Totally OT - from tech writing to "ghost writing"? SUMMARY

Subject: Totally OT - from tech writing to "ghost writing"? SUMMARY
From: Gilda_Spitz -at- markham -dot- longview -dot- ca
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2001 14:02:08 -0500

As usual, techwr-lers are so helpful. Here's a summary of responses to my
question about where to start when planning to collaborate with someone on
a book:

- Several people suggested consulting the Writer's Digest periodical.

- do an online search to find an agent who can best represent your new
friend. Before you begin work on the project, ask the agent for a contract
that spells out how you will be treated in all contingencies (subsidiary
rights, etc.). Then find YOUR OWN attorney, one with experience in the
field, to review the proposed contract and advise you, PRIOR TO SIGNING IT!

- your subject should be worrying about who will publish the book, working
with publishers, etc. She is the one the companies will market to potential
book buyers. As a ghost writer, you will be just that: no credit given to
you. You should probably retain a lawyer for setting up contracts, etc..

- A good resource to check out is the Copy Editors listserv: ** Archive

- Go to the National Writers Union website,, for such
information. You may have to hunt through the site, but they discuss most
of what you're asking about, or they have sources where you can find the

- link up with a local writing teacher, the writing department at a local
university, or a good bookstore.

- First off, you really need to scope the project. You'll need to know
who's going to do the research, and who's going to be writing the drafts.
You'll also want to consider how you're going to split royalties and
advances. If your name goes on the cover ("as told to.." or "as written
by..."), you'll probably have to settle for less $$. A true ghostwriter,
though, usually receives no mention anywhere in the book or on the cover.

- Another thing to consider is this: Is there a mass market for this story?
You have to ask "Why would anyone else want to read this book/story?" Is
this person famous? Did they accomplish some incredible feat? Do they have
the scoop on someone famous (living or dead)? If not, then the story really
must be extremely compelling to attract the interest of an agent (yes, you
need an agent...most large nonfiction publishers today won't even look at a
manuscript or book proposal from unagented writers).

- Get a copy of the 2001 Writers Market. It is the encyclopedia of
freelance writers and contains listings of publishers, agents, and every
conceivable market including contacts, payment schedules, and requirements.

- Do your research before jumping in with the project.

- before you spend much time doing the writing that you get something in
writing (even if not that formal at this point) as to what are the
responsibilities of you and this person (e.g., who arranges to get the book
published, how much writing/editing is each person responsible for, etc.),
also how do you get paid (flat fee, which I think is common for ghost
writing, or percentage of royalties - and what amount flat fee or
percentage), and when (which could be tricky if you are working for a flat

- First, get a sample chapter or two written, and an outline of the rest
of the book. (Get a basic agreement covering what she will pay you just for
this part of the work.) Second, send copies of the sample
chapter(s)/outline to agents (check the 2001 Writers Market) with a
covering letter. If you can get an agent to find you a publisher and set
you both up with a contract, terrific.

- Discuss what the deal will be - will she pay you a fee for your work?
Will you split the advance/royalties? Who owns the story - you or her? If
she decides to use a vanity-publishing firm, what will she pay you (since
under those circumstances, there will be no advance and are unlikely to be
any royalties).

- flesh out a book proposal first before getting too deep into research and
writing. If you're going for a small market, research the Writer's Market
for publishers who focus on books for that market. The WM will tell you if
that publisher accepts unagented/unsolicited proposals.

- First you sell, then write. If you write, then try to sell, you won't be
making much money.

- Pick up a copy of the Writer's Digest market guide (available at any big
library and most small ones) and scan through the list of book publishers.
Each one has different recommendations. The ideal is that you make the sale
purely on the basis of your superb cover letter and thus have a bit more
negotiating room when selecting an agent (agents now ask up to 15% of your
proceeds). But you may find that all the publishers likely to consider your
book won't even look at a cover letter that doesn't come from an agent.

- ...a really good book called "The Writer's Handbook". It will guide you
through each step of the process, including:

- The author/editor connection
- Beating the odds of rejection
- How to get a literary agent
- Negotiating the book contract

It also contains a list of 3300 markets for manuscripts, and a
comprehensive list of book publishers, etc. I also really liked some of the
advice it gave for writing non-fiction, etc. The book has a number of
authors involved and was edited by Sylvia Burack. The version I have is
from 1999, there may be something newer- I'm not sure. The ISBN number is


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