There are Ghosts, and then There are Ghosts


Last decade’s print-media implosion left an awful lot of good journalists, writers, and editors out of work. And scads of them  turned to what Marty Nemko predicted in a 2009 US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT article would be—and, indeed, is–the #1 occupation for writers in the current marketplace: ghostwriting.

This proliferation of ghostwriters is a major boon to the vast majority of people who want to write a book but either don’t have the time, don’t know how to get started, or have already written a first draft and realize it needs help. Such aspiring authors can find that help in many places on the Internet, through many off-line connections—and on many tiers of competency and sheer raw/polished talent.

Since finding a ghostwriter is almost as easy as finding a self-publishing service these days, let’s talk about those tiers of ghostwriters, and how what you’re willing to invest affects what you’re likely to get in return.

English: Outside of the Aquarium of the Pacifi...

English: Outside of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just like in any other endeavor, ghostwriting is very much a “you get what you pay for” proposition. If you put your faith in someone willing to write your book “on spec”—i.e., they’ll wait to get paid until you sell the book and start making money from it—you might as well go to Vegas and watch the roulette wheel spin without laying down any chips. You have no one to blame but yourself when you don’t win.
Can they guarantee a bestseller? Are you interested in some wonderful Florida swampland?

When you pay someone peanuts to write your novel, memoir, or nonfiction book, chances are the resulting manuscript will be worth just that: a couple jars of Planter’s. People who work for clerk’s wages are trying to break into the business, not offering experienced, professional editorial services. Can they guarantee a bestseller? Hopefully, they’ll guarantee to finish the project.

You can go ahead and lay down the cost of a new washer and dryer set, and the relatively inexperienced ghost you attract will hone his or her skills on your manuscript. Your project will be an immense learning experience-for the ghost. They’ll not only absorb all you have to say in the book, but they’ll learn about how to work with clients (from working with you) and how to put together a real book (from putting together yours). What will you learn? That not everyone who calls themselves a “ghostwriter” has the same ability to deliver a marketable product. Can they guarantee a bestseller? Are you really asking?

Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pop for the cost of an SUV, and you’re likely to find someone who understands what they’re doing, has done it successfully a number of times, and has a fair amount of expertise under their hands. They may not have myriad New York publishing connections, but they know how the game is played, and they can lay out your options and guide you along the path from development to print or eBook production.  Can they guarantee a bestseller? No, but they should be able to guarantee that your manuscript will be given the serious consideration it deserves by the industry, critics, and the reading public.

Invest in what Princeton’s Angus Deaton, Ph.D., and Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D.  tab “The cost of happiness,” (The cost of happiness is exactly $75,000) and you’ll be dealing with a top professional, someone who can introduce you to agents, printers, and publicists and help you work out an effective plan to get your title into as many readers’ hands as possible via as many distribution/marketing/promotion channels as possible. Can they guarantee a bestseller?  No guarantee, but they’ll give you all the tools and resources you need to pursue that prize.

When you get into the government-grant-to-study-something-everyone-already-knows arena, you’ll be able to land a hi-status, high-profile ghostwriter with a lot of industry and crossover (film, TV, etc.) connections. They may even have their own small presses or be affiliated with leading agents and publishers.  Can they guarantee a bestseller? Keeping in mind that a random act of terrorism, Mother Nature, global economic or political upheaval can derail your buzz— yeah, they probably can. But then, you’re paying them the cost of a “starter home” to make it happen!

Claudia Suzanne is the first ghost to deconstruct (Secrets of a Ghostwriter) and teach (Ghostwriting Certificate Program, CCPE/CSULB) how ghostwriters do what they do.  Her next online program begins February 16; registration is open now at California State University – Long Beach. She is also the founder/creative Partner of Wambtac Communications LLC, a family partnership dedicated to raising the literacy bar of the book industry and professionalizing the field of ghostwriting through education, community, and editorial-service excellence.  Wambtac Communications LLC is producing Ghostwriters Unite! on May 3-5, 2013 at the Hilton Hotel in Long Beach, CA.

Academic and business blog posts

Here are some blog posts I recommend from academic and business acquaintances of mine. – Rand Kemp

Why so many blog posts about kids?  Because we have too many US mass killing sprees.  Perhaps some good articles on proper childhood care can cure this current and future trend?




What is Barnes and Noble doing right that Borders has done wrong?

Radio Show on hold

The radio show at Teeing It Up is now on hold. Here’s my public statement about this:

Due to creative differences with the show’s internal financier and backer, the radio show is on hold – pending a resolution of the creative differences.”

