology of success stories from people who overcame anxiety disorders (a subject close to my heart, because I was agoraphobic for several years). One of the people who read that anthology was Jamie Blyth, who had just been on the first season of “The Bachelorette.” He reached out to me by email and asked if I’d help write his book, which was about his journey overcoming social anxiety. I told him I’d never written anyone else’s book before, but I’d be glad to give it a try if he wanted to take a chance on me. We got a great agent who sold it to McGraw-Hill. I loved the process. The agent and editor both referred me for other work. Before long, that’s all I was doing, really. I still write articles now and then, but my full-time career has been ghostwriting for more than a decade.
How did the Celine Dion book come about?
That was a crazy long shot. Celine's editor had read an article I wrote and suggested me to her. They had been looking for a "warm" writer for her and the article fit the voice they wanted.
How do you deal with different personalities, and how do you get to know their "voice"?
Well, I've never worked with an unwilling/unhappy subject, but I do let them know upfront that this is their book and nothing gets published without their approval. That helps.
What kind of experience does someone need to be a ghostwriter? Can any writer do it?
It’s not a field for beginners. Most of the time, editors and agents will expect a ghostwriter to have book credits. That’s partly to prove that you have the skill and discipline to write full-length books. It's a lot different from shorter work.
The other way I’ve seen it happen sometimes is that the writer develops a rapport with a client based on interviews for articles/business material and the client wants to keep writer for the book despite lack of book credits.
Say I want to be a ghostwriter. Where do I start? How do I find clients?
Assuming you do have some credits first, you really can just start approaching people who interest you and who fit the genre(s) you want. I was following a young lady on Facebook who had brain cancer; she had a nonprofit foundation to help other kids with cancer. After she died, her father carried on the foundation in her honor with such dedication. It inspired me. I messaged him to ask if he'd considered writing a book about his daughter and if I could help. He said yes. This is the result: amzn.to/2axyV14
The other strategy is to write to agents and editors to ask them to keep you in mind for ghostwriting in your genre.
What skills does one need to become a ghostwriter – beyond good writing, of course?
Listening skills are a really huge factor. Your job is to write in your client’s voice, just cleaned up and organized. You really have to pay attention to your client’s words, feelings, and goals and understand how to translate that to a book. You also need discipline to keep the work on track, organizational skills to figure out how to structure the book and the interviews, a lack of ego, and a willingness to accept changes and editing.
What are some things people don’t think about when they get started in ghostwriting?
The discipline it takes. There's a lot to it -- lots of long interviews, often research material, and you have to synthesize it all while making sure you're staying true to client's tone, voice, and vision.
What are the best parts of being a ghostwriter?
Three things I love: the flexibility of mostly making my own schedule, the truly interesting and wonderful clients I’ve worked with, and the fact that I feel truly appreciated in my work. People think it must be demeaning to work as a ghostwriter, but the truth has been the opposite for me. Most of my clients stay good friends of mine, and it feels great when they tell me I did something wonderful for them.
What are the worst parts of being a ghostwriter?
You're dependent on other people’s schedules and dedication. Some are more devoted to working on the book than others. I've dealt with a lot of postponements due to clients' scheduling issues. And if you're doing this full-time, it's the uncertainty of the up-and-down nature of the business. It’s hard to know how many projects to take on at once if they're in different stages. Sometimes deadlines gang up. I had three books due in February!
Is ghostwriting always uncredited?
No. My name is included on most covers of books I've worked on. It'll say “By Jane Doe with Jenna Glatzer” (my name in smaller type). But I have ghostwriting friends who have very different experiences and are usually uncredited. I think t's often business leaders, doctors, and celebrities who prefer to keep sole credit on a book. Most people with memoirs don't seem to mind. It’s still considered ghostwriting, even with credit, because it's in the other person's voice and style. If I've contributed to the material with original research or my thoughts, it's probably considered co-authorship, but the terms don't matter much to me. Call me what you want. Some clients call me collaborator, coauthor, editor, whatever.
Before we go, what are you working on, Jenna?
A lot! Books for a Broadway actress, a woman who grew up in foster care, an athlete who was run over and in a coma, Mike Tyson's former assistant, a war refugee -- I'm swamped but happy!
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Friday, July 29, 2016, 9:13 AM
Ghostwriting can be a lucrative niche for writers, and demand for ghostwriters is on the rise. Want to know what you’ll need to succeed?
For our next Twitter Q&A, we’ll talk with Jenna Glatzer, a multi-award-winning author and ghostwriter. Jenna will give us a glimpse into the world of ghostwriting and share her tips on doing it successfully.
