Write A Book Without
Lifting A Finger
"In his masterful Write A Book Without Lifting A Finger, Mahesh Grossman tells truths that many authors never want you to know. But everything he says is right on the button. His book is very easy to read and extremely valuable for anyone who has ever fantasized about seeing their name on a real published book. It is obvious to me that Mr. Grossman lifted all ten fingers to write such an enlightening book." -- Jay Conrad Levinson, best-selling author of the "Guerrilla Marketing" series, selling over 14 million copies in 39 languages
Wouldn't it be great to have a book published -- make money and get professional recognition -- without even writing it or having to invest many resources in the process? Mahesh Grossman says using a ghostwriter is the smart, cheap and easy way to go if you have a good book idea.
In a newly published book that Grossman did write, WRITE A BOOK WITHOUT LIFTING A FINGER: How To Hire A Ghostwriter Even If You're on a Shoestring Budget (available at www.WriteABookToday.com and at bookstores nationwide starting in February of 2004), he shows us how to:
- Assess how a ghostwriter can benefit you
- Choose the right ghostwriter for your budget
- Know what to ask when hiring a ghostwriter
- Use a test phase before you commit a lot of resources to a ghostwriter
- Negotiate a deal with a writer to complete a book sample and then a book
- Understand what a potential collaborator will expect or need from you
Grossman addresses the biggest concerns or myths when it comes to considering the hiring of a ghostwriter, including these:
- The ghostwriter will be too expensive
- The writer will steal your ideas
- Even with a ghostwriter, it takes too much time to create a book
- How to find a writer, judge their work and evaluate costs and compensation
Grossman is the president of The Authors Team, a company that provides ghostwriting, editing, coaching, publishing, and distribution to bookstores nationwide to prospective authors (please consult www.AuthorsTeam.com).
"If you really want to be known as an expert at what you do, you've got to have a published book," asserts Grossman. "If what you know will improve people's lives, who cares whether you're the one who actually puts it on paper? The secret to getting published fast is to hire a ghostwriter."
Grossman identifies many ways to locate a ghostwriter who will meet your goals and financial needs. To get a book sample written by a ghostwriter who has already penned a bestseller can easily run close to $20,000, but Established Ghostwriters can do the job for as little as $4,000. Quality Craftspeople, like small magazine writers, do it for half that, and Future Experts such as college newspaper editors, members of writer groups, or Web page authors will do it for $500 or less. If the book proposal is accepted by a publisher, you can expect to receive an advance of $10,000 to $25,000 -- or more -- plus royalties. Now your investment has already paid for itself!
"Once you have a general idea for a non-fiction book and agree using a ghostwriter is the way to go," advises Grossman, "you need to locate a writer and have him or her put together a sample of the book and some ideas about how it should be marketed. Submitting a completed book to an agent or a publisher makes you look like an amateur. No one writes the book first -- you want a commitment and an advance from the publisher before you do anything else."
Grossman cautions that you need to be careful when you agree to work with any collaborator: "Check their references, examine writing samples, and do a lengthy interview to determine if you like their personality. Decide if they share in your vision for the book and make sure they have a record of meeting deadlines."
Grossman has one last bit of advice to would-be employers of ghostwriters: Don't think about it, do it! "A published book will rocket you to the top of your field and open a thousand doors for you. You can dramatically speed up your lift-off if you hire a ghostwriter."
How To Hire, Test & Fire A Ghostwriter
- Can he or she really do what's being asked of them?
- Is he or she easy to collaborate with?
- What is the personal chemistry like?
- Who are you and why are you qualified to write this book?
- Is there a readership or market for this book?
- What is the competition like and how will your book be different?
- What will you do to make sure this book sells?
- How will the duties on the book be divided?
- How much time can each party expect the other to be available?
- Will there be a test phase period?
- What will the fee be for the book sample (that's created to attract a publisher) and what will the fee be for the rest of the book?
- Will royalties and other book-related income be shared?
- How will the ghostwriter be credited for his work, if at all -- on the front cover, title page, acknowledgments, etc?
- What happens if you break up before the book is completed and who owns the rights?
- There are three parts to the test phase: the book outline, the sample chapters, and the completed proposal.
- If at any point in the test phase you conclude you don't want to continue working 6-18 months together, end the relationship.
