Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Forgotten Path

The blonde-haired writer sat across from me at a small table during a writers' conference, leaned into the table and poured out her frustration. She had a journalism degree, spent her season working for newspapers and now had published a series of magazine articles. At first the publications had modest pay but now this writer was beginning to write for higher paying and more well-known publications.

Yet her book ideas were rejected and she understood the reasons. In the nonfiction areas, she had no "platform" or market visibility. While her standing was rising among magazine editors, she recognized that few readers knew her and her work.

This writer had dreams of writing a novel but had realistically looked at the market and understood the huge hurdles that she faced to get a novel published. While she could spin an excellent tale, she wondered how she could devote the time and energy to writing a 80,000 to 100,000 word novel with the speculation that some publisher "might" bring it into print. She had no interest in self-publishing and producing a garage filled with books which never reached readers.

Now during our brief session, this writer was searching for answers about how to break into book publishing. She wanted to write longer works than magazine articles and was unsure where to turn.

If the story sounds familiar to you, then keep reading because I'm going to show you a forgotten path for book publishing. This path has endless possibilities and can provide financial security and a lifetime of publishing.

If you don't have a platform, one of the quickest ways to gain a platform is to use the platform of someone else. Some of you are wondering how you get attached to another person's platform. It's called co-authoring or ghostwriting. If you don't personally lead a large organization, can you write for someone who already leads a large organization? I call it the forgotten path because many of these busy people have aspirations of writing a book but will never get it done because of their own schedule. Yet they could make time to meet with a writer on a regular basis, tell you the stories then you could write the book for them. The writer doesn't have to have the platform but the writer brings the skill of crafting words and storytelling to the project.

Many years ago I discovered that I have a finite number of books that I want to write during my lifetime yet there are an infinite number of books that I can co-author or ghostwrite for someone else.

If you have never tried co-authoring or ghostwriting, I suggest you try a shorter magazine article for your first experience. It is better to experiment with a shorter assignment than a longer book project. Can you capture another person's stories and voice? Are you willing to be a co-author or a ghostwriter as a long as you are fairly compensated for your work?

Often you can find these longer book projects when you write a shorter magazine article. I've started my relationship with someone through a magazine article then it has developed into a longer book project. Also I've seen many other writers have this experience where they get with someone who is high profile to write a magazine article and start their relationship. Then that relationship takes a leap to a new level and they are co-authors for a longer book project.

From my experience, it is rare for an agent or an editor to put a writer with an inexperienced co-author or ghostwriter. You can gain the necessary experience collaborating on some shorter magazine articles.

Through my collaboration and co-author experiences, I've been able to write about some remarkable people who are now my friends. It has enriched my life and provided work. I hope you will consider this forgotten path.

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5 Comment:

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Amy Deardon Left a note...

Terry, thanks for the reminder about collaborating/ghost-writing! As you say, so many people dream of writing a book, and writers can help them realize this dream. Haven't taken this path myself, but imagine you need to be meticulous with written agreements on what constitutes an acceptable manuscript, financial splits, and other nuts and bolts before starting. But after this, think of how many people have a story to tell...

At 5:22 PM, Blogger Krista Phillips Left a note...

Ghostwriting is an interesting option. I hadn't thought of it myself, but it sounds like a perfect match for the woman in your example.

I do think co-writing is a great option though! I know many authors get good starts by being able to co-write with an author or speaker that does have a platform.

At 8:22 AM, Blogger Unknown Left a note...

I've had a couple of ghostwriting projects this past year. I was approached by the "authors."

How does one find and approach the experts to get projects?

(I love the photo.)

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


To find the projects, I suggest you do more magazine work. Yes writing for some magazines does not pay much--on the surface. But if you go out to meet an "expert" for your magazine article (or interview them on the phone) you are starting a relationship that "could" lead to much bigger things like ghostwriting a book project. It happens all the time and you can even orchestrate it (i.e. offer it to the person). Some will take your offer and others will not and still others will call or email you about the offer years after you've started the relationship.

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At 11:29 AM, Blogger Kelly Left a note...

Thanks so much! That was fantastic advice and information. And unfortunately often overlooked!


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