Jenna (www.jennaglatzer.com) is the author or ghostwriter of 27 books, including Celine Dion's authorized biography ("Celine Dion: For Keeps") and a Marilyn Monroe biography authorized by her estate ("The Marilyn Monroe Treasures"). She has worked on books with business leaders, athletes, doctors, psychologists, reporters, military leaders, crime survivors, actresses, college professors, and all sorts of other interesting people. She has also written hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles and has taught writing at the Omega Institute. Her books have been featured on "The View," "Today," "Dr. Phil," "Oprah," "Access Hollywood," "Inside Edition," "Entertainment Tonight," and many others. Jenna enjoys her "behind the scenes" life in New York.
The chat will take place Tuesday, Aug. 2, from 3 to 4 p.m. EDT. To participate in the chat, just follow the #ConnectChat hashtag on Twitter. We’ll start the chat off with a few questions for Jenna, but you can jump in at any time with your own questions. Just make sure to use the #ConnectChat hashtag at the end of your tweet.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 10:59 AM
“Risk” is a scary word for many. Stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a chance on something that might or might not work out can cause some to continue with the status quo. But taking a risk, as frightening as it might be, can open you up to new opportunities, better decisions and, perhaps, a more fulfilling career.
We recently talked about risk-taking with Kayt Sukel, author of “The Art of Risk: The New Science of Courage, Caution & Chance” (check it out at amzn.to/1JVAzK2). In the book, Kayt interviews scientists, extreme athletes, an entrepreneur, an Army Special Forces operator, and a neurosurgeon, among others, to learn more about how they look at the world -- and how they make risk work for them.
What is risk, exactly? And why are we often so wary of it?
We often talk about risk as if it's the stuff of superheroes or criminals, but risk really just is a decision-making process. I think we're so scared of it because we discuss it in extremes -- risk is going to bring us all the glory or bankrupt/injure/kill us. But simply stated, risk is just a decision where there is an uncertain outcome, and that outcome may be negative. Each and every one of us is taking risks every single day, whether we are brokering huge biz deals or just deciding whether or not to have a third cup of coffee in the morning. It comes down to dealing with uncertainty. Some of us are more comfortable with it. In reality, we're all risk-takers.
So evaluation of risk involves being willing to confront the uncertainty of the outcome (on a continuum of consequences)?
I'd say that's accurate. And being prepared so you can have a good idea of what those outcomes might be. It's funny -- most successful risk-takers will tell you they are not risk-takers! But they don't see their decisions as scary/hard/beyond them because they are only considering residual risk.
What makes for a successful risk-taker?
It's being thoughtful, prepared, being able to emotionally regulate. It's understanding that the brain has its own shortcuts for dealing with uncertainty and working with it. As I wrote in “The Art of Risk,” I spoke with a lot of successful risk-takers from a variety of domains, and it amazed me that, despite their area of expertise, they approached risk in very similar ways. They know their area, whether it's firefighting or surgery, inside out. They can reduce uncertainty. We don't see all the work that goes into their decisions -- only the outcome.
So there’s nothing special in how risk-takers look at the world vs. the way those who aren’t risk-takers look at it?
No! They are just really practiced and prepared. Successful risk-taking really is open to all of us. The only difference is that they know their domain inside/out. So they differ in experience -- it confers advantages. That brain surgeon? He might think writers are the real risk-takers for not having a regular paycheck/benefits. Risk, to a large extent, is in the eye of the beholder.
Is risk-taking something you can learn to do, or are people hardwired to either take risks or play it safe?
That's the great thing about risk being a process -- it means we can all harness it to meet our long-term goals. Some of us are more comfortable with intensity, fear, stress -- but we can all learn how to better deal with risk. Each of us takes risks, every single day. We often make risk bigger and badder than it needs to be.
Why is risk an integral part of writing, both in terms of craft and business?
Writing, like any art or small business, involves a lot of uncertainty. You have to come up with new angles for stories, find the right outlets, juggle money and time. It requires working at the edge -- and not knowing what you're doing (or when you'll be paid) from month to month. To write great stories, you need to take risks on new perspectives. Make yourself stand out. And to succeed as a business, you need to try to move with the industry, which is never predictable. Writers, truly, are some of the riskiest people I know. And it's what gives them voice and verve. If you can't handle the uncertainty of random paychecks or new ways to consider the world, you'll have a hard time.
How has what you learned about risk helped your own writing?
It's helped me reframe stories and take a new point of view. It's taught me that being passionate about what I'm writing can be equally as important to what I'm paid. It's taught me that the best stories are ones where you find a way to get out of your comfort zone and really learn. Uncertainty isn't necessarily a bad thing. It offers just as much opportunity as danger. And so I'm doing my best to harness those opportunities, learn what I can in the process to become a better writer. Not everything will work out, of course, but where it doesn't, I can learn something that will help me later.
What are some of the risks you’ve taken in your own career that have paid off?