- If you decide to stop the project, make sure the test phase is in your contract, tie payments to milestones achieved, and pay a "kill fee" to cut your losses.
Publishing Stats & Facts
- 1.4 million active titles are listed in Books In Print.
- There are 12,000 bookstores in the U.S.
- Over 150,000 books were published this past year. By contrast, 39,000 were published in 1975 -tripling in 28 years.
- 81% of those responding to a Jenkins Group survey believe they have a book in them.
- It is estimated that 3 in 10 books make money, 4 in 10 break even, and 3 in 10 lose money.
- There are over 55,000 publishers of which most are small presses and one-book, self-published operations. The major book publishers are based in New York City. Chicago is a distant second.
- It is estimated over 2,000,000 book-length manuscripts are submitted to publishers annually for publication consideration. Some big publishers receive up to 5,000 manuscript submissions weekly.
- According to research from the Jenkins Group, 85% of the books published are non-fiction.
- 1 in 2 traditionally published books are worked on by one or more ghostwriters and book doctors, says Writer's Weekly.
- The typical book length is about 80,000 words, or roughly 200 pages (400 words/page).
- The average book sells 6,000 copies in its lifetime.
- Royalties vary, depending on the publisher, the size of the advance, and the format of the book. Typically, royalties on hard covers are 10% of the first 5000 sold; 12.5% for the next 5000, and 15% after that. Trade paperback royalties are 7.5%. Mass market paperbacks are 6%. Some houses pay the royalty as a percentage of the cover price; others pay as a percentage of actual money received from the buyer (in most cases, books are sold at a 40-50% discount to wholesalers and major chains, reducing your royalty by 40 - 50%).
- Less than 1% of all new releases make it onto any kind of bestseller list. The phrase "bestseller" is not a legal or uniformly used term. A book can make any number of bestseller lists. It can be on a regional list, such as Miami Herald best-seller list, or national, such as USA Today. It can make a genre list, such as business in Business Week or Wall Street Journal. The biggest lists of importance are The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. There are scores of other lists, including Amazon.com. The number of books one must sell to make a list can vary widely. Depending on the book's format (cloth, trade paper, mass market), subject (fiction, non-fiction, genre), and how a particular bestseller list calculates its estimate of sales over a specific, but varying, time period.
Selecting A Ghostwriter
If you're a ghostwriter whose work has appeared on The New York Times bestseller list, you are one of a very small group of people and in great demand. People believe if you have done it once, you can do it again. Pros: his or her writing and research skills guarantee a published book, a bigger advance, more marketing support from the publisher and a greater chance of being a bestseller. Cons: you need a lot of credibility to woo a writer of this status to work with you. Also, these folks cost $100,000 or more per book. Your initial investment in a book sample will be at least $20,000. Your whole advance, should you land a book contract, will likely go to your writer and to a publicity budget.
Those who write books for a living, sometimes under their own name, have a track record that assures you they can create a book from your ideas. You and publishers will have confidence that the book will live up to professional standards and that it will be finished on time. An Established Ghostwriter's relationships with editors and literary agents should help sell the book from the sample she writes. The drawback is these writers don't come cheaply, though they can be had for less than Unheralded Superstars. They also have less prestige than those bestselling writers, so the advance they can generate will be reflected based on the writer's notoriety and track record. Their fee can range from $4,000 - $10,000 for a book sample and $18,000 - $75,000 to complete the book.
If you want to save money and find a good ghostwriter who will lack name recognition, you can find them amongst small magazine editors or freelance writers. These bargain basement writers get paid sweatshop wages. Established Ghostwriters earn at least $40/hour, but Quality Craftspeople can be obtained for about half that or less. These people love to write and are hungry for the extra income. Cons are: they don't have experience selling a book to a publisher, or even writing a full-length book; and they may have erratic schedules based on their main job;
Anyone with writing talent can write a non-fiction book. Where do you go to find writers for cheap - or even free? Web writers, members of writing groups/clubs, college newspaper editors, community bulletin writers and amateur lyricists or poets. These people will write for you because no one else has given them such an opportunity, because they would find it ego-serving, and because it's an outlet to get published. They like to write and now they're being given a chance for a wider audience - and to make a few extra bucks as well. If you find someone who can write decently and meet deadlines and work for almost nothing until a publisher is involved, you risk little and give yourself an opportunity to reap the benefits from the work of others.