Barnes and Noble still open

I drove by a Barnes and Noble this week – they are still open. There’s a Wiki article on them at Wiki on Barnes and Noble. But I wrote an article e weeks ago, looking at Anderson’s in Naperville, Illinois. I compared them with Borders, who recently went out of business.

What is Barnes and Noble doing right that Borders has done wrong?

New Barnes & Noble, at UCF, taken 8/12/07

Image via Wikipedia

There’s some good articles exploring this theme.

The NPR article offers a couple of insights:

  • He says Barnes & Noble also invested in beefing up its online sales. Eventually, it also developed its own e-reader, the Nook.
  • Borders did not. Instead, it expanded its physical plant, refurbished its stores and outsourced its online sales operation to Amazon.

It’s the media folks. People also read books on Iphone, Ipad and computers these day.

In my area, there were 2 Barnes and Noble stores, along with a Borders store. The day Borders closed its doors, the parking lot was full for a week. Everybody was there to get a cheap bargain.

Shot of the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Clifto...

Image via Wikipedia

One of the Barnes and Noble stores has closed. But the other one is still going strong. It still has the coffee bar, along with its various selections. In a business article at No Buyers for Barnes & Noble at 60 Cents on Dollar: Real M&A from March 2011, Barnes and Noble was still trying to secure buyers.

Let’s go back to the article Why Borders Failed While Barnes and Noble Survived. Does the article really answer the question? I think not.

Is developing its own e-book reader or handling its own online sales the real answer? An article entitled Why a Green Strategy Will Help Barnes and Noble Avoid Bankruptcy thinks being an environmentalist may be the answer.

The real answer may be that Barnes and Noble just had more cash resources and a bit more business sense than Borders. But is that enough to save them? It seems they ignored Amazon too long. It’s like the old Ma and Pa video stores. They flourished until things like Netflix came along.

The cafe at the Barnes & Noble in Hoboken, New...

Image via Wikipedia

Let’s go back to Anderson’s in Naperville. I did attend a presentation by the Anderson’s owner a couple years ago. It was for the Midwest Technology forum. The family – if I recall correctly – also owns an independent Pharmacy.

I did ask how it flourished in the wake of chains like CVS and Walgreens, or big store pharmacies like Walmart and Target. The answer was that folks developed a relationship with the pharmacists, which have been around for years.

Sounds a bit like social media – doesn’t it?



What did Borders do wrong but Andersons do right?

Winner of the book contest

We will explore the question, but first – the winner of the book contest from Launch – Content Management: The Final Frontier – Social Media Book Contest

The winner? It’s the Carol Stream Public Library (i.e. if no one enters last minute in July).  I don’t know what they will do with it. Will they:

  • Use it in their book collection?
  • Offered to another library?
  • Let the friends of the library sell it?
The cafe at the Barnes & Noble in Hoboken, New...

Image via Wikipedia


Now let’s get back to Borders. There’s an article entitled What Borders Did Wrong at What Borders Did Wrong. Here’s some things the author said:

“They cut expenses to make next quarter look better – they stopped carrying such a wide selection and cut back, a bit at a time, on in-store entertainment and social options. Books were replaced with journals. They ignored the internet for a very long time.”

Cut expenses? They did that at Motorola – where I worked – for years. How many people were cut? 100 K?

Even teen entrepreneurs get what went wrong with Borders at Teen Business Forum.

  • “Not Paying Close Enough Attention to Trends”
  • “Big Executive Turnover”
  • “Out of Touch With Customer’s Needs”

What does Andersons do right?

See article: Story’s not over for independent bookstores Story’s not over for independent bookstores

The manga section at Barnes & Noble at The Sho...

Image via Wikipedia

Andernsons book store in Naperville (Illinois USA) has been around for years. Visit their website at Andersons in Naperville. Just look at their website tabs. What do they have?

  • Staff recommendations
  • Events
  • Ebooks
  • Google ebook petting zoo
  • Tim Green Skype events
  • Bookclubs
  • Kids
  • Educators
  • Gifts
  • Services
  • Bookfairs
  • Local authors

Something for everybody!

What do you do when folks or companies don’t listen to marketing advice?

A shelf of Blink books at a Barnes & Noble in ...

Image via Wikipedia

I have an “acquaintance” who keeps making bad decisions – even after I tried to spend 2 – 3 years giving him marketing advice. Here’s what I shared with him recently:

“Over the past 2 – 3 years, I have made many attempts for you to work with SCORE (SCORE) and the Small Business Development Center (Small Business Development Center ) (i.e. via area community colleges). If you had spent the time to counsel with them and take their low-cost/free training sessions, I’m sure you wouldn’t make bad/impulsive decisions. Something to reflect upon!”