I'm not supposed to be a writer, let alone have written two books. Writing that first book proposal was a long shot. It was a huge risk -- but, in the end, worth it. I really reach out to new and different sources for stories. I'm not afraid to ask. Sure, a lot of high-profile people may say no (or just ignore your request), but a lot more than you think will say yes.
Additionally, since writing the book, I've given up a lot of my painful clients. At the time, it was terrifying. What if I didn't find other work to fill the gap? But ultimately, making that space was so important. I had room for projects that really interested/challenged me. I'm not telling writers to give the old heave-ho to all your bread and butter clients, but I do think it's important to ask yourself if some clients are anchors or ballast. If they are anchors, let loose! (And then market like crazy to find new, more invigorating work to take their place.)
We’ve talked about the benefits of risk-taking for writers, but this really can apply to everyone.
Yes, and that's what I found so inspiring about risk. I started the book thinking I was going to look at superheroes. I ended up learning about everyday life. Risk is part and parcel of every single decision you make, every single day. When you become more accustomed to risk, you can see the opportunity beyond the danger -- and move towards your goals. Little risks -- smart, seasoned risks -- can have extremely large payouts in all aspects of life.
What’s your best piece of advice for anyone who – like yours truly! -- is leery of taking risks?
To be more thoughtful about it. Ask yourself why you are leery. Would the outcome truly be too great to bear? What might you gain from taking the leap? Would it bring you closer to some long-term goal? Successful risk-takers are not superhuman. They are thoughtful and prepared. They know their stuff. That means that we all, every single one of us, has the power to be a successful risk-taker, too.
What about the fear that you're making the wrong decision? How do successful risk-takers get past that?
Successful risk-takers make mistakes all the time. But they use them to learn. One of the people I interviewed told me she doesn't fail, she "just hasn't finished yet." I really want to stitch that on a throw pillow. Imagine what we all might accomplish if we thought in a similar way! We'd learn a lot about how to move forward towards our goals, how to do things better.
We have to accept that we will decide unwisely from time to time. Even the smartest and shiniest of us. So we need to better place ourselves to learn from those mistakes and move forward the next time around. Risk really is part and parcel of everyday decision-making. The more we accept it, the better our decisions will be. In work, in life, in love, in play -- risk is there. You can either fear it, or make it work for you.
This has been very inspiring and informative! Before we go, can you tell us about what you are working on next?
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Friday, May 13, 2016, 9:24 AM
“Risk” is a scary word for many people (including yours truly). Stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a chance on something that might or might not work out can cause some to continue with the status quo. But taking a risk, as frightening as it might be, can open you up to new opportunities, better decisions and, perhaps, a more fulfilling career.
Next week, we’ll talk about risk-taking with Kayt Sukel (@kaytsukel), author of “The Art of Risk: The New Science of Courage, Caution & Chance” (amzn.to/1JVAzK2). In the book, Kayt interviews scientists, extreme athletes, an entrepreneur, an Army Special Forces operator, and a neurosurgeon, among others, to learn more about how they look at the world -- and how they make risk work for them.
During our chat, Kayt will discuss why risk is an integral part of writing, how it can help you be a better writer, how the risks she’s taken in her own writing career have paid off for her, and more.
The chat will take place Tuesday, May 17, from 3 to 4 p.m. EDT. To participate in the chat, just follow the #ConnectChat hashtag on Twitter. We’ll start the chat off with a few questions for Kayt, but you can jump in at any time with your own questions. Just make sure to use the #ConnectChat hashtag at the end of your tweet.
About Kayt Sukel
A passionate traveler and science writer, Kayt Sukel has no problem tackling interesting (and often taboo) subjects spanning love, sex, neuroscience, travel and politics. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, New Scientist, USA Today, Pacific Standard, Washington Post, ISLANDS, and National Geographic Traveler. Her first book, “This Is Your Brain on Sex: The Science Behind the Search for Love,” is an irreverent and funny tome that takes on the age-old question, “What is love?” from a neurobiological perspective. Her newest offering, “The Art of the Risk: The New Science of Courage, Caution & Chance,” an investigation into the science of risk-taking in the laboratory and in the real world, was published to critical acclaim in March 2016. Kayt lives in Houston (and is as surprised as you are about it) and frequently overshares on Twitter as @kaytsukel. Website: kaytsukel.com
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Wednesday, April 6, 2016, 10:26 AM
Writing about your own life can be tricky. How much do you divulge? Do you tell the people you’re writing about that you’re writing about them? How do you find publications that take essays? Should you write a memoir?
We asked Jen A. Miller, a prolific freelance writer and author of the new memoir “Running: A Love Story,” to share her insights and advice for writers interested in writing about their own lives.
We typically think of memoirs as being written by someone “of a certain age.” Why did you choose to write a memoir?