Do I Need A Ghostwriter? A 6-Point Evaluation
- Will having a published book take your business to the next level?
Unless you can dedicate all your time to writing, hire a ghostwriter. A published book marks you as an authority and makes you more desirable as a seminar leader, a columnist, and as a guest for radio and television. These activities enhance your reputation even further, helping you attain guru status in your niche market. The sooner you accomplish these things, the better. You will find that customers come to you with little or no marketing efforts on your part. A ghostwriter will speed up the process. Hurry! Hire the best ghostwriter you can afford.
- Are you having trouble finding the time to write?
Using a ghostwriter is a shortcut to a finished book. If you can meet with your ghostwriter for just a few hours twice a month, he can keep your book growing while you take care of the rest of your life.
- Would you rather do what your book is about than write about it?
Great! Just tell your collaborator everything you know and leave the writing to him.
- Do you need more companionship than just a laptop?
Writing is a solitary business. It may not suit your personality. If you are more of a people person than a loner, bring on a second writer. You won't have to work alone at all.
- Are you insecure about your writing skills?
A ghostwriter will make your writing smooth and help you focus on material that will sell.
- Do you know enough to fill a book but dislike the act of writing?
Ghostwriters were born to help people like you.
What Can A Ghostwriter Do For You?
- Brainstorm the title of your book.
- Define the audience you are writing for (the readers of the National Enquirer and the New Yorker expect very different writing styles. So do the folks who imbibe Ms. and the Ladies Home Journal).
- Create an angle to make your book different from the other books on the subject.
- Find out what subset of your encyclopedia-like knowledge would make the best book (Instead of Everything You Need to Know About Selling Cars, you might be guided to: Taking the High Road: Earn More Money As a High Integrity, Win-Win Car Salesman).
- Determine the size of your market.
- Create a book outline.
- Provide research and interviews to support your suppositions.
- Write your whole book from scratch by interviewing you, taking notes, and making tapes. Then create the manuscript from these notes and transcriptions. You literally won't lift a finger.
- Share the writing load with you.
- Rewrite your material to increase its clarity and improve its style.
- Coax you to provide anecdotes to illustrate your concepts.
- Tell you to keep half of what you've written, throw out the rest and add significantly new material.
- Draft a sample of your book in the format publishers and agents prefer. Then craft and send off query letters to interest these folks in your book sample.
20 Suggested Interview Questions Mahesh Grossman
- What is a ghostwriter?
- Isn't hiring a ghostwriter cheating?
- Is there a way to tell if a ghostwriter wrote the book you're reading? Do you have any juicy ghostwriting gossip?
- Which celebrity would you most like to write a book for? Which celebrity would you least like to write for? (This can be opened to callers: Whose life story would you most like to read? Whose life story would you least like to read?)
- It seems like virtually every presidential candidate has a book out. Who's an Honest Abe and who's a Tricky Dick when it comes to presidential candidates as authors? And what about the presidents themselves?
- I hear that one president was lucky enough to have Mark Twain as his ghostwriter. Who was that?
- You say that ghostwriting was involved in getting the US Constitution approved. How'd that happen?
- Who needs a ghostwriter?
- Won't someone feel it's not their book if they hire someone to do all the writing, researching, and editing? And how do you prevent a writer from stealing your idea?
- How does a regular person who isn't a celebrity or a publishing insider find a ghostwriter?
- What does it cost? How can someone afford to pay a ghostwriter if they haven't received a royalty check or have no idea how many books will be sold?
- Where can you find a bargain basement writer?
- You tell your clients that over 70% of all books only break even or lose money. Why should anybody even spend the time or the money to become a published author?
- What are your five best tips for somebody who wants to write a book on their own?
- How do you sell a book to a publisher? Do you need a literary agent? Can you go directly to the publishers? What type of an advance can an author expect from a publisher?
- How do you get a literary agent?
- What do you think about self-publishing as an option? Which do you think is better, self-publishing or going through a traditional publisher?
- Your book started off as an e-book. How does that work and what was that like for you?
- What do you think of companies like iUniverse and 1stBooks that publish your book for a fee?
- What advice do you have for somebody who wants to become a ghostwriter?