He just doesn’t get it – or he doesn’t listen. I recently took on a writing assistant. What’s the first thing he works on? It’s a business/marketing plan.

If the other guy would have hung around SCORE and the SBDC over the past 2 – 3 years – guess what? The first thing he would do is create a business plan. In the business plan, he would have a section devoted to a marketing plan.

Not he claims he’s broke. Perhaps he is telling the truth – perhaps not.  But whose fault is it, if he doesn’t listen to advice?

Isn’t he really just Borders or Barnes and Noble, in the era of Amazon?


Writers book publishing sites – Bookemon and Freado – plus copy stuff

Here’s a publishing question we will explore this week:

  • I have just completed the draft of my first novel of about 50,000 words. It is a story about an Anglo-Indian young man who decides to become Indian. What is my next step?

Assuming you had this proofread and it’s in polished form.

An on-demand book printer at the Internet Arch...

Image via Wikipedia

You can either self publish or find a publisher. As far as publishers go, unless you are an established, big name writer, it is very difficult. The best way is to secure an agent, which is also hard to do. You need to send query letters, which usually has a short sample attached. If you Google “query literary agents”, you will find some URL links to guide you.

Many business leaders like to have books they written, to give prospective clients. Usually, these are self publishing endeavors.

I would suggest looking at Bookemon and Freado, to sell your books in e-format and get more readers online.

Bookemon is also about selling books. What you need to do is to build the book, by uploading the existing cover graphic and the corresponding document (i.e. PDF file), and the book is available to preview and buy. It’s a print on demand when you buy, so they seem to set the selling price for you (i.e. based upon number of pages).

Freado is similar, except that it’s easier to create the book to check and buy (although Bookemon is not that much harder to use). In Freado, you are pointing the user to an external site, where the book is for sale. Bookemon handles all the selling and print-on-demand for you.

Both services – in their basic form – are free to use. I have a link for some old novel drafts I did in freado at B2B TechCopy business website.

What I would do is have the cover and document, together in a PDF form – for Bookemon. I would have the cover graphic separate from the PDF for Freado. This way, creating the book for both will be very easy.

Don’t forget the e-reader options. They are popular with Apple, Amazon and Google.  I don’t know if you could ever convert a Max user – it’s a cult, in my opinion. Not that I have anything against the Mac. But Steve Jobs and his marketing associates do sell the lifestyle aspect well! I know many Mac users. Mac is also preferred by creative types. But from a practical technology level – a PC has more software available.
White Background

You can also offer the book at Amazon via Create Space.  Create Space is an Amazon company.  If you put them on Create Space, then you can put it on Amazon.  At least, this is how someone in a LinkedIn group explained it.

Here’s some commentary from the field.

Blog common on post about keeping writing simple

James Joyce statue next to O'Connell street in...

Image via Wikipedia

I like today’s article. Keep the writing short and sweet.

The same elements you bought up for blogs, also apply to B2C copy – with a few added touches. People scan the main points and short paragraphs. They usually look at the headlines and PS first. Write in conversational tone. Think of talking to a friend – over a drink – in the bar.

Bullet points focus our attention. They help break up short paragraphs and focus on key points.

Sub headers also capture our attention and usually focus on benefits.

Numbers also apply to copy. The ad, “5 Ways to Cure Corns,” ran in the National Inquirer for years (during the paper’s peak years). I got this tidbit from renown, direct response copywriter and marketer Ben Hart.

Say! These great points about writing effective blog posts also apply to good B2C copy.

I remember reading a book entitled The Adweek Copywriters Handbook by Joseph Sugarman. He invented many things – like Blue Blocker sunglasses – and was a multimillionaire entrepreneur, marketer and copywriter.

He said the purpose of the first paragraph of copy, is to get you to read the second paragraph. The purpose of the second paragraph is to get you to read the third paragraph. Yada, yada, yada (reminds me of a Seinfeld episode).

You seem to have all the time in the world, to write posts and comment at XXX. It shows you are a good thinker.

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have all the time in the world to think and write. I have full-time work with B2B Technology copywriting and ghostwriting – or trying to secure clients for such endeavors.

Spontaneous thinking comes from stream of consciousness writing, which I usually do for XXX comments (i.e. James Joyce). Deeper thinking probably comes from my lifelong love of philosophy – both Eastern and Western. It’s a good training ground.