I've been writing personal essays since I was 18, so I'm used to sharing my life. When I started freelancing, I did the same. My first big running story was a reported essay for the New York Times, and the response to the personal bits was huge. After a nonfiction running book (someone else's idea) didn't happen, I turned my brain to writing essays about running. I wrote another piece for New York Times called "Running as Therapy," and reaction to that was so big that I thought I should keep going. And here we are. “Running: A Love Story” covers 10 intense years. That time ended three years ago. It was enough space to write about it.
When writing about your personal life, how do you decide how much personal information to include?
In the first draft, I write everything, then take out what doesn't help tell the story. There are little things that may seem important to me but the reader is not going to care about. Take out what impedes the flow. After that, it's a personal call. When I signed up to write a memoir, I said I wouldn't hold it back. I didn't. That's not always easy. Your family reads it. Your friends read it. When you get a bad review, like I did today, they're trashing the way you tell story of your life. You must be OK with all that. Then, of course, before publication, the lawyers get involved -- but write first, and worry about the legal read later.
The best example of writing personally but sharing select details effectively is this essay in Runner’s World: t.co/Ch5NfB71wg.
Did you tell the people you wrote about that you wrote about them?
It was on a case-by-base basis. Everyone's names and identifying details were changed whether I did or not. I called or talked to my family soon before the New York Times ran an excerpt (t.co/VDgEHafHmF). Some writers have the hardest time with the family angle. I have a close family, so it was awkward but worked out just fine. But since memory is a fickle thing, I tried to interview people when I could.
What if their recollection of events is different from yours? Do you change your story or go with what you remember?
I went back and investigated where I could (this or that way on the course?). If not, I used what I recalled since it's my story. Fortunately, I wrote race recaps after I ran some of them, so I had those posts to refer to when I wrote the book.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to write a personal essay or memoir?
For essays: Practice. Try to write every single day -- and not blog posts, but material you can shape and edit. If you need help on starting up (or starting again), check out Writing is My Drink (t.co/hv4CEUvCjn). I went to it when I started the essays that became “Running: A Love Story” even though I've been doing this for some time.
For a memoir: I had the first (very bad, incomplete) draft of “Running: A Love Story” before I approached agents. I had four chapters done in the proposal that went to publishers. Some need more. Memoir writing is a serious time commitment where you're not guaranteed a book at the end. It takes practice and a leap of faith. Also: read essays and memoirs. You'll see what works for you and what doesn't.
One of the best pieces of advice I've gotten is an old one: Read 10 times more than you write. I still do this. It helps.
How long did the memoir process take you, approximately?
From the first terrible draft through publication, just over two years. In that time, I also had to write an agent pitch letter, pitch agents, choose an agent, do a proposal to go to publishers, choose the offer, sign a contract and then -- oh yeah! -- write the thing. Then go through edits, legal read, publicity until: publication day.
If someone is interested in getting a personal essay published, how do they find an outlet for it?
I go back to something I said before: Read essays. Like that outlet? Start pitching. This is why reading a lot is crucial.
Most outlets want to see the whole essay, not an idea (even if you're established). I sometimes have an outlet in mind. If they say no, I edit/adjust and pitch to the next target on my list. Don’t have any idea where to start reading good essays? Read the Best American Essays series. See where they were published.
What should writers not do when writing and pitching an essay?
Don't send attachments. Don't tell a sob story as to why you need the essay to be published. And don’t send pictures. Follow the “Keep It Simple, Stupid” philosophy: Show editors the essay in the body of the email, and get out of their inbox. And if the editor rejects it, they can do so for a lot of reasons (not enough space; something similar already running). Don't get snippy. You want to keep that door open for when the right essay of yours meets a need that editor has. Also, avoid signing "work for hire" or "all rights" contracts. You'd be giving them rights to your story and your life. Oh, and don't write that essay for free, even if someone says you'll get exposure for it. Just don't.
Any other advice on writing about your own life, whether for a personal essay or a memoir?
This kind of writing is very personal. It's not for everyone -- and that's totally okay. You may be trying to write about something still too raw. If so, step back, write a funny piece about your dog, and come back. That might be two weeks later. That might be too years later. Don't hurt yourself to do this. “Running: A Love Story” took a lot out of me. I don't think I could write another book like this. And that's okay with me. Oh, and expect to make people angry, sometimes for small reasons (like they disagree about how you described their hair color). And keep at it. I started out writing very bad personal essays when I was 18. I'm 35 now. I still have a ways to go.
What are you working on now?
I just wrapped up a piece for espnW. The New York Times Well running newsletter just launched; I'm part of the team working on that too. You can sign up for that newsletter here: t.co/0BIkOltV2y. I am also on my spring book tour! You can see those dates here: t.co/CE1NFEjaoq. Oh, and I'm training for my sixth marathon -- because I decided to do something physically exhausting at an already exhausting time. I write a weekly newsletter about all this, if you'd like to keep up. This week I wrote about Animaniacs: http://www.tinyletter.com/jenamiller.
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