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Writing and Publishing

Tips on Being a Ghostwriter

I’ve ghostwritten some books and enjoyed doing so. The payment is almost always a fixed rate, paid in installments. Require the first payment before starting the project, and the final payment is due when the writer submits the finished product to the author. (The person who hires you is the author, and you are the writer.)

The number of installments is up to you and the author. Two, three, or four are common, but my last book was in ten installments (per the author’s request). Also, try to frontload the installments so you receive more money in the beginning. That way if the project doesn’t work out, the author changes their mind, or they stop paying, then you have received just compensation for your work to date.

Don’t write on spec or have it contingent on them getting a book deal. Also, avoid a revenue share based on books sold. Though you could negotiate a base fee plus a revenue share unless the author has a large platform and can sell books, assume there will never be any significant revenue for them to share with you. So make your base fee large enough to make the project worthwhile. See “Ghostwriting Fees” for some general ghostwriting rate ideas.

If you need to interview the author, such as for an autobiography or memoir, your fee should cover your time. Estimate high. You may need to help the author organize their thoughts, or they may be evasive or unwilling to share, which has happened to me.

Two related items: Always have a written agreement that states your fees, the installment amounts and dates, and details of what you will include and not include. A basic “work-for-hire” agreement should work. (Remember, I am not a lawyer, and this response is not legal advice.) 

The other item is to be aware that you are selling your words and cannot claim them as your own or reuse them for another purpose. Though a nice author may share the byline with you or acknowledge you were the writer, most will not.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

How to Make Money through Freelance Writing

Being a freelance writer can take many forms, some lucrative and others that leave you struggling as a pauper.

Payment for most freelance work is by the finished piece, though some might be per word. But when it comes to looking at how much you can earn as a freelancer, always think in terms of dollars per hour. If you charge $100 for a piece that takes you five hours to write and edit, you’re earning $20 an hour.

Unless there’s a strategic reason to do so, aim to make at least minimum wage for your freelance work. But don’t be satisfied with that. Seek higher-paying work, knowing that the effective hourly rate for experienced freelancing can be $50, $100, or even more an hour. But use this hourly rate for analysis purposes only, and don’t share it with clients. Instead, quote the price per finished piece or the rate per word. 

Though I’ve never quoted a project rate per hour, there may be times when a project is so undefined that quoting an hourly rate is the only option. But then, I just pass on those types of messy projects.

And never compete on price. That’s a race to the bottom. Someone will always undercut you.

Instead, here’s how to go about getting the better-paying freelance gigs.

Start by considering what you like to write and are good at. Then find a niche you’re knowledgeable about—or willing to become knowledgeable about. Look at how much competition you would face in the market. Then consider what clients/publishers are willing to pay. In general, the less competition you have, the more you can charge, and the more people will pay.

For myself, I like to write blog posts and am good at it. I selected a small niche market I know well and promoting my services for writing content marketing pieces. Because of my knowledge of the industry and long-standing reputation, coupled with the ability to write fast and well, I have little competition. 

As a result, I make enough income from being a commercial freelance writer in this niche market that I could support myself full-time through it—if needed. Fortunately, I have revenue from other sources to supplement my freelance writing.

The point is that it’s possible to earn a living through freelance writing. But you need to find a niche with little or no competition and produce great content that your clients will love and pay for.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Financial Considerations of Being a Full-Time Writer

If you want to become a full-time writer, consider the financial ramifications. First, don’t quit your day job. I’m serious.

I don’t know anyone who one day quit their job and transitioned into being a full-time writer the next day. It takes years to make that move.

While you still have your full-time job, start writing on the side. How much money can you generate from it? As your income from writing increases and provides consistent revenue month after month, you can consider scaling back your other job and ramping up your writing.

But before you take this step, pare back your expenses as much as possible. Beyond living simply, live frugally. Be prepared to do so for as long as necessary. Also, set aside a cash reserve to pay your bills as you make this transition.

When I switched from a traditional job to going solo, my family had no debt (not even for our house), and I had six months of income in the bank as a safety net. I used it all. I also had an emergency fund, which I didn’t need.

Many authors wanting to go full-time look at their current expenses and think they need to make that much money through writing. Instead, they should look at how much they can reduce expenses. Doing so will make the transition easier.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Is It Possible to Be a Full-Time Writer?

One author quipped that in the United States more people earn their living from playing Major League Baseball than from being full-time novelists. Ouch! The truth is, few people make their living full-time from writing.

One author quipped that in the United States more people earn their living from playing Major League Baseball than from being full-time novelists.

And most of those full-time authors earn their income from a variety of sources. For example, I write books, am a commercial freelance writer, and publish magazines and e-zines. From these three areas, I earn my living as a full-time writer. Most full-time authors have a similar situation.

Though I hope to one day make my complete living through writing books—and have a plan to get there—I’m not there yet. I might never achieve that goal, but it is my dream.

Being a full-time writer is possible, but it takes patience and creativity. Also, don’t expect to get rich through writing. If you happen to make a lot of money through writing, consider it a bonus. Instead, resolve to be satisfied living a simple life and able to cover your basic living expenses through writing.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Should You Write a Book or Blog?

Many writers starting out try to blog and write a book at the same time. They end up doing neither one well. Or they try to write a book before they’re ready. Then they end up with something not suitable for publication, waste a lot of time, and endure much frustration. That assumes they finish the book. But they’re more apt to give up before they finish—because they’re not yet ready to write a book.

Unless you’ve done a lot of writing—say about one million words—and invested about 10,000 hours honing your skill (see “10,000 Hours”), I recommend you start with blogging or writing short articles, essays, or flash fiction. Blogging (and short pieces) offer several advantages: 

  • Blog posts are quick and easy to write.
  • Blogging is a great way to hone our writing skills and find our voice.
  • Feedback is fast.
  • Errors are easy to fix.
  • Bloggers develop a habit of writing regularly, even when they don’t feel like it.
  • Blogging according to a schedule—which is what all bloggers should do—trains us to meet deadlines.
  • Blogging prepares us to write longer pieces.

There are many other benefits associated with blogging, but these outcomes are some of the key ones, which is why I recommend starting out with blogging or writing other short pieces. Save the book for later (see “Work Up to Writing a Book”).

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.