Just about twelve years ago I made a major transition, and closed the midtown Manhattan offices of my Public Relations firm. Through running a sizeable business and the day to day drama of dealing with my staff’s personal issues, I had essentially become everyone’s Jewish mother. As a result I could not do as much actual writing as I would have loved to do. When I took this leap of faith I made two critical decisions. First, by transitioning to ghostwriting I could do what I love: use my writing skills to help people become successful authors, then help them get published, then use my public relations skills to promote their book.
The second decision: I would not be bound by what others charged, but would instead charge what I thought I was worth. From the outset my fees were considerably higher than some other writers, though perhaps less than other. In any case, given my many years of experience as an award-winning, in-demand writer (for magazine articles, speeches, blogs, brochures and other promotional material), I thought my asking prices were justified.
At first this did seem like a foolish decision, as many of the would-be authors I met were unable to pay my fees and instead wanted me to work solely for the back end. In other words, they expected me to write their book or book proposal and then reach out to get them a literary agent, who would of course negotiate a large advance for the book and ancillary rights, do promotion to make their book a New York Times bestseller (and perhaps a blockbuster motion picture) and then they would graciously share a percentage of the profits with me. Well, we are all delusional to some extent, but those arrangements would have had me living in a refrigerator box on the cold hard streets of Manhattan.
Instead, I suggested to one of my PR clients that she might write and publish a book, and that it would be the ultimate marketing tool. She now calls it her $8 million book, referring to the extra business she attracted. The phone is still ringing.
Recommendations followed, and a trickle of new prospective authors eventually recognized what I offer in terms of personal hands-on service at each stage of publishing, from the writing and editing to design, to trade and or self-publishing, and to marketing and PR. They saw value in the successful track record I bring to every project, whether it be mainstream published or published as an independent entrepreneurial book. They saw how I give each book and client my full attention. Soon the slow trickle of new projects became a steady flow.
Now I am in the much-appreciated position of being able to take on special projects that I absolutely love for people whose wishes are ambitious but also realistic. Some want higher paying clients. Some want paid keynote speeches. Some want to build bigger brand awareness or personal reputations. Some simply want to tell the world their story and leave a legacy for their families. I can not guarantee how many books will be sold, but when I know what they want their book to do for them, their wish list, that’s something I can guarantee.
I still do not work for the back end. My fees, which start at $60,000, can be as high as $75,000 to $100,000 for some of my larger book projects. This is often beyond the means of a would-be author. However, I help anyone who comes to me by finding them a less expensive ghostwriter who will work for their budget. No one is turned away without getting my sage advice and contacts, because I think having a book to your name is a must-have if you want to be even more successful.
There are lots of good ghostwriters who are less expensive. I will be delighted to help you match up with one. Meantime I will continue working on a select few books that truly excite me. It makes me proud to see how thrilled my clients are with the end results. They never fail to include me in their acknowledgements, with lavish praise.
Here is a piece of advice for all prospective authors, and anyone trying to make your way in the world. Whatever your profession is, please do not sell yourself short. In the writing field, many good writers and editors ask too little for the project they are now morally and contractually bound to and discover too late what they could have had. Remember that a Timex tells time and a Rolex tells time. Always think of yourself as the Rolex, and other people will too.
With patience, and some really smart self-promotion you will find people who can afford you, and even more important, people who truly appreciate you. And that, my friend, is a very good thing!